Exercise During Pregnancy

Interview with Crystal on Running a Marathon in Her First Trimester and exercise during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy, yes it can be done. Now If you are looking at the pros and cons of exercise during pregnancy, meet Crystal, a 23-year-old Air Force wife who ran her first marathon when she was ten weeks pregnant.

exercise during pregnancy

Crystal lives in Mountain Home, Idaho. She and Nick have been married for 4 and a half years. She found out she was pregnant with her son Jack, now sixteen months old, while she was in the middle of training for her first marathon.

Read about her decision on whether to continue her running exercise during pregnancy and how her decision affected her pregnancy.

A little about Crystal, she is an enthusiastic young mother with many talents including running, playing the piano and writing.

Crystal's story is one that will hopefully inspire and help you if you are faced with the decision of whether or not to exercise during pregnancy.

Here's the transcript of our interview.

Are you a working mom or a stay at home mom?

I am a freelance writer for several different magazines (mainly family and teen magazines) and a private piano teacher. I average around 25 students at any given time. Between these 2 jobs, I can stay at home with Jack but still work. I love to work.

What did you go to school for?

I got my bachelors’ degree in mass communications/journalism from Boise State University in 2006.

How long have you been running?

I would say I’ve been “seriously” running (for me, anyways) since college...about 5 years.

How did you get into running?

My family is very athletic, and sports were always important to us, but I am not a born runner. I do NOT have a runner’s body! I played volleyball and was a cheerleader in high school, and also loved to play tennis and some other sports, but I saw running just as something to be tolerated in PE, my favorite class.

My freshman year, I was in an advanced PE class where I was the only girl. All the other boys played football every day. I am fairly petite, so gradually the other guys tired of my pathetic efforts. The teacher told me I could play football with them, or start running laps around the track. I hated every minute of it at first, but by the end of the semester I actually woke up wanting to go running!

Also, I grew up near Eugene, Oregon, the self-proclaimed “Track Capital of the World,” host of the track and field Olympic trials, and home of Nike and the running revolution. Everyone in the Willamette Valley picks it up eventually.

What made you decide to run a marathon?

When I was about 8 years old, I wrote down a list of everything I wanted to do in life. To run a marathon was one of the 102 goals. When I was a senior in college, I decided it was time. I figured I might as well since I didn’t have kids. Ha! If I had only known.

How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant while you were in the middle of training for a marathon?

Oh my goodness! I started seriously training in December, and everything was going well. Idaho often has highs in the teens (and sometimes even lower) in December, and so I was proud of myself for subjecting my poor body to the elements every day and not giving up.

Then, I found out I was pregnant in March. My first reaction was panic, and not just because the pregnancy was unplanned. I had put so much effort into my training, and I didn’t want it to be for naught, but neither did I want to harm the baby.

I made a decision within the first 24 hours to still run the marathon. I did some research on exercise during pregnancy and prayed a lot, and it turned out to be the best choice for me and my baby.

How did your pregnancy affect your training and vice versa?

I woke up nearly every day with an insane urge to throw up, but also knowing I had to run. So not only was I running in crazy desert wind, blinding snow and freezing temperatures, but I was also stopping every few miles to hurl on the side of the road. Exercise during pregnancy is not glamorous.

I made sure to really listen to my body, stay super-hydrated and stretched out, but I didn’t run any less miles or with less effort and intensity than planned. I had been running heavy mileage pre-pregnancy, so I knew my baby would be fine with the same amount and slight increases every week.

Also, I was eating incredibly healthy because of my marathon, so that turned out nicely for my growing baby, too! I had two huge reasons to be healthy!

However, my training DEFINITELY affected my pregnancy! I never waddled, never felt uncomfortable, didn’t gain a lot of weight (20 pounds, and Jack was 8-4), felt wonderful after the first trimester, didn’t stop doing anything I loved. I still biked, worked in the yard, ran as much as I wanted, climbed trees, played team sports...most people couldn’t believe how small and active I stayed, and I account it all to my exercise during pregnancy.

On the morning I went into labor, I had one woman ask me at the grocery store how my second trimester was going. When I told her I was 9 months along, her eyes about popped out of her head. I truly attribute this all to my exercise during pregnancy and my running!

What was it like running your first marathon at ten weeks pregnant?

I am not a fast runner, so I was intimidated by all the elite runners I saw. I was also nervous about my decision not to tell anyone other than my husband that I was pregnant beforehand. I didn’t want anyone to talk me out of it.

As I was running, I pictured my little baby pumping his or her fist inside of me, cheering me on. I thought about how this was the first step of a lifetime of fitness and healthy living for my child. And that kept me going.

