Menu

Willow’s Wisdom on the Rocks: Staying athletic for nine months of pregnancy

  • By Willow Rockwell
  • Published May. 10, 2012
  • Updated Nov. 30, 2012 at 4:20 PM EDT

Willow Rockwell is a woman in transition. As a professional mountain bike racer, she won two Bronze Medals at the Mountain bike World Championships (2009, 2010) and led the World Cup in 2010 for a brief time before finally finishing second in the series.

Poised to conquer the world and win an Olympic medal, she discovered she was pregnant in the Spring of 2011. She chose to devote herself to her unborn daughter and left the sport behind. 

During her pregnancy she wrote a memoir titled “My Wheels Gave Me Wings.” It chronicles her difficult childhood, her near self destruction, and her path to healing and self acceptance. In 2012 she attempted a comeback to the sport, but discovered that the warrior who would “fight to the death” had died within her. 

Now committed to empowering women and sharing her own hard-learned lessons with others, Rockwell will be a regular contributor to Singletrack.com, writing primarily training articles that will share her lifetime of experience at the top of the sport with other dirt enthusiasts, equipping them with professional tips to help them meet their own training and racing goals.

In this article, her first for Singletrack.com, Rockwell pulls from her own experiences of returning to a World Cup level less than three months after giving birth, and shares her tips for pregnant athletes who want to maintain their fitness during pregnancy. 

If I were to do it all over again, I would take “training” out of my pregnancy vocabulary. Training is just such a limiting word! Pregnancy is something that will only happen a couple times in your life, and it should be treated like the sacred time that it is.

For starters, it is not just about “you” anymore. It is about you and your growing baby. Although at first it may seem like an annoyance that you can’t do all the same things you used to, it really is a blessing. I noticed that all the things I used to do often ended up in the category of “have to” do. This is your chance to free up your calendar and your life.

Be honest with yourself:

Start with asking yourself what you want to do each day. The answer may surprise you. I found the key was being honest with yourself and listen to your body, and then each day will be filled with adventure and inspiration. I did not worry about pushing myself too hard, I just did what felt good.

Adjust your bike to your new body:

If you want to ride, I found a few adjustments very necessary. As for the bike, raise your handlebars and get one of those seats with a hole in the center. The extra weight on the front is VERY uncomfortable on your lady bits. Trust me. I like the Terry women’s saddle with the butterflies on it.

I found the road bike to be the best for me, as I could raise the handlebars and just sit up and cruise. I did go on a few mountain bike rides, but for me it was just a little too stressful. I didn’t like worrying about crashing and honestly, my boobs would hurt with every bump!

Work on your wardrobe:

For clothing, I just cut down the center of my bib shorts so my belly had room. I slashed my jersey up a bit on the sides as well.

Maintain your fitness off the bike:

I took the opportunity to explore prenatal yoga and Pilates. Pilates is great, because you can still work the core, but from different angles. Also, keeping the balance up as your body is changing is very helpful.

The key for me was to not ask my body to do anything it did not want to do. I was very tired the first three months, and found it hard to do much at all. After four months, I did enjoy the occasional run on the trails. Running is such an easy way to access nature.

Be attentive to your diet:

Most women are worried about weight gain, but I found it easy to make healthful choices. It is much easier to be accountable in the moment, then to wish you had made better choices later! I found I craved things I usually don’t eat like tomatoes and oranges. Turns out that is a normal craving as vitamin C is super important, especially in the first trimester. Again listen to your magical body, it will know what it needs.

Train your mind:

The best thing to “train” is your mind. Our thoughts create emotions, and if our emotions are overlooked or ignored, they manifest in our physical bodies. It is easy to feel crazy when you are pregnant, so pay attention to what you were just thinking, and how it made you feel. Your body will thank you for monitoring the negative thinking. If you do happen to get into the emotions, that is okay. Just BE with them, and they will pass. Don’t try to push them away or deny yourself of how you are feeling.

I spent a lot of time at the river with a pen and a notebook. It is important to let the past come up so you can clear any fear you have around intimacy and your body. Get out in the sun, it is great for your mood and feels so good on your skin.

Your body is your best friend, and anything that feels uncomfortable to you is a sign you should not overlook. Remember not to be frustrated with your body, but to lovingly listen to its messages.

Supplement your diet:

Minerals are very important to avoid leg cramps. I liked to take magnesium at night. I found it very important to take extra probiotics to avoid any problems with your PH balance. EVERYTHING goes crazy in pregnancy, and you need to be aware of your comfort “down there.”

Treat your body well:

I think massage is great, but I enjoyed my acupuncture treatments better. Chiropractic is also helpful for your ever-changing body.

Let your husband know that foot massages are always welcome. Sex is great too, so don’t be shy! Your husband thinks you are super sexy, and all the more amazing now that you are carrying his child.

Most importantly, remember that exercise is meant to make you feel good! Use it as a tool to enhance the quality of your life, not something that you must adhere to for discipline’s sake. Give your self a lot of love and leeway as an athletic mother-to-be, and let what you do be an extension of that.

Blessings on you journey!


Willow Rockwell is a woman in transition. As a professional mountain bike racer, she won two Bronze Medals at the Mountain bike World Championships (2009, 2010) and led the World Cup in 2010 for a brief time before finally finishing second in the series. Poised to conquer the world and win an Olympic medal, she discovered she was pregnant in the Spring of 2011. She chose to devote herself to her unborn daughter and left the sport behind. During her pregnancy she wrote a memoir titled “My Wheels Gave Me Wings.” It chronicles her difficult childhood, her near self destruction, and her path to healing and self acceptance. In 2012 she attempted a comeback to the sport, but discovered that the warrior who would “fight to the death” had died within her. It was time to lay down the sword and be a warrioress for truth and light. It was time for new adventures. She is now re-discovering and re-inventing herself as a mother, a wife and a goddess woman. She hopes to inspire others to heal their deepest wounds, and to re-emerge as a powerful being full of self expression.Willow writes regular columns for Singletrack.com, is enrolled in a Sacred Sexuality course, loves all things feminine and beautiful and still loves to ride her bike.

FILED UNDER: MTB / Training / Training Center TAGS: / /

Get our best cycling content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE VeloNews weekly newsletter