Everything A Mother Needs To Know About Running While Pregnant

So you’re going to be a MOM! Congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of raging hormones, unexpected energy surges, and fatigue like you’ve never experienced before. And of course the food cravings, food aversions, stretch marks, heartburn, mood swings, and much, much more. Thankfully, all of these crazy symptoms do not last forever and they end with the precious gift of a tiny human being!

As a mother of five children, I completely understand how beautiful, yet challenging, three trimesters of pregnancy can be. Some women love it and never feel better than when they are pregnant. However, most of us struggle to enjoy the whole nine months. Pregnancy and the early postpartum months can be extremely challenging, both physically and emotionally, leaving us bed-ridden and tightly clutching our pregnancy pillows in an endless search for comfort. Running and physical activity can help manage the discomforts of pregnancy as well as help you feel better mentally and emotionally.

If you are already a runner, you will undoubtedly want to continue running to maintain the endurance and physical fitness you have earned over the years. With that being said, running while pregnant can be a challenge and because of that you need to follow certain guidelines in order to ensure you and your unborn baby’s safety. Simple things like staying properly hydrated and monitoring your heart rate can be the critical difference between a safe run and a dangerous one.

In this guide, we’re going to discuss a step-by-step routine and provide you with tips on how to safely run during each trimester of your pregnancy. If you are new to running and exercise or you’re concerned about the parameters of running during pregnancy, discuss your exercise regime with your doctor or consult a local certified instructor who specializes in prenatal training to determine a more specialized program for you.

As a starting point, getting sportswear that’s specifically designed for exercise during pregnancy can make a huge difference in terms of comfort. If you don’t yet have any pregnancy-specific workout clothes, I’d recommend getting some. This alone made running much easier and more enjoyable for me during my five pregnancies. Anyhow, let’s carry on!

1. General Tips For Running While Pregnant
2. Specific Tips For Each Trimester
2.1 First Trimester
2.2 Second Trimester
2.3 Third Trimester
2.4 After Delivery – The ‘Fourth’ Trimester
3. Additional Exercises To Practice With Running
4. Conclusion

General Tips For Running While Pregnant

As a Certified Fitness Trainer with specialties in pre and postnatal exercise, here are my best recommendations for remaining active during pregnancy.

1. Get medical backup. Always check with your doctor or midwife before beginning a new exercise plan. Ensure you don’t have any contraindications to running such as a low lying placenta, a previous premature birth, high blood pressure, pregnant with multiples, or a medical condition that would contraindicate exercise.

2. Tune in to your vitals. Know the signs to stop exercising. Contact your doctor or midwife if you experience an abnormal shortness of breath, chest pain, painful uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, any gush of fluid from the vagina, dizziness, or feeling faint.

3. Conditions are crucial. Always exercise in a safe environment. During pregnancy, take extra care to avoid overheating. Avoid exercising outside in high temperatures or in high humidity. Be mindful of road conditions and do not run on slippery surfaces.

4. Snack smart. Blood sugar swings are common during pregnancy. Have a small snack/meal about an hour before you exercise and carry an easily digestible snack or have juice on hand while you exercise in case you begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy.

5. Water is always essential. Drink plenty of water, before, during, and after exercise. This may mean that you are running circles around your house to remain close to a bathroom. Don’t worry, this won’t last forever. If water is unappetizing, try infusing it with fruit or vegetables.

6. Measure your mileage. Record the number of minutes you spend running. Put your feet up for an equal amount of time later on in the day. Resting the body after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself.

7. Adjust to joint laxity. Be aware of increased joint range of movement caused by pregnancy hormones. We need this increased laxity, because our pelvis must be flexible for a baby to navigate through. However, an increase in flexibility can put you at risk for injury. Be aware of your increased range of motion, protect and monitor your joints, and don’t overstretch.

