On Biking and Balance with Baby

As soon as you become pregnant, you find that the whole world suddenly has an opinion about what’s best for you. Yet strangely, that advice is hardly ever coupled with encouragements to listen to your body and learn to tell when you’ve reached your limits, or whether you just need to put in a little preventative maintenance.

The pregnancy party line about biking is this: you may expect to keep biking until about 6 months in or so, but certainy not beyond that. Why? Because, the experts say, your balance will be compromised — best just to stay off it.

I read one woman’s list of “things she wish she’d known during pregnancy”, finding an item to the effect of:

“Balance: don’t use it! It will be gone and you’ll risk falling over and hurting yourself all the time.”

Bah! Balance is a muscle that atrophies; use it or lose it.

My mom encouraged me early on to practice balance. She said when she was pregnant, she would make sure she could still put her socks on standing up.

I’ve been doing the same. I also do sets of 16 to 24 roundhouse kicks or side leg lifts without letting my foot touch the ground between each one. And while prenatal yoga tends to play it safe with us big-bellied ones, steering clear of crescents and bows, there are enough poses requiring balance in multiple dimensions to keep those neurons and muscles responsible for stabilization well exercised.

Because that’s it, isn’t it? Balance is a thing to be exercised. Just like biceps, logic, flexibility, and your sense of timing for making soft-boiled eggs.

So the idea of balance just sort of vanishing into thin air as a matter of inevitability is both misguided and harmful. Yes, everyone’s experience will differ greatly, which is why I say practice balance to the fullest, but “your mileage may vary.”

Only you can prevent yourself from toppling over, and that means understanding your body’s limits and tolerances — and then pushing on them whenever possible.

So when the hospital or the interwebs say you should be giving up the bike before the third trimester or even eschewing it throughout the pregnancy, they’re doing so under the assumption either that you won’t be practicing your balance, or that balance is not something you’ll have control over.

Balderdash.

It’s supremely telling that the only nurse-midwife I had at St Luke’s who was genuinely encouraging me to keep riding my bike is now contracting with a midwife to have her own child be born at home. (My midwife, Maria, I think!)

You know want I think her direct advice would be?

Exercise, do what feels right, and learn your own limits, because no one can decide them for you. You have control over what you’re able do — whether you happen to be pregnant or not.

(And as for me: 38 weeks and still biking!)

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