How did everyone else take the news when you finally told them that you were pregnant when you ran your first marathon?

I didn’t tell anyone until the night of the marathon. My parents, Nick and I were hiking in some hills when we broke the news.

My mom, herself a marathon runner (she had completed her last marathon on a broken foot), flipped out at first, but once I reminded her of her broken-foot-marathon-story, she understood. She knew I had to complete what I started.

My in-laws are not runners, so they think I’m crazy for running in the first place.

Later on, I loved the looks on people’s faces when they would see me out running. I pretty much ran right up until I gave birth, though in the last few weeks it was more like a glorified walk-jog. I called it “wogging.”

People at my church would say, “Hey! I saw you out running! You’re crazy! Don’t you think it’s time to slow down?” And I would just smile and say, “I feel great! My doctors say everything’s textbook-perfect!” Most Idahoans are non-runners, and think that exercise during pregnancy don't mix so I attribute the attitude to that. My girlfriends back in Oregon all ran while pregnant and had great experiences.

How long did your first marathon take you?

I ran the 2007 Eugene Marathon in 4 hours, 46 minutes. I feel I could have run it in 4:30, but I didn’t want to push myself too hard.

What is your normal running speed?

My normal running speed is around an 8-minute mile, but for half-marathons and longer it’s more like 9- to 9:45 minute miles. I’m not that fast, but that’s okay.

How long did it take you to recover from your first marathon?

I took a 2-mile hike up a hillside that night and felt great. The next morning, I expected to be miserable, but I hopped out of bed first thing and felt great again. I went on a few very easy runs that week, and it all felt normal. I was back to running 30-mile weeks within about 3-4 weeks.

Any thoughts you would like to share with us about running or other exercise during pregnancy?

It was so worth it. Yes, the morning sickness was awful, but running gave me a concrete goal, something to get my mind off my stomach and my anxiety about being a first-time parent.

What about after you had your baby...how long did you wait to start running again?

I started speed-walking at 4 weeks, and running the afternoon I got my doctor’s go-ahead at 6 weeks! I couldn’t wait, not for the exercise, but just to get out of the house and have some “me time.”

How often do you run?

I run 5-6 days per week, usually around 30 miles total. More when I’m training for half-marathons and up.

Have you run any marathons since your first marathon?

No, just shorter road races, mainly 7ks and 10ks. I am currently running a half in May and am training for a full in October.

What are your future goals?

I would love to run more marathons in other states and countries – Hawaii and Europe races are big goals! I would also love to run a sub-4 hour marathon. In my dreams, I fantasize about Boston, but realistically, I’m not sure if I can ever be that fast.

Does your whole family run?

Everyone in my family (except my dad – he prefers team sports) runs. We even have a family trophy with everyone’s name, race (1/2 marathon and up) and time on it! That trophy is huge motivation – everyone wants to beat the other person.

Currently, 2 of my brothers and my mother run marathons, while my other brother runs half-marathons and shorter road races (he’s much faster at shorter distances). My 2 sisters play sports year-round, but I expect the running bug will bite them soon.

My husband also runs a variety of races, and has a marathon coming up in May. We all encourage each other and “speak the same language” – it’s wonderful for Nick and me out in Idaho to have that kinship with our family back home.

What is it like for you being a running mom? Do you find it hard to get your training in? Does your son enjoy it?

Jack digs it! I ran so much while I was pregnant that the easiest way to get him to sleep as a newborn was to strap him in the jogging stroller. He loves the motion.

But yes, I do find it hard to get my training in. Part of that is being a military wife. Between my husband’s deployments and TDYs (mini-deployments of sorts from 2 weeks to a few months), it’s really difficult to develop a consistent regimen of heavy mileage.

I run with Jack most days of the week, but it’s harder to go more than 5 miles with him now, just because of timing and meals and naps and work and such.

What would you like to tell other pregnant runners and running moms out there?

Running is the best choice I can make for myself and my child. It taught me discipline, faith and the value of a goal for myself. I feel I am a better mother because of my running – not only because of the obvious fitness and health benefits, but because running is one way to still be “me.”

On my runs, I pray, breathe fresh air, get all my ideas for my articles, clear my head, center my being, meditate, teach my son about nature, give my dog a workout, connect with my husband, feel at one with the world...I could go on and on.

And because I feel fresh when I come back from a run, I can handle whatever life throws at me. Honestly, I’m more proud over my pregnant marathon than I am over my college degree and some other life accomplishments, because I dug so deep within my soul and did something I previously thought was unreachable.

So set goals, work hard for them, don’t give up and enjoy your double life! Running and motherhood go together, and don’t let anyone tell you that exercise druing pregnancy don't mix!

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