Post-Pregnancy Fitness: On The Road Back to the Start Line

Post-Pregnancy Fitness: On The Road Back to the Start Line

By: Lindsay Goldman, professional cyclist for Hagens Berman | Supermint

It’s been 4 weeks and 5 days since the C-section and I just finished my 20th ride. When the surgery was scheduled, I accepted that it would be at least four weeks before I was back on the bike. I’d hoped for sooner but was mostly just afraid that it might be longer. Then 10 days postpartum, I started pedaling. It felt good; it’s not like I was ignoring screaming warning signs or blood pouring out. Now I’ve worked up to training hard (still indoors) and basically the last 10 months of anxiety about losing so much time off the bike were a total waste. Good to know.

Resetting my bike fit to accommodate post-pregnancy body changes
Resetting my bike fit to accommodate post-pregnancy body changes at the Cyclologic fit studio in Scottsdale, AZ. Goodbye 145mm crank arms.

I never expected to be this fit now. It’s relative; in a normal year, I wouldn’t consider where I am to be “fit”, but in light of the pregnancy and birth, I feel practically race-ready. My body looks normal if you don’t consider the milk-filled boobs and the squishy belly with the still-swollen uterus. Or so the doctor says that’s what it is; my biggest fear is that it’s actually fat.

Yes, I should accept my body because it just performed a miracle. Right, sure. The kid IS a miracle and perfection embodied in a tiny (screaming) package. That does not mean I want or embrace this beer gut.

Belly aside, the Hammer smart trainer workouts I slogged through in the months up to delivery paid off: I can turn the pedals over surprisingly hard without feeling like I’m going to throw up a lung. It’s been a fairly seamless transition from the hospital bed back to the workouts. I’m setting my FTP a bit lower than it was a year ago when I was already racing, but there is still a 7-inch incision in my lower belly.

Now I’m figuring out where to go from here. I rode the bike around the neighborhood a few times last night just to see how it felt. At first, it was terrible: I was wobbly, everything was rushing by so fast, and the bars felt way too narrow. SHIT, I thought miserably, it’s going to take a while to learn to ride outside again. Then I did a few more laps and felt almost entirely comfortable and normal. The lesson here might be to not always think OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING AND MY LIFE IS OVER BECAUSE I WILL NEVER RECOVER immediately, but old habits die hard.

Taking a break from indoor training to try the first outdoor ride in 5+ months
Taking a break from indoor training to try the first outdoor ride in 5+ months.

Although I broke the seal on riding outside after nearly 24 weeks of indoor joy, I’m not ready to transition to training outdoors yet. Partly because I feel like my body needs more time to recover and it’s enough stress to ride hard on a safe indoor platform with no risk of crashing or twisting my healing body. Partly because I like knowing I’m only a room away from my daughter. And partly because I’m afraid no rides I do outside will compete with the workout quality inside: nothing toughens you up physically or mentally more than completely uninterrupted pedaling for two hours day after day. Even waterboarding is merely a close second.

(Pro tip: Get good at multitasking on your phone while riding indoors to pass the time. At this point in my career, I could probably file corporate taxes for a Fortune 500 company from my phone. Emails? Teleconferences? Blog posts? Breastfeeding? Piece of cake.)

The baby needed a stop in the feed zone
The baby needed a stop in the feed zone.

Now I’ll tell you my current goal so you really think I’m insane: I’m planning to race the Redlands Bicycle Classic starting on May 2. That’s six weeks from now.

You have opinions about this. Don’t we all?

This is an aggressive goal. But it’s not one without a lot of thought behind it. My husband and I have been talking about the possibility for months. It started as a pipe dream, then a distant possibility, and now it’s a real plan. My goal is to be strong and prepared enough to ride hard for my team as a domestique. That would be enough of a win.

My teammate tentatively asked the other day, “Are you planning to maybe start riding outside soon before Redlands?” I guess that would be a good idea. It would be hard to convince the promoters to hold the stage race entirely on Zwift.

There are a lot of considerations in this plan. I need to make sure I don’t train or race in a way that jeopardizes my ability to breastfeed. My daughter will come to the races and be looked after by my husband and/or her grandmothers. She is my priority, not the bike. If that means rides start later than planned each day because I’m feeding or caring for her, then that’s life. It’s been tough - I’m tired from waking up multiple times at night and running on her schedule - but training helps me manage the stress and fatigue in a way nothing else can. I feel more like myself and thus better prepared to accept the overwhelming challenges of a new baby. This way, she gets the best version of me and I still get to have my own plans and goals.

Juggling motherhood with training means sometimes wearing my team kit and cycling shoes while bathing my kid in the sink
Juggling motherhood with training means sometimes wearing my team kit and cycling shoes while bathing my kid in the sink.

Am I selfish? Yes. That’s the nature of being an elite athlete. We are all selfish to a degree. It takes a lot of self-focus to train and compete at this level. I’ve been selfish in this way for years. Now that I’m a mom, I give more of myself away each day, but don’t believe I have to give it all. There is enough for my daughter, husband, family, friends, team, and work. The pie is split a little differently now, but I was never built to live only for my daughter. My role models at this point are women like Meredith Kessler, Gwen Jorgensen, Scotti Lechuga, and Tiffany Pezzulo who are devoted moms AND kick-ass athletes.

Only time will tell how this works out. I refuse to stop trying; I get up each day and ride hard, watch what I eat and drink to make sure my body has enough fuel for me AND the baby, and do extra core exercises to heal my postpartum mom body. Sometimes I feel so defeated by what I see in the mirror and how my body feels. Why don’t I look “normal” yet? Will this flab ever go away? Will my boobs require a belt in the future?

But then I try to remember it hasn’t even been five weeks yet. I have a beautiful daughter. I have a supportive family and team. I have goals. I have a breast pump that the team mechanic can hang out the window of the team car during long stages. (Kidding. I’ll pump during the warm-up.) There are many reasons to be grateful and excited now. And so I kit up, ride with tireless focus on that start line, and then spend the rest of the day telling my baby girl that she too should never stop trying to have it all.

#sacrificenothing

Lindsay Goldman

Lindsay Goldman is the Team Manager and racer for the Hagens Berman | Supermint women’s road cycling team. She has raced her bike professionally for the past five years across North America while also spending significant time riding the trainer to balance the demands of a busy work schedule and to combat rough winters.

She will be starting the 2018 race season by welcoming her first baby in February and then using her Hammer smart trainer to get back into shape to take on the later half of the pro road race calendar.

Follow her on Instagram Instagram and Twitter at @thedirtfield, check out her blog at thedirtfield.com, and learn more about her team at supermintusa.cc.