BLOG POST: From bump to baby to getting back in the saddle, twice…

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By Laura Swatton 

As I write this I’m sitting on the floor in the landing going through the usual evening motions, with our 5-month son waking every twenty minutes usually until around 10 pm where we will get a two-hour period before he’s hungry again. Our daughter started sleeping through the night a few months ago when she turned two but still has her moments (last night, for example, she woke five times in the middle of the night). Why is this relevant? Well, because it’s our reality of having two young children, sleep deprivation comes as part of the package so exercise drops down the priority list, sometimes the day is based on survival. I feel I should caveat this with it is all worth it…

Looking back to 2018 on Strava I cycled up until the 7th of October, Freya arrived on the 21st of November. Exercise was still a huge part of my lifestyle. One ride caught my eye, 15th September 2018, we were riding our road bikes through town and a red van nearly knocked me off. It made me think, was I being too carefree about being pregnant and riding? I didn’t want one incident to sway my opinion but nonetheless, it was off-road riding only after that.

 

Once Freya arrived, it took a while for my body to recover, and of course, there was a lack of sleep. Late December I did my first run and in early Jan my cyclo-cross training began. I raced in the cyclo-cross team champs in early Feb 2019, it felt good to be out but I came back too soon, the relaxin in my body was working against me that day when I was getting on and off the bike (what’s relaxin? All the time women are breastfeeding relaxin is produced, so joints and ligaments aren’t as strong and stable as they will be, once breastfeeding has stopped). 

To keep me motivated I began working with a coach, five days of cycling, one HIIT, and a rest day. The reality was, I couldn’t train six days a week, often I managed 4 or 5. The sessions were high intensity, rarely over 1.5 hours, with limited time I became more focused on what I wanted to achieve. I often rode with my cheer squad, Freya in a bassinet, and Dakota (our dog) by my side.

  

It was a hard slog but I had my best season yet, placing first in the Sussex Cyclo-cross League and second in the senior women’s London League. I was proud to have achieved something but it wasn’t about winning, it was about doing something for myself. I love being a mum but I also didn’t want to lose myself.

 The National Trophy 2019 has been the toughest race, spat out the back coming in second to last but I was out there taking part and by some miracle didn’t break my bike.

 

During my second pregnancy, I barely managed to ride. My bump felt twice the size than during my first pregnancy and Freya consumed most of my time. By the end of the day, I ached. When I did ride, it was on Zwift and I studied for my EMBA or did work admin at the same time.

It’s been five months since Finn arrived and I am only starting to get back into exercising. COVID-19 hasn’t helped as we’ve had limited support when it comes to childcare, being married to a cyclist we support each other’s goals and take it in turns to train.

Do I feel on track for the 2021/22 cyclo-cross season? Absolutely not. Will I be by September? chances are slim but the biggest thing for me this season is that I am racing for myself, and just want to get over that finish line.

Being a parent is so rewarding but it’s also bloody hard. It’s relentless and tiring. Would I change anything? No. What I have learned is you can only do what you can do, for your kids to see you exercising regardless of how much is amazing. And with luck, they will feel inspired to do the same.

Freya has spent countless hours on her strider bike, from strider rocker to whizzing around the woods and tarmac, and she flies. She’ll be speeding past me in no time. She may not always be so keen to cycle so we are enjoying the now.

 

For those who were wondering, in the time it’s taken me to write this, Freya has cried so I went in to comfort her, Finn has woken several times and the dog barked at a delivery driver waking Finn up.  So be kind to yourself and ride on!