The Olympian wants to end the stigma surrounding pregnancy and exercise.

Kristin Canning
June 26, 2017

The images of Alysia Montaño running the 800-meter at the USA Track and Field Championships last week are all kinds of inspiring. The 31-year-old finished seventh in her heat with some precious cargo in tow: Montaño is five months pregnant with her second child.

But while Montaño—who holds six national titles in the 800-meter—received plenty of support for her feat, she also got a ton of flack. In tweets and Instagram comments, people expressed "concern" for her baby and called on the elite athlete to stop running. This isn’t the first time Montaño has dealt with this kind of backlash either. In 2014, photos of her competing while 8 months pregnant (with her daughter Linnea) in the same event went viral, and led to similar criticisms.

After her 2014 race, Montaño explained that her doctor had cleared her to compete at the Championships. "That took away any fear of what the outside world might think about a woman running during her pregnancy," she said.

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What Montaño's critics don't seem to understand is that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages pregnant women to keep up their usual level of fitness as long as they get the O.K. from their doctor. Physical activity can have many benefits, the group points out, such as easing constipation and back pain, promoting healthy weight gain, lowering the risk of preeclampsia, and more.

The efforts to shame Montaño are frustrating and disappointing. But the backlash has made Montaño even more passionate about clearing up the confusion on the subject. On Instagram yesterday she posted a photo of herself racing in 2014 with a quote: “I know there is a lot of stigma and really, the word is ignorance, behind pregnant women exercising. And the truth is it’s good for the mom and the baby."

Montaño also regrammed a supportive post from trainer Holly Perkins. Perkins praised Montaño as an inspiration, and reiterated the message that exercising while pregnant is beneficial for many women. “Every single client of mine who worked with me through her pregnancy reports that without question, every aspect of her experience was better because she stayed active,” Perkins wrote.

Montaño has spoken up in the past about wanting to be an advocate for fitness during pregnancy. In an interview with Spikes she said, “I’m not the first pro athlete to get pregnant, but I wanted to make a stand; enlighten and educate people."

Major props to Montaño for staying the course and not backing down.