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I have been meaning to write about running during pregnancy for a very long time, yet here I am – finally posting this at nearly 38 weeks pregnant!

Clearly a lot has happened since I ran the Big Sur Marathon last year. That was always the plan – run one last big race, and then attempt another far more challenging endurance event…PREGNANCY! We were fortunate enough to conceive right away, so I cruised from post-marathon recovery right into training for motherhood. We found out the good news shortly after an incredible trip to Hawaii, where we ran almost daily on the beach and had an epic trail running adventure down and around the Haleakala crater. I didn’t realize that I was 3 weeks pregnant at the time (if that even counts) and thoroughly enjoyed our 12 miles of running at altitude, hurling ourselves down the crater and across some of the most stunning and dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. It was my last blissfully ignorant running hurrah – before any of the now familiar pregnant running thoughts and concerns entered my mind. E captured the day quite well in his blog and I highly recommend hiking or running there if you find yourself in Maui – check it out!

Once I processed the initial shock and joy of discovering I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was, “Wait – what about my running?!?!” I was averaging 30-40 miles per week pre-pregnancy, not training for anything in particular but trying to maintain my fitness after Big Sur for myself, and in case I wanted to squeeze in one last marathon or ultra over the summer. I couldn’t imagine not running. It is such an integral of my life – my “me time,” my release, a way I bond with my husband, and a large part of how I stay fit and healthy. I wanted to keep running as long as I could!

As a running coach, I knew the basics surrounding exercise during pregnancy, including:

  • Don’t start any new physical activities – unless it is something relatively gentle (i.e. if you weren’t active before, starting a walking routine is fine)
  • Limit or avoid sports that have a higher risk of injury/falling
  • Listen to your body and err on the side of caution if something doesn’t feel right – it’s just not worth the risk
  • Ensure adequate hydration/nutrition before, during and after exercise to maximize energy levels and recovery
  • Avoid exercising in heat or other potentially dangerous weather conditions (e.g. ice)
  • Most importantly, follow the advice that your doctor provides you that is specific to YOUR unique pregnancy!

Exercise, generally speaking, is without a doubt beneficial to mom and baby, assuming a healthy pregnancy. There is a great deal of research to support this, leading doctors to encourage most women to perform some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. But I was already very active – 30 min of walking doesn’t exactly cut it for me – and I couldn’t help but feel nervous, especially during the first trimester, so I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I knew that many women ran during pregnancy – some even finished marathons in their second and third trimesters – but there seemed to be conflicting information and opinions out there regarding distance and/or high intensity exercise. Could I continue with my previous mileage? What about long runs? What was safe for me and my baby? There wasn’t a whole lot of concrete information available on the topic.

I found myself doing a lot of googling and and blog reading about other women’s experiences. This of course did not substitute my need for individualized medical advice, and it’s important to note that every pregnancy is different, but it was reassuring and motivating to know that other runners were able to have healthy, successful pregnancies and stay in great shape without sacrificing their love of the sport. Did their running change and was it challenging at times to keep running? Of course! Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Did their successs mean that I would be able to run throughout my entire pregnancy? Definitely not. But I hoped I could and I am grateful my little one allowed me to run as long as I did, up until 36.5 weeks!

It also helped that I have a great OB who has been supportive of my running from day 1. With the thumbs up from her, I kept doing what I was doing, with some key adjustments that I have outlined below. My running obviously shifted as pregnancy progressed, but I pretty much followed these guidelines throughout, based on my experience as a coach and long-time runner, my own research on pregnant running, and my doctor’s advice specific to my exercise and medical history:

