Cycling during pregnancy or “Are childbearing cyclists more prone to accidents?”

By Spinning Mum:

Okay, I have to admit it… The pregnancy fairy magically transformed me into a gym bunny and while I have not been seen on the roads around Lower Austria within the last six weeks or so, I have not entirely given up on cycling, yet. As I am writing this article, I am 24 weeks (6 months) along and though the spinning classes I am usually joining three times a week don’t actually make up for the smooth asphalt, steep hills and scenic views, I am currently feeling much safer on the stationary bike.

However, indoor training is not a good cure for getting green with envy when I see other riders fighting their way through the hilly woods. Not mentioning what happens every time Kai leaves the house with his beloved Cérvelo or when I am flipping through Tour magazine…

That is why I started wondering whether it is really necessary to let Julie collect dust in the garage for the weeks to come and started some research about cycling during pregnancy.

As mentioned in my previous post about exercising during gestation opinions about outdoor cycling differ tremendously and though most medical practitioners and trainers agree that cycling in general is a great way to keep fit whilst easing strain on ankles and knee joints, the biggest concern they share is the risk of falling.

Aha, this is right what I was worrying about when I decided to change my routine in week 17 though nobody actually ever told me to stay off the road. So, let’s dig a bit further here…

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) biking is a great low-impact sport and usually safe during a low-risk pregnancy – even for novices. Yet the ACOG suggests that beginners should rather stick to stationary cycling in order to minimise the risk of potential injuries to mother and baby.

They also recommend that even experienced riders should rather change their training to a static bike from their 2nd trimester onwards as their growing bellies might influence their balance. Furthermore, they point out that the bony structure around the pelvis does not protect the baby after the 12th week of pregnancy, so that little belly dwellers could be seriously harmed in a crash.

Okay. That makes me feel a lot better about not investing in warm bike wear this winter, but…

On the other hand I tend to believe that going on foot or by car can also bear its hazards when it comes to traffic related casualties and unless childbearing cyclists are more prone to accidents than their non-bumpy co-riders, the benefits I mentioned in my previous post might still outweigh the risks unless you are a Kamikaze rider.

For sure it is common sense that you should avoid bumpy off-road tracks or busy streets and refrain from racing or training in a pack but a moderate defensive training session on dry roads with only little traffic should still be fine, shouldn’t it?

Well now what to do?

It’s not an easy choice, but personally I think, I will stick to the spinning bike and static trainer for the last stretch of my pregnancy. Despite the fact that I came across articles claiming that most falls won’t affect the unborn and (knock on wood) I have not been kissing the asphalt so far, I do not want to push my luck.

Moreover I am simply not cycling as much as some of the pro riders who literally rode their racers to the labour ward and who probably have much more experience when it comes to handling dicey situations.

Thus, my dear Julie, I will see you in March and hope you will not give me sad looks whenever I enter the garage.

Working out during pregnancy – benefits and what to obey

By Spinning Mum:

As Konstantin is starting to roll around the house these days, does not want to take naps anymore and desires constant entertainment, it took me ages to finish this post… Maybe I should change the subject to “keeping fit by crawling after your baby” ;)

When I found out that I was pregnant with the little rascal, I was a bit worried that I might have to give up on exercising. The first thing I asked my gynaecologist upon having confirmation that my morning sickness wasn’t a sign of a hangover was: “Am I still allowed to engage in sportive activities?”

At that time Kai and I took our bikes out for a 60km ride almost every morning before work and occasionally joined some of the training rides of the Tung Chung Triathlon Association, and I was certain that I will instantly turn into an obnoxious sourpuss if my doctor would tell me to skip any exhausting activities.

Fortunately my reservations were unfounded. My doc informed me that working out during (a risk-free) gestation is generally a good thing to do as it bears a lot of benefits, including the fact that regular training sessions help to prevent physical complaints during gravidity and prepare the body for the exertions during labour and birth.

I was told that working out with a baby bump will not only help to keep the weight gain in check but also limits problems with joints, tendons, circulation and digestion. It will reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. Moreover it will help moms-to-be to get a good night’s sleep and to feel better about their changing bodies.

Personally, I only gained good experiences along the way and can only support the above mentioned benefits. With Konstantin I was able to run up to the end of month six (though I had to slow down immensely once the belly grew bigger and bigger) and even spent half an hour on the static trainer two days before giving birth.

Of course not every kind of workout is recommended and you should always check with your doctor and/or midwife which activities are still okay for you to pursue and what to bear in mind when hitting the gym but in general there are only a few rules to obey:

1. Due to possible injuries to you and your unborn baby avoid contact sports and activities which can make you slip or fall (e.g. soccer, basketball, judo, horseback riding, skiing, rock climbing, in-line-skating etc.). Remember that high impact aerobics can weaken your pelvic floor. [Views on cycling in particular are controversial and I will dedicate a separate post to it at a later stage.]

2. Monitor your heart rate. Your pulse should not exceed 140-145 bpm as your heart has to pump extra blood into the placenta. However, your pulse can go bonkers once you are with child. As a rule of thumb you should take it easy once you cannot carry on a conversation without panting.

3. Listen to your body. Stop whatever you are doing if you feel unwell. As soon as you feel dizzy or uncomfortable take a rest and have a big sip from your water bottle. Needless to say that you should abort your workout as soon as you suffer from abdominal or chest pain.

4. Always warm up and cool down as your joints and ligaments are much softer and thus more prone to injuries over the next months.

5. Drink plenty of water before, during and after working out. It’s important you don’t become dehydrated. Especially in warm weather this may cause your body temperature to rise which may not be good for you or your baby.

This in mind and unless you are experiencing serious complications, there is no reason to sit around - So baby, let’s move!