How to stay active through pregnancy and beyond.
Hi, my name is Hannah, and I am a mountain bike coach, Pilates instructor and passionate about the outdoors. My world revolves around fitness and the outdoors, from a young age I have always been into outdoor sports, mountain biking, climbing and walking in particular.
Before covid I competed at elite level in cross country mountain biking as well as 12 and 24 hour races. I started coaching in 2013 and now run my own coaching company called Beyond the Mud. I coach and guide adults and children from the ages 5 to 75. I am based in the stunning South Downs not far from Chichester.
Finding out I was pregnant was one of the most exciting / scary moments of my life. As well as all the feelings/emotions that go around having a baby I was also worried about how I would keep riding and keep my active business going! Google seemed to suggest that I should stop riding my mountain bike, but my mid-wife was wonderful and said to maintain what I had been doing and just reduce it as my body required, so this is what I did. I then also looked for stories about other women who had mountain biked whilst pregnant like Sonia Looney, Hannah Barnes and Rachel Atherton, their stories kept me on the bike and feeling good throughout my pregnancy.
As my pregnancy progressed, I reduced my mileage and any real risk from my rides sticking to more gravel and easy singletrack that I knew like the back of my hand. I felt safe on my mountain bike where as the road bike felt more exposed, I stopped riding on the road at 25 weeks because it felt uncomfortable on the road bike and also the roads in general just didn’t feel safe.
Mountain biking is more than just a sport to me it is also the place where I recharge my batteries, find space for my thoughts, and have real ‘me’ time so the idea that I would have to stop even for just a short while, as I got closer to my due date did make me feel a little anxious.
When I got to around 37 weeks, I did stop mountain biking as the position got quite uncomfortable to stay in for any period of time and the weather started to change to winter and so the conditions were not as safe on the trails, I took up swimming which was amazing, the feeling of weightlessness in the water was so nice! I also continued to practise Pilates and walk my dog.
I thought as soon as my baby was born, I would want to get riding again. I didn’t realise once my little girl, Ffion, arrived that leaving her would be so hard! It took a lot of encouragement from my other half (Emyr) to get me on my bike again.
Around five weeks after giving birth, I felt strong enough to go for a short mountain bike ride, it was one of the best rides I have ever been on! (Pilates played a huge part in me feeling able to do this, but that’s another story) Although I missed Ffion, once I was riding through the woods I found my way out of the sleep deprivation, it was like the foggy head I had since she arrived was swept away by the trees and the worries I had about basically everything to do with this new tiny human I was responsible for just melted away.
When I got back from my ride I was energised and ready to be mum again, that time away I believe made me able to deal with the more challenging side of being a parent.
During pregnancy I had altered my set up changing my saddle and bringing my handle bars up higher to make more ‘bump’ space. Emyr changed the bike back to my pre pregnancy set up and I did find my sit bones felt uncomfortable, even though the bump had gone my body had not reset to my pre pregnancy shape, this took around 4 months until my old bike set up felt ‘normal’ once more.
As Ffion was a winter baby it was quite challenging to get out at times with the weather not being great and the day light being minimal, luckily, I have a super supportive cycling fiancé, Emyr, so we had a day each at the weekend to ride and split the days in the week. Having planned ride time into the week helped me gradually increase my mileage and by the time Ffion was three months I was able to ride for up to three hours at a time.
I would express before a ride so Emyr could feed Ffion when I was out, we did have a slight blip around 3 months she decided that she didn’t like the bottle and this did impact my ability to ride but with persistence Emyr managed to get her back to take a bottle by four months.
My advice to anyone cycling during pregnancy would be to really listen to your body as only you really know how you feel. Post birth I think as well being kind to yourself, giving yourself room to heal is important but also remembering that the endorphins released when you are active are as magic as oxytocin.
I am really keen to help other women ride through their pregnancies and beyond so please do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any help.Favorite