  • I approached training for childbirth as I would any important race. Preparing for birth (especially if you are planning for a natural one, as I am), is in many ways similar to training for a race. You have an overarching plan that includes all the physical and mental prep work to cross the finish line successfully, but have to take things day by day and adjust that plan as needed to get to that start line healthy.
  • I tried to stay flexible. If I felt particularly tired, queasy, or something didn’t feel right, I shortened my run, slowed down, took walk breaks, cross-trained, or took a rest day. As a side note, I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor  – keeping heart rate below a certain level for healthy pregnancies is old school advice – but simply paid attention to how I was feeling and adjusted my efforts accordingly.
  • Speed was no longer a priority – especially since pregnancy WILL slow you down eventually (for me, this happened later in my 2nd trimester). I cared more about CONSISTENT running. I still did some high intensity exercise to relieve stress and break up the monotony of easier efforts, but only when I felt strong and up until my third trimester, after which I kept things very low key.
  • I paid closer attention to the weather. I’m the type of runner who usually doesn’t get discouraged by a blizzard, downpour, or a hot summer day. That had to change! On extra hot days or if conditions were slippery, I adjusted the time of day that I went running, hit the treadmill, or did some indoor cross-training.
  • I was extremely careful about my running nutrition & hydration. I carried water if running for more than 4 miles, especially in warmer weather, and carried electrolytes/calories if running longer than 8 miles. I also made sure to have pre and post run snacks (always on my radar though, as a dietitian!).
  • I dedicated more time to strength training and lower impact cross-training, especially once my belly got bigger. Running became less comfortable for me around 34 weeks, at which point I started to run/walk and incorporate more spin classes and what I like to call, “Netflix & Elliptical.”
  • I bought a Road ID to wear in case something happened to me while I was running, especially for when I was alone. I also carried a credit card and if straying far from home, my phone (which I usually never carry), in case of emergencies.
  • I invested in a few key items of maternity exercise wear to stay comfortable as I got bigger. I was lucky in that I could keep wearing a lot of my normal gear until mid/late second trimester, as I already had some flowy and stretchy long tops, large running jackets, and some looser/stretchy shorts and pants. I did find a few things useful to buy, including a couple maternity tanks, a maternity long sleeve zip top, and a pair of maternity tights – all on sale from Old Navy and Gap. I splurged on my For Two Fitness “Running for Two” tank and long sleeve top, as they were too cute to resist!
  • I always ran within my comfort zone – and appreciate that this is different for everyone. For example, a half marathon during my second trimester seemed reasonable to me (I did the Staten Island Half at a slower but strong pace), as did running 12-15 miles with my husband on long slow run days during my 1st and 2nd trimesters, but I did not feel that longer distances were worth the risk. During my late second and early third trimesters, I was quite happy running 8-10M and 6-7M, respectively, as my “long” runs. Additionally, I felt solid running on technical trails up until my third trimester, as long as I ran with E and slowed down or walked particularly tricky sections. Our trail running adventures in Asheville, NC (check out E’s post here) at the start of my second trimester were particularly awesome!
  • I tried not to compare myself to other pregnant runners – what my body looked like, how much I was running, or anything else. Every pregnancy is different and the only important thing was to respect my own!
  • I always kept the “big picture” in mind – heathy mom and baby! Sure, I still had fitness goals – run/exercise consistently and as long as possible – but the ultimate goal always was to keep my baby safe. I’ll be honest, it was a bummer to miss a workout or cut things short because I wasn’t feeling well or my doctor wanted me to be extra cautious at times, but in pregnancy, it’s just not worth the risk.

I never sought to run a specific number of miles while pregnant, but when I realized that 1,000 was within my reach, it become the perfect goal to keep me motivated, especially whenever my running started to feel aimless. The last 50 miles were especially challenging, as I began to feel my increased weight and changes in my gait – a good chunk of those miles were walking – but I’m proud of myself for getting it done. As my doctor told me, my dedication to exercise helped maintain great blood flow to my baby and will likely lead to an easier labor! It also means that my return to running post-partum will not be *quite* so painful (although I know that it will still be pretty tough…).

My path to full-term pregnancy has not exactly been easy – without going into details, we have had many bumps in the road, and the process has been scary/overwhelming at times – but I am extremely grateful to have felt good for the most part and to have been able to stay so active. For the past week, I have only been walking because that is what feels best, but I walk every day for at least 30 minutes and at a good pace. I’m thinking of it as “tapering” for “race day” – I don’t get that same post-run high, but I still feel great afterwards. The finish line is within sight now and I cannot wait to meet my baby girl!

A quick note on training for natural birth – my husband and I enrolled in a birthing class that teaches the Bradley Method. It has been a huge time commitment (8 x 3hr sessions) but SO worthwhile. We knew very little about the birthing process pre-pregnancy and we feel so empowered and prepared now (as much as you can be, that is). E and I have always worked well as a team, often training side by side, exploring trails together, and pacing each other in marathons and ultras, so I knew that I wanted him to coach me through birth. The parallels between running a long race and birthing a baby naturally are actually quite astounding. I have been practicing various physical and mental exercises (e.g. kegels, squats, pelvic tilts, active labor positions, relaxation and visualization, breathing etc.) to help cope with labor pain, and also practicing E’s coaching techniques to make sure that they resonate with me. Kind of like strength training, structured running targeted at your race distance, mantras, and learning the art of pacing, right? Childbirth is not the same as running an ultra obviously, but having run for 12 hours and navigated the physical and mental highs and lows of that experience certainly gives me confidence that I can get through the many hours of labor and delivery!

