The pregnant cyclist

Hey, look! Another informational post about pregnancy!

I actually came up with the idea for this post in tonight’s spin class. I’ve never known any pregnant athletes. I guess I never really thought about how women exercised during pregnancy and got back to race shape after birth.

I’ve discovered you can take one of two routes:

1. F*** it, I’m just going to sit on the couch and eat bon bons.
2. Stay in shape as best I can given the constraints of pregnancy.

As much as I want to eat bon bons, I want to resume racing even more. So I’ve been doing a lot of research on exercise and pregnancy to find out what I can and cannot do. One thing I learned right away- you can’t “train” like normal during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. At some point you WILL have to slow down (or even stop altogether) and you WILL lose fitness. Once you acknowledge that you will be fine.

I was delighted to learn that keeping your heart rate under 140 bpm is a thing of the past. The new rule- you can continue your routine…as long as you can carry on a conversation. Ok, heart rate and respiration are easy to keep in check. However, you have make sure your core temperature doesn’t get too high, especially in the first trimester (temps over 103 can cause birth defects). Good thing it’s cold in Seattle, right?

Something I didn’t know- exercise during pregnancy isn’t exactly comfortable. In tonight’s class I could really feel the “round ligaments”, particularly when seated with moderate resistance. These lovely lady ligaments hold the uterus and pelvis in place and stretch during pregnancy.  I can’t really explain the feeling…kinda like something’s tugging at your lower abdomen. So I just turned down the resistance until I felt fine. The other night I hopped on the trainer and boy, was my saddle uncomfortable. My PT warned me that the ITs (sit bones) won’t like the saddle after a while. This could be from widening of the pelvis due to relaxed ligaments (saddle no longer fitting correctly) or added weight. Given that I’ve only gained 4 lbs I’m guessing the former. Don’t forget about the baby bump either- it kinda gets in the way, even at 17 weeks. Eventually I’ll have to swap stems for something more upright.

All in all I am only exercising at about 60% intensity. Yeah, I could probably do more but why risk it? I’ve finally come to terms that I am indeed pregnant and it’s not about me anymore. Once you acknowledge that you will feel SO much better, I promise!

I’m not saying it’s easy though, especially for competitive athletes. I cut my best-ever season short as I soon as I got the news, and even had legit excuses for not racing (international travel, jet lag and a cold). Once those dried up I simply detached myself from the racing/riding scene until I hit the second trimester and could finally tell everyone.  I won’t lie; not being able to race or train with friends had me seriously bummed out for a long time. I was VERY relieved when CX season was over. Now I just get to hear about everyone’s upcoming MTB seasons. Ugh.

I’ve decided to focus on the things I CAN do rather than the things I can’t. Examples:
Exercise for sheer enjoyment (what a concept!)
Weight train to get rid of my T-Rex arms
Do all the PT exercises that I brushed aside for a year
Ride at Eric’s pace 🙂
Work on my pedaling technique
Learn how to fix my bike
Finally get my coaching license
Spend time researching my next MTB 🙂

All of this sounds great but in reality pregnancy is full of variables. I was incredibly lucky to have an easy first trimester with no morning sickness or fatigue. On the other hand I know women who could barely make it through the day, let alone exercise. Each trimester brings a whole new set of challenges and I know that recovery from birth can take months. But, I have to keep telling myself that apparently there is life after pregnancy- look at all the fast mamas out there racing!  I am determined to be one of them.

I doubt I’ll be re-joining the 1-2’s next year so all you folks in singlespeed or Masters better look out! Just sayin’.

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