8. Rate your exertion. I recommend that all pregnant women rely on the Scale of Perceived Exertion during pregnancy. If 0 is complete rest and 10 is extremely challenging work that leaves you breathless within seconds, I recommend staying in the 4 to 6 range. Better yet is the ‘talk test.’ If you are able to engage in a conversation while running, that is typically a good indicator that you’re exercising at a safe level.

9. Listen to your body. If you haven’t mastered the art of listening to your body, pregnancy is a great time to start paying attention. In my experience, the signals your body puts out during pregnancy are hard to miss. If you’re feeling too tired to run one day, consider resting or walking instead. Trust your body and don’t overwork things.

Specific Tips For Each Trimester

Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, each approximately 12 weeks in length. Each trimester has its own exercise considerations. Let’s take a look at each trimester individually as we consider safe running during pregnancy beyond the tips I have already given.

First Trimester

Lots of things are going on in your body during the first trimester! The first weeks of pregnancy are typically known to cause unpleasant symptoms such as morning sickness and extreme fatigue. Your body is working super hard at making a tiny little human! The first trimester is an extremely critical time for baby development because all of the important building blocks are made during these weeks. At the end of the first trimester, development is complete and the unborn baby will then begin to grow in length and weight.

When you run, you may notice that your heart rate increases much more quickly. You may find that you feel your heart pounding in your body, and not only when you run, but during regular daily activities as well. This is because your blood vessels dilate quickly due to pregnancy hormones while your body’s blood volume rises gradually and therefore does not fill the blood vessels completely. Your heart is working hard to keep blood flowing through enlarged vessels.

If you typically monitor your heart rate when you run, keep in mind that a woman’s resting heart rate typically rises during pregnancy. The average woman’s resting heart rate is 70 beats per minute and can rise to 80 to 90 beats per minute by the end of pregnancy. If you are carrying multiples, your heart rate will increase even more.

If you are an experienced runner, you can continue with your regular running program, assuming your doctor has cleared you for exercise. If you are new to running or less experienced, work your way into things and don’t overwork your body. Things you need to consider include eating enough to fuel your runs as well as your pregnancy; drinking enough to replace fluids lost through sweating; monitoring your temperature so you don’t over heat (especially important in the first trimester); and listening to your body. Some days you won’t be able to complete your usual run. Realize that this is not uncommon and it is part of growing a baby. Rest assured you won’t always feel this way.

Even though your belly is not likely “showing” during the first trimester, you may experience a common physical change in early pregnancy – the growth and swelling of your breasts. You may need to invest in a larger bra. I personally found that I needed to wear two sports bras when running and exercising during pregnancy as well as in the months following childbirth when I was breastfeeding. Be careful not to bind your breasts too tightly as this is detrimental to the health of your breasts.

Second Trimester

The second trimester of pregnancy is typically the time when you will feel your best as energy levels gradually return to normal. Your blood level has risen to accommodate your enlarged blood vessels. Nausea often subsides and your appetite usually returns although cravings and aversions may stick with you throughout pregnancy. During this trimester, you get to experience the joys of pregnancy – feeling the first kicks and actually starting to LOOK pregnant!

Good news, fellow runners! You will probably find running much more enjoyable and easier than during the first trimester. You can gradually increase the intensity of your runs as you feel able to. However, don’t plan on achieving any world records. Think of running as preparing for a unique marathon – child birth. The ultimate goal for being active in pregnancy is to reduce common pregnancy aches and pains as well as prepare your body for labor. Keep that in mind and adjust your runs according to that goal.

As your belly begins to grow during this trimester, I strongly recommend you add in postural exercises that strengthen your back and glutes. Balance this by stretching your quads, chest, and calves. I also recommend that you start practicing pelvic floor exercises such as glute bridges and side-lying clamshells, as well as pregnancy-approved core exercises such as loaded carries and side planks.

A common misconception is that you should not lie on your back after the fourth month. While some women may be concerned with the heavy uterus blocking off blood supply to the lower body, the amount of time you will be on your back to perform ten glute bridges is not cause for alarm if you are otherwise healthy. One thing you do need to avoid is holding your breath during any exercise. If you are performing the side plank, remember to breathe throughout the exercise.

