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Preparing For Birth Is Like Preparing For A Marathon

training for birth

The average first time labor lasts about 14-16 hours, though 12-24 is the range.  The average time for a first time marathon is 5 hours.  But few women will train for birth like they would for a marathon.  The average time frame spent in training for a marathon is 6-12 months and the hours spent in training is 150-300. The time frame spent in training for birth is 9 months but the average time spent training for birth is only about 20-30 hours.

The training women seek out for birthing is usually in the form of reading a book or two and attending a child birth class. Books are great to read and classes are greatly educational.  However, they aren’t experiential.  You can read a book about a marathon but if you plan on running, then you have to put what you learned into practice.  That’s the same for birth. How well a woman performs in labor will largely depend on the effectiveness of her preparation.

If you have researched the side effects to the drugs they give you in the hospital and have decided you want to try a natural birth, then training for your birth is a must.  Moms aren’t making it through the natural birth process because of a lack of preparation.  You can read my post about the stages of labor to see why birth can be like a marathon and why preparing is a great idea!

Preparing For Birth vs Preparing For A Marathon

During a marathon:

A woman will begin a marathon at a reasonable pace…not too fast as to save the appropriate energy she will need for the entire race.  It is common to hit “the wall” at about two hours. The wall occurs due to glycogen depletion and/or CNS fatigue, and can be the most challenging point of the entire run.

As the runner pushes through the wall, she hopes to reach the adrenaline boost of “runner’s high.” If runner’s high doesn’t arrive, the marathoner is in for three more very long hours, if she is able to finish at all (if she has been training as she should, then her body will produce the hormones that will give her the runners high).

There are various psychological strategies that runner’s may use to finish the race, including mental distraction and visualization. Nutrition has also been very important in the runners training.  The minimum training time for an already-experienced runner is 4 months. This schedule assumes training nearly every day, with three running sessions per week and an additional three cross-training days each week.

Between one and four hours each day will be dedicated to preparing for this challenging event. Most people, however, will need 6-12 months of regular training just to complete the marathon. How well the person does will largely depend upon the effectiveness of their training protocol.

During labor: 

Like a marathon, it also starts at a reasonable pace, with lower-intensity, contractions lasting a couple minutes  and rest times lasting minutes longer, though it can vary tremendously. At first, laboring mom may continue doing daily activities, only pausing from the
intensity during contractions.

This first portion is called “early labor,” as the cervix opens to about three or four centimeters.  This early labor is often regarded as non-serious labor. This is the best time for mom to save her energy.

Time meanders and labor turns “active,” as the cervix continues opening toward 10 centimeters. Active labor will often last up to eight hours. Contractions get stronger, last longer, and occur with more frequency. Pressure in the low back begins to mount, and various physical and psychological techniques are explored to sustain the woman during this period.

The characteristic of active labor is that it is now “serious.” Mom is no longer making jokes and doing chores, she is concentrating with every ounce of her ability. Exhaustion during this phase is where epidural pain relief would be administered.

And then comes the particularly intense phase called “transition.” Mom may feel like she has “hit the wall” and can’t make it.  Nausea is common, along with involuntary shaking. This is when mom says things like, “I can’t do it.” She wants to push, but is not yet fully dilated, and would risk tearing or swelling of the cervix.

Her childbirth guides advise her to hold back, pant, or “blow.” It is a time where mom is to do nothing amidst the incredible need to do something, an ultimate test of “letting go.” Thankfully, or not, transition lasts between 30 minutes and two hours.

What’s so amazing is, our bodies can produce the same hormones during birth that a runner produces when running a marathon. Those hormones are what gives you the “runners high” and helps you to keep going.  If you’ve been training for birth, then your body will know to start producing those hormones.

3 Ways To Help You Prepare For Birth

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Breathing



  1. […] pregnant woman is in training for nine months whether she wants it or not. Embracing the challenge and selecting appropriate training protocols […]

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