For this instalment of MTB Voices, Rachel Trainor shares her experiences of mountain biking while pregnant. This is an area that very much differs from person to person, leaving some onlookers with divided opinions, as Rachel explains…
My name’s Rachel, and I love biking. I love the adrenaline rush I get from the steep technical trails or the fast runs on the downhill tracks, and I’ve even done some races! I have my boyfriend to thank for introducing me to mountain biking five years ago, and now I’m hooked! It’s my biggest passion and something I’ve done pretty much every week since; it helps me relax, keeps me fit and has allowed me to meet one of my best friends.
I will start from the beginning of my pregnancy journey. At the start of 2020, I bought myself a new bike. A group of friends and I met up at one of our favourite steep techy off-piste spots; the bike was amazing! After this, I found out I was pregnant a week, so we were absolutely ecstatic and naturally quite nervous. Still, we had lots of time to get used to things before the little one arrived. The next time I got on my bike, I felt different, very aware that I needed to be more careful. This feeling stuck with me for a fair few weeks, but then I learnt to relax again on the bike. I felt like I needed one big adventure on the bike before my bump got big, and I maybe struggled with sickness, or my fitness dropped off. A group of us headed up to Golfie in Scotland, probably my favourite place to ride; it was exactly what I needed, and I enjoyed every second.
When I told people I was pregnant, they all said the usual congratulations, but some followed with ‘oh, no more biking then‘ and ‘you’ll have to stop with the weights in the gym.‘ I understand people mean well, but people don’t realise its effect when you are told you shouldn’t be doing something you love. It almost made me feel like a bad mum or I was being selfish. If it hadn’t been for keeping fit and biking, I’d really struggle through lockdown, never mind being pregnant during it as well. People continued to express their concerns, and most asked when I thought I’d stop biking, and I answered with, ‘whenever I get tired.‘ I was incredibly lucky that other than the odd days of feeling tired, pregnancy was good to me, even if my cravings had me eating packets of biscuits.
“If it wasn’t people commenting on me still riding while pregnant, it was being told that I’d need to sell my bike and wave bye-bye to my freedom.“
My other half was incredibly supportive of me continuing to do what I felt comfortable with; having his support on this was important. Luckily, I’m not easily offended and had to take a lot of remarks on the chin. If it wasn’t people commenting on me still riding while pregnant, it was being told that I’d need to sell my bike and wave bye-bye to my freedom. Yet, there I was, building up another bike through lockdown with no sign of giving up my passion. This is something I hated hearing, not because I believed it, but because I felt so strongly that this wouldn’t and shouldn’t be the case. My boyfriend and I both have hobbies that are important to us, and we had plenty of conversations about how we would make it work once the little one arrived.
I remember going to our first midwife appointment and telling her that I rode mountain bikes and lifted weights in the gym and that I wanted to continue to do this for as long as I could. She was great and said whatever my body is used to is okay for me to continue to do. Yes, obviously, there is risk involved, and yes, that was always in my head somewhere, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t. However, there are risks involved in everyday life, and I stuck to what felt comfortable for me and bump.
Over the next month, things changed massively with COVID, and it meant we stayed on our local trails for pretty much the whole of the year. It meant I was riding trails I knew, like the back on my hand, could pick and choose my way around the forest and leave if I got tired; therefore, I felt confident to continue to ride my bike on the trails I love.
I told myself from the start that if I didn’t feel safe riding off-piste at any point, I’d move onto the man-made trails as they were more predictable. It was all about minimising risk. Every ride was different each week, and I had to trust my instincts and go with it. Walking parts of the trails I’d always rode was weird but totally okay and nothing to get down about. It felt good to be out on the bike regardless. There were days where I’d walk, push or altogether avoid certain routes and days where I would ride the rock gardens, roots and drops.
I loved the feeling when my bump grew, and I was fortunate enough to be able to continue training in the gym and riding. There were definitely a few people who would take a second look when I’d come out the end of the trail, and they would see my bump or lifting weights in the gym. Honestly, I loved every second of it. I felt special and strong and proud that my body could do it. My biking experience while pregnant was a lovely one. I had my last ride at around 36-weeks pregnant, and our healthy little boy arrived 10-days early.
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