Running while pregnant? A few tips

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

In recent years a few female members of the Oak Park Runners Club have run through their pregnancies, so it was strongly suggested that I write about RWP (Running While Pregnant). 

I'm aware that some may be alarmed at the prospect of a mother-to-be regularly running, but it seems to be well accepted. Jessica Clement's doctor at Northwestern Hospital gave her the go-ahead, noting that another staff doctor had even run marathons while in her third trimester, and that deliveries were often easier because of the mothers' strong core muscles. 

Oak Park Runners Club members Jessica and Marty Clement are avid runners, so little Emmy, born Dec. 7, is obviously headed in that direction. Since she was actively running, Jessica was told she could continue at her current fitness level — avoiding any effort to run faster. But she found that added weight and pressure on her lungs caused an inevitable slow-down, and her energy level decreased. She was also very careful to avoid overheating. After the first trimester, her energy level returned, but she noticed that her gait was changing, probably due to a female hormone that causes ligaments and tendons to loosen in preparation for childbirth. RWP continued as she switched to more comfortable running shoes with thicker, cushioned soles.

Jessica recalls, "Emmy would kick and move around all day, but as soon as I started to run, she would fall asleep. It's like I was rocking her to sleep." Jessica's running continued for eight months of her pregnancy before finally having to stop, but she continued walking five or six miles a day until the day before Emmy was born (two weeks after her due date). Jessica figures Emmy logged about 500 miles "in utero."

The actual delivery was quick and easy, likely due to her strong core, and recovery was quick. However, Jessica had qualified for the Boston Marathon before she became pregnant and, typical for an avid runner with a focus on Boston, she signed up in her second trimester. This meant that training needed to start shortly after Emmy's birth.

After reviewing online information and asking for advice from other running moms, she tried a two-mile walk/jog only three weeks after delivery. It was an effort, but caused no complications, so she gradually resumed training and was able to run a half marathon seven weeks post-delivery. Recovery continued to go well, and she completed the Boston Marathon only four months after giving birth.

However, there were problems at Boston, resulting in minor stress-fractures in her hips. A woman's hips become unaligned during delivery, along with a separation of abdominal muscles to make room for the baby. Also, that relaxing hormone remains in the body for six months, so running a marathon less than six months after giving birth, with hips still out of normal alignment, would appear to be a bit too soon. 

However, Jessica is on the mend and says, "I think running while pregnant (heavier and with limited oxygen) is just going to make me come out stronger in the end." 

And with the arrival of warm weather, little Emmy is "running" many miles in her baby jogger.

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