Returning to riding slightly (five weeks) ahead of schedule

A surgeon sliced into my abdomen ten days ago and pulled out the person that had been growing in there for nine months. “Rest for six weeks,” they told me. “You can walk – walking is good!” But walking doesn’t feel good; I am not a walker, I’m a cyclist. My body feels stiff and unfamiliar after surgery and days of sitting and holding a baby. Muscles that never hurt are sore, my legs are scrawny and noodle-like, and I miss feeling sweaty and strong. So I decide to spin. The incision is glued shut and nearly healed, the pain inside is a lot better, and I genuinely believe a spin on the trainer will get the blood flowing and not do any harm.

I kit up. It’s been 11 days since my last ride. At that time, I was hugely pregnant and wrapping up a long, challenging block of indoor rides designed to prepare my body to minimize fitness loss while taking 4-6 weeks off the bike postpartum. Instead it’s 11 days later; it hasn’t even been long enough for my cycling shoes to stop smelling bad. Frankly I still look a few months pregnant. Is this nuts?

Getting my leg over the bike to get on is unnerving. I’m waiting for something inside to snap. But nothing happens and there’s no pain. I start to spin and it’s actually good. Nothing is screaming at me to stop except common sense. Thirty minutes later, things still feel good so I quit while I’m ahead.

That’s it; I had a baby and now I’m back on the bike.

I spent nine months worrying so much about my cycling. When would pregnancy force me to stop? How much weight would I gain? How much fitness would I lose? How long would I have to take off after birth? Would it feel terrible to ride once I started again? Would my body be totally different and foreign? I spent nine months in knots over these questions. If only I could go back in time to reassure myself and not waste so much time being anxious and miserable. But that’s life. That’s how I chose to be. The fear drove me to keep pushing even when I was exhausted and burned out and uncomfortable. Of course I wanted to be a lazy, happy pregnant woman and stop kicking my own ass. But I wanted riding more and that’s what I chose.

When I first got pregnant, I thought childbirth would be a great way to put race pain into perspective. How could a climb or an attack feel that painful when I’ve pushed a baby out of my body? When it became clear that a c-section was mandatory, I worried about missing out on that experience, like I’d never be able to play the “I survived the pain of childbirth” card. But what I didn’t realize was that every moment of pushing and suffering and struggling up until birth was the real formative part. Nothing I do in a race will feel as hard as getting up at 4:25am for another trainer workout at 38 weeks pregnant after 18 straight weeks of indoor workouts. I believe now that anything is possible if I’m just stubborn and determined enough.

Also, a c-section turned out to be no walk in the park.

It’s a long road back to race fitness now but at least I’ve clipped in and begun. My body isn’t the same but with enough work, I believe it can be better than before. And now I point the trainer towards my daughter when I ride and look at her every second I need a reminder that this has all been worth it.

First ride back as parents: place baby on pillow on kitchen counter, turn bikes to face sliding glass door, stare at baby for 100% of ride.