If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience of running while pregnant, in addition to my coaching and nutrition advice for pregnant athletes, check out this podcast that I did with Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running! We had such a great conversation on pregnancy exercise and I would love your feedback.

I’ll close out with a photo diary of my running and other exercise adventures while pregnant – check out the captions to see how far along I was. It’s amazing how much my body has changed, even if I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought I would (and believe me, I have been trying hard to gain more, especially in recent weeks). Then again, I have always been a small person and can’t imagine my belly being much bigger! It will be a long road to get my body and my fitness back post-birth, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

First trimester:

Second trimester:

Third trimester:

My last evening in Santa Cruz has finally arrived. I’ve checked into my flight, finished packing my bags, said goodbye to my family, friends and favorite places and am now trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s all really about to happen, after so many months of planning and preparation! I keep forgetting that I’m actually leaving for good tomorrow – it’s only been four and a half months since I left London for California, but it feels a lot longer. Although I’ve been traveling for much of that time, I’ve grown quite used to being based here, close to my family and with so many beautiful destinations at my fingertips. At least the unusual and long streak of gorgeous, warm weather is due to end next week – rainy California isn’t nearly as bad as East Coast winter, but still – makes leaving slightly less bittersweet!

I’ve been feeling a bit more sadness than excitement these last few days, but I know that will change once I arrive in NYC. In fact, it has already started to change – paying my first tuition bill and buying my textbooks this morning was a major wake-up call! It’s definitely time – time to leave my California bubble, live on my own again and move forward with my life and career. Not to say that I’ve just been sitting on my butt this whole time – I’ve accomplished a lot and have been very busy – but I’m also very aware that I haven’t quite been living in the “real world.” I’m grateful to have parents who are so supportive of my career change and my decision to take time off from work while applying to grad school, and I’m also fortunate to have had a good chunk of time off to spend with my family and have some fun before diving back in again. It’s been a good run but I’m ready get going!


Speaking of which, I had a wonderful last run on the beach yesterday – 6M including 5M of fartlek (I still can’t quite get myself to do structured speedwork yet, even though I should be preparing for the NYC half…) – and today I did 10M in Nisene Marks at 9:41 average pace and 1,030ft elevation gain. The weather was glorious and I felt strong at the end of both runs – it was a great way to say goodbye to two of my favorite spots in Santa Cruz! I mean, check out that afterglow!!

About halfway up the mountain today, I stopped and listened to the forest for a few minutes. I’m not going to be able to get any real peace and quiet for a long time and Nisene has really become a special place for me since I moved back here, so I wanted to make sure I fully appreciated it. All I could hear was the babbling of the creek and my own breath – it was nice to take a moment to meditate on all the wonderful things that I’ve experienced recently, and all of the exciting things that are about to happen!

Today’s run also taught me that although I am not a fast runner right now, I’ve become a lot stronger due to regular trail running and hiking. I was climbing the tough part of the Fire Road today at a steady, comfortable pace and was surprised when I passed several cyclists and then remained on the tail of several others who were going at a pretty good clip for nearly a mile. They kept trying to shake me and then finally commented, “wow, you’re fast!” It made me feel good, considering my lack of speed training and the fact that I’ve gained eight pounds since running Portland. I’d like to think some of it is muscle (perhaps a small fraction is), but the reality is that most of it is from November – January indulgences. It’s okay though – I’ve enjoyed my aimless training and all the wonderful food I’ve consumed! I know that I’ll be able to shed the unwanted weight once I get back to walking everywhere, begin more structured training and have my own kitchen again, without so many holiday goodies everywhere. Besides, I was only following Scott Jurek’s advice (well, save for the no running part…)…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I wrapped up my California goodbye by watching one last sunset at the cliffs overlooking my local beach – it was so beautiful and the perfect sendoff.


