Some people have a wide range of experiences and knowledge about hydration and running. Some people know how to become hydrated and stay hydrated regardless of the length or intensity of their run. Some people are not pregnant.
This article is not for those people. This article is for those of us who find ourselves knocked up and wearing Asics, and who, through a series of unfortunate events, are not experts on running, hydrating, or incubating. I doubt that Paula is losing sleep over this, but some of us need help.
I was about six weeks in to a 13 week training program for a half marathon when I found out I was pregnant. I was anxious to talk to my doctor about continuing to run during my pregnancy. I was pretty sure it would be okay; I had already researched it on the Internet and I was the most fit I had ever been prior to getting the good news. But, I still wanted to get the go-ahead signal from my own ob/gyn. My doctor confirmed what I had already learned through various search strings:
- Although pregnancy is not the time to begin a rigorous exercise regimen, it is absolutely healthy and appropriate to continue with one you are already accustomed to.
- Monitor your heart rate, and don’t let it rise above 140 beats per minute (or, “moderate exertion,” based on your experience).
- Stay well-hydrated.
Apparently, numbers two and three are closely related. The basic premise is that while the incubating mommy can sweat to release heat, her little co-pilot does not have that luxury. Being well-hydrated helps keep her heart rate down. Keeping her heart rate in check reduces the likelihood of getting too warm. Keeping that internal temperature steady is the key to a healthy pregnancy.
The Voice of Doom
It all sounded simple enough, except that I have never been one to drink enough water, even under the best of circumstances. I don’t get my “eight full glasses each day.” Despite the fact that I had logged hundreds of training miles by the time I ran the half, I still had no internalized knowledge of what “good hydration” might mean, pregnant or not. So I turned to the mighty search engines once again. Here are just a few of the returns:
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause pre-term labor.
- The guidelines emphasize proper hydration, which speeds the ability for both mother and baby to stay cool.
- Attention to proper hydration and subjective feelings of heat stress are essential.
- Hydration is extremely important during pregnancy, especially for women who run. Make sure to stay well hydrated and avoid overheating.
Everything I found was some dire variation on this theme: Drink enough water! Not drinking enough water is dangerous and irresponsible! I was desperate to find some authority that could impart something more specific and helpful about exactly how much water constitutes “plenty” and what does “proper hydration” actually look like?
I was quite diligent in my searches, and I sifted through pages of medical journals and sports drink sites to come up with the guidelines I ended up following for all my running-while-pregnant activities. I ran these by my doctor, who seemed bemused by my lack of basic knowledge in the area. I don’t care how self-evident it is, before you know it you don’t know it. She agreed that it looked perfectly reasonable and further suggested that I go with what I had ferreted out, but stay in tune with my body and my exertion and listen to what it needed. That’s good advice for all of us.
A Simple Plan
I put together the following information from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and, yes, the Gatorade site.
- Hydrate for several days before a long and/or intense run by drinking approximately one and a half gallons of water over the two days before the run.
- Weigh yourself before and after a long and/or intense run. Drink 1 pint of water for every pound you lose during the run. (Sorry, it’s all fluid that you lost, and it all needs to be replaced before you run again!)
- Drink 10 to 15 ounces of water about 20 minutes before you run, and drink 6 to 10 ounces of water every 30 minutes during your run.
(click image to enlarge) This is the formula I used with great success as I continued to run until my third trimester. Let it be known that it was not dehydration that led me to put my running on hold as I finished my pregnancy; rather, it was a deep and abiding need to lay around and eat ice cream.