Running Writing ©
No. 6   October 1997
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Dynamic Duo was written by Elaine Cooper, a sports physiotherapist who has been a member of ACT track, cross country and half marathon teams. The story was first seen in Australian Runner and Athlete magazine.

Dynamic Duo - Running in Pregnancy
by Elaine Cooper

First published in Australian Runner and Athlete magazine - March/April 1997

Pregnancy, what does this word conjure up in the mind of the uninitiated, female runner? The obvious answer is that it's part of the process of creating another little athlete. Yes, but what about the actual process, the nitty gritty of those amazing nine months. What is it like through the eyes, or indeed feet, of a runner? Friends, family and complete strangers will ply you with graphic details and advice even before that 'pink ring of confidence' has dried in your pregnancy test kit. You begin to contemplate nine months of nausea, piles and a declining max V02, followed by another year of 'crawling legless' out of a mire of nappies, breast-feeding, sleepless nights and exhaustion, trying to rebuild a runner from the ruins.

Ingrid Kristiansen is one such immortal. She carried on her usual regime of 200 km per week...

ingrid kristiansen
Ingrid Kristiansen winning the London Marathon

Its at about this stage that you start to seek out other women runners who have trodden the path before you. Unfortunately, individuals vary. Some will depress you with tales of morning sickness and discomfort that brought their progression to a lumbering halt in about the sixth month. Others will stretch your boundaries of belief with accounts of marathons, cross-training and of how they didn't look pregnant until their tenth month.

Ingrid Kristiansen is one such immortal. She carried on her usual regime of 200 km per week and couldn't work out why she was a little off par until she found she was pregnant in her fifth month. If that doesn't make you feel inferior, she also managed to run a PB marathon (2:27) around five months later, despite dropping her running back.

Frustrated by a plethora of confusing and often, contradictory information, the runner seeks out the experts hoping for illumination and a handy set of rules. The pregnant runner soon begins to realise that there isn't a lot of research being done in this area, especially on subjects who have a reached a fairly high level of pre-pregnancy training.


Select photo to view large image

Elaine Cooper - 1991
Elaine Cooper representing the ACT at the National Cross Country Championships in July 1991. [29k]

Elaine - Dunrossil Drive, May 96
Elaine, pregnant with Michael, racing the Dunrossil Drive cross country race in May 1996. [31k]

Elaine, Vets Fadden handicap 96
Running in the ACT Vets Fadden Pines handicap event in June 1996. [25k]

Elaine Cooper and Jane Zeller
Mother of four, Elaine Cooper racing Jane Zeller to win the April, 1997 Women's and Girls' Fun Run. [27k]

Research findings are frequently contradictory. Guidelines found in pregnancy and exercise texts echo each other and are usually based on animal studies and conjecture from physiological theory. Unfortunately, mass studies on highly and moderately physically trained women pose many problems, both practical and ethical. Understandably, experts will make their recommendations with a wide berth for safety, aware of their responsibility and potential liability. The guidelines do not make allowances for individual variation in pregnancies, training backgrounds and adaptive capacities. Concerns include:

  • Maternal hypothermia and its effect on the fetus.
  • What are the possible effects of strenuous exercise e.g. PH and lactate changes, fetal bradycardia, hypoxia etc?
  • Possibility of premature labour.

Beyond the guidelines, most seasoned runners rely on snippets heard, bits they've read, a little common sense and intuition. Assuming you have been given clearance by your doctor to exercise, this article is intended to provide 'first timers' with o glimpse of what they might experience.

The first trimester may bring few obvious changes to the outside observer but on the inside it's a hotbed of activity. From about the time the zygote latches onto the lining of the uterus (one week post conception), the runner begins to notice changes that become more and more obvious. Your capacity to cope with these changes during running can vary dramatically according to your pre-pregnancy fitness level, severity of symptoms, psychological attitude, level of support and other stresses (e.g.. work, other children, study).

