Can I continue to train while pregnant? We help Dani Hill-Welter adjust her training plan

Can I continue to train while pregnant? We help Dani Hill-Welter adjust her training plan

Today on RUN with CoachParry, we chat to one of our members in the CoachParry Online Training Club - Dani Hill-Welter. Dani is in her first trimester of pregnancy and would like to continue to train through her pregnancy. Listen as CoachParry gives Dani some guidelines on how to adjust her training program, specifically the quality sessions and what to avoid during this time. This is a great episode for anyone who is pregnant and wants to continue training.

Aside from this they also delve into questions around using heart rate during training and physiological testing for endurance sports. Is it worthwhile and valuable for a recreational athlete?

If you're training for something, we want to hear about it! Share your training story/journey/pb with us on any of the socials using #BiogenJourney and you could win 3 months free access to the CoachParry Online Training Platform. This weeks winner is William Barrett (not Warren-apologies for that!) (Instagram handle: @wgbarrett). Welcome to the team William, looking forward to helping you achieve those goals!


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Can I continue to train while pregnant?


Brad Brown: Welcome back onto the next edition of Run with Coach Parry and we head to the UK today for our next guest. Before we do that, let me say good day to the coach, Lindsey, welcome back on, nice to touch base once again.

Lindsey Parry: Howzit Brad, how are you doing?

B: Fantastic thank you and pretty excited about today’s podcast because it’s quite different to what we normally do here on Run, but I think it’s an important thing to chat about and how to approach things and it’s a great pleasure to welcome our next guest onto the podcast who all the way in the UK, Dani Hill-Welter, Dani, welcome onto the podcast, thanks for joining us.

Dani Hill-Welter: Thanks for having me.

B: Dani, we were joking before we started recording, obviously we’re recording, we can see each other on video but where we are in South Africa at the moment it’s beautiful. It looks a bit chilly where you are?

D: It is absolutely freezing this morning, it’s minus two, I had to scrape the car coming out, yes, it’s grey and miserable right now.

B: I’ve got to say Dani, I’ve got so much respect for anybody who lives, not just lives, but trains in environments like that. My brother lives in London and he sends me photos all the time when he’s heading out for runs and obviously you’re used to it, it’s what you know, so it’s not such a big deal but I think for anybody listening to this in the southern hemisphere, particularly in SA and maybe Australia and New Zealand, it’s totally different. It comes with its own challenges doesn’t it?

D: It definitely does, it can be very tough. Certainly in the winter I do sometimes find myself going, oh, do I have to go out for this run now, it’s really cold, it’s dark. If you want to train in daylight, you have to go running at lunch time. I love training at the weekends because I can run in late morning when it’s light, but in the week it’s definitely a bit of a challenge and I spend a lot of time in the pool because it’s a little bit easier to do that than go out for a run in the dark.

B: You talk about scraping the ice off the cars, do you have to scrape the ice off the top of the pool before you get in it?

D: No, indoor pools only!

B: Thankfully! Dani, talk to me a little bit about your running background. How long have you been a runner? Is it something you’ve always done?

D: No, I started running about 10 years ago because I was fast approaching 30 and I decided I needed to do something and I don’t do half measures, so I signed up for a half marathon. Had nine months of training, got ridiculously injured, but ran my half marathon and by that point I had the bug and have been running on and off ever since. I started doing triathlon in 2011, did that for a few years.

Was looking for a new challenge and I’m now ultra running, ultra swimming, so anything slow and really long is what I really like. This year I’m slowing down a little bit. I’m currently three months pregnant, so I’m still racing, I raced a 10 mile race yesterday but beyond that, I’m going to slow down a little bit over the next two months and then get back to it after next year.


Slowing down


B: You say ‘slowing down,’ but you’re still training and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to have this chat is because often, and I want to preface this to anybody who is listening, who is pregnant and is wanting to continue training, we don’t want to give any medical advice and it’s difficult for us to give any medical advice. The first port of call is obviously your gynae or your medical practitioner who is dealing with you, but you’ve had some interesting challenges in the UK from an advice perspective on how you can continue training when you’re pregnant.

I know we’ve spoken a bit in the forum or Lindsey and you have and I’ve seen some of the back and forth, tell me a little bit about some of the challenges and the advice that you’ve been given in your journey to being three months pregnant and wanting to continue to train?

