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After giving birth - back on the bike

After giving birth, the project of getting back into shape is something that is close to most new mothers' hearts.

Active exercise after childbirth can involve anything from walking, stretching and cycling indoors or outdoors. Depending on how your birth went, you may need to make adjustments to how you can comfortably ride an exercise bike again.

Before you start any physical activity, however, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend that you wait until after your postpartum study.

The post-partum period starts 1 hour after birth and lasts until about six weeks after. The post-partum period brings about various physiological changes in the birthing woman. The medical focus during this period is on medical complications, breastfeeding, well-being, sexuality and contraception.

If you have given birth by caesarean section, you should avoid cycling altogether for at least eight weeks after giving birth, otherwise it is not uncommon for doctors to say relax without exercise for six weeks in normal births.

To sit correctly on the bike

Setting the bicycle saddle is important here because your body changes after pregnancy and childbirth. Find the right size saddle and make sure you get to the side so that your sit bones hit the middle of the saddle. A saddle that is too wide or too narrow is likely to cause discomfort during exercise.

Choosing the wrong saddle will quickly cause you discomfort and inconvenience, which in the worst case will develop into serious injuries. The right saddle is found by measuring the distance between your sit bones. This is what determines how wide a saddle you need. A trick here is to find a piece of cardboard. On the cardboard, mark where your sit bones are and you can then measure the distance between them.

Pasterns and sit bones

If you sit on a saddle that is too narrow, you will either sit on your diaphragm or on one of your sit bones alone. Sitting on your midsection leads to a sensation of sleepiness. In the worst case, this is the straight road to developing large saddle sores and inflamed abscesses.

Instead, if you are sitting on a bone alone, you will be sitting crooked and you will only receive support for one side of your body. This can end up distorting your body because it doesn't have the ability to function in a balanced way with both side bones in the correct position.

An overly wide saddle will throw you into side-to-side rocking movements, leading to poor performance and potentially serious back injuries.

Stop cycling if you feel pain. This is especially important if you have had stitches after giving birth. If you tear your stitches while cycling, this requires a visit to your doctor.

Saddle for men

It is therefore best to consider a men's bicycle saddle with a slit in the middle. If you have undergone an episiotomy, this means that the design of the seat puts pressure on the posterior. The bottom of the saddle should be lined with foam or a gel padding. One idea is to get a seat cushion fitted to the saddle to relieve pain and discomfort when cycling.

The training

It is a good idea to start slowly. Ride in short 10 to 15 minute intervals. Work up to 30 minutes five days a week. It is recommended that you do 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise.

Aerobic training

The purpose of aerobic training is threefold. First, it is about improving and maintaining the ability of the circulatory system to transport oxygen. Secondly, aerobic exercise is about maintaining the ability of muscles to use the oxygen supplied and improving the burning of fat. Thirdly, it is about improving and maintaining the body's ability to recover and get ready for the next exercise.

When the body's muscles get an acceptable amount of oxygen to do a job, it's called "steady state" work. You probably remember this state from your runs, when you've warmed up and you feel like it's not hard to keep up your pace - it just glides along.

In aerobic work, fatigue occurs only when the energy stores (glycogen) in the muscles are used up. This phenomenon is linked to longer cycling rides, where you hit the "wall", so to speak. When muscle glycogen runs out, muscles are forced to work on fat and glycogen from the blood. It takes time to move new energy into the muscles, so you can't work very hard.

When the new mother cycles at a moderate pace, this situation does not arise. The body receives enough oxygen to allow re-training to proceed smoothly towards the situations where anaerobic work can be performed.

Aerobic work

If the body is forced into the situation where the work becomes very hard, an "oxygen debt" can occur. There is not enough oxygen for the muscles. In other words, the energy metabolism cannot deliver the amount of work the body needs to do.

When the body has to run close to a 100 % load, the aerobic energy turnover can only cover about 25 % of the load. So another way of metabolising energy is needed!

New mother on exercise bike

The aerobic cycling training for the new mother can be done as a regular cyclist in the open air or sitting on an exercise bike.

If you prefer indoor training alone at home or in a group at a gym, a training programme is a good idea. We'll briefly mention it here, but talk to an instructor about it or search the internet.

Start gradually, giving your body time to warm up over a 5 to 10 minute period.

Start with simple pelvic floor exercises, basic core strengthening exercises, short walks or very slow cycling at a low load.

A good programme strengthens your heart, lungs and muscles.

Light cycling, in turn, can prepare your body for more vigorous exercise.

Remember to "warm down" (cycle slowly) when you're done. That way you gradually slow down to your warm-up pace again. Make sure you feel good after the training. This way you can avoid an increase in vaginal bleeding and you won't feel any physical discomfort.

Stretching exercises allow you to walk, cycle and swim faster and more easily than if you don't stretch. Muscle soreness is avoided.

Drink plenty of fluids.