Training with Power While Pregnant
By Camilla Lindholm, Swedish Professional Triathlete
As I write this, I'm 33 weeks along with my second child and so far, my pregnancy has been free of complications*. My iron levels have been high, my blood pressure normal and I haven't experienced any discomfort in my muscles/body – with the exception of feeling heavy, pregnant and a bit clumsy. Having been given the green light to train, how did I go about training with power during this unique life stage?
First and foremost, I let my body decide what, how often and how much I would train. My approach with my second pregnancy has been different than the first, with biking being the primary focus (as opposed to running, as it was the first time around). Listening to my body has been just as key during this pregnancy as it was with my last. I know my body well and listen carefully to its reactions. Learning to do so has kept me free from injury over the last 4-5 years, all while continuing to put up my best results ever. Using a cycling power meter has been a great tool in this process, as the feedback it gives me has helped dictate the next step in my training.
So far, the first 12 weeks was actually the hardest. Within three days of finding out I was pregnant, I noticed some changes. My power dropped dramatically and my threshold decreased at once. I also felt tired, and my body required a lot of time to try to balance all the new hormones. I accepted this, and continued using the PowerTap together with the Borg-scale, as I always do, to appropriately alter my training on a day-to-day basis. Though this method, I was able to get direct feedback on how my body was responding on that specific day, which helped me pull back or push harder depending on my power data – which compared to heart rate is a much more accurate metric for me to rely on. For me, the cycling power meter paired with the Borg-scale, is a great asset in helping me maintain my training without over doing it or doing nothing at all.
After the initial 12-13 weeks, I felt much stronger. My belly was bigger, but my energy levels were high. During the second trimester, sometime around week 22, I went to Fuerteventura for a training camp and trained easily for 20 hours a week. I was a bit surprised to see the gains in my power, and I took it as a sign to push a bit more because both myself and my training felt great. So great, in fact, that I even considered signing up for the Swedish duathlon championships. Even though I had lost some aero advantages due to being more upright on the bike to make room for my growing stomach, my power numbers were still quite good. In the end, the second trimester was my best for training as I rode both harder and longer, up to 3 hours or more in the saddle each session.
And so here I am in the third trimester. I'm still feeling good and train up to 10 hours per week, with my longest rides ranging from 2-3 hours. I'm now sitting even more upright to make space for my belly, with my knees pointed outward and more pressure applied to the outside of my foot. With these changes to my position I saw an initial drop in my power output – but as I've adjusted accordingly, I've been watching my power go back up. I still feel quite strong, although now training is truly on a day-to-day basis. Some days are better than others, so I continue to go out there and see how my body reacts, combined with feedback from my power meter, and then I decide how hard my body and I are willing to go.
This is the first time that I've trained with power while pregnant, and it's been a great help. I feel more confident in my energy levels, fitness and motivation. The feedback from my cycling power meter helps me know that even if my pace feels slow because of decreasing aerodynamics or riding in windy conditions, that I am still working in line with my threshold. If not, I take it as a sign that my body wants me to slow down for that particular workout. I also know that this state is not permanent. The weight I have now will eventually go away and my lungs will expand, all of which will make climbing easier. I know that implementing the lessons I've learned from training with power during pregnancy will help me get back into race shape and ready for the next competition.
* I must stress that I cannot give any advice how to train during pregnancy. Since each athlete, and each pregnancy is different, the training recommendations during this time are up to the athlete and their doctor.
Camilla Lindholm was an aerobics and spinning instructor before she took up the triathlon in 2005. She was 30 years old, with no experience in running, biking or swimming when she began training in her native Sweden. Improvement came fast for Camilla.
In 2007, two years after learning the sport, she competed as a pro and finished 7th in Ironman South Africa. She was the first woman to ever win the European Powerman Duathlon Championships twice in a row in 2010 & 2011. And taking on a new challenge in 2012, she took time off and became a mother. In 2012 she also suffered a brain bleeding but she made her come back 2013 and managed to set PR in all three disciplines. You can learn more about Camilla by visiting her website.