Walking

Walking 1000 miles whilst heavily pregnant

A line drawing of a walking boot

I woke up one morning in the fifth month of my pregnancy, and decided to walk 1000 miles. So I began my walking journey, just like that. I’m writing this post because I struggled at the time to find information about how other people safely exercise in pregnancy. I’m not a physical health professional – this is more a diary of what worked for me.

To backtrack a little…

From conceiving, it took me until I was 5 months pregnant (March 2021) for morning sickness to subside enough to function. This seemed to happen almost overnight. I woke up feeling ok-ish, and decided I was going to get out and exercise. I’d love to claim that this was sheer motivation, but I was really really tired. In all honesty, it was driven by fear at the advice at the time of my pregnancy:

The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth[…] There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/, accessed 2nd November 2021

… What pregnant person doesn’t want an easier pregnancy, labour and birth?! I dusted my trainers off quick-smart, and hopped off down the road, waving goodbye to my husband and walking at the same time.

A line drawing of a flash with '1000 miles' written inside it, to represent the #walk1000miles challenge

The #walk1000miles challenge, completed over short daily walks, seemed a great way to put this guidance into practice. The challenge sounded a bit of a stretch based on my current levels of activity, but not too much of a shock to my system (which was weak, tired, and exhausted from four months of vomiting continually and growing a human). Before conceiving, I had run, hiked at the weekends, and gone to the gym regularly, but this seemed a dim and distant memory. Holding myself accountable, and chipping away at a larger goal felt helpful.

I set myself some gentle rules:

  1. I would only count walking miles that were completed as exercise;
  2. I would aim to walk 1000 miles between the beginning of March 2021 and the end of December 2021, but would extend this if my body needed;
  3. I would exercise moderately, as per NHS advice;
  4. I would do everything I could to do my walking every day but would listen to my body, and cut myself some slack if my body needed it.

Walking for exercise in the second trimester

A line drawing of a pregnant woman in walking boots, with '2nd' written next to her, to represent the 2nd trimester
5 Months pregnant (March 2021)

I spent the month finding my feet with the challenge, and getting into a routine. I usually went walking immediately after I finished work. I loved the freedom that getting out into the countryside gave me. Getting out was sometimes mind over matter, but I generally felt better for it. I remembered why I love to move my body.

Walks: 31. Average length: 3.59 miles
Miles covered: 111.4
Running total miles = 111.4

6 months pregnant (April 2021)

I kept up the routine of walking after work. I enjoyed my body feeling strong: during the first four months of pregnancy, whilst I was sick, it hadn’t at all. I tried completing some pregnancy circuit training, but I wasn’t strong enough – it left me dizzy and exhausted me for days afterward. I started using walks as time to phone my family members, which felt great. My husband had some holiday at Easter and we completed a 12 mile point-to-point walk. I had sciatica-type pains in my bottom, which I massaged using a ball in my piriformis.

Walks: 32. Average length: 3.27 miles
Miles covered: 108.1
Running total miles =
219.5


Walking for exercise in the third trimester

A line drawing of a pregnant woman in walking boots, with '3rd' written next to her, to represent the 3rd trimester
7 months pregnant (May 2021)

I kept up walking each night after work, and listened to hypnobirthing tracks whilst doing so. My lungs had less space and capacity, and my muscles tightened in my hamstrings, bum and calves. Sleeping at night was more difficult because of acid reflux, and sitting on a birth ball was more comfortable than a chair. I tried pregnancy yoga, but it made my acid reflux worse, so I did my own stretching.

Walks: 35. Average length: 3.28 miles
Miles covered: 114.9
Running total miles =
334.4

8 months pregnant (June 2021)

I slowed down, walking less distance and less quickly, but still got out most days. I began to walk more in the mornings, as the weather was too hot after work. My lungs felt very squashed, and I got out of breath much more easily, especially going up hills.

Walks: 29. Average length: 3 miles
Miles covered: 87.6
Running total miles =
422

9 months pregnant (July 2021)

During the heatwaves I continued to walk in the mornings. I felt exhausted and was also finishing work for maternity leave. I walked right up until the day I gave birth, although had to time this carefully with eating – my lungs, my stomach, and the baby were all competing for the same space in my body! I had sciatica-type pains in my bottom, which made walking harder, and were probably my first signs of labour. My husband and I walked when I was in the early (latent) stage of labour, which helped me to manage it. We walked very slowly, and stopped to look at flowers and so I could breathe through the contractions.

Even with all of my best ‘staying active’ efforts, giving birth was still one of the hardest things I’ve done! I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

Walks: 31. Average length: 2.28 miles
Miles covered: 70.9
Running total miles =
492.9


In total, I walked 492.9 miles of my #walk1000miles challenge in months 5 to 9 of my pregnancy. I found it really helpful for helping me commit to daily exercise, which made me fitter and stronger. I’m hoping to complete the challenge by the end of December 2021, when I’ll share a ‘Part 2’ post about walking after birth and as a new mum.


I’d love to hear about your experiences of the #walk1000miles challenge, or of walking / excercising whilst pregnant. How did you get on? What did you find easy, and more difficult? What helped you, and why?


wholemealmum

Mother of a baby girl, born in July 2021. Finding my way with it all. Recipes, parenting, and walking.

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