Long distance cyclist Pippa, who lives in Sydney with her husband Joe and son Mawson, shares her pregnancy journey on two wheels.
I’ve always enjoyed exercise and being active and when we moved to Australia from the UK things got a little out of hand! I started with the 90k Sydney to Wollongong road ride and escalated to the non-stop 2,150km cycling Race Around Ireland. I discovered I really enjoy taking part in endurance events, especially if they were big enough to scare me and involved spending lots of time training and competing.
When I became pregnant, I started researching exercise in pregnancy and quickly discovered this is a subject a lot of people have an opinion about! My initial research suggested that gentle pregnancy exercise was ok. Now, I’m not judging anyone who enjoys gentle exercise or suggesting I know best…. I’m not medically qualified and am basing everything on my own personal experience and fairly straightforward pregnancy.
However, fitness and training are a very important part of my life and I didn’t want to stop exercising because I was pregnant. I definitely couldn’t spend the next 9 months just going for walks and doing gentle yoga, so I dug a little deeper.
My further research into pregnancy exercise was more positive: listen to your body and keep doing what you were doing before you were pregnant- even if that was mountain biking or horse riding. Be sensible. Don’t take what other people say to heart. Trust your instincts.
Pregnancy is not an illness, it’s a time when we need to stay fit, healthy and strong in order to get through labour and prepare to look after a newborn.
Once I started telling people I was pregnant the standard response was ‘So you’ve stopped riding/ running/ strength training then!’ It wasn’t even a question, the expectation was that because I was pregnant, I could no longer do the things I love.
Throughout my pregnancy, I continued to mountain bike, road bike, run, do strength and conditioning and swim both in the ocean and in the latter stages, in an outdoor pool. But I was sensible. I knew, for example, that in the early stages of pregnancy, if I came off my bike (I took measures to ensure that I didn’t, but you can’t plan for everything) I would have to badly impale myself in order to do any harm to the baby as it was so tiny and well protected by the amazing human body.
I discovered that much of the research surrounding not going over a certain heart rate during pregnancy had been largely discredited but I made sure not to put my body under stress. I didn’t take part in high intensity training and didn’t do anything that made me feel stressed or exhausted.
Above all, I didn’t do exercise I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t want to hurt my precious baby or do anything to risk his health but I also knew I needed to look after my physical and mental health- the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
I went into my active pregnancy with the aim of trying to continue with the sports I loved for as long as I could. I turned the stem upside down on my road bike to change the geometry so I was more upright and avoid compressing my bump, I slowed my running pace and quickly learned I can’t jump out of a pool with a bump and have to use the steps instead! My trainer modified my pregnancy workout routine at the gym (standing push ups, step ups instead of box jumps etc) and I was able to ride my road bike until a few days before I gave birth and do a squat session that morning (I still think that’s what set everything off!).
I was lucky and had a pretty straightforward labour and my son was quite small (lean, not chubby!) which made things easier!
After Mawson was born I tried to get out and about as much as I could and went for a walk every day. As I started to recover and get into the swing of motherhood, the length of the walks increased and I could think about getting back into exercise. I was excited to find an outdoor Buggy Bootcamp where I could meet up with a whole bunch of like-minded women.
When Mawson was about 7 weeks old, I went out on my road bike and although I was apprehensive, I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt on the bike. On the advice of the pelvic physio, I didn’t start running for quite a while but it didn’t matter, I was out in the fresh air doing exercise with friends and embarking on my postnatal exercise journey.
The body is amazing, it knows how to look after itself. My point is that the human body has been doing this for a long time and it will keep you in check and let you know if you’re doing something that it doesn’t like. Learning to trust your body and your instincts in pregnancy is a great lesson for everything to do with childbirth and children.