Your article at the collective
At “The Women All Ride” collective, we want to represent the cycling world in all its diversity. Therefore, we have not only initiated the category: ALL RIDE WITH…, but also want to share guest contributions and experiences of our readers. The topics are as varied and diverse as our community itself. From personal challenges to social engagement, to educational and health topics related to cycling – your article at the collective shows the diversity and variety of cycling people!
Do you also have a great article idea? Write us a message! We are looking forward to your suggestions!
Cycling during pregnancy - the first month
Lena is a passionate cyclist.
During her pregnancy, she did not want to give up her beloved hobby and has informed herself extensively and found a way to stay active that suits her. She would like to share this, as information on the subject can rarely be found in a coherent form, but requires painstaking research. A small series of articles will help other pregnant people find their way!
This article is all about cycling in the first months of pregnancy.
Table of Contents
The initial situation
First of all, I would like to emphasize that these are my subjective experiences, which I would like to share with you, to help one or the other to find her way in the information jungle. You should always and always listen to your midwife and doctor and make sure that the chosen path and sport is the right one for you in your pregnancy, so as not to harm you or your unborn child.
It was very difficult for me to find useful information on the topic of (competitive) sports during pregnancy. Everywhere there is only the usual banter “sport is important”, “cycling is a great sport in pregnancy” but just at no price endurance sports and just do not get to a heart rate of over 150 bpm! In the next breath, you find directly the risks associated with supposed overload.
I had to read up on so many different websites, browse through testimonials, search Instagram accounts to finally get a feeling of certainty for myself. I would like to spare other pregnant women by giving a small overview of my findings.
I became pregnant in the middle of December 2020. The second lockdown had just begun. On Boxing Day, I rather turned off from a road bike ride and went to the pharmacy. I felt not fit at all and had a premonition that was finally confirmed. Since then, things have changed and now I am writing this article in the 26th SSW (7th month). By the way, due to the current laws in Saxony, I was immediately sent to the home office, which is very similar to an employment ban. I get a lot of support and open ears from my environment and family, but the most important support I get from my partner. I am very grateful for that.
The first time of pregnancy
Support from my gynecologist and midwives
The first step was of course to call my gynecologist. I was very lucky that despite the early stage of pregnancy, she had an appointment for me right away in the new year. She was also very open to the topic of sports. I explained to her that I ride a road bike and crosser in my spare time and she said I should continue everything just as before. In fact, your body is the best feedback center you can imagine, but I’ll get to that.
When the pregnancy was confirmed by her, I went directly to an acquaintance who is a midwife. Regarding this, I am extremely lucky! She also reaffirmed me to continue the sport that I already do. This included yoga. Consider seeking out a midwife, it’s worth a lot in many areas.
My exercise during pregnancy
Pregnancy week 1-13
I was doing quite well until mid-January (the 7th/8th week of pregnancy). As far as the weather allowed, I rode my bike on the road and off-road and did yoga every day. However, severe pain in my wrist, triggered by inflammation, forced me to suspend both for the time being and that’s when nausea started. I wasn’t able to do anything anymore, I was permanently nauseous, I was still hungry all the time, but I couldn’t get any food in me. I was very disgusted by almost all foods, but very badly by coffee and tofu (I eat a vegetarian diet). After two weeks I felt like crying, so I sat in front of my noodles without sauce in tears and looked into the equally helpless eyes of my partner. During this time I also lost weight. Sports were absolutely out of the question. I lay around on the sofa for most of the day.
Pregnancy week 14 - 20
After the nausea was as good as over almost punctually after pregnancy week 13, the listlessness came, and also the fatigue remained persistent. On good days I went for a walk, sometimes I sat on the indoor trainer. With the longer days, I slowly became more active again and liked to go on relaxed gravel tours of around 30 to 40 km. My belly started to grow gradually from the 14th week, at least visible for me, for others less. At first, it didn’t have a big impact on cycling, but so slowly the bibs started to tighten and press. You notice relatively early that there is something there. Somewhere I read a comparison with a small water balloon that lies under the abdominal wall and found it quite appropriate.
Pregnancy week 21 - 28
In the 21st week of pregnancy, the organ screening revealed that my placenta was still a bit too small. This meant that I should continue to do sports, but not endurance sports. Thus, I have suspended outdoor cycling for me. I now and then ride relaxed, with low watts on the roller trainer, continue to walk a lot, and have started workouts adapted to the pregnancy with my body weight and partly with weights and bands. I’ve been doing weight training for a few years, so I found the workouts by Patricia Kraft (also on YouTube) very appealing. She is/was just pregnant herself and therefore it was very valuable for me to see what she still does/can do in which month. The control ultrasound now took place and I am unfortunately only allowed to cycle around flat on the Elbe river. The placenta is not optimally supplied with blood and the doctor recommends shallow load but continue sports. Summer is here and the swimming pools are open again, so it will probably go swimming more often.
My tips for cycling and exercise during pregnancy
1. Clarify everything with the gynecologist
Every pregnancy starts with different conditions, just as different as we all are. Everything can be great and not a single problem can arise, but it can also be that you need to pay attention to a few things health-wise. Together with the gynecologist, you go through your health history and, if known, that of your family, do blood tests and examinations, and if there is nothing to complain about, you are ready to go. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions or find a new doctor if you don’t feel comfortable with your current one. I have also done this.
2. Study anatomy and the processes within yourselves
An endless interplay of hormones and processes has been going on since the day of fertilization. As in the cycle, the hormones have a particularly important role. Learn to work with them and not against them. The same applies to the changing inside and outside of your body.
