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Pregnant Athlete Runs 14 Miles a Day

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Paula Radcliffe, the woman who won the New York City Marathon less than ten months after giving birth to her daughter, is pregnant again with Baby #2 -- and she's running 14 miles a day to train for the 2012 Olympics.

Paula Radcliffe

During her first pregnancy, Radcliffe also trained rigorously. She said that safety was her top priority, and her OB/GYN closely monitored her throughout each trimester, giving her monthly ultrasounds from the fifth month on. Under doctor's orders, Radcliffe never allowed her heart rate to rise above 160 beats per minute while running.

Radcliffe is now five months pregnant, and has gained 13 pounds so far.

We asked Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz about training while pregnant. Here's what she had to say:

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz
: Exercise and fitness are encouraged during pregnancy. Regular, moderate exercise is known to decrease fatigue and nausea during the first trimester, and to increase stamina, flexibility and potentially endurance in later trimesters -- possibly even during labor!

Exercise is best started well before pregnancy as part of any woman's healthy lifestyle. But even for fit women, the types of exercise that are safe can change during the course of pregnancy. As a pregnancy proceeds, balance can become an issue; aerobic exercise that is lower impact -- such as walking, gym machines, swimming, stationary cycling, yoga or strength training -- is generally safe.

To be clear: No-nos include downhill skiing, contact sports, surfing, horseback riding, skateboarding and scuba diving. Obviously, most X-Games athletes would probably need to take a break. I usually advise my patients, "If you fall, will you freak out? Then don't do it!"

Do YOU think a pregnant woman should run 14 miles a day?


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55 comments so far | Post a comment now
Arisma June 1, 2010, 1:54 PM

I think this is between the woman and her doctor. This is none of our business, and our opinions are just a meaningless opportunity to judge.

Cyndi June 1, 2010, 1:57 PM

Yes, I think if she is capable of it and her doctor is ok with it and monitoring her closely….more power to her. I can’t run 14 miles a week and I’m not pregnant. I think it’s great. And I do remember when I was pregnant that my doctor said unless it was a high risk pregnancy, I could continue the same level of exercise I was already doing pre-pregnancy, including running. I can’t imagine why anyone would think she shouldn’t stay as active as she can while pregnant.

JoAnne June 1, 2010, 2:17 PM

I’m currently 37 weeks pregnant and ran up until I was 32 weeks (but only 5-7 miles/day). I stopped due to the size of my stomach pushing on my bladder- it just got too awkward and I didn’t want to pee my pants while running :). I still take spin classes 5 days a week and wear a heart monitor. More power to her! My doctor told me to not do anything that might cause me to fall down and to keep my heart rate below 160. Planning to run my first marathon next spring so I’m hoping all of the exercise I’m doing now will keep me in “fighting shape” postpartum.

Amie June 1, 2010, 3:06 PM

I agree none of our business she is taking care of herself and the baby and doesn’t need to answer to anyone

Anonymous June 1, 2010, 4:51 PM

I was nervous to even check on the comments here, thinking that people were going to be judgmental and negative about what this woman “should or should not be doing”… So it was a relief to see several posters stating that it’s none of our business. Clearly she cares about the health of her baby (as well as her own), and no one knows better than herself.

I had my heart set on running through my entire pregnancy, but had severe morning sickness/fatigue during my first trimester that prevented me from doing anything. I ran for the entire second trimester, but then by 7 months I was getting contractions (painful ones) while running and so I stopped and switched to eliptical workouts. And, there is nothing like the pressure and pain that you experience when a 4 pound fetus is bouncing on your bladder. :)

If anyone is interested, there is a researcher (last name Knapp, I think) who did several randomized controlled trials with pregnant women to demonstrate that rigorous high-impact exercise is not only safe for pregnant women but also extremely beneficial for both mom and babe. The interesting thing is that he found that the exercise really needs to be high-impact, like running or aerobics.

mom of 2 June 1, 2010, 5:41 PM

I agree this is no ones business and as long as she was doing this before pregnancy she is fine. I also ran, lifted weights and did defensive tactics while pregnant. I also stopped running in my 7th month due to the pressure and changed to elliptical. I would say it was the best thing I ever did. My labor for my first child was three hours, my second labor was four hours. Sure beats those 24+ labors. Plain and simple unless its high risk its fine. You are pregnant not broken.

