Looking to get bike fit and shed pounds post-baby? We spoke to fitness pro and Liv Cycling ambassador Elle Linton to get some post-natal fitness tips on cycling to get into shape, before sharing one woman’s inspirational post-baby cycling story…
By Leona Gerrard
Let’s face it, Lycra, even when you’re sporting a six pack, is not the most flattering of looks. So when you’re carrying a few extra pounds post-baby, the appeal of getting into padded shorts and fitting summer jerseys that have been relegated to the back of the closet, in favour of your roomy pregnancy leggings, may be near-to-non-existent. And can anyone blame you? You have brought a bonny baby into this world, and this accomplishment far outweighs any 100-mile sportive medal or bikini body.
Here to support you on the road to post-natal fitness
At Women’s Fitness, we’re here to help you get your body moving again because babies require stamina, and exercise releases wonderful feel-good hormones that will help (and not hinder) you on your path to post-natal fitness.
And who better to speak to about this very thing than cycling aficionado and fitness buff Elle Linton, an Essex-based pre- and post-natal personal trainer who has extensive experience supporting women through the ups and downs of fitness during and after pregnancy? We caught up with Linton to get her thoughts on getting back to cycling fitness post-partum…
Post-natal fitness: Q&A with Elle Linton
Q. When it comes to post-partum fitness and cycling, what is the safest way to start riding again after having a baby?
‘First and foremost, it’s important to listen to your body, then speak to your GP or specialist to be cleared for exercise. Check how your posture, pelvic floor muscles and core muscles are recovering before you get on the bike. One benefit of cycling after having a baby, is that it’s low impact, which means you might be able to start sooner than other forms of movement.
‘The key is to build up over weeks rather than trying to return to where you left off, and things like saddle comfort can play a big part. Your body is still in recovery mode, s obe gentle and kind to yourself.’
Q. For new mums looking to get into shape through cycling, what training would you recommend?
‘Mix up your training. When it comes to cycling, go out and enjoy a long weekend ride with your friends. During the week, when time is short, do more structured training indoors. HIIT training– bursts of work with recovery periods –can be done on the bike, too, which will help to build strength and increase your muscle mass. This, in turn, can power up your metabolism.’
Q. After a long day of childcare, toddler tantrums and dashing about, what can we do to motivate ourselves to get on the bike?
‘Firstly, I’d stress how important getting enough sleep is for your overall health and wellbeing. Alack of sleep can negatively impact your weight loss, too. Aim to get the basics first – sleep, eat and hydrate. This will help to get you in the right mindset for movement.
‘Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be gruelling, it can be relaxing too! A low-intensity session can help to make you feel more invigorated… think of how good you’ll feel after your session and hopefully that will help to motivate you.’
Q. Alongside this training, what nutritional changes would you recommend for post-natal fitness?
‘It’s always important to eat well when exercising, and ensure you fuel well for training so that you can perform your best. Aim to follow the NHS guidelines to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
‘Also, remember that being more active can increase your appetite, so if you’re looking to lose weight, make sure you balance out your calorie expenditure with your calorie intake. And if you’re breastfeeding, you may need more calories, so please seek the advice from your local doctor.’
Q. Indoor bike or road bike, which is best?
‘Both indoor training and outdoor training have their benefits. If you’re overwhelmed and juggling things at home, training indoors might make you feel “cooped in”, which is reason enough to get outside. Training outdoors has been shown to be good for your mental health, too. It’s a great way to clear your mind, re-energise and focus.
‘However, indoor training comes with the benefit of taking less time. Just throw on anything and get riding! It also allows for more structured workouts, so you utilise shorter amounts of time, for great benefits. If you have a small child, too, and no-one to help with childcare, you can still train indoors with your child in view.’
Q. What about cross-training while cycling?
‘Cross-training is always a good idea as it challenges your body in different ways. Cycling is a very repetitive movement but can still cause injuries, especially if you have any imbalances. Off-the-bike training, such as strengthening for arms, core and legs, is invaluable to get stronger and reduce risk of injury.’
Q. Do you come across women who are struggling to juggle work and family life with exercise?
‘Absolutely! Remember, exercise and movement are about so much more than just losing weight. It’s also about the community, especially after the year we’ve all just had. Taking time out to move isn’t selfish.’
One woman’s post-natal bike fitness journey…
Mum-of-two, Kate Allan, has personal experience returning to the bike after having babies. She won her age group in Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote six months after baby number one and won the national 50-mile championships 14 months post-baby:
‘I bought a Wattbike shortly after finding out I was pregnant, and cycled indoors most days, combining this with some gentle swimming and prenatal group Pilates. I found that this combination worked incredibly well for me, helping me to maintain a strong cardio base while not neglecting mobility, strength and“holistic” wellness.
‘Postpartum, I did all of my early bike sets indoors on my Wattbike, and would coordinate sessions while my little boy slept (or enlist the help of my mum or husband). This was especially helpful in the early months, as I was breastfeeding and so it was not always practical for me to be away for sizeable periods of time. I also felt more comfortable with an indoor set-up, as it took a little bit of time for my body to feel like mine again, and it facilitated time to regain some core strength and a stronger base level of fitness.
‘Cycling for me, both pre and postpartum was vital, and it didn’t just help in one single way. It offered routine and focus – a controllable in my new and chaotic world. I was able to lose the weight I’d gained through pregnancy and my fitness increased pretty quickly, which vastly improved my self-esteem. I was able to get back into racing that same year, completing an Ironman 70.3 only six months later, winning my age group.’
Kate Allan is a time trial cyclist for Team Bottrill. Click here to find out more!