D: Yes, the first thing in the UK is you don’t have that much contact with medical professionals. You get seen by a midwife, you don’t really, unless there’s a specific problem with your pregnancy, you don’t see a doctor generally for the whole of your pregnancy. I didn’t see a midwife until last week and the general advice I’ve had from people is, the first question I get when I say I’m pregnancy is, but you’ve stopped running now haven’t you?

There seems to be this massive assumption that you can do a bit of swimming or some yoga, but you’re not going to do any massive impact. I was really relieved yesterday, after the race I ran into a lady who had just run it as well who was 21 weeks pregnant and she had the exact same experience of mostly being told: You have to stop running!

The midwife said to me you can do a little bit of exercise, but you probably shouldn’t be racing anymore, to which I went, why not? I’m fine, I’ve slowed down, I’ve lost about a minute per km since October, in my pace but beyond that, as long as I feel well… If I feel poorly I don’t run, but as long as I feel well, like yesterday I went into the race with no expectations, I miscalculated what I needed to run to do my target pace and was running well ahead of pace, it turned out and I just went, I’m having fun, it’s a beautiful day, it was really sunny yesterday and cold and perfect race conditions, I just carried on pushing, expecting I’d blow up around 10-12km. I didn’t, I finished quite strong and I really had fun.

B: Brilliant, that’s amazing. I’m going to hand you over to Lindsey now and I think Lindsey has got some points he wants to make before we start. You’ve got your questions which I’ll hand over to you in a second, Lindsey, I think the one bit of advice, I’m guessing, is if you fall pregnant, now is not the time to start running. If you want to run when you’re pregnant, it’s probably, you need to look at how much you’ve run prior to. Just overall, what’s your advice on this one?


The lowdown....


L: That’s exactly it. I’ve over many years, in different guises worked with pregnant women who are exercising in the field of rehabilitation as a biokineticist, as a coach, as a sports scientist.

Over the years have done a fair amount of research on and off and that is really the most common piece of advice given, or when the question is asked: Is it safe to run during pregnancy and the answer from the research and the reading and talking to actual medical doctors and gynaecologists, the answer is yes, as long as you have been running fairly consistently up to that point.

Number two, that there aren’t any complications. In the UK that little part there makes it a little bit harder because how do you know that there are no complications but hopefully you do go regularly enough for check-ups, that the midwife is happy and that they can tell that the foetus is not in distress and you also just really listen to your body, especially in the first trimester, which is exactly what Dani did.

She was feeling really tired, she didn’t run and the first trimester is probably the toughest of the three to keep the running up because it’s when you’re going to be, probably the most tired, the baby is probably taking most of the energy. There’s also often associated nausea, so those are the sort of things in the first trimester that may interfere.

Obviously towards the end of the final trimester, you’ll run into issues perhaps around balance and you’ve got to be very careful there because you really want to avoid falling while you’re pregnant.

You’ve got to take into account that your body would have changed and you may not be able to do the things that you did do before. You might start becoming uncomfortable sleeping, so the fatigue probably returns in that third trimester so it becomes very important to just monitor how you’re feeling and if you’re not feeling well, you adjust accordingly.

From talking to loads of females, unfortunately this is something we can’t have too intimate of knowledge about as males, but the second trimester is really when pregnancy is at its best.

Hormones are starting to adapt a little bit better, feeling much better, not as tired. Some of the hormones that are actually helping you to get fitter because what they’re trying to do is prepare you for childbirth, so on the whole you should be feeling a whole lot better during this period.

I think you need to look out a little harder at the little things. You want to eat healthy; you want to make sure that you’re getting all the nutrition that you and your child need.

They talk about, in quite a bit of the literature, it talks about making sure that you fuel for exercise to give yourself, make sure you’re fuelling before, during and after exercise and then the other one is that you do want to avoid getting way too hot, which is probably not going to happen in the UK this time of year, but I’d avoid things like hot yoga, avoid the sauna while you’re pregnant because you don’t want to get your internal body temperature too high because that does distress the foetus.

B: Dani, on your part, specific questions, I know you’ve got a couple of things you wanted to ask Lindsey, I’m going to open it up to you and hand it over to you to use this time and get the help that you need.


How to adjust the quality sessions


D: Thank you. One of the things I’ve noticed especially during the first trimester, I was really tired, I’ve had to give up a lot of my quality sessions, so a lot of my speed training. I’ve managed to do some more tempo runs recently, but because I’m so tired and because I need to cut down, I was wondering, what would you suggest in terms of getting quality sessions in, but making sure that they’re less than about an hour, ideally less than 45 minutes, can you give me some advice on that front?

