Getting back into the saddle as a new mum
Getting back into cycling as a new mum - a guest blog by Hannah Reynolds
‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ – that’s a phrase I have heard a lot in my lifetime, it was one of my Mum’s favourites basically meaning if you want it enough, you’ll find a way to do it.
Funny that it was my Mum who instilled that in me, because as I am learning now as a Mum myself, mother’s need an awful lot of ‘will’!
When I was pregnant I was quietly confident that I would be back on my bike fast and would be quickly able to regain my previous levels of fitness.
This wasn’t unrealistic thinking, I understood what pregnancy and weight gain would do to my body, I was ready to be patient and prepared to work at.
The bit I had omitted in my thinking was how on earth I was every going to find the time to actually do it!
Sometimes to get anything done for you, and not for your family or work takes an awful lot of ‘will’.
When I was younger, child-free and genuinely fit I was riding my bike anywhere between 8 and 20 hours a week. I honestly thought that people who ‘couldn’t find time to train’ were just lazy or making excuses.
I’m so sorry.
I’d say sanctimonious things like ‘ if you have time to watch an episode of Love Island you could manage to do a 30-minute turbo session’ and ‘why not try getting up an hour earlier to cycle before work.’
Ha – what an idiot!
When you have been kept awake most of the night by a baby that hour is the difference between functioning in your day or falling asleep stood up. And possibly being a danger to yourself and the small person you are responsible for.
Restarting cycling after having a baby
Eventually, the will and the desire to ride my bike asserted itself and I wandered bleary eyed out of the early days of motherhood and started to look for ways to get pedalling again.
I’m no longer a sanctimonious advice giver – these are just the things that worked for me.
1: The Tag Team
In our house there are two parents who like to cycle, in a way that makes it easier as you both understand the desire to ride, but it also means two people competing for valuable free time to ride. We found the most efficient and fair way is the tag-team.
The first summer our son was born we were lucky enough to live in France. My partner likes to ride enduro downhill, I like to ride uphill on a road bike.
He would drive baby and van to the top of a mountain, I would cycle up on my road bike. At the top I get handed keys and a baby so he can descend to the bottom. It’s a match made in heaven, the Jack Spratt and his wife of cycling.
Back in the UK where there are no mountains we still tag-team – he drives and I ride to a meeting point and then we swap. The only thing is we never ride together.
2: Trailer Cycling
Once baby is able to go in a trailer a whole new world opens up, you can ride as much as you want again. But there are considerations. You will worry if it is too hot/too cold/too windy/too wet in a way you wouldn’t if you just had yourself to think about, c’est la vie – that is now your life as a parent.
I was breast feeding for 16-months so also had to consider finding places to stop and feed that were comfortable enough for both of us. Winter feeding when you are trying to strip back layers to expose your boob to a cold wind is quite a challenge!
3: Going on a mission
I like cycling with a purpose.
I really miss commuting now I work at home, so one of the most pleasing ways to get a ride in is when you ‘have’ to go somewhere.
It can be anything from the supermarket to a work appointment but something about it also being a task and necessity eases my guilt about taking ‘time-off’ to go cycling.
If you are stuck at home of an evening and have sufficient energy and motivation there is always the turbo trainer. Minimal kit, minimal set up time and even if you just turn your legs whilst watching mindless trash TV it is keeping your body in touch with the feel of cycling.
If you are feeling very motivated a 20-minute HIIT session can actually make a real difference to your fitness in a very short amount of time.
5: Virtual Cycling
One good thing the pandemic gave to us was a strong virtual cycling community.
From racing on Zwift, to group rides and meet-ups, coached sessions and spin-classes you can exercise with others from the comfort of your own home.
This can also alleviate one of the other side-effects of motherhood – boredom.
There, I said it!
Of course, you will still have a social life but there will be plenty of evenings when you will be home out of necessity not choice.
Final words of wisdom
The other thing I have learnt about the early years of parenting is that everything passes. When you are in a good stage and think you have mothering nailed something will change with their sleep patterns or feeding and that feeling of control will all slip away again.
The good side is that when it is difficult, that changes too.
My three year old is now getting too heavy for his trailer and wanting to cycle or walk everywhere himself. What worked a few months ago now doesn’t.
To keep cycling you need to be creative and determined to find solutions, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Hannah Reynolds has worked in the cycling industry for 20 years as writer, editor and cycle guide and is now learning the joys of cycling with a 3 year old.
Her latest book "1001 Cycling Tips" is a light-hearted and informative guide to all kinds of cycling.
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