The tide is slowly turning when it comes to exercise during pregnancy. Although the recommendation to ride a stationary bike for your cardio because it is safer than a normal bicycle is still extremely prevalent, continuing to ride a bicycle outside during pregnancy is slowing becoming normalized. I was certainly lucky to have several role models in my cycling community who cycled late into their pregnancies, or even all the way through! It’s my turn now to add to those voices.
I want to start by examining the advice to use a stationary bike in case you fall. Most people that have learned how to ride a bike don’t crash regularly. While I’ve had a few spills over the past years, they’ve been in extreme circumstances (racing, learning skills and riding in extreme conditions), rather than on my leisure rides on our wonderful multi-use path system.
I believe the advice to stay off a bicycle comes from the insidious and damaging idea that exists in our culture that women are somehow not good at sports. The argument that is made, as far as I can tell, is largely around the concern that the woman may have balance issues while on the bike, although no evidence or statistics are ever used to back up this claim. By contrast, the anecdotes from real women cyclists largely refute this claim. It certainly feels different to cycle with a pregnant body, but the changes are slow and easy enough to adapt to if you are lucky enough to have a pregnancy that doesn’t come with some of the nastier symptoms.
A person is far more likely to get into a car accident than a cycling incident, however pregnant women are not advised to avoid cars. It is certainly better for a woman to take a leisurely bike ride down a multi-use path (good for body and mind) than to toil away in a gym they had to drive to in the name of safety. It is possible, with the proper preparations and precautions, to ride through as much of a healthy pregnancy as one feels is comfortable.
Weighing relative risks, I decided right off the bat to give up two higher fall risk activities: cycling in icy conditions and racing in a pack. The rest I would take day by day, and I hoped for an easy pregnancy. Okay… I admit I wanted to get in at least one 100 km ride, but I promised myself I would only attempt it if I was feeling good.
Instead of racing, I turned my focus to community building. I volunteered to be a ride leader for slower novice groups and traded in Tuesday race nights for a new Women’s cycling initiative. And occasionally I met everyone at the post-ride social after my own solo easy spin!
I was lucky enough to have a healthy and relatively symptom-free pregnancy and was able to continue cycling deep into the third trimester. I’m going to use the next few posts to note down my experiences in more detail, but my advice boils down to this: listen to your body!