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Coach's Column with Alison Dunlap

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |March 16, 2011 12:20 PM

Alison Dunlap is a certified Level II USAC Coach and has been working with athletes for five years. She runs a coaching business called Alison Dunlap Coaching, and has mountain bike camps in Moab, UT through the Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps. Alison is also a two-time Olympian, MTB World Champion, and 13-time National Champion. 



Question: I recently had a baby and want to get back to riding and racing again. How quickly should I expect to get my fitness back?  Do you have any advice on a training plan to get me back in shape?

Answer: Getting back in shape after having a baby has been one of the biggest challenges Iíve dealt with in a long time.  The hardest part for me was being patient and waiting for my body to heal.  You can eventually get back to the same level you were at before getting pregnant, but it is going to take some time.

I wasnít prepared for how miserable I felt after giving birth.  After a 46 hour labor I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  For the next two weeks I could hardly do anything.  I slept and nursed my son and watched TV.  After two weeks I was finally able to get outside and go for walks around the neighborhood for about an hour in length.  After another few weeks I started hiking on trails.  I tried riding my bike around 4 weeks but it was too painful.  Tried again at 6 weeks and was still too sore.  Finally at 8 weeks I was able to ride the trainer wearing two pairs of bike shorts.  Still pretty sore afterwards but it was tolerable.  Now Iím at 4 months and can ride my mountain bike on rough trails without any problems.

Listening to your body is important.  Every woman will recover from pregnancy, labor, and delivery differently.  If you did a lot of exercise while pregnant your body will come back faster.  If you didnít do anything then youíll have a longer road back to race fitness. 

Once your body has healed and is ready to sit on a bike, I would start doing 1hr endurance rides.  When those feel good you can increase it to 2-3hrs on the bike maybe two days a week with shorter rides on the other days.  After a month or two of endurance riding you can start doing some intensity.  I would begin with tempo rides, maybe 2-3 times a week.  Eventually you can also do some hard climbing rides around your lactate threshold, maybe once a week.  Remember your body is going to take longer to recover than youíre used to.  You also have to be prepared to feel pretty lousy on the bike for a while.

The great thing is that yes you can regain 100% of the race fitness you lost while pregnant.  The body can do amazing things.  The only thing that might hold you back is your brain. If youíre motivated you will gain fitness quickly.  If you tell yourself youíre fat and out of shape then thatís what youíll be. 

Set up a schedule and get yourself a babysitter a few days a week so you can get outside and ride.  Night rides on the mountain bike also work really well if you and your spouse work full time.  You can also rotate with your husband or partner.  One person rides while the other babysits.  Then switch.  I find the biggest challenge with having a newborn is planning ahead and being organized a week in advance.  I tend to be more spontaneous and when I raced I always would decide what to do for a ride about an hour before I left.  Now I am learning to plan days in advance. 

I think the most important thing is to be patient.  Your body went through a tremendous strain for nine months.  It will come back but you have to listen to what it tells you.  Treat yourself to a massage occasionally.  Stretch, do yoga and Pilates, and take lots of hot baths.  Youíll be tearing it up on the race course before you know it!

Good luck and enjoy mommy hood!

Alison

 

 

 

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