L: Absolutely. I think part of this answer is also just looking at what is the role that that quality session is playing. That quality session is playing the role of some anaerobic stimulation, but much more importantly, getting that leg turnover up, improving coordination, speed of muscle contraction, those sorts of things. Those type of changes can absolutely be done with some shorter interval type sessions.

Some of the examples I can give, is a progression run, when you’ve only got 45 minutes to run, a progression run is an excellent way of doing that because it essentially incorporates the warm up as part of the routine so you don’t have to do 10-15 warm up and then get it because by its nature, you start slow and every 3-5 minutes you just very gradually increase the speed until you get to a point where you feel like you really are running about as fast as you’re comfortable to run and then you can try and hold that pace for 10-15 minutes and then a 5-10 cool down.

That workout could be anywhere from 30-45 minutes and it’s a really good way to just introduce a little bit of speed. The other reason why it’s a great workout, even though it feels pretty hard while you’re doing it, it has quite a low volume, so therefore when you finish, you recover from it quite quickly, so it has quite a low impact.

Then the other way to do it in terms of doing intervals and that sort of thing is really just to go, it’s important to warm up and we need some cool down, so if we do 10-15 minutes just to make sure that you are quite warmed up and then to do a speed play. Rather than a formal, we’re going to do 5 x 1km with X amount of recovery, you do a speed play.

You then do intervals, which can be fixed length intervals if it’s easier. You can do three minute on, one minute off or two minute on, one minute off or you can literally do an okay, I’m going to run hard for three minutes, now I’m going to jog until I’ve recovered, then I’m going to run hard for two minutes and then I’m going to jog until I’m recovered and then I’m going to run hard for four minutes….

You pretty much go until whoops, I’ve got five minutes left, do my cool down and off you go. I guess the short answer to that question is, we must never be wound up to say that the ideal interval session is X and therefore if I can’t get to that, there’s no point in doing it because then it would be the same as if you’re at home and you don’t have time to get in your long run.

You go, oh well, I can’t do my long run so stuff it, I’m just going to stay here and watch TV and eat popcorn and crisps. Twenty minutes of exercise is going to be better than that.

Always just accept that outside of the elite athletes, the rest of us will never have the ideal training environment, time. We can’t go down to the track and spend two to two and a half hours to get in a one to one hour 15 workout. We’ll never warm up like the pros do. We’ll never cool down like the pros do. We do the best we can in the time we’ve got available.


Running with poles


D: Thank you, that’s really helpful, I’ll definitely try progression runs and those sorts of sessions in the next few weeks. One other thing, I read about and wasn’t sure what to do with, I’ve read about as an ultra runner as well, was running with poles because I’ve got a last half marathon, which is off road and really, really hilly around 24 weeks. I’m not determined to do it, but I’d like to give it a go and I was thinking I would try running with poles, do you have any thoughts on that?

L: Absolutely, if you do want to go off road, again, in this trimester, balance probably isn’t going to be too much of an issue. However, using, they’re almost like ski poles, they’re very similar to ski poles and using poles really does help with balance and especially when you’re on uneven terrain, it makes it much more forgiving. If you catch a toe or something, it’s easy to jam the poles down and to get your balance back.

They take a little bit of getting used to running with, but they’re very light. To be honest, once you’re in the groove and using them, you almost stop noticing that they’re around. Obviously when you get to an open road, jeep track scenario, running with them is a little bit awkward if you’re not putting them into the ground, but they absolutely are quite easy and comfortable to use.

You may actually find then in the third trimester, if you do want to carry on running, although you’re running much slower, it might make you much more comfortable having those with you because it will help improve the coordination and the odd, as you said, you catch your toe on a root or something like that.

D: Thank you, is there anything technique-wise, do I just use them as I feel comfortable, is there anything I need to pay attention to?

L: It will come fairly naturally to you. In terms of balance, you want to use them the same way that you run, which is to be the opposite, the arms are the opposite of what your legs do. That’s really it. You’re going to have, unfortunately people won’t be able to see this, but you can, you’ll be holding them quite near the tops of the poles, almost with your thumb over the top and that gives you, when you land that pole, it feels much more comfortable.

