So there have been a lot of articles about the woman who ran the Chicago Marathon at 39 weeks pregnant and gave birth just hours later. Her doctors had given her the go ahead and the race officials did not ban her from running. So she did.
I love this story for many reasons, but mainly because it shows times are changing again for women and sports. Just 40 years ago, women were pulled off a marathon courses because marathons were only for men. It wasn’t until 1972, that women were allowed to run the Boston Marathon, for example.
I also love this story because it shows times are changing for women’s health. As soon as you got the official diagnosis that you were, indeed, preggo, the nurse or doctor told you to start ‘taking it easy’. In fact, when I became pregnant about three years ago, I was told to stop running immediately. I was just six weeks along and there was no medical reason to stop. I had just run a marathon 8 months prior too. But it was just the common pregnancy medical advisory.
Fast forward to today. Most doctors and nurses are changing their guidance and are encouraging women to stay active during their pregnancies. Science is showing the benefits of exercise on the fetus, and the fact that scientists are even studying exercise and pregnancy is a big win for women’s health.
Yet, it is important to remember that only one percent of the world population has run a marathon, and since many marathons are only certain times of year, to be able to find one on the race calendar when you are 39 weeks pregnant is the luck of the draw. But the essential point of the story is that this woman (Amber Miller) was able to run the Chicago Marathon because she had run marathons in the past. Which, basically, is the key point with regard to exercising when pregnant:
- Don’t start anything new. Don’t start running when pregnant if you have never run before. If you have run before, but no more than 5 miles, don’t start training for a marathon, etc.
- Listen to your doctors. While Amber completed the Chicago Marathon, she didn’t actually run the whole way. She ran half and walked half based on her doctor’s advice, which is also part of point number three.
- Watch your core temperature. The key to exercising while pregnant is to raise your heart rate to get the health benefits, but you have to be careful about increasing your core temperature, which can be harmful to a fetus. It is the same reason why you can’t take long hot showers while you are pregnant. So find activities that don’t elevate it too much, or balance such exercise with periods of rest, like Amber did with her run/walk schedule.
- Find safe exercise options. As your pregnancy progresses, your core shifts, which is why pregnant women become ‘off balance’ while walking. So make sure the exercises you pick don’t challenge that balance, which would increase your risk of falling. Stick with ‘straight-line’ exercises like walking (or running), swimming or the ellipitcal machine. Perhaps skip classes like step aerobics that require you to twist and spin (plus as you get bigger it gets harder to see the step!)
- Don’t forget strength. While aerobic exercises are important during pregnancy, so are strength exercises. So remember to incorporate some weights into your exercise schedule, but listen to your doctor about how much you can lift and stick to machines if you can, as they will make sure your posture is in line. This is key since pregnant women’s muscles ‘relax’ as a pregnancy progresses and there is an increased risk of a ‘pulled’ muscle if you don’t perform the exercise correctly.
- Woman Runs Chicago Marathon Then Gives Birth (foxnews.com)
- A Marathon Runner Delivers a Baby (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Should pregnant women run marathons? (boston.com)
- Marathon Mom Delivers Baby After Running 26.2 in Chicago (blogher.com)