How to stay motivated if you want to run during pregnancy
Updated: Jan 11
Recently I wrote a post about running during the early stages of my pregnancy. One thing I mentioned in that post is that this relates to my experience only, and everyone is different, which is relevant for this post too.
When I found out I was pregnant, I set myself a goal of running 70km a week for as long as I could. That was manageable for a few weeks, until we went to New Zealand to run the Queenstown Half Marathon. I wrote a recap of that race in my last post, and mentioned that our trip included an unexpected snow storm following the race!
We skipped the recovery run the day after the race after a sleep in and a trip to Arrowtown with some friends. At the time, I figured it was no big deal and we would get back into routine the next day. Until we woke up to snow. Not just in the mountains, in Queenstown. We could see a runner out our window, she was rugged up in winter clothes, which we definitely did not bring with us. And to be honest, even if we had, I’m not sure I would have wanted to go out.
With similar weather the following day, all of a sudden my 70km per week plans had gone out the window. I’ve talked about the importance of making running a habit in previous posts, and it was reinforced again in those few weeks. It only took a few days of being out of routine (and pregnancy nausea setting in) and I just did not want to run.
I had no motivation, I couldn’t train for anything, I didn’t feel great, I was starting a new job and I was really tired. I remember one day when it was raining, I stopped and stood under a tree for awhile until it passed!
On the other side of it though, I knew running was good for me. It keeps me fit, helps reduce stress and I always feel better after I’ve done it.
I revised my 70km a week goal, and decided to aim for 50km instead. I also decided that I would aim to go out on each of my usual running days (Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sat, Sun). Even if it was only for something short, I always find it easier to go out for a run if it’s part of my routine than something sporadic.
I didn’t quite make the 50km goal each week, but for the 13 weeks following my post Queenstown slump I managed to get out for a run 4-5 days per week. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes it was a short run, often there were lots of stops, and occasionally a chat with someone I bumped into along the way.
But the key thing is, I was, and still am going.
Here are my tips for making going for a run a bit easier when you are pregnant (or anytime you are lacking motivation really).
Run with someone: For me, it’s mostly been my husband. This is different to running with my husband before I was pregnant, because at the moment he’s training for a marathon and I can’t keep up! But I commit to going for a run when he goes.
It might mean doing a shorter run while he does a long run, arranging to meet for breakfast and bringing his bags or give him a lift home so I need to be there, or doing an easy run while he does a session. However it works, if he is getting up to run, I make sure I get up too. I wake up when his alarm goes off, so I may as well make the most of it!
Go to parkrun: I’m a big fan of parkrun because you can adapt it to suit the type of run you want to do each weekend. It can be a pre-race warm up run, part of a longer run, or a hard training hit out. For me at the moment, it’s a consistent run that I know is available each week and is an easy way to get 5km in.
Arrange a post run breakfast: Our Sunday long runs end with breakfast and a swim. There were a few Sundays after Queenstown when I was trying to re-build the running habit that I really struggled to get up. I had great plans to run for 90 minutes, got my stuff ready the night before, and arranged what time to meet up afterwards.
But when Marty left for his longer run, I snoozed my alarm for as long as possible. I usually ended up getting up at the last possible minute to do the shortest possible run to the breakfast location. But I still went out, and it was mostly because I had made plans for afterwards.
And it was worth it, because it kept Sunday as a consistent running day, and for the last two months when I started to get a bit of energy back, I’ve been able to increase the distance again.
Pick easy routes: Because I’m not training for anything, and am running for fitness, routine and mental benefits, I need to make it as easy for myself as possible. Sometimes this has meant picking flat places to run, because a) hills are hard, and b) I don’t need to push myself at the moment. Other times it means running laps of the parkrun course, because it’s straightforward, I know it back to front, and I don’t have to think too much about getting it done.
Do what you can do: I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m struggling to accept that I’m running slower than I used to. Aside from a few moments when I’ve had the urge to knock out a speed session, I’m actually not too bothered by it.
In some ways, it surprises me. But I have definitely learnt to cut myself some slack. Things that used to bother me before are not an issue at the moment. My pace has dropped off, but at least I’m out there. I need to take a lot of breaks, but I’d rather be cool, hydrated and comfortable than not enjoying it. I can’t run the same volume as I used to, but I’m doing more than when I ran my first half marathon. I bump into a friend who wants to have a chat mid run, sounds great!
In some ways, it’s nice to run just to run, and there is absolutely no pressure on time or pace. All of that will still be there after the baby arrives and I’m ready to train again.
My goal at the moment is to try to maintain my current routine and aim for roughly 50km a week until we go on holidays in April. By then, I will be 28 weeks, will have the extra challenge of trying to fit in runs while overseas, and everything will probable change again.
My next pregnancy post talks about some of the things that made running physically easier while I pregnant.