Alice, you are a true outdoors and activity enthusiast. Maybe it´s fair to say that your husband is the more die-hard MTBer and you´re the yoga teacher, but you love time on two-wheels and a bit of dabbling on the mountain bike when you fancy it? Or...?
Pretty much bob-on... (although I would love to be able to actually prioritise riding my bike ha ha ha)
You have a 7-month old baby boy, how did your sporting and adventure life change in the lead up to and after the birth of Pip?
Things really slowed down during and after pregnancy, mainly due to being knackered and short of breath! However, I did quite a lot of walking and kept on teaching yoga until I was 8 months pregnant which was my total saving grace. I teach quite an active class 'Yoga for Adventure Sports' and Im sure that kept me strong and fit throughout the pregnancy. I started teaching this class again 2 months after having Pip, and again, it has really helped with my rehab.
Did you look elsewhere for active advice? Like, were you ever unsure you were doing the right thing because the majority of #MumLife messaging is sedentary?
Being a physiotherapist I'm trained to critically analyse the evidence behind things. One look on an internet chat room would give you so much conflicting advice that it was overwhelming. So I just went back to objective evidence, actual scientific papers and national guidelines about activity - and then worked to understand the reasons behind the 'rumours.' The fact of the matter is is that every pregnancy is different, every woman is different so a 'one-size fits all' approach is not necessarily helpful. I found that listening to my body and ignoring the chatrooms was totally the best thing to do. From my personal perspective, my family and peers all tend to be pretty active people. My Mum was playing competitions squash until she was 8 months pregnant, another friend was happily doing a 40km bike ride the day before she gave birth (I think she actually cycled to the hospital for the birth of her second!). If anything, I probably felt a bit guilty for not doing more!
Have you ever had any negativity from mums about your sports, making you question yourself?
Not that I noticed... But because I strongly believe in listening to your own body, and I had fully researched all the activity I did, I was confident that nothing I was doing would damage my baby, in fact, staying active was a good thing for me. I stopped riding bikes from about 4 months pregnant, this wasnt really out of choice, but everytime I rode a bike my stomach would contract which was not pleasant, and there were some other mums/individuals who questioned why I wasn't riding still. Although, when I was about 6 months pregnant I was late for a midwife appointment and I didnt have the car. So I just grabbed the nearest bike and pedalled off to my appointment - choosing a road bike to do this wasnt really the best choice but me and the midwife had a good laugh about it. That's a good point, having a chilled out midwife made quite a bit of difference.
Why did you sign-up to race Hopetech Women Enduro?
I thought it would be a nice goal, something in the diary to work towards, to motivate me to get out on my bike and get fit again in the proceeding months.... It didn't quite work out that way and I actually hadn't been on a bike since I was pregnant!
With baby in tow, what logistics did you have to work around during the day?
Firstly, having my husband Pete there to not only look after Pip, but also support me- and most importantly - make me feel guilt -free about doing something for me. Gisburn is about 2 hours from where we live, so for a smooth journey we left at his morning nap time, this meant I didn't get to practice and a friend had to sign me in. We picked a start time which meant I could give Pip his lunch-time breast feed before heading straight out on the trials! Pete and Pip were there to meet me at the finish, Pip definitely more interested in finding boob than anything else. Ha.
Were you able to get into the racing, knowing Pip was there too?
It was so lovely to go on a ride with my friend that I didn't really set out to hammer it on the trials, I just wanted to see if I could get around and try not to fall off! By the end my confidence was growing and I was getting faster, I even managed to crash, so I must have been trying! I thought about Pip because Im so used to being with him, and it felt like I had forgotten something. But I knew he was in good hands and I was free to enjoy myself.
What would you say to other mums who would like to be more active with a new baby? Tips, advice, challenges and mistakes you´ve made/lessons learnt
I would say, trust yourself. If you feel like you want to do more (or less) then do! The guidelines for activity whist pregnant pretty much say to try to do at least 30mins of exercise a day, I found walking and yoga provided this for me. In terms of excertion, the idea is to take it a bit more gently, i.e. still being able to speak full sentences while doing the activity and not getting too hot. The key thing is, not to compare yourself to others, listen to your body and have confidence in what you find. There are things which aren't great to do, but if you are listening to your body then you wouldn't want to do it anyway... read doing headstands....:-) Do your own risk assessment, this does for whilst pregnant and beyond! They are just starting to bring out guidelines for activity post-partum which can be really useful as a starting point. The other piece of advice I would say is don't be afraid to seek help in getting back to full fitness after having a baby. It is a huge undertaking and the body will take a fair bit of time to get back to its old self. In France post-partum women get 6 follow up physiotherapy session as standard. This country...zilch. Loads of women find that they 'leak' after giving birth, so if this is you, see a womens health physio and get support because this doesnt have to be the norm (despite being widely accepted that it is!). Equally, if your body still isn't feeling right a few months down the line- go and see a physio It is amazing how many compensations we make in the body whilst pregnant (and with a new baby) that things can get out of kilter, giving pain, stiffness and weakness. I found that applying mindfulness attitudinals such as 'patience', 'letting-go', 'acceptance' and 'non-striving' have been valuable throughout pregnancy and life with a new baby too. Bottom line is, don't beat yourself up if you're not where you planned to be in terms of activity or identity. Being pregnant, going through labour and then having a new human in your life is pretty huge (In a wonderful way!) and it doesn't matter if it takes some time to adjust, it will come.
Alice is a yoga instructor and physiotherapist at https://www.facebook.com/hopeyogaphysio/
Her and hubby Pete run good for the soul adventure retreats here https://www.facebook.com/your.breathe.adventures/
And she is just an all-round, down-to-earth, informative nice person.