You won’t use it like a walking stick where your hands are over the top because you want to get it out, just out in front of your body and work it past and behind you as you move past the pole.

D: Great, I had another couple of questions which are not necessarily as specific to pregnancy running, but more running in general.

L: That’s great.


Heart rate training


D: One is training with the heart rate monitor and with heart rate zones. I did that a few years ago and initially had some really good results because I was always running too fast and when I started training with a heart rate monitor I learnt to run slowly, but as I became more interested in triathlon, a lot of triathletes get incredibly hung up on their zones.

Since I started monitoring my resting heart rate, I noticed that’s all over the place, it can vary. My resting heart rate at the end of December 69, it’s now 61, so I’ve had some massive variation, probably due to pregnancy, it can be stress. At other times, if I drink alcohol, obviously not at the moment, but I’ve noticed that affects it. Does that influence the zones and should I get too hung on the edges of the zones?

L: The resting heart rate won’t impact much on the zones. Alcohol, excessive heat, stress, those things can also lead to a slight increase in exercising heart rate. On the days where you know everything is fairly equal, you pretty much know that you’re not stressed, you haven’t had a couple of drinks the evening before, it’s a fairly pleasant day out, those sort of days you kind of dial in, what does it feel like to be running at or around about the correct heart rate.

Then that helps you in subsequent runs where perhaps you are extremely stressed with a deadline or so on at work and then you’ve got something to fall back on because you know what it feels like. Training on heart rate, absolutely has a place, most notably because of exactly what you said in your intro, is that helps you not to run too hard on your easy days.

What you will find is that this type of training works really quickly, which is what you found last time and there should be some fairly notable improvements, almost week on week for a good couple of weeks that you at that similar heart rate, feeling a lot better, running, starting to run. Although it’s a slow creep, when you add up the weeks and you look back, there should be a noticeable shift in how much faster you can run at the same heart rate.

You will get to a point where that then plateaus and from that point onwards, it’s important to keep running your easy runs as easily as you have been running, but that’s the point where then your interval work and your tempo work and your threshold and your progression runs become really important because then they will provide a new stimulus which should then in turn play back into the whole system and you should see an improvement again in your overall running.


Testing : Is worthwhile for a recreational athlete?


D: Brilliant, thank you. Then my last question is slightly related to that, but I was in a room full of triathletes and triathlon coaches the other day and everybody was talking about testing and how they’re testing themselves every four or six weeks and all the tests that people were doing. Would you recommend doing quite a bit of testing outside running races and if so, what tests would you recommend for cycling, swimming and running?

L: Early in training or in a training lifespan, let’s say, then I would say there’s probably quite a lot of benefit in doing some basic tests. Those can fall into quite expensive testing in terms of some physiological stuff. You might need to go to the local university or they could be time trial type of races.

Depending on the level of experience of the person you’re working with and your own personal experience, we can actually learn a lot from time trials and then use those to set appropriate training zones, either heart rate based or speed based or power based if you’re moving into the realm of power.

I always look at it and go, if you had to do a lactate type of test, gives us quite good information but certainly in SA that’s quite expensive type of testing. I always ask myself the question, the information I’m going to get from that, how long can I use it for and how important is it in terms of getting the improvement that I want.

Normally the answer that I come up with myself is that unless someone is extremely serious about what they’re doing, I will almost always lean towards more indirect tests like time trials and when we get to a point where we can see there are diminishing returns on those, improvements on those tests and again, depending on how serious you are about where you’re going and what you want to do, that would be the point where doing some of that physiological testing just to dial those zones in much better than with an educated guess.

That’s kind of how I look at that type of testing, but yes, otherwise on the bike, doing 20-30km time trials on the bike. In the pool, doing 300-800m time trials, swimming time trials and running, doing between 4-10km time trials, that gives us a lot of very useful information to be able to dial in on those zones.

D: At what frequency roughly would you test, every four or six weeks?

L: Initially every four to six weeks. Later on, every six to eight weeks and then once you, if you’re dealing with somebody that you worked with for two or three seasons and certainly if I’m dealing with people on the elite level, then those would probably be two to three times a year, depending on what phase of training or competition we’re going into, just to have a look and see where we are in comparison to previous years.




D: Okay, that’s really interesting to think about that. I did have one more question on nutrition and race nutrition because it’s always something I play with and I always feel like I under-fuel during races because I don’t like taking gels. You probably get the question all the time, any advice on what else to look at? I hate carrying things.

