Sunday, 18 March 2012

Twelve - Sport After Birth.

I’m sure there are theories that birth and pregnancy have positive effects on sportswomen. I’m not totally sure about the science behind these theories and I am pretty certain I am too late to try and benefit from these theories myself, but I do know that giving birth has had a positive effect on my approach to riding my bike.

Giving birth was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced and the most difficult thing I don’t ever envisage doing again. Even after 14 months of healing! I admire any mother who would have had another by now. But, those 13 hours – apparently, only 7 in my notes, but it WAS 13 – helped me learn a lot about myself. Only upon reflection, though, because I was way too zoned out at the time!

I know now that I can trust my body to take charge when my mind and head give up, which I can apply to training. It took charge in the birthing pool when I didn't think it could.

I know now that I am less fazed by things that I once found challenging, such as technical and tricky riding terrain.

I know now how to be active rather than passive: I used to over-contemplate everything and live in a whirl of indecisiveness. (But, this is probably attributed to having a demanding toddler who doesn’t allow me time to contemplate!)

Giving birth was tough. Tougher than bike racing. And, the irony? I thought my bike-racing would help me tackle labour! In a deluded idealistic state, I convinced myself that I would be well-trained for labour because of hill intervals. Surely, a three-minute climb would be good training for birth contractions. But, in reality, labour trained me for my intervals. With hill intervals, I control the pace. With labour, well ...

This week, Nick and I went on our Thursday mountain-bike ride together. Riding with Nick is tough enough. However, his cycling has not been a priority since he has had a daughter with a smile just for him. On the bike though, he is still a workhorse; a slave to power; and, relentless on climbs. On Thursdays, I have to ride like this. Unless I decide to sulk ... (Husband and wife training together is another whole blog!)

We rode to Wye, on the edge of the North Downs and tackled a climb that very gradually steepens until it becomes tricky. It was muddy and churned up by horses. It was awful! It bloody hurt!

But, I tackled it.

Riding this hill, I was reminded about anaerobic lung-busting breathing and my heart was pounding my ears – things I hadn’t experienced for over two years. I was close to these feelings on 12th January 2011. I was breathing hard and I felt so alive. It hurt, but enjoyably - a 'hurt' that I seemed to endure quite happily.

There is an old adage that likens anything that is easy to re-master, to riding a bike. But not riding a bike on a steep, uneven, churned, off-road trail. My gear changing was dreadful and I could not keep the front wheel on the ground.

But, I tackled it!
I tackled it because I’ve tackled something harder than a tricky climb.

Giving birth has taught me to be tougher. It is as though I have developed more respect and trust in what my body can do. I let my body lead now – my head can’t cope with pain but my body can. 

And, that has always been a problem of mine - my head! Crikey does it get in the way!

Nick also showed me a descent that was peaty, littered with tree stumps and twigs and very, very, very steep. It reminded me of a descent on a Fort William World Cup course I rode a lifetime ago. That was harrowing enough: I have an incision scar on my knee as evidence.  But, this descent, I rolled with it.


Once upon a time, I would have stood and contemplated it. But now, I was unfazed.
Giving birth has made me braver.

There may be a truth in these scientific theories. I may be unfitter but I am no longer afraid of the pain of training. Giving birth has had an effect on me and my sport
But, in reality, I think this toughness is part of evolving into a mother: mums of children of all ages would move heaven and earth for their babies; and, you know what? We could – unfazed.

Get out running and riding ladies, it's so easy, in comparison!

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