Running While Pregnant: 10 Training & Gear Tips to Feel Your Best
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How to be at your best from your first to third trimester
We recommend the most useful and comfortable apparel we’ve worn through our training
Melissa– pregnant runner, trail runner, and ultramarathoner
I’d like to preface this article with a note- I recognize that everybody and every body is different. Also, every pregnancy is different. I wrote this article because it’s important for women to share their personal experiences, if they’re willing. It gives others something to relate to and helps us all to recognize that we’re not alone in our struggles and successes. This article is written strictly for informational purposes and in no way constitutes professional medical advice.
As a runner with two decades of mileage under my feet (half of that running ultramarathons), I’ve become quite familiar with how my body feels and reacts during training, from hard efforts to recovery days.
Last September, as I was running 80 mile weeks in preparation for an upcoming 100-miler, I noticed I felt “off” for an entire week leading up to a tune-up 50K. Of course, this was during the final legs of Covid, so I took two tests and got only one line on both. Negative.
My next hypothesis was simply training fatigue. I was training pretty hard, though it wasn’t that out of the ordinary for me. Around that same time, it dawned on me that my period was a week late. The morning before I was scheduled to fly out to Arizona for my race, I took another type of test, the kind you wait in the bathroom to see the results. That one also had only one line– a faint pink one. Yep, I was pregnant. It was nice to know my training was on point.
Once the initial joy and excitement of the moment subsided, I knew that I would need to shift gears and reassess my running goals at some point. This was also the first time that I googled “running during pregnancy.” My search produced mixed results that left me feeling confused and overwhelmed. To be fair, it’s not exactly the most common pastime, though it’s thankfully becoming more common thanks to the high-profile athletes like Alyson Felix.
I filed my own questions away for my first OBGYN appointment. I’ve known of many women who ran and raced through pregnancy and ended up with healthy babies, which was reassuring. However, this was now my baby and it was sudden and new to me.
Regardless, I decided to race my upcoming 50K with just a slight sense of nausea and uncertainty. In the end, it all turned out pretty okay.
Following that race and my first OB appointment, I came up with some new running goals:
As mentioned earlier, I consider myself an experienced runner. However, pregnancy has been extremely humbling. If I’m being honest, it feels a lot like starting over again. Nevertheless, I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past nine months, and I hope that sharing them will help you in some way.
As far as running goes, not much changed in the first trimester besides nausea, fatigue, and a slightly slower running pace. I mean, that’s basically a description of the later stages of an ultra, so the feeling wasn’t that unfamiliar to me. Just like those moments, I found it useful to stay as comfortable as possible when running and not running.
Gear tip: My absolute favorite during first (and really all) trimesters was Rabbit’s EZ apparel, which is their ‘relax and recover’ line made of the softest ever fabrics. No, seriously, they are the softest. I practically lived in them throughout my pregnancy. I especially love the fit and selection of neutral and fun pastel colors and patterns that make the wardrobe very flattering and perfect to wear on any occasion. My personal favorites are the EZ tee (long sleeve and short sleeve), EZ joggers, and Leggy 4”. These were all staple wardrobe items early on and continued to feel comfortable as my belly grew.
I was guilty of this in the early weeks, but eventually I learned to let go. Running became easier and a lot more fun once I did. I also learned that each day was different- some days I’d feel good enough to knock out big miles, but others I opted to skip the run. I took full advantage of the good days and rested on the not-so-good ones. I also kept most of my runs easy and stopped looking at pace. My body was growing a human– that requires a lot of work!
If I started my morning run on an empty stomach, it was almost a guaranteed puke fest. I found that starting the day with a light meal helped combat some of the morning sickness. Snacks and light meals throughout the day helped balance it out as well. Some of my go-to nutrition to ward off the nausea: greek yogurt with granola, small bowl of cereal, crackers, fruit, and granola bars.
Eventually, I had to say “goodbye” to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe, including the running wardrobe. I’ll see you guys later this year. For the most part, wearing the next size up worked. For bottoms, I preferred high waistbands– they felt more comfortable and fit nicely over the bump. Rabbit has a variety of bottoms (the Leggy 4”, the EZ joggers, and tights) that all have a nice high waistband. I also discovered that Nike has a maternity line that offers a variety of bump-friendly running apparel. I enjoyed the One high-waisted leggings and 7-inch biker shorts and the support they added as my bump grew.