I can only suggest that you to deal with the basic anatomical things that are going on inside you right now. Only then you will understand yourself and the signals your body sends better. Only then you become aware of what an incredible achievement this is that your body is doing right now! You are building a little human being right now!
3. Listen to your body
I have been attracted to the topic of body awareness, yoga, and meditation even before pregnancy, which is why I usually manage to “listen in” quite well. The magic number of 12 weeks was also considered a limit for me. While the belly wasn’t growing noticeably at that point, my body was giving me feedback to not go as deep into certain stretches, to not do exercises lying on my belly, exercises for the straight abs also didn’t feel right anymore. Even with cycling, I no longer trusted myself to do a lot of things or preferred to leave them out because my inner self more or less advised me not to. And if you just feel too tired for sports, then by all means take a nap. At first, I wasn’t aware of it, but often these tired phases go hand in hand with growth spurts. Here your body needs the energy in another place.
4. The idea of performance
One important hurdle to overcome is the idea of performance. You don’t have to set a personal best, you don’t have to get a QOM, you don’t have to follow a training plan, you don’t have to ride long distances. You have to learn to listen to your body signals and, as strange as it sounds, make friends with the situation first. Especially for women for whom sport has played an important and balancing role up to now, it is very difficult to accept that you are now no longer able to do things the way you did before, and that is completely okay! Of course, every woman is different, I can only report from myself and at this point also from two friends who felt the same way.
5. Keep an eye on your heart rate
On the Internet, you can find the statement that heart rate should stay between 135 and 150 bpm if possible. This is very unrealistic, especially in the beginning. The heart rate is basically quite high for most women. I know from myself that an average of 175 bpm doesn’t cause me any problems in a normal state, that I also come down from peaks quickly, and that a high heart rate doesn’t bother me. My body is used to it and during pregnancy, it has not broken this habit. So don’t get mad if your heart rate goes up and reaches 185 bpm. As long as this is not the average value of the ride, that’s okay. Here again, every body is different, listen to yourself!
Note: In TOUR Magazine, Dr. Maja Heinrigs advises “If you can still talk while exercising, you are exercising in the right area as a pregnant”. This also supports Lena’s tip to listen to your own body!
6. Planning is everything
Look at your routes beforehand. How many meters of altitude, how long, is there a possibility to shorten? If you are traveling alone, don’t go through total no-man’s land in case you don’t feel well on the way. Pack your maternity passport. It contains all your pregnancy health data, which could be important in case of emergency.
7. Never not snacking
8. Customize the bike
The topic plays an important role even in normal conditions, but even more so during pregnancy. Be sure to pack a bar or two, maybe even glucose or dried fruit. You get starvation much faster than usual. My record was 12 km of shallow dirt roads and then I really needed something urgently! Likewise, enough water should be drunk. By the way, this does not only apply to cycling but also when walking. Especially during the time of nausea and discomfort. I always had a bar with me until the 5th month of pregnancy.
The first and only step on my Canyon Ultimate was to raise the handlebars by the 1.5cm that were still possible. Unfortunately, this model does not go much more pregnant-friendly to adjust. But since it is just on the roller trainer, that’s okay.
On my cyclocross (Specialized Crux) I could do some more changes. Here we could raise the handlebars a little further and turn the stem positive. Depending on the state of mind, I put the saddle sometimes higher or lower. The positive stem makes a lot for the position on the bike. You sit more upright, which is much more comfortable with a growing belly.
Since getting pregnant, I always carry a small bag on the handlebars for the maternity passport, snacks, tube, air pump, multitool, etc…
9. Even spandex has its limits
Until the 3rd / 4th month I got along quite well with my Bibs from Rapha. Since the 5th month, only the Rapha Cargo Bib for women fitted me (which still fits now in the 7th, but is slowly getting a little tight). I wear the pants and jerseys of Rapha in size S, the Cargo Bib in size M with a height of 165 cm, and a starting weight of 58 kg (now it is 65 kg). Some jerseys are larger and more flexible from the cut, so I could wear them until recently. For hopefully upcoming tours it will be simple, wide shirts that my closet (or that of my partner) gives so.
But I can already recommend one great thing! Veloine launched a pair of cycling shorts for pregnant women in May. Last week I just got them in the mail and was already thrilled when trying them on. They are super soft and comfortable, feel great and hug the now pretty round belly without constricting. There is also a matching leotard to go with it, but I didn’t order that. So before you like me with the thought plays you through different sizes and different brands to try, try the pants of Veloine!
10. Search for alternatives
Pregnancy is not always nice. Sometimes you can't think about sports, especially not cycling. I can only recommend you to look for alternatives, to avoid going stir-crazy. A book, series, sewing, crafting, planning something, a language, mucking out, meditation, yoga, maybe look for inspiration via blogs or Instagram.
The most important thing in the end:
- Listen to doctors and midwives.
- Don’t let anyone talk you into it or make you feel insecure.
- Build up a small network and exchange information (friends with children, fellow pregnant women, Instagram…).
- Do what makes you feel good!
In the continuation, you will find out how it will go on in the last months of pregnancy and what Veloine’s pants can really do.
A really well-researched and scientifically funded overview is provided by this website of the German Sport University Cologne. Here you can find out about all kinds of topics and sports and get a first feeling of what is still possible and what you should better do without.
Text: Lena Wilhelm
Proofreading: Sandra Schuberth
Edit & Layout: Sandra Schuberth
Header photo: Paul Müller