Has it really been a year since the last post?
Well, here’s a good excuse: Richard and I have just embarked on our wildest adventure yet – becoming parents! Our little boy is seven weeks already. The journey so far has been exhausting and exhilarating in pretty much equal parts.
Worry not, there’s no intention to turn this into one of these irritating parenting blogs. The focus remains on cycling and our love for the outdoors..although maybe don’t expect another 2500 mile bikepacking trip any time soon. Shame really.
But let’s rewind a few months and chat about cycling during pregnancy.
It was late last July that I found out I was pregnant and while I was super excited I was also overwhelmed with emotions about how things would change. Would I have to give up cycling (and running) for the time being? I may not be an athlete but I owe cycling my job, loads of my friends, my partner and it’s always been my go-to life therapy.
Was cycling during pregnancy safe? And would I still enjoy it?
As for health concerns, my instincts told me it was fine but I wanted confirmation, not least to defend myself from these questions being inevitable asked by others, even strangers.
I actually found very little about it online so I’m now really keen to share some of my own (lighthearted) thoughts and observations on the topic.
1. It’s perfectly safe*
I’m no healthcare professional and the below is only based on my personal experience. *Obviously seek professional advice and listen to your body if you’re unsure but my midwife made it very clear from the start (and this echoed the little info that there is online) – if you have a low risk pregnancy and your body is well used to the type of exercise, it is absolutely fine to continue in moderation. Yes!
Luckily my pregnancy was indeed really straightforward (that’s minus the morning sickness and strange cravings up until week 13).
For me this meant I could continue my short but vital daily commute to and from the train stations (3mile round trip on my Brompton) until I went on maternity leave week in week 36. It also meant I continued to do short hilly mixed terrain spins of 15-25miles on my gravel bike most weekends up until month eight. My last slightly bigger ride were some 45 soggy miles to my friend’s house warming party at about 22 weeks.
Everyone is different. I know some female riders who decided to go on a bikepacking trip 8 months pregnant and I know experienced riders who just didn’t feel like riding or exercising at all during their pregnancy and that’s of course also perfectly fine. Growing a human is damn hard work in itself after all.
I don’t really want to go into the topic of road safety or risk-taking as this is down to everyone’s own choice (we shouldn’t live in a county where we have to worry about cycling on the road anyway..) but I certainly preferred to stick to bike paths, quiet roads and gentle off-road tracks (where possible!) in the last couple of months.
2. It’s not about Strava
This probably isn’t the time to chase/defend your QOMs and PBs or plan any mega challenges..well it wasn’t for me anyway. Admittedly, it can be quite hard seeing what everyone else is up to and feeling left out but try to embrace taking it easy for once. Possibly the only time I truly didn’t mind being overtaken.
3. It’s not as uncomfortable as you may think
The contrast between riding different bike types (MTB, gravel, my Brompton) wasn’t quite as stark as I thought but quite clearly you’ll get to a point (third trimester?) where there simply isn’t much space for your belly in a hunched over position and remember your lungs are already squashed.
Still, I really did find riding reasonably comfortable throughout my pregnancy, even more so than walking towards the end.
However, during the last couple of months you would’ve seen me riding in a quite funny position – legs wide apart and only my finger tips touching the bars pushing myself up into a slightly more upright position. Not exactly pretty and definitely not fast.
4. Nothing fits anymore
Talking of pretty, being stylish on the bike also goes out of the window very quickly as you realise you don’t fit into any of your cycling clothing anymore..that’s except my beloved Kalf Club gilet, thank God for two-way zips!
Other than that I borrowed a lot of Richard’s tops toward the end and even wore some non padded XL running tights.
Something that’s meant I could get a bit more life out of my GORE winter tights was simply unzipping the majority of the quick-access part around my back/waistline!
I didn’t really see anyone making specific maternity cycling tights but that’s probably because there aren’t many pregnant cycling ladies out there who are willing to spend a hundred pound+ on something they are only going to wear for a few months but maybe still a gap in the market.
All in all I’m convinced having stuck to doing regular modest riding/exercise helped me greatly through pregnancy, labour and aided postpartum recovery, both physically and mentally.
So if you’re pregnant, have been a regular cyclist before, have some energy left to continue and got your midwife’s blessing, go for it!
Stay tuned for some thoughts on postpartum cycling (I’ve been out solo three times so far and cycling never felt more liberating!) and inevitably on family(!) cycling fun which we hope to kick off very soon as we’re just about to get a child trailer.