Some Light Reading

Running and Pregnancy

My Experience with Running while Pregnant
(an edited version also published in the Mar-April 2011 issue of Rocky Mountain Running and Triathlon Magazine)

By Hayley Roggia

My name is Hayley Roggia. I am a 24-year-old mother of 2, and I love running. I hate running, but I love it. Running didn’t really have a presence in my early life. I grew up in an Army family, moving at least every couple of years, on average. I attended 9 schools and lived in 10 different places (including 4 countries) before heading off to college. I played a few different sports growing up, but never stuck with any of them for long. I never ran, except as forced by coaches (usually as punishment). I also did gym workouts frequently with my awesome body-builder of a dad, where I usually felt proud of myself for sticking out that 10 minute mile on the treadmill before hitting the weights.

Then, in my second semester of college, I met up with a young man from my childhood (the brother of one of my best friends, actually). We dated 3 weeks, got engaged, and were married 3 months later. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I knew Adam was a runner, but I don’t think I understood what that entailed at the time… the hours away, the early mornings, the loud treadmills, the too-tired-to-move nights, and the crazy race days. He was my introduction into a world that I now love and am proud to be a part of. Of course, when I first started running and letting him train me, it was just to lose a little weight, feel a little better, etc. He helped me get fairly consistent in our first year or two of marriage.

Cue pregnancy number one. I didn’t run during my first pregnancy. I walked a fair amount, and occasionally did gym workouts to keep myself feeling a little better. But for the most part, I was your average tired, pregnant woman who gained a little more weight than she needed to—let’s just say I’m glad we didn’t own a scale at the time. Luckily, the prize at the end of that journey was a beautiful little red-headed, and red-tempered, girl we named Ellie. She is now 2 years old and is the spark of my life. So sweet, and so ridiculously crazy.

After Ellie came home that Fall of 2008, I gradually got things going again. I did some cross-training with a good friend and neighbor about 2 months post-partum, then started running about 4 or 5 months post. It was slow going. Again, my main purpose was to lose weight, baby weight this time. But as summer came, something inside me changed. All of those little stroller runs I was forcing myself to do each day stopped feeling obligatory or mentally exhausting. Suddenly I found myself wanting to run, waiting to run. I started to recognize the freedom and the release that it gave me. Even if I was pushing Ellie in front of me, it was my break in the day. It was a chance to breathe some fresh air, forget the stresses of the day, and just have some time with myself. My legs wanted to move. I picked up a little mileage and a little speed as fall came and set a 5k PR of 24:49 on Thanksgiving. I’m no elite, but I was loving where things were going. Life and running were good.

Cue pregnancy number two. Yes, 2 weeks after my PR race, we were surprised by the news of another baby coming. I was feeling a little down one night thereafter until I finally stopped myself and thought, “Whycan’t I keep running?”  So I did some research, I read countless blogs by amazing and inspiring women. I saw that it was possible, that women all over the country were doing it. I absolutely could keep running, pregnant or not.

I must acknowledge the fact that I am blessed to have a husband with multiple degrees in exercise science and training, and who is a year away from becoming a doctor of physical therapy. He is my fountain of knowledge when it comes to running and training. I rely on him completely. That’s what he gets for pulling me into this world. So with his advice and supervision, I kept going.

Eventually, I  got the guts to mention it to my doctor at a prenatal checkup. I was so relieved to have an amazingly supportive group of doctors throughout this pregnancy. They all encouraged me to continue running and believed the benefits would far outweigh the risks. I was simply told to stay hydrated and listen to my body.

That was a big thing for me, listening to my body. As a pregnant runner, it is even more crucial as your own life and body are not the only things at stake. I had to learn to differentiate between just being tired and being exhausted or drained from the strains of pregnancy. I had to change my eating habits, eating more frequently: right before, and sometimes even during a run. I had to start packing water with me more than I normally would. My loving husband also made me carry a phone on most all my runs, just in case (It’s a good thing I had my jogging stroller with me to carry everything). More than anything, I had to learn to pace myself. I hated consciously slowing down, but felt that it was necessary to avoid overdoing my workouts. It took a lot of discipline. The precautions could be annoying, but I’m glad I took them. They made me feel better about what I was doing.

I kept going, regularly reading stories about Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe (who were both pregnant just a month or two after me) as a continuous motivating force. I even ran my final 2 miles on my due date in August 2010, and am still so glad that I did. I felt so amazing throughout that pregnancy. I even raced a 5k at 28 weeks and got a surprisingly decent time of 26:13. I had more energy, felt less sick, and had the easiest birth I ever could have wished for... healing so quickly that I was able to start running again only 2 weeks post-partum. And on top of it all, I had the blessing of an adorable and healthy little boy named Seth, who I just cannot get enough of, (and who loves to sit in a bouncer and watch his mommy run on the treadmill… go figure).

Hayley at 28 Weeks at the end of her 26 min 5k

I won’t deny that there were times that I thought about quitting. Pregnancy is exhausting. Sometimes it can feel like a pointless effort, especially if you plan to have more kids in the future. You keep running so that you can get back to your regular routine after the baby comes, only to have that work wasted away by the next pregnancy. But it is all a matter of perspective. I have tried to abandon that nay-saying and have actually gotten excited about my future pregnancies. I look forward to building up my miles and ability now and then seeing how much better I can do in the next pregnancy. Pregnancy is a reality of my life, so I am going to embrace it. 

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