Some days I feel very pregnant; others, as if hardly anything has happened to my body in the last six months. Wonderfully enough, I felt like the latter when I went for a bicycle ride this past weekend. While it wasn’t exactly a “normal” ride, I was pleasantly surprised at how ordinary it felt despite being at the very end of my second trimester.
The ride this past weekend was a prelude to the Tour de Cookie, a 14 mile charity ride in April that involves stops for baked goods. With my twin loves of biking and food, it seems like an obvious one for me to participate in, but could be impossible depending on my physical condition. Before this weekend, I hadn’t ridden outside in two months, when my body was quite a different shape than it is now. I’ve spent some time on the stationary bike, but was nervous about my sense of balance. The weather was perfect – high 50s and sunny – so it was the perfect time to see how my new body shape interacted with my bicycle.
I headed off towards the Millennium Trail, which the Tour de Cookie will also follow. At first, I was very cautious, pedaling slowly. Then, as I felt more confident, I picked up the pace a little, and decided to take the bumpy part of the trail rather than a neighborhood detour. In particular, I was pleased by how good my balance was – I wasn’t distracted at all by the extra, off-center weight. Just to prove to myself I could do it, I even leaned down, grabbed my water bottle, took a drink, and returned it to the holder, without stopping the bike. Towards the end of the ride, I stopped at the grocery store and hardly even noticed the extra weight of my shopping bag.
The part of the trail near my house is a mix of downhill and flat straightaways, with the first challenge coming around the third mile. It’s a gradual upward slope that can be a bit of a slog. Although I doubted my ability to conquer it, I was going to try. However, I had some issues to consider. My doctor specifically said that I shouldn’t raise my heart rate above 140 beats per minute, or the point at which you can still talk fairly easily. In addition, I learned that when I lean forward on hills, my abdomen starts seizing up. While leaning forward is usually a good thing, as the core muscles take some of the stress off of your legs, abdominal discomfort is something you clearly want to avoid when pregnant.
As my typical approach towards hills is “go as hard as I can until I reach the top,” I had to take a slightly different tack. Instead, I kicked it into low gear, pedaled slowly, and sat up as straight possible. I’m sure I looked ridiculous – a pregnant lady in her sixth month, with no lack of black spandex (and on a later hill, a bright yellow jacket hiked up over my bump), sitting stick straight, and sludging up. But I didn’t care. With these techniques and a good amount of patience, I actually made it up all of the hills!
Besides the physical issues, I had a different mental perspective for this ride. While I usually push myself hard, the doctor’s instructions forced me to take my time. Instead of thinking of it as exercise, I imagined it more as practice for when I can bring my son out on future bike rides. Even though his hearing is far from developed and his understanding even less so, I narrated what I was doing and seeing to him. I’m sure it didn’t make me look less weird, but it was a neat way to bond with my future child.
By the end of the ride, I felt confident in my ability to complete the Tour de Cookie. But besides helping me know whether or not I can do the ride next month, getting out on my bike also helped me feel better about my body. I had been feeling pretty big lately and had some fear about the changes in the next three months. It was reassuring to know that I felt just as comfortable on my bike as ever. This ride reminded me once again that no matter my size or shape is, the physical and emotional strength and comfort biking can offer.