Third Trimester

As you enter the third trimester, you will naturally feel like cutting back on your running. In fact, as a postpartum trainer who has personally gone through five pregnancies, my recommendation to all of my pregnant clients is to stop running completely when they enter the third trimester.

When it comes to high impact exercises such as running, my biggest concern as a trainer is the strength and tone of your pelvic floor muscles. The job of the pelvic floor is to keep everything up and inside of you. That includes all of your internal organs including your bowels, your bladder, and your uterus which is currently home to a six to nine pound baby along with the placenta and everything else your uterus contains to support a growing baby. The pelvic floor is already stressed with every day movements as you carry an extra 20 or more pounds in your abdomen. There is no need to push your pelvic floor to its limits by adding in jarring activities such as running.

The third trimester is a great time to swim. I loved being in the water during my pregnancies! Being submerged took the pressure off of my joints, especially my knees, hips and back. It was the closest thing to feeling weightless. Being in the water also reduces the chance of overheating as you exercise.

Walking is also a great exercise. Again, keep track of the minutes you spend exercising on your feet and do your best to rest for an equal amount of time with your feet elevated. This will help reduce the swelling that often happens, especially during the later weeks in pregnancy. Resting also relieves pressure on your pelvic floor.

If you have been doing postural strengthening and stretching exercises, continue doing these in preparation for birth. At the bottom of this page, I have included some simple exercises you can do at home with a ball and a band that will help ease common physical discomforts of pregnancy as well as prepare you for labor.

During the third trimester, I highly recommend scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. If this is the first time you have heard of such a doctor, you are not alone! Many women are unaware of the importance of their pelvic floor until it is too late. This specialist will help train you on different ways to strengthen the muscles that line the pelvic floor.

It has only been in my research over the last few years that I have discovered proper pelvic floor exercises. Contrary to popular belief, kegels are not the answer to a strong pelvic floor. When you perform a kegel, you are creating an environment of constant tension. Imagine trying to push an eight pound baby out of your body from a place that knows only tension and not relaxation. That’s probably not going to be the best labor experience. Constant tension in the pelvic floor can also aggravate low back pain. Kegels, as we traditionally know them, are not the solution to a strong pelvic floor.

Pelvic floor exercises begin with focusing on your breath. Next, we look at strengthening the four groups of muscles that are considered to be part of your core. They include your pelvic floor muscles, your diaphragm, your abdominals, and your multifidus (low back). These muscles should all work together to lift and rise up as you exhale, and then expand downwards and soften as you inhale. During pregnancy, the core muscles often move in a dysfunctional pattern due to the growth of your abdomen and the pressure of a growing baby. Although this is normal, retraining your breath after pregnancy is not something we normally think about so it’s important to keep this in mind.

After Delivery – The ‘Fourth’ Trimester

It would be negligent of me as a trainer to not talk about your return to exercise after giving birth. The months following childbirth and delivery can be referred to as the fourth trimester and it is a time of rest and repair because your pelvic floor muscles and abdominals have been stretched and pushed to their extreme limits. During this time, it is important to retrain your breath, and rehabilitate and strengthen your core and pelvic floor before you return to running.

If you return to any type of physical activity too soon, you increase your risk for pelvic organ prolapse. The worst case scenario involves a full prolapse of one or more internal organs. The more mild symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include leaking urine when sneezing or laughing or jumping, etc. and pain during intercourse. Keep in mind that some women who have pelvic floor dysfunction don’t have any symptoms at all. This is why a postpartum visit to a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can save you years of discomfort later on.

