Lizzie Deignan writes about adjusting to life as a family of four, her training post-partum and reveals where she’ll return to racing
Last September along came our second baby Shea. It took us a bit of getting used to, going from three to four in the family, especially for our first-born, Orla. My husband Phil and I actually found it a lot easier this time around, but maybe that’s because we’re a bit more clued up on what we’re doing. Shea has also settled in well. He’s a very happy baby and a lot easier than his sister was. Orla would need a lot of attention as a baby, and now at four years old it was a bit of a shock for her to have to share our attention with her baby brother. Now, she’s really protective of him, she’s grown into the big sister role already. It’s been really nice to see their relationship already developing.
I think we got quite lucky with Shea; he can quite happily watch his sister or me and Phil doing something, and he even sleeps quite well at night. He gets up twice at night to feed but other than that sleeps well.
I first got back on my bike four weeks after giving birth, having ridden up until the day before the big day. Although my pregnancy with Shea was quite difficult, I felt like I recovered quite well afterwards. That first ride back felt meant so much to me – of course, I felt very wobbly, but the endorphins felt so good. Only post-partum mums will know how intense those first weeks are. You’re not at all in control of your body and your routine is dictated 100% by the baby’s needs. It’s a 24 hour job for the first few weeks. To be able to go out on the bike for the first time and be in control of everything, and have that moment of separation from yourself and the baby, it’s a rush of freedom and exhilaration. It’s a moment to breathe.
It took a me long time to feel anything like a cyclist again – around six weeks. I lost more fitness during this pregnancy than last time so it took a while to get my legs back. At the time it felt like forever, but when you step back and look at the transformation you’ve been through, that you’ve grown and brought a baby into the world, you realise that six weeks is nothing.
At first, my training just meant riding the bike. The fact that I’m feeding Shea meant that I couldn’t really leave him for more than an hour and a half, so that guided my training a lot. My approach to training has always been pretty holistic; I pay attention to my body and adapt my training if needed. It’s always been rare for me to complete exactly what was written down in my weekly training plan, and even more so after having a baby. Trusting the natural process of what the baby needed also guided me and what my body needed as well. Having my husband Phil as my coach makes this process so much easier. He can see first-hand how much sleep I’m getting and the mental and physical toll it is having on me, which he takes into account with my training plan.
At the time I’m writing this it’s been four months since Shea’s birth and I’ve just increased my training load to around 20 hours per week. At the moment the training is all about building my base endurance. It’s really important that I don’t skip the foundations, so that means lots of miles and building my core strength back. I haven’t done much high-intensity work yet but there’s no rush to do that with my first race planned for May.
If everything goes to plan, my first race will be the Vuelta. I figured why not jump back in at the deep end? The thing is, if you start with the Classics, like I did after having Orla, you end up losing so much training time with tapering and recovery it could take you seven weeks just to have seven race days. If I dive in with a stage race, I’ll have a week of racing under my belt straight away. I’m hoping that I’ll quickly regain the race rhythm and feel comfortable in the peloton. I’m sure the Vuelta will be a shock to the system, but hopefully it’s the right choice!
I’ve planned a lot of race days between my comeback and the Tour de France Femmes because I’m a rider who likes to have lots of racing in the legs to reach my best condition. The Tour only finishes a week before the World Champs in Glasgow so I would love to be hitting my peak form at that time. Last year I saw the Tour de France Femmes up close whilst working with Trek Travel and on TV. I felt like a fan and really soaked up the atmosphere, but at the same time it was reassuring being there because I still had the urge to race. I really wanted to the on the other side of the fence, with my teammates. I’m not ready to be a fan just yet!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back with another update soon.