Nausea and fatigue can be two major drawbacks, although their severity and duration may vary remarkably in each woman and in each of her pregnancies. Low blood sugar tends to aggravate these conditions. Try eating little and often. Complex carbohydrates and sufficient protein seem to help. Dieting will aggravate the situation, not to mention the effects it could have on the developing fetus. Running can often ease the nausea. Persevere! While day-time naps are an impossible luxury for most, try to go to bed earlier. Otherwise you'll find running becomes progressively more difficult and you will too.

If you're unaware of being pregnant and still racing hard you may notice your lactic tolerance has 'gone out the door'.


It is around this time you'll notice breathlessness while running, even at a slow pace. The high levels of progesterone supposedly cause a heightened sensitivity to C02, resulting in an increased breathing rate. If you're unaware of being pregnant and still racing hard you may notice your lactic tolerance has 'gone out the door'. Middle distance runners relying on a kick in the final lap can forget it. That top gear can vanish quickly.

Progesterone also dilates your blood vessels, making your legs appear a little red and puffy after exercise. In warmer weather you'll find that even jogging at this stage can feel disgusting, especially at the end of the day. The effect of heat and progesterone on the blood vessels will cause the blood to pool in the legs. Try putting your feet up against the wall before you go out and walk a little before you run. It's advisable to avoid running in the heat. Animal studies have shown there is the potential for producing malformations such as neural tube defects in the first trimester if the body's core temperature is elevated above 39 C. The actual danger period is around 26-30 days post conception. Dehydration has been associated with premature labour so keep well hydrated, wear cool clothing and avoid the hottest part of the day for your run. In extreme heat a swim might be a better choice of exercise.

On the practical side, your running shorts may start to feel tighter even by the second month, especially in the evening when wind extends the abdomen. In the first 20-24 weeks most babies grow at the same rate. This is why an ultrasound scan can determine the baby's 'age' so accurately at 18 weeks. Many runners have well developed abdominal muscles compared to sedentary women and may not show as much, especially in the first pregnancy. Beyond this stage, the physical size of the baby and uterus can vary dramatically. Partners can be a good source for running gear in pregnancy, especially if the elastic is beginning to perish in the shorts. Dark coloured shorts are also useful if you suffer stress incontinence, a common complaint. In fact, for many women, this problem can be the reason they stop running in pregnancy. Wearing a pad, running in a well 'treed' area or doing circuits around a toilet facility may provide a solution.

As you approach the half way mark, the nausea and extreme fatigue will hopefully, have abated. Unfortunately there are new hurdles to overcome. The weight of the baby and uterus, and increased fat deposits (which usually peak in the second trimester) increase the overall body weight making progress more difficult. In addition the uterus may be projecting out of the pelvic cavity, altering biomechanics and possibly increasing susceptibility to injury. If possible try and keep off the hard surfaces. If this isn't bad enough for a compulsive runner, it gets worse. Your internal physiology is really starting to rebel. Blood plasma increases in volume (30-60 per cent) with only a 20-30 per cent increase in red blood cells, which is reflected in your lower haemoglobin levels in the second trimester. This puts a dint in your exercise capacity. This continues until around week 27 and then levels off. If you need convincing here are some scientific statistics that emphasize just why your running performances deteriorate in pregnancy:

  • Body weight increases around 13 per cent.
  • Resting heart rate increases around 10-15 beats per minute.
  • Cardiac output increases by 40-50 per cent at rest (to meet the needs of the baby and uterus)
  • As the uterus presses up against the diaphragm you expend more energy just breathing while you run.

So you're halfway and still running through your pregnancy. Well done! If you're a serious runner you may be feeling daunted and doubtful you will survive the process. Perhaps its those psychological 'molehills' that are becoming more mountainous?