L: Do you hate the gels because you don’t like carrying them or because the texture of the gel is really not -

D: The gels I don’t mind carrying because they fit in a pocket. I don’t like the texture. I found one gel called Talk in the UK which I can sort of cope with, but I worked out, I would need at least 5-6 in a marathon. I’ve never been able to take more than three before my stomach goes, no, not doing any more.

L: All right, in a marathon and I haven’t finished reading the article but I was reading a really cool nutrition review last night, which I will get through in the next two days or so but they generally talk about needing in the region of one gram of carbohydrate per kg of body mass. Having read this review and I obviously need to have a proper look at where everything was referenced, they actually spoke about for up to a marathon, 30-60g an hour.

That’s not taking into account the individual in question, but that certainly, in my own personal experience where I felt somewhere in the region of 30-40g per hour has really provided me enough exercise for a marathon and then for an ultra marathon when the intensity comes down slightly, so the demands aren’t quite as great, then again, I found personally that 40-50g is enough, 50g starts to get to the point where that takes some planning.

Thirty grams is fairly easy, I mean if you don’t like taking gels and you’re getting a Gatorade or Energade/Powerade equivalent, which is typically 7-8g of carbohydrate per 100ml, you are going to be okay with probably 300ml of fluid per hour and then one or two gels or shots or chewables, something along those lines, through the marathon.

Of course again, in the northern hemisphere I’ve actually found that 300ml of fluid is quite a lot of fluid to drink because the thirst drive isn’t there, you’re not sweating as much as you do in the southern hemisphere, so that would be the other component to work on, is what’s the comfortable amount of fluids that you can consume off the side of the road and once you dial that in and I’d imagine it would be somewhere in the region of 150 and maximum 300ml, I think beyond that it would get quite difficult.

That will then be able to lead you, okay, how many gels do I have to want to plan around or are there other similarly equal products to carry around that are much easier for me to handle, like chewable versions. That can be almost, I’m pretty sure you get Super C’s in the UK, those sort of almost, not boiled sweets, but the more powder based sweets that you just easily chew and they break up and then the softer, jelly type of sweets or some soft types of nuts, but then that starts to create an issue with carrying stuff. Cashews are great.

In South Africa we get things called ‘nut butters’, they’re little packets of either cashew nut better or macadamia nut butter, they’re certainly easy to carry and they’re fairly easy to consume. Those are the sort of things you’ll need but really for a marathon you’re looking for between 30-60 and you’d probably get away quite easily with 30-40g per hour without running out of energy, then it becomes a question of playing around with the frequency of consumption, what you’re going to take, how does it make you feel etc.

D: That’s really useful, thank you. It sounds like I’ve actually not been doing too badly in marathons where sweet drinks are available because I have been drinking those and those in combination with gels work well.

L: Then you probably are quite close. What I do find in a marathon is that even the ones where I’ve finished pretty strong, the last 5-7km, so the last three miles or so, it’s hard, your legs are beat up, you’re feeling a little bit sorry for yourself and I’m not entirely sure nutrition is ever going to solve that problem!

B: Cool, Dani, I think we’re pretty much out of time. I don’t know if you’ve got any other questions that you wanted to shoot off quick or if that’s good?

D: I’m good, thank you very much.

B: Dani, it’s been amazing catching up. We love chatting to members around the world and it’s always good for us to be able to put a face to the name, so thanks for your time today.

D: Thank you for having me.


The CoachParry Online training Club


B: Dani, just before I wrap up, you’re obviously a member of our online community and I’m not 100% sure how you found us, but your experience so far, what are you enjoying about it?

D: I like that the forums are there and I look at them, I’m not very active at the moment but I do love reading other people’s questions and very often people have questions that, where I go, oh yeah, that’s a really good point and I like reading those answers. I like the drag and drop training programme, so I can plan my week but then also be flexible about it, it’s not a hard and fast set programme which is great.

I found you because I did Comrades a couple of years ago and that’s sort of when I started looking at Coach Parry, all the online webinars and stuff.

B: Dani, it’s been amazing, thank you so much for your time, we really do appreciate it and best of luck, when is the due date?

D: Start of August.

B: Awesome, I’ve got a daughter on the 11th, so let’s see, maybe we can hold on until the 11th! Fantastic, thank you for your time, appreciate it.

D: Thank you.

L: Good luck.

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