Eventually I reached a point where I needed some extra belly support while running. Otherwise, the excessive bouncing was too uncomfortable. For this, I found a fantastic company called Belly Bandit that offers a variety of apparel and products. The Thighs Disguise maternity support shorts were great for both running and comfort wear– they are soft, supportive, comfortable, and continued to stay comfortable as my bump grew.
These shorts were also super flattering and quickly became a staple wardrobe item. The 2-in-1 hip bandit provided me with stability and support while running; and something really cool about this support band is the second strap that can be added for extra support in the third trimester.
I also sought more support in the chest area as I grew– just wearing the next size up didn’t work as well, as I needed something more “high impact.” I opted for some combo sports and nursing bras that added extra support and cushioning, while providing multi-functional use for when I started nursing.
Nike offers maternity sports bras that will come in handy once the baby arrives; I will definitely make use of my Swoosh medium-support padded sports bra.
I also tried Simple Wishes’ new maternity low-impact and medium-impact nursing sports bras, which are quickly becoming my favorites. They’re easy to put on and take off, offer quick and easy nursing clasps, and provide just the support I need. It’s one of their newest product and I was happy to get an early sample to test, they’re definitely onto something great with these.
I cannot emphasize this enough. As an athlete, I had the assumption that I was drinking plenty of water. After a trip to the ER one evening following a longish run and an even longer workday, I realized I wasn’t drinking nearly as much water as baby and I needed. Apparently your hydration needs nearly double in second and third trimesters.
Gear tip: Soon after my hospital trip, I downloaded an app called Waterllama that I used to track my water consumption and set reminders to drink. I also started carrying water for nearly all my runs, even shorter ones. Nathan has some of the best options for hydration, I like the SpeedDraw bottle with a no-leak water spout for easy access on the run.
At around 30 weeks, I noticed that the high waistbands were no longer comfortable and I sought lower waistbands to ease the tightness and discomfort around my belly. I wore loose bottoms and rolled the waistband down and opted to add the support band over them if running or hiking for longer chunks of time.
Gear tip: I was able to try out the Simple Wishes maternity sports leggings that feature a lower, nicely fitted waistband and absolutely loved them. I raced an overnight timed event in the Simple Wishes leggings and appreciated how warm, yet breathable they were. I knocked out a 20-mile long run in the leggings and felt fantastic the whole time.
As my belly grew, I found that my shirts suddenly became too short to wear. Some running tops that accommodated the growing bump well were Nike Maternity Dry Fit tee and tank, Rabbit’s Freedom and Steady State tanks, Voormi Tech tee and Vorrmi River Run hoodie. The Nike maternity tops were a perfect fit down to the last few weeks as well as the Rabbit tanks mentioned above. Voormi was a new brand for me and I quickly came to appreciate the light weight material and sweat-wicking qualities of their ultralight shirts.
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases and your hormones influence changes that increase your risk of clotting and appearance of varicose veins. During my second and third trimesters, I noticed that my legs felt heavier and I experienced a lot of leg cramping. I found that wearing compression socks and gear helped greatly to improve circulation and leg recovery.
Gear tip: I tried CEP’s The Run compression and mid-cut socks during runs and post-runs and felt a noticeable difference in my recovery time. However, my ultimate favorites were the Infrared Recovery compression socks. These kept me very comfortable while flying to and from Costa Rica in week 31 and became a staple wardrobe item around the house in those last weeks before baby arrived.
I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve had my fair share of “woe is me” moments along the way. Running through pregnancy is really tough and comes with a lot of new and unfamiliar challenges. However, I’ve come to appreciate the break from rigorous training and took this as an opportunity to just run for enjoyment.
My best advice is to let go of all of the self-imposed pressure. Enjoy the extra naps. If running becomes uncomfortable, enjoy a nice hike or walk instead. Be kind to yourself and appreciate the absolutely amazing things your body is doing.
I’ve had the fortune of being able to share so many miles with my baby girl before she joins me earthside. I raced a desert 50k just days after my positive pregnancy test. I ran several road races, including the Ventura Half Marathon at Week 25. Now, as I approach the end of my pregnancy, I’m slowing down and find myself walking more than running, and that’s okay! I can look back at the many adventures we’ve had so far and I look forward to sharing the stories with my baby girl when she’s older.
I hope that you will enjoy this journey, embrace the challenges, and make many memories of your own.
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East Coast raised and West Coast trained, Melissa truly enjoys running, especially ultra distances. She currently lives on the Southern California coast and can be found exploring Santa Barbara front country on the weekends.
All-time favorite shoes: HOKA Clifton, Nike Vaporfly NEXT %, Altra Lone PeakMore from Melissa