While some may enjoy the attention, for most it takes courage and a healthy dose of confidence to run around your neighbourhood with a burgeoning belly. Sometimes a rhino's exterior is called for to help you cope with the barrage of comments, stares and outright disapproval. Prepare handy comments for a quick counter attack. Other tactics are to run with friends or to get up a little earlier to avoid an audience. Wearing baggier clothes is useful but you reach a stage where you can't find a circus tent big enough to hide 'the bulge'.

As the weight factor increases, you may find your musculoskeletal system starts to creak and groan. A common complaint is sharp knife-like stitches in the sides of the lower abdomen. They are often worse in the beginning of a run and may be sufficiently intense to stop you running. Try stretching away from the pain and walking until the stitch eases. Crouching down may also help. The pain has been attributed to the internal uterine ligaments adjusting to the load of the growing uterus and baby. The low back muscles may also be implicated. In this case mobilisation and massage often provide exquisite relief.

Changes in your running style will become evident, especially after you lose sight of your toes. Knee lift and stride length will suffer. Forefoot strikers usually end up 'flat-footers' under the influence of an increasing load. If you're also a bike rider use this alternate form of exercise to help preserve the strength of hip and leg muscles. If the quadriceps muscles decline in strength this may aggravate knee problems in some runners. Weight training may also be a used to maintain the strength and endurance of these muscles. Try to avoid the 'peanut posture', resisting the urge to let the pelvis tip forward and the stomach sag. Abdominal strength should be a priority before and after pregnancy. In the later months some runners use a light weight maternity girdle to provide additional support especially for the low back.

The hormone oestrogen will soften ligaments throughout the body, increasing joint laxity and this can be a potential problem for runners. Weight-bearing areas prone to stretch and inflammation in later pregnancy are the -iliac joints and the symphysis pubis. Take pity on your feet, choosing heavier training shoes to provide more cushioning. Shock absorbing insoles are also useful. You may also require additional support for your breasts. This can be an exciting discovery for flat-chested runners - but be warned, it doesn't last. After breast-feeding you often find you're left with bigger craters than before. Having a larger bust may strain the muscles between your shoulder blades. Exercising these muscles daily with a rowing machine or as shown in figure 1 may provide some relief.

The position of the baby may dictate the relative comfort of a run. When the baby lies across your pelvis (transverse) your 'load' can feel huge as if it is spilling from the pelvis. The internal side-ways swing of the baby may reduce your style to an awkward, waddling gait. A baby lying in breech may leave you gasping for air as !the head projects up into the diaphragm and practically out your throat. The head-down position is probably the most comfortable although you may find one leg aches or becomes numb if there is pressure on pelvic nerves or arteries. If the baby's head has engaged you may receive shooting nerve pains that feel like electric shocks and the bladder can receive a battering. Sometimes pelvic floor muscles become fatigued during a run leaving you with an aching, throbbing pain in this region. Lie down to take the strain from the area.

As the euphoria of trimester two merges into the fatigued-state of the last trimester you may find running increasingly difficult. Try adjusting the duration and intensity of your runs or choose another exercise if you feel too slow and cumbersome. As 'the day' approaches, aches and pains may become more noticeable and Braxton-Hicks contractions can increase in frequency and strength. Tell someone where you'll be running and for how long. Don't venture too far away.

Many studies have been done on the type of labour experienced by physically trained women. Unfortunately the first stage of labour seems unaffected by physical fitness. However the second and third stages (pushing the baby and placenta out) may be shortened and facilitated by fitness, possibly due to the stronger abdominal and pelvic musculature and endurance capacity of athletes. There also seems to be evidence to support quicker recovery of athletes post-natally.

