When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew that my days of riding on the open road were numbered. Like many prego triathletes, my doctor recommended that I modify my normal training plan so I don’t risk falling or abdominal trauma, a risk biking outdoors. The reason for this is that after about the 12th week of pregnancy, a woman’s pelvis no longer protects the uterus—leaving your little one exposed if you take a fall on the bike. What’s more, as a woman progresses through her pregnancy, her center of gravity changes. So you could find yourself needing to re-evaluate the safety of riding outdoors (as a self-proclaimed klutz, I can say that this was definitely the case for me).
Thanks to my indoor trainer, I was relieved I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to my bike for 9+ months. In fact, my doctor highly recommended sticking with a regular stationary cycling routine. Indoor cycling is a very good choice during pregnancy for several reasons: it’s safer than riding your bike outdoors (lower risk of falling and injury), is a non-impact exercise that allows you to still burn calories, tone muscles, and stay active. All of these things help to make pregnancy, labor, and delivery “easier” (note: easier is a relative statement).
At home I use a CycleOps Fluid² Trainer (http://www.cycleops.com). Mike and I bought this trainer last year, and so far it’s been a great purchase. Pre-pregnancy I used the trainer as my thunderstorm backup plan (an essential piece of equipment with our tropical weather). It’s also a great training tool in general. Indoor cycling provides many benefits such as monitoring heart rate, power, and developing mental toughness—all without dealing with traffic. You also avoid coasting and the stop-and-go that comes with traffic lights, which leads to more time in the saddle.
So should you start an indoor cycling routine if you’re expecting and are new to the sport? Most doctors advise against starting a brand new exercise plan if you were not active pre-pregnancy, so ask your OB before starting something new. However, if you were already an avid cyclist, indoor cycling might be a great (and safer) alternative. While you should still discuss your individual training plan with your OB (seriously ladies, this is important), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week throughout your pregnancy. At this intensity you should feel slightly winded, but should still be able to carry on a conversation. You can spread your cycling sessions throughout the week to mix things up. For example, do 30 minutes of indoor cycling a few days a week. For triathletes, you can create a modified training plan to keep up your pre-pregnancy routine. For example, my training plan consists of the following:
Tuesday: 50 minute walk (I’ve been advised to eliminate running until after the little one arrives)
Wednesday: Indoor cycling
Friday: 50 minute walk
Saturday: Indoor cycling
Sunday: 50 minute walk
Of course this plan has been modified many times depending on how I feel. Before I was pregnant nothing—and I really mean nothing—could make me miss a day of training (Mike has had to convince me that running in a tropical storm was actually not a healthy choice). One thing I’ve learned during my pregnancy is that you have to listen to your body (despite my natural stubborn nature). For example, if I’m not feeling well or need a break, I take a day off.
Finally, while indoor cycling is definitely a safer alternative to riding on the road during pregnancy, I can’t emphasize enough that it’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Ladies, talk to your OB about any troublesome symptoms you experience when riding like dizziness, pain, chest pain, swelling, or any other feelings that seem “not quite right.”
Otherwise, once you’re given the A-OK from your OB, enjoy the ride!