It is widely reported that one of the first things active women want answers to when they find out they’re pregnant is what exercise they can do throughout their pregnancy, including cycling.
The array of advice that’s out there can often seem both broad-sweeping and a bit daunting, with the overriding guideline being that you can essentially continue with your preferred mode of exercise, just be careful not to risk a fall.
You and your doctor
Despite the somewhat vague information out in the ether, there are a couple of rules of thumb to go by. The first is to consult your doctor at your first appointment about any exercise questions. The second is to listen to your body, and the third is not to start anything new or more challenging when you’re pregnant. If you were an avid marathon runner before your pregnancy, then you can probably keep up a fair amount of running for a while, but if you’ve never donned a pair of trainers, now is not the time to sign up for a 13 miler.
Listen to your body
This is probably the single most important piece of advice anyone can give you. Whatever the books say, whatever your friends say, your body is going through a lot of change and every pregnancy is different, so if something’s not making you feel good, don’t do it. As pregnancy progresses and your baby grows, the body comes under all kinds of pressure, which can lead to hip and joint pain – if that’s the case, don’t plough on through, give it a rest, there will be plenty of time to get back on your bike.
When you’re pregnant, your core body temperature increases, and it is thought that overheating could have the potential to cause damage to the baby in early stages of pregnancy. It’s important to point out that the evidence for this is not exactly hard and fast, but naturally no one wants to run any unnecessary risks. The answer is not to avoid exercise, but to do it sensibly – don’t cycle in the heat of the day, stay hydrated and remember the talk test – the ability to carry on a light conversation is the age-old indicator that you’re working out at a safe effort. As a rule, during pregnancy it’s not advised to get too out of breath (you will probably find that starts to happen more anyway as the baby grows).
The risk of a fall is one of the key reasons exercise becomes tricky, particularly during the latter stages of pregnancy, but parents.com suggests that during your first and second trimester you should be fine to ride a bike with relative ease. During your third trimester, when your centre of gravity shifts, it is less advisable… and probably not that comfortable at any rate. For those wishing to avoid the balance issue in its entirety of course, there’s always the option of an exercise bike – not quite the thrill of cycling in the fresh air, but a way of staying safe and active nonetheless.
Professional athlete turned personal trainer Veera Stannard specialises in pre- and postnatal fitness, and during pregnancy she suggests that there are a number of things you can do to support your wider fitness and strengthen your body. In particular she suggests bodyweight exercises, such as squats and lunges, as well as glute work to support your posture, which can suffer during pregnancy. She says you shouldn’t do anything that causes spine stress, such as sit-ups and crunches because it puts a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall and it’s not good for the spine. Also, don’t do anything that affects the belly directly, such as press-ups. Instead, focus on lots of pelvic floor exercises.
Two Top Tips
- A small but eminently sensible piece of advice from totalwomenscycling.com – as your bump grows in the second trimester, you may find it more comfortable to raise the handlebars on your bicycle.
- Lots of brands produce cycling clothing for pregnant women, so feel free to add some sportswear to your maternity wardrobe!