Pregnancy and training


Dame Sarah Storey, 11-time Paralympic cycling gold medallist, is expecting her first child next month but it hasn’t stopped her training hard – thanks to a little help from the University of Brighton.


sarah storey being interviewed in the olympic velodrome


The 35-year-old’s due date is coming up fast – 23 June – but Dame Sarah is keeping herself in tip-top condition for possible participation in events later this year, and has joked about having baby in a car behind her bike with the driver hooting each time it needs feeding.


She said: “The chance of me riding in the Para-Cycling Road World Championships in August is purely dependent on the baby and how we both are in the weeks after the birth.


“My training is continuing through my pregnancy because that is the safest thing for the baby and me. Whatever a person has done before pregnancy in terms of exercise they can continue during pregnancy, with lower intensity in order to ensure the body doesn't go into a type of shock over the sudden lack of activity. The training now is to support both the baby and me for the birth and hopefully a quicker recovery after which could lead to competing as early as the World Championships.”


Dame Sarah has been training with Dr Gary Brickley, senior lecturer at the University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Service Management in Eastbourne. Dr Brickley recently was awarded a Mussabini Medal at the Sports Coach UK awards for coaching athletes to outstanding success on the world stage.


Dr Brickley said: “The training Dame Sarah is doing now is low relative to what she normally does but quite high relative to a general person who potters on their bike.”


Sarah Storey in action


Dame Sarah said: “Working with Gary and discussing my options has been invaluable as it has given me the confidence to keep training within some simple boundaries.


“Often it is the confidence issue that women face when deciding how much exercise to do and it is hard for non-specialists to give a balanced view. Gary has been able to support my decisions and gut instincts with scientific reasoning and medical advice so this has ensured I have kept the right balance in my workload.”


Dame Sarah said her baby appears unaffected by the training: “The midwife checks have all shown I am low risk and the baby is developing well.


“I am doing low level aerobic training to maintain my stamina and basic endurance. The hours I have been doing have reduced a fraction since I entered the final 10 weeks but the aim has been to be as in good a shape as possible to give birth and hopefully allow my body the recover quicker after.”


Dame Sarah has her sights on the Rio Paralympics in 2016: “In terms of the relevance of this training for Rio, the time on the bike will continue to support my efficiency development and the physiological challenges that pregnancy presents will obviously be dealt with by my body whilst supporting the growth of the baby. I think it will be mainly after the birth that we will be able to establish any chances to my body and whether they are positive.”


Sarah Storey with husband Barney


She has had to be careful: “Safety has been my main concern, so I have had to spend more time on the static trainer in the garage when the weather has been bad and also had to make sure that I choose my routes carefully. Racing has not been possible due to the higher risk of falling and also I have had to follow the generic guidelines about not overheating, not limiting the oxygen supply to the baby and not getting overtired.”


So is it safe for women to train hard during pregnancy? Dame Sarah said: “Every woman is different and ultimately the length of time you keep up your exercise/training regime will be dependent on how you feel.


“The longer the better is the best guideline but ultimately you have to listen to your body and take it day by day, not being afraid to change something you had planned. I will adjust my ride according to how I feel when I am out, making it shorter or longer depending on how I feel.”


Dame Sarah said it was a case of safety first: “Being sensible and protecting the baby has to be the priority, but it is important to recognise that by staying fit and active the baby will benefit too and in theory the labour and recovery will be quicker.”



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