Assuming you're safely through the ordeal of labour and you and your partner are the proud parents of a potential Olympian... congratulations! You're now ready to leap from the bed and commence your path back to full fitness. Right? Unfortunately your lucky if you can make it to the shower on foot. What happened to that fitness you fought so long and hard for over the past nine months? Exhaustion, weakness, discomfort and depression are common feelings in the first week, which isn't surprising. Blood loss, hormonal fluctuations, emotional upheavals, episiotomies, lacerations, sleep loss, breast name it. They can make you feel like you're in the grip of a bad flu. Return to physical activity is dependent on factors such as your recovery from labour/Caesarean section, fatigue, stress, availability of help, complications, your baby and motivation.

The following table gives you an approximate idea of how long it takes for your physiology to revert back to the non-pregnant state:

  • Cardiovascular system - 2 weeks.
  • Abdominal tone - 6 weeks.
  • Joints & ligaments -12 weeks plus.
  • Lochia (bleeding) - 3 weeks.
  • Urinary tract - 8 weeks.
  • Episiotomy - 2 weeks.
Childbirth, like any major life event is fraught with turmoil and taking you to surprisingly new highs and lows and perhaps broadening your outlook, just a little more by showing you other dimensions beyond running.

Good luck!  

"Sometimes a rhino's exterior is called for to help you cope with the barrage of comments, stares and outright disapproval."


"You're now ready to leap from the bed and commence your path back to full fitness. Right?"

Elaine Cooper holds the following W35 ACT track records:
800m       2:15.2
1500m      4:33.0
One Mile   4:56.2
2k Steeple 7:07.0
3000m      9:51.0
5000m     17:08.7



The Canberra Times Family Fun Run
Sunday, September 21, 1997.

Constant showers on Saturday abated overnight for the running of the 22nd Canberra Times Fun Run. The mild and still conditions suited Dean Cavuoto who ran aggressively to win easily in a time 31 seconds faster than his second place of last year. When receiving his $500 winners cheque, Dean said: "My plan was to go really hard and cane the other runners...I really wanted to win it this year because I came second last year and was a bit upset". Second place and $250 went to Paul Fenn after a race-long battle with Adam Leane. Paul won the Under-18 title at the Australian Cross Country Championships in Adelaide and was asked at the presentation if he hoped to win The Canberra Times next year. "Not next year, but maybe in a couple of years," he said. "There was another runner today who I was aiming to beat, Daniel Green, but he didn't show. I went out pretty hard to try and get rid of the pack and then settled down and ran with 'Leaney' (Adam Leane) and tried to keep up for as long as I could. The fact that I actually beat him was rather surprising". Adam was five seconds back running 30:57 and collecting a $100 gift voucher from The Runner's Shop.

Angela Slaven won her first Canberra Times the day after arriving home from the World Duathlon Championships in Gernika, Spain. She ran over two minutes faster than her fourth placing from last year with a 35:35 10k PB. When asked if she had a race plan, her reply was: "Well, I actually got back from Europe yesterday, so I thought I'll see how I go and if I'm feeling good to 'go for it' and if not, just enjoy the run. I'd also like to thank the organisers of the run. It's an event which I really enjoy racing, particularly as the proceeds go to charity". Three-time winner Joy Terry was a popular second place finisher, "I wish I could say I had just arrived back from Europe". Another triathlete, Robyn Sewell placed third in 36:35, "I was hoping Ange was going to have a bit of jet lag after that trip to Spain, but she just zipped along today."

Angela - Marathon Eve 10k, 93
Angela Slaven finishing the Marathon Eve 10k in April 1993. [37k]

Start of the CT Fun Run
Start of the 1997 Canberra Times Family Fun Run. © Photo by Andrew Campbell. From The Canberra Times - Sept 22 1997. [35k]

Luke Grattan, triathlon winner in January 1995
Luke Grattan shown here winning the Canberra round of the National Triathlon Tour in January 1995, ran a PB of 31:06 for 5th place. [37k]

Holly Ladmore was the first wheelie and won a $250 Runner's Shop voucher. Her time was 31:54 which was commendable considering the last 200 metres was on soft wet grass.

