Long Distance Running and Pregnancy Aren’t That Different
- November 20, 2017
- Last Updated: March 1, 2021
- 15 Comments
- Pregnancy & Postpartum
I was thinking about this topic the other day and thought it would make a fun idea for a post. For those of you who have done/been through both, maybe you can relate. Maybe others will do one or both someday?
If not, there is likely something in your lifestyle that you can relate, as “marathons” come in all different appearances (jobs, tests/qualifications, moving, etc).
Running is my solace and has been for about the past 10 years. It’s always been my way to re-connect with myself, decompress, brainstorm great ideas and just relax.
Currently, the time I spend running is far less than in the past but I hope to be running in the third trimester. But, I still have plenty of memories from marathon training to relate to this post.
While there’s a set end distance in mind (13.1, 26.2), you never really know when the journey will end
It could end sooner, or it could go far beyond the scheduled end point. I think it’s a little difficult accepting that part of this is out of my control for pregnancy, but it’s the fun of life.
If everything was predictable, there would be no surprises. I know it’s probably 99% unlikely that the baby will ACTUALLY be born on April 1. But, from mid March to mid April (assuming that’s an accurate buffer), we’ll be prepped and staying around here, just in case!
While running, there’s always the thought of not finishing, or getting a DNF. No one likes to talk about those. But, not every race will be the best race. You may finish a half marathon and have energy to keep going. In the larger scope, once you start running and if you really love it, you may pick it up for life. The journey can always be continual with no set start and end points. Deep thoughts, but I can relate so many aspects of running to life.
We all, too, know that the start of the race goes quickly. You’re enjoying yourself and time is passing – just like in pregnancy. The beginning is easy (aside from morning sickness for the poor women who experience it), but it’s easy to hide and not too much is changing in your daily life.
But then things slow down. The race seems longer and longer, the third trimester may go by at the pace of a snail (so I’ve heard…I can’t speak to this yet).
It will be hard and painful at times
This one is pretty obvious – encompassing both emotional and physical pain. You know that feeling during a long run where you’re just not feeling it? Maybe your stomach is just done for the day.
Or, your legs can’t bear to continue with putting one foot in front of the other, but you continue anyway, knowing that a slower pace is better than no pace at all.
Oh, and let’s not even get started about the pain that is stick and foam rolling. The hurt so good pain, but gosh.
For pregnancy, the hard and painful times may be touch and go, but there will be hard feelings and emotions.
And uncomfortable body movements. Clothes that no longer fit. Sleeping positions that are no longer comfortable. Exercises you can no longer do. Foods you used to love and now hate.
Both of these experiences require growth and forming a whole new comfort zone, with being uncomfortable.
You’re sacrificing your body
During marathon training, I sacrificed alot to earn that BQ. Aside from social obligations and things, you’re sacrificing your body. Long runs can be brutal to test your strength and endurance.
At the same time, I preach respecting your body and resting when you need to. But, there’s still alot of hard work and training that goes into it.
With pregnancy, you’re sacrificing your body for another human being. Completely different ballgame. This human being lives inside you, needs food/fuel from you and needs a safe and healthy place to grow. Your body changes with pregnancy, with many of those changes being out of your control.
For me, that’s been more shortness of breath while running, worsening skin, so so sleep patterns, and the need to eat more often. I wouldn’t change any of these for the world. It’s cool to think what’s in store and how what I’m doing now matters.
But these sacrifices and dedications make the end product so much more worth it. So well deserved.
Nutrition is important to finish strong
No questions here.
Obviously, every single thing doesn’t have to be healthy. You guys know my philosophy on that. But, with training, you want to perform well in 20 mile runs and recover well with nutrition, which means complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, ample antioxidants and fruits and veggies.
And with pregnancy, you are growing another human being whom you want to be healthy. He/she needs all the nutrients you need, meaning you need to eat MORE of those nutrients.
Many athletes don’t realize they are in the best position to listen to their bodies. Craving meat? Eat it, you probably need the iron and zinc. Craving sugar? You may be undereating, or need the extra glucose.
I’m following the same principles with pregnancy, albeit cravings have been slightly different than those during marathon training. lol
Rest is vital
A lot of people praise those who work out or run every day. That was me years ago, but now I recognize the importance of rest days. I had two full rest days during marathon training plus 1 day of cross training that was less impactful.
I knew my performance would suffer without proper rest and nutrition. Rest is when your muscles are able to recover and grow, and your brain processes things. It is so so important!
Same with pregnancy – listening to your body is key. Any signal that screams tired is a sign for me to rest – to sit, to lay down or just be still for a few moments. Or, to go to bed early or sleep in. I’m learning to be much more responsive to those signals.
Sometimes, productivity takes a back seat to rest.
You need support
Throughout training and at the finish line. If I didn’t have a group of other runners who understood the sacrifice or a husband who could help at home while I was doing a three hour long run, life and training would have been a lot tougher.
Similarly, with changing hormones and mood swings, sometimes I deal with a sudden feeling of overwhelm.
Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking, or doing anything on the weekends. It’s nice to have a spouse who can be here to help and wait for me at the “finish line.”
While these experiences are part of life, I believe they should be enjoyed too.
You May Also Like:
Tips for Running in the Third Trimester
Running, Life Lessons and Motherhood
Returning to Running After Pregnancy
How I Trained for My First Half Marathon Post Partum
Can you relate to any of these? Have you ever done anything without support? It’s hard!
Any other similarities I may have missed? Feel free to chime in!
This is such an interesting comparison! I’ve never been a long distance runner and I’ve never been pregnant but this has totally given me a little insider’s look at your world!
It’s been fun to learn these things along the way 🙂
Well said, Mama. When the little one makes their appearance, just like distance training — you’ll only feel the euphoria of crossing that finish line. Thanks for linking!
I can’t wait!
Well, I neither have any experiences in pregnancy nor true distance running but can relate to this through other happenings in my life. The journey is rocky and it’s vital to stay in touch with inner cues and accept any changes and hurdles we might face along the way. And yes yes yes, support is key. I think many of us find it hard to ask for it but no [wo]man is an island and we all need a helping hand from time to time.
Also, I’m glad you haven’t experienced any – or not a lot of? – morning sickness yet. That really has to be tough.
I agree – those who do experience morning sickness have a much harder time. It can’t be easy!
I’ve never been pregnant, so I have nothing to add to this 😛
Maybe just like post race, post pregnancy needs to be full of rest too…but then again, you’re having a baby so you won’t get rest…yup, I have no idea what I’m talking about here 🙂 but I enjoyed this post as usual Sarah.
🙂 🙂 Thanks Ellie!
Wow I love how you drew the parallels. It’s so true that running does take perseverance, support, and that it doesn’t have a specific ending point. Not every part will be easy, but the sacrifice is worth it. That’s what stands out to me every time I watch a mommy give up her body for carrying a little precious baby. It’s truly awesome.
It is so magical – every day I am stunned about the process of a human growing inside me.
I’m not currently and have not ever been pregnant so I can’t relate to that part but I think that running is similar to a lot of things! School being one of them. I graduated from college in May and it seems like the last semester relates to a long distance race. It goes by fast but slow at the same time. Certain days of the semester and training are harder than others. There’s usually some tears that come with reaching a goal pace at the end or a goal grade in a class.
Absolutely – so much in life can be related to running (I find) – it’s a great metaphor for living!
I have not done much long distance running, but pregnancy is definitely a marathon lol. I think the support is so important in all significant area of life, it is so much easier to stay focused and happy when things get hard if you have good support. Hope you have a great day!
Support is so key – thanks Emily!