We are humbled to have had an overwhelming positive response to Joy’s article about riding and training after pregnancy, so I (Joy) decided to delve deeper, rewind the tape a bit, and shed some light on how I stayed active through pregnancy.
I believe these simple steps can be transcend pregnancy and be applied to any individual experiencing a big ‘life event’. You may even find them useful in a time when you are dealing with injury, depression, illness or a lack of motivation.
At the beginning, I had grandiose expectations of cranking out mega training throughout my pregnancy…
I even logged a 300-mile week when I was just 7-weeks pregnant, mostly because my body (and the nausea I was experiencing) felt better while moving. So I had a glimmer of hope this pattern would continue.
Soon however, I started to feel things - everything - slowing down.
I decided it would be a smart idea to forecast my expectations for the months leading into birth, so I created a rough training plan, culminating with my goal event (the birth) at the end of June. Much like training for a peak event within the cycling season, I viewed birth as my Olympics, my once in a lifetime opportunity to be at my best in mind, body and soul.
Going through the process of creating a training plan was eye opening is it highlighted some areas vastly overlooked in my past decade of training. As I refocused and began preparing for my key event, these are the practices that I used to supplement the countless solo hours I had been spending on the bike.
Coach Joy took to a weekly pre-natal yoga class to center her mind and prepare her body for her "goal event", the birth of Baby Seamus. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
I am fortunate to be part of a lovely yoga community at Vasa in Redlands that offers a wonderful Prenatal yoga practice. I joined the weekly class around 18 weeks pregnant and went each week up to birth.
This practice offered me a space to commiserate with expectant moms; find my breath; and be led through various mental and physical movements specifically tailored to birth - all of which I used when Seamus was born!
Seamus (Shay-mus) was born with the oversight of a midwife at a birth center here in Yucaipa. He was not born in a hospital as I wanted to have as natural of a birthing process as possible. With that said, actively working to ground my mind and soul leading into birth would ensure a natural birth remained an option when overcome by emotion and fear. The time and intention I spent on my yoga practice was so important! And it sure was fun meeting up with the yoga moms and our new kiddos!
Coach Joy spent a bit of time on her MTB, even doing a short version of the Redlands Strada Rossa Gravel Event to keep active and have fun on two wheels.Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
I rode my bike 4-5 days a week and I never even changed my position on my road bike! There came a time I opted for my mountain bike and stuck to trails and our local park to ride, even doing an 8-mile ride on my due date around the park!
As you would guess, I was going slower and slower each day. What’s more my heart rate and breathing became labored with very light pressure on the pedals which was almost comical… but at least I was riding!
I was outside - a place I have spent countless hours each day since I was a child - so I was determined that being pregnant wasn’t going to stop that.
I loved riding my MTB or CX bike on our local trails, even descending tight switchbacks until I was about 7-months along. I would have kept that up, except I have to climb up in order to come down, and there was a day I realized too late in the route I had gone too far. Sitting on the side of the trail under the shade of a tree, I checked my phone app to see how close Brian was and if he could come get me. Nope, he’s too far…
Pedal on and enjoy this final single track descent of the summer was my mindset!
I think I rode my trainer 5-times pregnant but to be honest it was so uncomfortable. I felt stuck and unable to move around, and the need for fresh air was too high to keep me inside. I was fortunate to spend much of my pregnancy in the winter/spring and you just cannot beat the SoCal winter weather. I felt comfortable and confident on the bike and never once felt unsafe.
I am not a rider that is known for being a crash-risk in general, so I wasn’t overly concerned. I would do a balance test each ride and see if I could still ride no-hands. I passed this test every time, so I decided that meant it was safe to ride outside.
After 20-weeks, however, I pulled myself from the group ride because the 3-hours workout necessitated a nap of the same duration, and I just didn’t have time for that!
Besides cycling, Coach Joy balanced her outdoor time with some trail hiking to enjoy the great outdoors with our dog, Dixie.Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
We are surrounded by fantastic trail systems, so I opted to set out by foot several days a week as well. This provided me the chance to catch up with friends that I don’t get to connect with through cycling, and what an enriching experience! Walking, hiking, and chatting with wonderful people was a great way to “fill my cup” and keep the ligaments and muscles moving without too much stress.
The big bonus was taking our Chocolate Lab Dixie with me everywhere. We lost our Mama-Bear Moto (our oldest and original Chocolate Lab we had since she was six-weeks old) in the spring, so this time together was very important for both Dixie and I.
One foggy Saturday my friend Lauren and I logged 7.5-miles with over 2K of climbing. I was 7-months pregnant, slept about 2 hours on the couch afterwards, and quickly realized my ever shifting reality was that movement was becoming more and more taxing as my belly continued to grow.
I also had to scratch one trail system off the list due to mountain lion sightings - I was just too big and slow to get away from any wildlife, and since it was so hot outside I was hiking at dusk - bad combo no matter how you slice it! We got to hike trails I have ridden my bike on since 2003, and going by foot provides a whole new perspective!
I have never napped so much in my life. I am known to be a “sleepy bear”, like an 8-9hr a night type of gal.
As time progressed, I needed 1-2 naps a day to get a reboot. Pregnancy fatigue is the real deal, and should be treated as such! Feed the fatigue, and rest more than you ever thought, and maybe you will have enough energy for everything else.
Coach Joy made a training plan with her "A-Race" being the birth of Baby Seamus, she used all the aspects of a periodized training plan and tapered for her event with one final ride on her due-date. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
Back to my original training plan. I actually created the plan in October, while I was teaching a cycling coaching certification course and needed to go through the steps with the attendees. It was reassuring to have a definitive end and culmination of hard work. Although the date was a moving target, the steps were still the same.
Following traditional models of training I selected specific days for yoga, cycling, hiking, and rest. I used rest days to reconnect with non-cycling friends or do house prep for baby. And as I continued to move through the trimesters, the durations of activity began to lessen and some of the ride time was replaced with more yoga.
I logged all my activities just as I would while racing, and kept close tabs on my perception of effort, heart rate, and overall feeling.
Watching heart rate was interesting, because a good laugh session would give me interval-type numbers, and I honestly didn’t have the desire to ride hard. I gained just under 50lbs and it takes a lot to move 195lbs up a technical trail, going slow proved to be work enough!
The week leading into my due-date I logged just under 5 hours of activity, including walking a crit course while Brian was racing, and on my due date I rode 8-miles, then stuck to movement by foot until Seamus arrived 3-days later.
For me, staying active during pregnancy was really important. It shifted from fitness to movement quite quickly with the over-arching goal of being strong and healthy for birth. I worked hard leading into pregnancy to be fit and strong, riding and training close to what I had done when I was racing professionally. Starting the process at that point was really important and set a strong foundation for me to begin this journey into uncharted territory.
I can happily say that once the process of birth began, I was ready for my the key event of a lifetime!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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