Elite Female Distance Runners and Advice During Pregnancy: Sources, Content, and Trust

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal

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Francine DarrochUniversity of Ottawa

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Audrey R. GilesUniversity of Ottawa

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Roisin McGettigan-DumasIndependent Scholar

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More elite female distance runners are opting to have children during their athletic careers. Despite this, there is a dearth of information regarding pregnancy and physical activity for elite level athletes. Further, current pregnancy physical activity guidelines are not relevant for this population`s needs. Two research questions frame this study: are elite female distance runners’ pregnancy informational needs being met?; where do they seek and find trustworthy advice on physical activity during pregnancy? Open-ended, semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 women who experienced at least one pregnancy within the past five years, had achieved a minimum of the USA Track and Field 2012 Olympic Team marathon trials ‘B’ entry standard or equivalent performances for distance running events 1,500m or longer. The participants had between one—three children, hail from five countries and participated in 14 Olympic Games and 72 World Championships. Utilizing poststructuralist feminist theory and thematic analysis, our findings revealed that the participants received advice from three main sources, both in person and online: medical professionals, coaches, and other elite female distance runners. However, we found that they also received unsolicited advice and comments from community members where they lived. The participants identified fellow elite female distance runners as the most reliable and trustworthy sources of information, followed by medical professionals, then coaches. Ultimately, the women revealed a lack of formal sources they could turn to for trustworthy advice about how to have a safe and healthy pregnancy while continuing to train at a high intensity. These results illuminate the need to meet female elite athletes’ informational needs in terms of well-being during pregnancy.

Darroch and Giles are with the Department of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. McGettigan-Dumas is an independent scholar in Providence, RI.

Address author correspondence to Francine Darroch at francine.darroch@ubc.ca.
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