Although I warn about it above, the truth is that most women who return to running and vigorous exercise too soon after giving birth won’t actually experience any issues. However, the number of surgeries for pelvic floor disorders is on the rise, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry. The most frequent time in a woman’s life when she will experience pelvic organ prolapse is during menopause. Take care of your body now by strengthening your pelvic floor properly before returning to the pavement. Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist at least once within the first month after giving birth. Your pelvic floor will thank you.

5 Low-Impact Exercises To Practice Alongside Running

In addition to the above running guide, you can use the following exercises to keep your legs and body strong during running. As a bonus, you can also use these during the second and third trimesters to help manage pregnancy discomforts and prepare for birth.

Alternating Low Jacks

You’re familiar with the regular jumping jack, right? This is the same idea, but a lower-impact version that’s easy on the body and great for warming up before running.

Start in a regular standing position with your knees slightly bent and your arms down at your sides. Try to keep your weight centered over your feet. To begin, step your right foot out to the side and raise your arms at the same time until they’re about shoulder height. Bring your right foot back in and lower your arms, then repeat the same thing with your left side. Continue alternating back and forth for about 30-60 seconds.

Tip: With this exercise, it’s easy to get into workout mode and start jumping around fast. Remember, this is pregnancy, and you want to keep everything cool, so don’t be jumping around too vigorously!

Stationary Lunges

Stationary lunges are a great way to keep the legs toned and ready to manage the additional weight of the baby as your belly grows.

Start by standing next to a wall or some type of sturdy chair or table so that you can place your hand on something for balance. Take a medium-sized step backward so that your left foot is about 3 feet in front of your right foot. Your left foot should be flat on the ground and right foot on your toes. Keep your body upright as you slowly drop down and go as far as you’re comfortable with (your back knee can almost touch the ground). Repeat about 15-20 times and then switch legs.

Tip: Make sure to control your breathing during this one. You should always be breathing in as you drop down, and slowly exhaling as you push yourself back up to the starting position.

Side Lying Clamshells

Clamshells are a rather small movement, yet very effective for strengthening your pelvic floor (which is crucial for pregnancy).

Start by lying on your right side, with your right arm bent up to cradle your head. Your knees should be bent out in front of you and your legs held together all the way down to your ankles. To begin, Slowly raise your left knee up while keeping your ankles together. Raise the knee as far as you can go and then bring it back down with control. Repeat 20 times and then switch sides.

Tip: Your abdomen will likely have some more weight than you’re used to, so try not to let it pull you forward. Make sure you keep a straight back and your body is completely balanced on your side.

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are another exercise that’s a small movement yet great for strengthening the hips and pelvic floor. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep this area strong and healthy.

Start by lying on your back with your legs bent up and your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches from your glutes. Your arms should be at your sides. To being, pelvic tilt up and bring your hips about 6-8 inches off the floor until your body is in the “bridge” position. Hold this position for a couple seconds and then gently lower your hips back down the floor. Repeat this about 15 times or until you’re comfortable.

Tip: Make sure to time your breathing accordingly. You should be inhaling as your body is lowering to the floor, and exhaling as you push your hips up into the bridge position.


The last exercise I’ll leave you with is squats! Chances are you’ve done or at least seen this before. One of the most popular exercises in the world, squats are a great way to keep your legs in shape for a strong run.

Start in a standing position with your legs about 2-3 feet apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold your arms out in front of you for balance. To begin, lower yourself down until your legs are bent at a near-90 degree angle, and then push yourself back up. Repeat about 20 times and then rest for 60 seconds before starting again.

Tip: Because you have new weight growing in the front of your body, it’s important to remember to keep your back completely straight. A lot of women have the tendency to let their back bend forwards which can lead to bad posture and lower back pain.


Running while pregnant is completely doable as long as you don’t overwork yourself. Your body is being drained of a lot of energy as your new baby grows inside of you! Following the guide I’ve laid out will help keep you safely active during pregnancy, but make sure to take the necessary precautions and above all else: always remember to listen to your body.

Before you get to running, check out this informative video by Dr. Randy Martin who explains why running while pregnant is beneficial.