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Why professional cyclist Laura King cycled through two pregnancies


A professional cyclist and Cannondale brand ambassador, Laura King determined not to lose her identity as an athlete when she became the mother of two children, Hazel, 2, and newborn son Hayden. So, after learning that she was pregnant with a girl, she ran and raced until the day she gave birth. King returned to cycling six days after giving birth, breastfeeding before, during and after she rode, sometimes exceeding 100 miles a day. And she did the same with her second child. Here, King explains her decision to go through with both pregnancies, and shares the ups and downs of balancing parenthood with her physically demanding career.


I’ve been riding a competitive bike for 20 years. Growing up, I’ve always been interested in sports, but I didn’t play sports until high school, when I decided to join my favorite swimming team. I was quickly told by my coach that I had a natural aptitude for endurance sports and needed to take things to the next level. Because I got off to a late start, I still feel like I barely explored my potential.

After 12 years of competing in triathlons, I moved to Marin County, California, aka the birthplace of mountain biking. There, I discovered my passion for a whole new sport. Cycling is as challenging as any multisport race in terms of physical strength, but personalities are often more laid-back and have an inherent sense of adventure — it’s not all about winning. I also saw my husband riding a bicycle. This happened in 2016, when he had just retired from the top divisions of European racing. We both started biking on gravel and had great success; and together we now have various jobs in the bicycle industry, one of which is racing in events around the country. My life – and ours – revolves around cycling, not only because we love to compete, but we also want to be liked by people like we are.

All that said, when I become a mother, if I don’t continue riding, I won’t give up a hobby, I’ll give up my career, my relationships, my social circles and every aspect of the joy that sport brings to my life. That’s when I made the decision to continue cycling during my first pregnancy in 2019. I did the same during my second and a few weeks ago I gave birth to another healthy baby.

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I’ll be honest: this is a test and the doctors have warned against it. Whenever you ride, there is a risk of falling, but I am confident to know that what I am doing is as safe as possible. Everything has an element of risk, and I wanted to see what my body was capable of, without sacrificing something that made me feel like myself. Surprisingly, my workout regimen hasn’t changed significantly. I worked out 15 to 20 hours a week before I got pregnant and 15 to 20 hours a week when I was pregnant, both times. I still go to races because I still aspire to be part of the community. The unique thing about cycling is that, even if you’re not there to compete at the highest level, you can still try to finish the distance and that in itself can be satisfying. There is a continuous progression of, hey, let’s see how it goes, and I will almost always surprise myself. When I was eight weeks postpartum, I went on a 140-mile drive and stopped to breastfeed my daughter along the way.

Without a doubt, being pregnant is challenging. One thing I didn’t anticipate, however, was how much energy it would consume in my head. If I have to go out, I always worry: about the time, about whether I will have enough milk to breastfeed, about whether I drink enough water. It’s a constant source of stress. When you get used to controlling your body and what it can do, and then you lose that control, it’s tough. Time passes more slowly. My mindset is to just do things one day at a time. For me, cycling enhances my mental and emotional health. It really helps calm the highs and lows. A recent peak was during pregnancy from San Francisco to LA for four days, averaging more than 100 miles a day. It is difficult to put into words the fulfillment that has brought me.

I have certainly been criticized for my decision. There are all the things they say should be avoided during pregnancy: meat lunches, sushi, alcohol – but what do the numbers really show? Not long ago, people were worried about women running marathons because their uterus might fall out. You need to weigh the risks and make your own decisions. No one understands my thoughts and what drives me better than I do. Making it simple is not how I operate. At the end of the day, no one really cares about the health and well-being of the baby more than the mother. If you are concerned, you need to know that my level of concern is higher. There are all kinds of risks in life; you can’t help but second guess, am i doing the right thing?

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Laura King and her daughter, Hazel.

Polite

On my second lap, I went further — this time, participating in a 100-mile gravel race in Oklahoma. I’m still as nervous as I used to be, especially now that I’m dealing with a two-year-old, a packed travel schedule, and the complexities and logistics of flying around the country with two. young, two bikes and lots of gears. I try to remind myself that it’s part of the journey. I like the challenge and this makes the equation a bit more complicated. I feel more confident knowing what I can do and I am grateful that I did not experience any complications.

Happy to report that I did not receive any negative feedback when going through with my second pregnancy, most likely due to the very good health of both my daughter and son. It’s a testament to how quickly things are changing. There are many pregnant women out there who have achieved amazing things, and that is opening the door for people to realize that your body is actually a lot stronger than we realize.

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