A couple of my cycling buddies have recently told me of their pregnancies so I thought it would be a good topic to cover on Women Who Cycle. In fact, one of them told me while we were riding along on a regular weekend ride. This is not a topic that I’m an expert on, because I have not completed any formal training in healthcare or fitness, and I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve done some research and compiled some expert opinion from others.
The most important thing to note is that every women is different and so everyone needs to make their own decisions about how much to cycle during pregnancy or even if you cycle at all. Before you even consider it I urge you to discuss it and any other exercise plans with your doctor.
Ever since I started riding four and a half years ago my weight has been very stable but I also know that if I lost a few kilos I would be faster and go up hills better. So I read with interest an article from one of my favourite women’s online cycling magazines Women’s Cycling.ca and the editor Laurel-Lea kindly agreed that I could reproduce it here.
So here it is by Diane Stibbard…….
Q: How do I determine my optimal weight so I’m strong and fit on my bike?
A: Everyone has a different body physiology as well as different cycling goals: your genetic makeup affects your ability to lose and gain weight and to gain lean muscle mass. However, your body weight, lean muscle mass, body-fat percentage, body-mass distribution, and body-fat distribution all play a big role in your performance on the bike.
Kimberley Wells (centre) on the Podium at the 2013 nationals.
The first time I remembering hearing the name Kimberley Wells was when I was watching the Bay Crits on television earlier this year. She won against many of her highly fancied rivals. The second time was when I saw her live, racing in the Women’s Cup at Unley in Adelaide during the Tour Down Under where she also won. So I wasn’t at all surprised when Kimberley made contact with me from her new base in the US. Here’s the story in her own words.
Why did you start cycling?
I am 27 years old now and fell into cycling throughout University in Far North Queensland. I came back from a year in the UK/Europe working and travelling and bought a road bike a week before I started Uni, aged 18 years. Initially I used it to get around town, but over a few years became more involved in bunch riding, the Townsville Cycling Club then some local racing, progressing to having a coach. I knew I wanted to go further with the cycling, but there were significant challenges doing this as a medical student in the far reaches of North Queensland without a road map to success. After graduating University in 2009 and following my boyfriend to Canberra I started ramping up the riding/racing, working towards becoming a full-time athlete in 2012.
One of the skills it took me quite a long time to master when I started road cycling was following closely behind the wheel in front of me. I was not confident about my own ability and bike skills and so I sat back and watched from afar. It was only with the encouragement of others that I practiced and slowly built my confidence. I think generally men are quicker to master these types of skills, but women have just as much ability once we know how and have the confidence.
Drafting is an important skills that is well worth learning if you want to maximise your enjoyment of riding out on the road. It’s actually quite exhilarating to be whisked along in a group and to feel like you are part of a ‘team’.
A month or so ago I was contacted by two inspiring American women who are training for an ‘ultra’ cycling event called Race Across America. It’s a 3,000 mile or 4,828 km ride that has to be completed in nine days.
I always thought that undertaking a long ride like Melbourne’s Around the Bay which is 210 km was a pretty impressive feat. That was until I heard from Kacie & Dani.
I asked them a few questions about their quest.
Me in the Pink Triathlon
If you going to do any physical training then you need to have a goal because without one you’ll come up with lots of excuses and never really get anywhere.
A great way to set a goal is to sign up for an event. It could be anything from a short fun cycling event like Sydney’s Spring Cycle (55 km) or Melbourne’s short version of Around the Bay (50 km option), right up to a serious level race. The key is to select an event that will challenge you but won’t break you.
I actually took up cycling four and a half years ago to participate in a charity bike ride – The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Ride for a Cure that is held in the Barossa Valley, SA in January every year. I’ve recently completed my fifth JDRF ride. The first three years I completed the 80 km course and not surprising it got easier every year. The fourth and fifth times I upped it to 160 km and once again the second year was easier than the first, particuarly from a mental perspective.
When I first started riding about four and a half years ago I just avoided hills as much as I could. Then one day it struck me that hills are just one part of cycling that should actually be embraced. After all, usually when you climb up a hill you get to whizz down the other side!!! And these days I often ride up a small rise that I once considered to be a hill, so there’s definitely been progress.
I also thought that when I started riding a road bike there was no particular technique to riding up hills, it was simply a matter of suffering and putting up with the pain in your legs and shortness of breath and hoping it would soon be over. I was definitely wrong about that, so here’s a few tips that I’ve picked up from various fellow riders and from my own research:
When I first started doing long rides, my training and preparation was almost entirely based on my physical readiness. I’ve always understood the big role that mental preparation plays for elite athletes but I never thought I had anything in common with them.
After four years of cycling, I’ve done quite a few charity rides and a small amount of racing and I always get very nervous beforehand. But I’ve never known how to overcome it except to just accept that it happens and live with it. I’ve also thought that my anxiety was more a female trait so I was interested to hear pro cyclist Luke Durbridge in an interview after he won the National road race championship last week say that he was shaking on the start on the start line because he was so nervous. It made me feel less alone.
Smiling after 160 km in January 2012
I’m not sure how other cyclists define a long ride but for me it’s anything over about 100 km. For others, it could be many hundreds of kilometres or even as short as a 50 km ride like Sydney’s Spring Cycle.
In planning my training program, I firstly factor in that I ride on a regular basis, usually about four times per week with a total of around 150 km so I’m fairly ‘bike’ fit. However the ride I’m undertaking in about four week’s time is 160 km (or a century if you’re from the US) so for me that means I have to undertake some extra training. I’ve done the same 160 km ride a year ago so I know what to expect but this time I’d like to do it better and improve on my time.
Most things I’ve read on this subject and other more wise individuals say that you don’t need to ride the full distance in training but you do need to up your kilometres and get some extra ‘kms in your legs’.
When you live in a country like Australia it is pretty difficult to avoid sun exposure while you’re riding your road bike. The summer sun can be pretty fierce so here’s my tips for handling it.
Ride early and late
I do most of my riding early in the morning. There are a number of reasons for riding early but one of them is definitely sun exposure and heat. You’ll also avoid traffic if you ride early in the day. But if you can’t ride early in the morning then try a twilight ride to avoid sun exposure.