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Training Wheels: Experiences of a Mountain Bike Mom

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |February 21, 2013 3:15 AM
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Training Wheels

Jenny Smith is a pro cyclist for Stanís No Tubes womenís elite team. She has spent the past 13 years racing cross country, Xterra triathlon and endurance mountain bike events. She and husband Brian are expecting their first child in May of 2013. They fully expect it to be the ride of their lives as they have a child and learn to adapt to living, working and racing with a newbie. Tune in to Jennyís monthly column Training Wheels for their experiences and tips, insights and stories from other elite athletes with children.

I am currently in my 25th week of pregnancy.  Once through the hideous experience of morning sickness during the first trimester it has been pretty smooth going. It is my personal goal to exercise each day of my pregnancy and thatís as far as Iím taking any Ďtrainingí. I think it is healthy to have this break in structured training. My body must be excited about the less-intense, alcohol-ibuprofen-sports-food-free, lower-than-normal-caffeine living. 

That said. Exercise feels great and makes me a happier person. Plus I both want to be in good shape for the duration of my pregnancy and for my return to goal-orientated athletics after the birth of our baby.

I am very happy to be pregnant during the winter with the variety of activities available. Classic skiing is perhaps the best pregnant activity: being high resistance, low impact, symmetrical and lower intensity.

The most challenging aspect has been mentally letting go and mellowing into my pregnancy. I have been really working on taking the path of least resistance and holding at bay the many fears I have about taking this leap of faith!

I have been seeking out information from friends with children as to what to expect, how to exercise and how they manage to integrate their work, athletic goals and workouts with their children and lives.

Our athlete interview this month is with Park Cityís Emma Garrard. Emma is a pro/elite Xterra triathlete, Nordic skier and mountain biker. Emma was Ĺ way through her pregnancy when I found out about mine. Emma and Ian were surprised by their news and I strongly admire their positive adaptation to their new lives. They had their son Torin on the 23rd of Dec.

Emmaís Interview:

Jenny: What were the most challenging things for you while you were pregnant?

Emma: First off I feel lucky to have what was considered a 'low risk' pregnancy and that getting pregnant and staying pregnant was not an issue.

I feel bad complaining about things like expenses when I know there are people out there who would pay anything to have a child.  But that being said I think one of the frustrating things was dealing and trying to understand health insurance and billing. It really made me realize how little health insurance companies care about health care and keeping people alive and healthy and how much they care about making billions in profit.

I am glad I had someone to share my frustrations with and also share the bills. It certainly gave me a lot of respect for single moms. If you are a single mom and just out of the bracket for Medicare it must be so hard. There's also an assumption that every woman is super excited to be pregnant and not a ton of counseling out there for newly pregnant women if that isn't the case, or so I found. 

As a competitive endurance athlete, you have to take time off from 'work' before the baby is born as well as after. If being an athlete is a source of income and you only get paid with prize money and bonuses it's money you're not getting paid when you have a lot of expenses. 

Jenny: What did you enjoy about it and feel that you have gained from your pregnancy? 

Emma: I did enjoy being pregnant, it was certainly something different and in a way it was nice to not compete for a season but still be able to get out and be active.

I enjoyed the anticipation, learning about it all and of course the end result. I'm pretty amazed by the support I got from family, friends and even people I didn't know that well.

Jenny: What was surprisingly a non-issue?

Emma: I think people's attitude toward pregnant women working out. I really had no one who was telling me I shouldn't be doing something while I was pregnant and it seemed like everyone had stories of some pregnant woman doing something crazy or going into labor on a mountain bike ride or something. But I also live in Park City where fitness-wise people are above the national average I'd say. I was also lucky to not have a lot of the side effects of pregnancy before and after baby but I feel being active throughout the pregnancy, not gaining too much weight and having a natural birth helped with that. 

Jenny: Was there a resource that you found really helpful?

Emma: Talking to other mother athletes and just having them as role models was huge. Reading a book, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James F. Clapp was helpful as the author had done a ton of research. Talking to doctors, both OB-GYN and Sports Medicine doctors was helpful.

Also using Google search and reading other Mom blogs.  Otherwise there's not a ton of information out there on how much athletically pregnant women can do. 

Jenny: Was there any certain period or time of dramatic change during the pregnancy?

Emma: It was mostly pretty gradual. I made it a goal to stay competitive through the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships. I was around 9 weeks then. It was really challenging and stressful but I'm glad I had something to focus that stage of my pregnancy.  I would not have done anything that I felt would put my baby at risk. Getting past that was a big relief and I almost continued to compete but ended up getting sick so I threw the towel in as I knew I wasn't going to be competitive anymore and now had a new focus.

Jenny: What was your most significant mental challenge?

Emma: Initially it was hard to come to terms with the additional responsibility and how I'd have time to look after a baby and how our lives would never be the same again. However itís hopefully for the better! It's a little bit of an identity crisis as a 'pro athlete' to go through the changes your body goes through and not be competitive anymore. That's why I think it's important to still get out and do things. 

Jenny: As a new mother what are your challenges?

Emma: So far I feel really lucky to have a lot of help from family. I think the biggest challenge right now is all the extra planning I'm going to have to do to train, compete and work this year. Traveling with a baby and bike on a budget, where to stay, who's going to watch the baby when I pre-ride and when I race. Dealing with the fact it may not be financially viable anymore. But I figure the worst case scenario is doing fewer races and if I have no one to look after Torin then I can just throw on the Baby Bjorn and go for a hike or get the Chariot out and take him with me.  

Jenny: What are you enjoying the most? 

Emma: Just spending time with the Torin and seeing him grow. It was hard for me to appreciate newborns until I had my own. It's nice to feel important! I also have a new appreciation for training (although I haven't really started training yet) but working out with less weight and building up to race fitness again. 

Jenny: What experiences would you share for new mothers or any comments/ advice?

Emma: If there's even a slightest thought in your mind of getting pregnant talk to your insurance companies and get on a plan that covers maternity. Be as active as you can throughout your pregnancy (as long as you are not on bed rest) but also make sure you are getting enough sleep and fuel. And, I know everyone says this but all people are different so use your own judgment. 

Jenny: Are there activities that you like? Things that you are choosing to do not do over others?

Emma: The baby is the #1 priority right now but I am really enjoying running at the moment because it seems like a long time ago when my running didn't feel like a struggle. 

Jenny: Do you have a goal you'd like to share with readers for the year?

Emma: I'm excited to reap the benefits of post baby strength and I can't wait to 'mom' people! That being said it doesn't come easy and without hard work.

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