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Women in Sport; Transitioning from 6+ hours training per day to pregnancy and back again. Edition 1.
A note from the Editor... Andrea Forrest is an Australian Professional Triathlete, Physiotherapist, TITAN Athlete Ambassador and all round inspiring and impressive woman. She's also now 3 months pregnant (Congrats Andrea and Rod!). We welcome Andrea to our blog page and over the course of her pregnancy she'll be providing some insight into her motivations, training, challenges, psyche and really letting us in a little to her life. We thank Andrea for her contributions and hope you find this inspiring; we're so proud to be supporting woman in sport. Enjoy the read...
Well that was quick!
The irony is that I am writing my first blog as a Professional Triathlete while I am not officially racing. Why no racing? Because I am currently 13 weeks pregnant. Apparently it’s the current go to technique to improve your triathlon performance and enhance your career. If it’s good enough for Rio Olympic Gold Medal winner Gwen Jorgensen then I will give it a try.
Jokes aside though, this new phase of life has started and with plenty of time on my hands I thought I would document the experience for all the ladies (and gentlemen) out there who might be interested in the transition from 6hr+ training days and pushing my body to the limit, to pregnancy, and hopefully back again. I have myself developed an interest in reading about other athletes and their pregnancy experiences as there is a lack of official information about high level athletic training during pregnancy. The general recommendations of “30min of gentle exercise per day” and “don’t get your heart rate up too high” just aren’t specific enough.
So why pregnancy and why now? I always knew I wanted to have children but it seemed very much in the distant future. My focus was on training and striving to improve my performances from race to race. I didn’t feel ready to stop that journey yet because so far I hadn’t achieved everything that I wanted in triathlon.
In September 2016 I competed in the 70.3 World Championships on the Sunshine Coast and then in November/December came a block of racing with 3 x 70.3 distance races in 6 weeks. Challenge Shepparton was first then 2 weeks later was Western Sydney 70.3, another 2 weeks and then Ballarat 70.3. I hadn’t planned to do so many races so close together, but I was racing well, and they were all conveniently placed and relatively easy to travel to. I ended up with a 2 nd, 4th and 3rd placing so I was pretty happy with those results.
I travelled to Shepparton and Ballarat solo which was a first for me as I have always had my husband, coach, or training buddies at races with me. In hindsight, the stress and fatigue of so much racing combined with the solo travel really took its toll. I couldn’t wait to get home from Ballarat and just have a break over Christmas and not even think about triathlon. In fact my motivation towards triathlon was very low at this point so when my husband Rodney brought up the topic of kids I thought that the time seemed as good as ever.
One of my fears about trying for a baby is that there is very little control over the time frame. Would it take one month, 3 months or six? And how would I mentally handle continuing to train and race while trying to fall pregnant. Would I be able to give 100% knowing that the stress on my body might be affecting my chances of falling pregnant?
Luckily for me I didn’t have to worry for too long. I raced Ballarat 70.3 and 9 days later I was pregnant! Well that was quick! Of course I didn’t know straight away, but my body certainly knew. Rod and I went to Thredbo (The Snowy Mountains) over Christmas planning to do a lot of cycling. Without a doubt they were the hardest rides I have ever done. On Christmas Day we rode Thredbo to Charlottes Pass and back (2800m of climbing).
The last 2hr of that ride were a death march for me. I literally had to focus on each 100m up the road and the only things that got me home were the knowledge that there was no one to phone to pick me up, and also the thought of Christmas lunch. I thought at the time that it must have been the fatigue from all the racing and travel still in my body, combined with the altitude, but it turns out that it was pregnancy rapidly taking hold!
I think pregnancy has been a huge shock for my body. To go from being race fit one week to pregnant the next is a huge switch and a lot to cope with. I found that my ability to exercise has rapidly diminished. Running pace has slowed by at least 30sec per km and swimming by 10sec/100m. My limit also seems to be about 1hr of exercise at a time and if I train for longer than that I certainly pay for it with exhaustion and fatigue later on. My Doctor suggested keeping my HR below 160bpm when exercising, but I generally keep it below 150bpm most of the time.
The recent heat wave that NSW has experienced has certainly been challenging. General recommendations are to not let your core temperature rise above 29 deg Celsius when pregnant. This has meant training early or training inside when needed. I have experienced some unaccustomed and painful calf cramps when running. In hindsight, I believe they were caused by inadequate hydration during the many hot (40deg or more) days. Fluid requirements during pregnancy really increase as your blood volume needs to increase and I was struggling to drink sufficiently.
What other things have changed? Well I can’t keep up with my training buddies or swim squad anymore so that has meant a lot of solo training. I don’t miss the daily 4am alarm to get to swim squad and can now swim later in the sunshine which is nice. I have also transitioned from enjoying long bush runs to now mountain biking over the same routes.
I have plenty of time to fill as I can only tolerate 2 short sessions a day. I have been managing to do 3-4 runs, 2-3 short rides, 2-3 swims and 2 light strength sessions per week. I have been very glad to be currently working part time as a Physiotherapist and have been doing some extra study as well to fill the time. Plenty of naps also help to fill the days and it has been nice to have time to do all the things we put off when training hard, such as catching up with friends.
Apparently after 12 weeks my energy levels should increase again so I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for that.
I will be checking in again soon. Andrea J