Can you Ride a Bike Century while Pregnant? 10 Important Tips

Riding a Bike Century while Pregnant:

Should you even ride a bike while Pregnant?

Out doing what I love!
Out doing what I love!

Despite what some people may think, cycling (or bike riding) is actually one of the recommended forms of exercise for pregnant women, due to its low impact attributes and cardiovascular benefits.

I’ve been cycling regularly for seven years now.  In that time I’ve done several 100-mile centuries, and even more metric centuries (100 km or 62 miles).  I did four 100-mile centuries when I was pregnant with my first child in 2012, including a double century (200 miles in one day: Seattle, WA to Portland, OR, 11.5 hours riding time).  I’m now pregnant with my third child (due November 2016) and am preparing for a century in a couple days.  This particular century is a ride to raise funds for those suffering with ALS:

I have not done a century this far along yet, and although I feel mostly prepared, I’m undecided yet whether I’ll be doing a metric century(100 km) or a 100 mile century.  

This brings me to the Top 10 Important Points that I’ve learned over the years when doing long distance endurance events or races while you are pregnant.

Do what YOU can do

Every woman is different.  Our bodies can handle different levels of activity during pregnancy depending on our previous activity levels; whether the pregnancy is high- risk; how fit a woman is; and even how she carries.  I’m not a medical professional and every single woman should check with their health professional before engaging in activity in pregnancy.

Weather

During pregnancy our bodies need extra nutrition and hydration, so if you are engaged in a multi-hour endurance sport you need to be even more careful about changes in heat or cold that could cause dehydration, chills, and/or heat stroke.  

Jackets like this one that have removable sleeves can help with visibility as well as temperature control
Jackets like this one that have removable sleeves can help with visibility as well as temperature control (Check on Amazon here for a jacket like the one above)

Nutrition

Pay extra attention to your nutritional needs.  In terms of performance, not only are you more likely to bonk(link) but you also need more as you are supporting another life.  I personally like carrying Clif Shot Bloks with me in case I need an extra pick-me up.  (I’ve been buying them for years, and Amazon has the best price on them.)

Know your limits

Pace yourself.  Pregnancy is not the time to try and “break that record”.  When it’s just you, you can probably get away with pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion in either training or to get a better time.  Growing a baby is not the time to do that.  Absolutely do what your body can handle, but don’t push yourself so hard that you are lying on the side of the road gasping for oxygen because you pushed yourself to the point of passing out (ahem. I may or may not have been stupidly guilty of this once or twice.. When I wasn’t pregnant).

Be flexible

Be prepared to change your plan.  For anyone like myself who hates giving up, this can be very hard to do but something you MUST keep in mind when you do any type of exercise when pregnant.  You’re growing another human life, and that responsibility must come first.  Because of this you need to be extra in-tune to your body.  If you start feeling too exhausted, dizzy, hungry, dehydrated, contractions or cramps, bleeding.. Anything that is a cause for a concern, you must be prepared to stop!  For example, when I go out and train or when I go out to ride this century this weekend, my main priority is going to be how my body is responding.  Although I plan on completing what I set out to do, I will STOP at the drop of a hat, if I get any warning signs that I’m overdoing it and potentially risking the health of my baby.

You’ll need more rest

Make sure you rest appropriately.  You are demanding a lot from your body at a time when it is working even harder than normal.  Which means, that you will need to take more rest than you may wish to (if you’re like me.)  When I’m not pregnant, given the time (which with two toddlers I admittedly don’t have a lot of), I could train 3xs as much as I actually do.  However, when pregnant, I have to cut it back.  Especially as I progress further and further along.  Is this easy for me? UH, nope.  Although, I absolutely view it as worth it, sometimes the hardest part about being pregnant is mentally accepting the fact that I will gain more weight, gain more fat, be slower, and not be able to workout (something which I honestly LOVE) as much as I want.   It’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Ignore the naysayers

I’ve had plenty.  Let’s face it.  We women are still faced with the problem of people viewing pregnancy as almost some type of sickness, where you can’t do anything more than gently walk or do yoga.  And although, I would be the first to say or tell anyone that the health of your baby is the most important (and if you have a high risk pregnancy, terrible morning sickness, etc.. by ALL MEANS, do what you need to do to sustain that pregnancy).. It is still frustrating when you CAN continue to do things you love, and people are putting you down because they arbitrarily view it as unsafe.  My advice is always this: Educate yourself, be aware of what your body can handle, take the necessary precautions, follow your doctor’s recommendations and ignore people who understand nothing about your sport or routine; your life; or why you do what you do.

Be prepared with answers

What to say when you get the “What if you get hit by a car?” questions.   Haha! I love this one.  Granted, it is a legitimate question.  And apart from the normal safety precautions of wearing a helmet and having appropriate lights, I’m a strong advocate of being very aware of your surroundings and being a defensive rider versus an offensive rider.  But you still get these remarks: “Well, you shouldn’t ride because you’ll get hit and then your baby will die etc..”  Here’s the thing though.  These people never mention the fact that car accidents kill people too.  And arguably way more than cycling accidents.  And no one is telling pregnant women not to drive.  So, as with driving, cycling is often simply a matter of being aware; being smart; and being careful.

Get the right size clothes

Invest in either larger bike shorts or maternity bike shorts.  The bent over position of a road cyclist can be quite uncomfortable if you have a bike short band pressing into your belly, so when you are big enough to warrant them, you’ll a want some different shorts than your normal pair.   Unfortunately there don’t seem to be a lot of maternity shorts designed for cyclists.  So, I compromised this time around by buying regular ones off of Amazon in a larger size than I normally would wear.  They work very well and also have an adjustable band which will be nice as why bump continues to grow.

Listen to and analyze your body constantly

Be aware of the changes of your body and accommodate them.  During pregnancy, your balance changes; your limbs loosen (thanks to hormones); and you just get bigger.  Although these tend to creep up on you, you still need to be aware of them and adjust your position accordingly.  For example, I currently ride a Specialized road bike (like this one), and use the standard body position that cyclists have with that style bike. But my belly is growing and my center of balance is shifting and if I’m able to continue to ride, these factors will force me to switch to a more upright, commuter style.  

In short, be safe, have fun and adjust along the way.  At this point, I’m in the middle of my second trimester and still ride 80-120 miles per week.  I plan on riding until at least 32 weeks (third trimester), but will adjust those plans (either longer or shorter) depending on what my body can handle.

 I’m looking forward to my ride this week, and hope to be able to complete the whole 100 miles.  But honestly even I have to cut it short, I’ll be happy to just ride with my friends; enjoy being out in nature and support the cause of Defeating ALS.

Enjoying views like this is just one reason why I ride
Enjoying views like this is just one reason why I ride

Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.  If not, check back soon for a report on how my ride went complete with pictures!

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