My flight leaves at noon tomorrow. I’ve found a nice sublet not too far from campus which begins as soon as I arrive (such a huge relief), and I have an entire week to get settled before classes begin. I’ve already made plans to hang out with several friends (many of whom live close to my sublet) and I’m looking forward to the various NYU grad student orientation sessions that are taking place. I’m so thankful to already be familiar with the city from my three years living there and to have such a large social network in place so I can focus on adjusting to everything else!

So, goodbye California and hello New York City. It is time and I am ready!

After six weeks of anticipation, I received some incredibly exciting news via email a couple days ago: I have been offered a place in NYU’s master’s program in Clinical Nutrition! I just accepted my admissions offer and am officially on the road towards becoming a Registered Dietitian. YES!

I received NYU’s email upon returning to my car after a relaxing, restorative 6M run in Nisene Marks. My legs were a bit sore from Sunday’s race, but I was feeling anxious about still not having heard from NYU (they did say late November OR early December, but I am not the most patient person…) so I needed a distraction from constantly refreshing my email inbox. My application was strong and I had faith that I would probably get in, but you never really know and all the waiting/obsessing was making me paranoid.

Also, the weather was crisp and sunny – far too perfect to be cooped up inside – and I really missed the redwoods. My last run in the forest was the morning I flew to NYC in late October!

The run was lovely. All I could hear were my own footsteps and it smelled like Christmas trees. I stopped three miles in before turning around and took some time to listen to the creek and appreciate the peacefulness. Ahhhhhhh. What a special place. I took deep breaths, closed my eyes and reassured myself that everything would be okay, no matter what happened. And hey, if I didn’t get in, that meant more time to enjoy California and my favorite running trails!

I got back to my car, checked my phone and almost like magic that email I had been awaiting for so many weeks suddenly appeared. See what going for a run can do?!

I started screaming “I’m in!” and jumping up and down. Some mountain bikers next to me gave me strange looks. “Sorry, I just found out I got into grad school!” I continued my silly happy dance and then made a bunch of phone calls. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive and encouraging throughout this whole process – it felt wonderful to share the good news with them and receive so many kind words in response!

I cannot tell you how relieved I am. Classes start on January 23rd which means everything is happening VERY quickly. I have an endless to do list to get myself prepped for my first semester, including scholarship applications, finding a place to live, figuring out which classes to take, finding part-time work (I won’t bore you with the rest). I also have a VERY long road ahead of me before I can call myself an RD. It’s quite overwhelming.

However, I don’t have to do another round of master’s applications, take the GRE’s or figure out how to complete my prerequisites in California over the next six months when it’s practically impossible to get a space in a local community college course. I don’t have to deal with the fact that the various other schools I was considering all have different prerequisites. And as much as I love my parents and Santa Cruz, I no longer have to live at home, which is a bit embarrassing at 30 years old.

I got into my top choice program and get to start in just over a month – I am so fortunate!

I’ll miss California and my family (moving to NYC at the start of winter?! yuck) and am daunted by how expensive studying in New York City will be, but I know this is a worthy investment, and I am ready for this change. After so many months of talking about pursuing this new career, I’m finally taking action! No more waiting and worrying – I’m moving forward, or perhaps I should say, Eastward!

It’s pretty amazing to think that I quit my job three and a half months ago with only a vague idea of how I might achieve my goals, and suddenly here I am, at the start line. Once again, I have proven to myself that when I set my heart on something, I always make it happen. All I need is a vision, hard work, perseverance and faith in myself. I can’t say I’ve always had these things in abundance – I have my moments of crisis and self-doubt – but somehow I always manage to do what I set out to do. Knowing this helps give me the courage to keep going after what I want, particularly when what I want kind of terrifies me!

In terms of running, I feel newly inspired by my acceptance to pursue my dream of running a 3:30 marathon. Compared to last year, 2011 has been relatively mediocre in terms of racing, with mental burnout hindering my success in the first half and injury plaguing the second half. It’s time to get my racing spirit back, both mentally and physically. It may not happen during my first semester in school – I really want to focus 100% on academic over athletic success – and I currently have ZERO 2012 race plans (the horror!). I am strongly considering the Chicago Marathon in October, maybe a couple half marathons and another marathon earlier in the year too, but I haven’t committed myself to anything yet.

Either way, it will happen. Just like I told myself I was going to become an RD this past summer, and am now on that path. I feel empowered!

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

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