Elizabeth Goodbody, ACT Division President of the National Heart Foundation spoke at the presentation, "It's fantastic to be (a) be able to see you because it isn't raining and (b) to see so many people here this morning. The Heart Foundation really appreciates the support we receive from the Canberra Times. This is one of the major events for us during the year and without their support it would be really hard for us to continue the work we do." James Morris the Heart Foundation's executive director thanked volunteers such as The Sri Chinmoy organisation, Erindale Scouts, Fyshwick Markets at The Lions Clubs of Canberra, "There is one person who does need to be singled out for thanks and that is the coordinator of the Lions, Trevor Fowler. He has been a stalwart behind us for the past three years.

Canberra running identity Dave Cundy was presented with a framed 'front page photo' by the Promotions Manager for the Canberra Times, Anne Gibshorten. "I'd like to pay tribute to one particular person who's run every single run," she said. "He's been out there helping since the year dot and has been a great help to me over a number of years. Dave Cundy was instrumental in changing the run from 9.6k to a measured 10km (AA Certified) course. Dave, along with Brian Gleeson gets up early every Canberra Times Fun Run morning and puts out all the kilometre signs and finish chutes. He also registers the run, confirms the top 50 placegetters and does a lot more behind the scenes. He's leaving the public service for the central coast and we wish him well." Dave, in accepting the award spoke to an appreciative crowd, "Thanks very much Anne and the Canberra Times. It's been a very big part of my life for the last 22 years turning up here and running every year. I've also had a lot of pleasure from being able to assist in this, which is the biggest fun run in Canberra. Although I'm leaving Canberra, I'll be back for the 'Canberra Times' and to organise things like the New Balance Canberra Marathon. The most pleasure I get out of the event is seeing these young guys down here today. It's good that we have these young runners coming through in Canberra, to see Dean, Paul, Adam and Angela up in the top placing's today which shows that we have a very healthy scene here and I'm happy to leave it that way. I hope to see more young ones continue coming through. Congratulations to those runners today and to everyone who finished and thanks for your support."


 1. Dean Cavuoto       30:02  
 2. Paul Fenn          30:52
 3. Adam Leane         30:57
 4. David Quayle       31:02
 5. Luke Grattan       31:06
 6. John Muir          31:48
 7. Paul Imhoff        32:02
 8. Gerard Ryan        32:30
 9. Louis Young        32:44
10. Anthony Scott      32:49
11. Trevor Jacobs      33:26 (40+)
12. Greg Webster       33:30
13. Laurie Cullen      33:52
14. Anthony Millgate   34:26
15. Gary Molineaux     34:30
16. Andy Horsburgh     34:34
17. Colin Neave        34:36
18. Bill Rendall       34:41
19. Ben Crabb          34:47
20. Christopher Cook   34:50
21. Ken Steinman       34:54
22. Peter James        34:55
23. Craig Core         35:12 (-19)
24. John Tuckey        35:14
25. Michael Whipp      35:17

 1. Angela Slaven      35:35
 2. Joy Terry          36:07
 3. Robyn Sewell       36:35
 4. Kathy Southgage    38:15
 5. Rosemary Longstaff 39:06 (40+)
 6. Stephanie Lacey    39:13
 7. Carol Ey           39:18
 8. Fiona Jorgensen    39:25
 9. Kelly Roberts      39:31 (-19)
10. Sally Parker       39:43
11. Anne Flynn         39:47
12. Sarah Fien         40:02
13. Elizabeth Simpson  40:15
14. Judith Eggleton    40:31
15. Erin Sutcliffe     40:39 (-15)
16. Miriam McCarthy    40:42
17. Belinda Cheney     40:43
18. Keri Vaughan       40:51
19. Amy Rugendyke      41:13
20. Amanda Berntsen    41:25
21. Allison Campbell   41:29
22. Laura Smit         41:34
23. Anna Crab          42:15
24. Lea Edwards        42:39
25. Jacki Kilner       42:46


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