Getting Back in the Saddle

6 weeks. That’s how long the medics said it would take before I could start training again. 6 weeks! That’s nearly a month and a half. That’s far too long to have to wait after 9 months of seemingly never ending pregnancy.

Sonia O'Sullivan and her baby - She went back training 10 days after giving birth. Courtesy of bbc sport.
Sonia O’Sullivan and her baby – She went back training 10 days after giving birth. Courtesy of bbc sport.

I knew that Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan didn’t hang around for 6 weeks after the birth of her first child. She was back running a mere 10 days after giving birth. But if I thought that I was Sonia O’Sullivan material, I was terribly wrong. Day 10 arrived for me, and I was still a little too tired and sore to begin exercising again.

The 6 weeks rule seems totally arbitrary to me. According to this timeline, someone who had a C-section or a difficult pregnancy or birth would be ready in that period. I was really lucky and had no problems, no stitches, no medication, no depression, no nothing. So I waited until I felt it was right. And I listened to my body again to see what timeline it would give me.

Swimming was still though out of the question. The doctors had made it very clear that this could risk infection. So I decided to obey the 6 weeks rule in this respect, so looked at what other sports I could do instead.

After 10 days, I went for a walk on the local beach. I felt not too bad aerobically, but definitely knew that running would be out of the question. Everything felt a bit too stretched muscle wise to be going anywhere at speed.

Then I asked my friend Susie how soon she went out biking after giving birth. She told me, if I can sit on the saddle, then you’re basically good to go. I wasn’t sure. Sitting on a bike saddle sounded terribly painful. But when I wheeled out my bike, much to my surprise, it wasn’t sore at all.

UCI Track Cycling Masters World Champion, Ireland's Susie Mitchell, rode her bike up to giving birth.
UCI Track Cycling Masters World Champion, Ireland’s Susie Mitchell, rode her bike up to giving birth.

That meant that, 15 days after giving birth, I was able to go for a road cycle. It was heaven. Not only could I do a bit of exercise, but it was just good to get out of the house and take a brief break from motherhood. Granted, I could only go out for a maximum of an hour, what with the little one needing me back for his next feed. But the hour limit meant I would go back to biking slowly but surely, without overdoing it on exercise.

It was also refreshing to be biking without a baby inside. My lungs felt bigger, no long squashed within my rib cage. I could push myself a little and not worry about elevated heart rates or overheating. And I didn’t have the constant fear of falling off the bike and doing damage to the growing bump.

I also had a chance to ask the doc about this 6 week limit on training. She told me that if I wanted to get checked out a little earlier and I felt ok, then it was alright with her. So I will see how things progress day by day before I can back to fully training again.

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