Is it possible to pursue a competitive sport while going through pregnancy and early motherhood? Susie Mitchell proves that it’s more than possible and that you can even win. Just weeks after discovering her passion for track cycling, Susie became pregnant. However, that didn’t stop her from continuing to pursue her passion. With smart training throughout her pregnancy, Susie went on to win in the World Masters Track Cycling Championships only four months after giving birth.
Susie’s story is a beacon of hope for women with a passion for sport or adventure who also seek to experience being a mother. You don’t have to choose one or the other but can enjoy and thrive in both. From her interview on the Tough Girl podcast, Susie shared valuable pieces of advice for women thinking about taking on any challenge in addition to being a mother.
Finding Research on Training While Pregnant
The speed of track cycling and the thrill of being on a bike with no brakes or gears was all Susie needed to develop a love of this sport. Though she wasn’t sure about getting pregnant, she knew she’d regret it if she didn’t try. Coincidentally, these life events aligned and Susie fell pregnant a few weeks after finding her passion for track cycling.
Before becoming pregnant, Susie had set her sights on the World Masters Track Cycling. She could go represent her country without having to qualify. Susie raced in the event when she was about six weeks pregnant and wanted to go back the next year and try to do even better.
The first thing Susie had to find out was what she could do to train. All the popular books and resources recommended things like gentle swimming and yoga. With her background as a scientist, Susie reviewed literature on exercise during pregnancy. She found a scientist with interesting studies and emailed him and told him what she wanted to do. He was encouraging and gave her two pieces of advice: listen to your body and avoid sports with a risk of abdominal trauma like kickboxing.
Susie learned that if you want to train during pregnancy, you need to do it from the start when the placenta is developing. Your body will adapt and the baby will end up with better blood and oxygen supply.
Cultivating a Supportive Team
Many people will have their own opinions on what you should be doing while pregnant. Susie shows us that it’s important to search for the right people to support you. She recommends shopping around for doctors and finding one who’s supportive of what you want to do. Her doctor told her to keep doing what she was doing to train until she couldn’t do it any longer. That suited Susie perfectly and she cycled 60 km on her due date.
Susie’s track cycling coach was one of the first people she told when she found out she was pregnant. Together, they came up with strategies and focused on cycling safely. Instead of pushing her body to its limits, Susie focused on the technical side of the sport.
During training, Susie avoided cycling alone, made sure she was visible, and stayed away from busy areas. She related, “There are risks involved with crossing the road. You just have to trust yourself and listen to your body.”
Exercising After Baby
Having a baby was a shock. Like many women, Susie didn’t fall in love with her baby immediately. She wondered if she’d ever get back on the bike again. After having an emergency c-section, Susie had to research again what exercise she was capable of doing.
She discovered that most of the strength would be back in her tissues 3 weeks after surgery, so that’s when she’d go back to the bike. Weeks later, at the track with her coach, Susie felt transformed. Getting back to what she loved made her feel free.
Cycling again was a huge turning point after struggling post-birth. Susie felt like a better mom when she was able to get out and train. This story is just another example of how self-care can revitalize your spirits and make you a better person for everyone around you.
Racing in the World Masters Post-Birth
When Susie shared that she’d be going for the World Masters four months after having a baby, people laughed and thought she must be joking.
But Susie knew from research that mothers get a big cardiovascular boost after having a baby. All those extra blood cells come in handy. Susie knew she had to use this advantage and hoped she would do well. She was shocked to earn the gold medal!
Racing in the individual pursuit she cycled neck in neck, competing with another woman for two kilometres. Susie was thrilled when she made it to the gold medal ride-off. In the end, Susie wanted it more than her competition and completely went for it in the final. She went crazy when she found out she won.
Making Time for Sport
With a baby at home, Susie had to be very efficient when training. That made for lots of high-intensity work. Getting away from the baby for an hour or two was so good for Susie. She’d come back feeling much better and ready to be the mother she wanted to be.
Susie’s training consists of 8-10 hours a week of gym sessions, track cycling and more. When she’s stuck at home, Susie does high-intensity work on rollers. At the track, Susie would often bring her baby with her to sleep in a little tent. There was always someone sitting by the side with her until she came back after a round.
Prioritising Something For Yourself
For mothers with a passion for a sport or challenge, Susie counselled that you need the support of your partner. Tell them how important it is that you have your time because, at the end of the day, it’s going to make everyone happier. “Convince your partner that you’ll turn into an ax murderer if you don’t get your sport in,” Susie joked.
This champion cycler understands how sport can become an important part of your identity. It’s not just the physical effects but who you are and the people you meet. More than anything, Susie added, it’s great for girls to see their mothers participating in sports besides simply carpooling the kids around.
While Susie’s story is fantastic, it’s not about comparing yourself to someone competing four months after birth. It’s really individual to you and what works for you. Find something for yourself for your own sanity.
Website - www.pregnancytopodium.com
Twitter - @susie_mitchell
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