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Healthy pregnancy June 2, 2010, 5:38 AM

It take the same amount of calories to walk,run or bike the same amount of distance. Why not power walk or bike for a low impact work out(UP to 1 hour)? I walked 10 miles 3-5 times a week until I was 36 weeks along and ate healthy but with a 8+ pound baby in your belly there isn’t much room for food on a high volume level. so you bet I ate a ton after giving birth. With my last baby I recovered in 6 days instead of two weeks because I walked 5 days a week and up until 2 days before I gave birth at 40 weeks. Compared to my usual 8 hour long labor and 2 weeks to stop bleeding I labored in a little over 2 hours and recovered in 6 days including keeping up with two toddlers. Low impact anyone can do. Your baby’s health has to be first priority to you. My babies all sleep through the night from day one. Their dad was in a marriage prior and he kept telling me my next one will cry,fuss and I won’t get any sleep. His other kids weren’t this mellow. What you eat and what you do makes all the difference, including what you don’t eat. OH and by the way I am VEGAN and my health is phenomenal!! I get morning sickness for one week with each pregnancy. No swelling, or any other pregnancy horror symptoms. No cramping after labor or tearing and no epidural or drugs. I am a size 0 and have 8+ pound babies, if I can do it anyone can. Last one I had a water birth instead of just laboring in the water, I delivered in water with my last one. I highly recommend it. I felt so energetic after and in less of a dream state. W-O-W is all I can say, there are no words to describe my satisfaction ^_^

Healthy pregnancy June 2, 2010, 5:49 AM

Power walk as fast as you like but it’s still better on your joints, pregnant or not.

Mama Sweat June 2, 2010, 6:22 AM

For Paula, it’s more than a workout, it’s her *job.* But I’d be worried about her OB because ACOG threw out heart rate recommendations years ago. I did a Q&A with prenatal and postpartum exercise expert Cathy Cram about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and there are many, among them a bigger, healthier placenta. But if you’re not winning marathons there are lots of ways you can exercise while pregnant: (http://mamasweat.blogspot.com/2009/02/fit-pregnancy-questions-answered.html)

Healthy pregnancy June 2, 2010, 9:34 AM

Mama Sweat, my midwife told me I had a big healthy placenta…I didn’t know it was significant. Thanks for the link, I’ll be checking it out even though I don’t plan on having more babies!

Me June 2, 2010, 10:45 AM

Personally I’d be too nervous of any risks possible risks but if her doctors really think it’s perfectly fine and safe then good for her. It sounds like she’s being careful and reasonable about it with watching her heart rate and such.

Healthy pregnancy June 2, 2010, 11:31 AM

Nervous of any risks? There are tons of risks IF you aren’t healthy.

C June 3, 2010, 3:35 PM

One of my best friends was told she could continue running 5 miles a day through out her pregnancy, two weeks ago, a week after flying to Illinois to take classes (yes, she is a med student) she went into labor and now has a 6 month old premature baby. Being as that is not where she lives, her husband has to get rid of their house in Oregon (rented) because they cant afford to pay rent with med school loans while in Illinois and her not in school. The Docs told her the baby cannot be around people for a year after leaving the hospital and she, the baby, has to go through years of therapy both physical and mental. This friend is the healthiest person I know and to see her supposed healthly lifestyle result in premature birth is devastating. I guess if you have someone to look after your baby via ultrasound all the time, that works, but what about the working class??

sew mom June 3, 2010, 11:22 PM

I’m sure it depends on the woman and her level of activity before pregnancy as well. When I experienced bleeding early on, my doc and husband took my bike away. Previous miscarriages had a part in this decision.

Cyndi June 5, 2010, 11:08 AM

C - How do they know that the reason her baby was premature was because of her running? My 1st son was born 6 weeks early and believe me, I did NO running. They could never explain why he was premature and my 2nd son was born right on his due date. It’s rare that they can pinpoint a reason.

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Joce July 29, 2010, 8:35 AM

Running while pregnant does not cause a premature delivery! If someone has a premature baby and happened to run while pregnant, that does not mean the two are at all connected. Sometimes these things just happen. Any doctor or midwife who is up-to-date on their medical knowledge will tell you that it is perfectly safe for a pregnant woman to continue the level of fitness she was accustomed to before getting pregnant (unless she is a high-risk pregnancy). That doesn’t mean that she’ll want to or feel comfortable working that hard, but it’s OK if she does. And power walking DOES NOT burn as many calories as running the same distance. If it did, then all you people out there power walking would be able to run those miles, and we all know that most of you can’t. Don’t make excuses for yourself or anyone else when you’re pregnant. Like someone else said, you’re pregnant not broken. Being lazy when it comes to exercise will only hurt you in the end. And I am speaking from experience, as I am halfway through running through my 2nd pregnancy(ran 6 miles yesterday in fact).

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Online Banking Guide October 18, 2010, 1:07 PM

I was just talking with my coworker about this yesterday at dinner . Don’t remember how we got on the subject really, they brought it up. I do recall eating a excellent steak salad with sunflower seeds on it. I digress…


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