Running is an intense cardio exercise. It burns calories quickly, along with shaping and toning your calves, thighs, and glutes. Incorporate some hills or interval training, and you have a recipe for some incredible cardio workouts–with fantastic results.

Admittedly, running can seem to have its drawbacks. It is high impact and can be hard on your ankles and knees. It also takes time and dedication to build up the strength and endurance you need to make it for longer runs. Continuing running into your pregnancy can also be risky for some women.

However, that being said, running is a legitimate cardio to consider incorporating in your prenatal months, especially if you want to start seeing fast, positive results. It is also important to remember that if you get into running before you become pregnant, many women can continue running through their entire pregnancy. As always, you should consult your physician before starting, or continuing, any form of exercise once you are pregnant.

At a rate of 7 miles per hour, a 150-pound woman can burn an impressive 391 calories in just 30 minutes. Add in interval training or hills and you could top 500 calories in the same amount of time! That’s definitely a calorie burn to be proud of!

You will need a quality pair of running shoes to get started. Visit an athletic store and have an associate help you determine what shoe will fit your running style. Top running shoe brands include Nike, Saucony, Adidas, Asics, and New Balance. Choose a shoe which will provide proper support for your joints, as well as a good cushion to absorb shock.

A pedometer will keep track of your mileage and help you stay on top of your running speed. Music will keep your energy level up and give you motivations. Be aware, though, that when you wear headphones, your ability to hear cars coming is greatly lowered. Stay alert and never have your volume up so high that you drown out everything around you.

Keep your shoulders back, your head up, and your abs in while you are running. Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed to prevent upper back strain. Push off with the ball of your foot and toes for the best stride.

Proper breathing is also extremely important while you are running. If you don’t breathe correctly, you will get winded quickly and tire out far before your run should be done. Take full, deep breaths through both your nose and mouth. Keep a count in your head (i.e. every third stride you inhale, third stride you exhale). Experiment to see what count works best for you. As your endurance gets better, you will be able to increase the count time.

If you haven’t ever run before, be prepared to take some walk breaks. Running endurance takes time to build. It never hurts to slow down to a walk to catch your breath and give your legs a break. Start running again when you feel your body can take it again.

Once you have gotten into running, try interval training or hills for an intense cardio workout. Interval training is alternating between sprints and your average running pace. It burns more calories and also develops your fast-twitch muscles. Hills, well, is just what it sounds like. While obviously more difficult than a flat terrain, hills are easier on your knees. Pick a hilly area and be prepared to give your legs one intense workout!

As you head into your second and third trimesters, you might want to consider moving your cardio period onto a running track or on a flat sidewalk path. That way the chance for losing your balance or tripping is minimized. Never push yourself so much that you are breathless, as you are then taking oxygen away from your baby. If you are feeling tired, more your cardio to another day. Listen to your body. If it feels up for a run, then take one. If not, your body is just telling you that your baby and you need a break.

[Disclaimer: Read this introduction before you begin any exercise program.]

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