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Pregnancy and Performance: Training for Triathlon

Pregnancy and Performance: Training for Triathlon

Pregnancy and Performance: Training for Triathlon

I had a great conversation recently with Heather Fell presenter of The Global Triathlon Network, and I wanted to share the main takeaways from our conversation.

You can listen to the full conversation on Spotify, or Apple podcasts, or you can watch it on YouTube

Using Role models for inspiration.

I asked Heather how she adapted when she found out that she was pregnant and we discussed the usefulness of role models. Sometimes what is depicted as something to aspire to can be damaging and not appropriate for you, so it’s important to be self-aware.  

Heather said “I just went very much into things trying to see positive role models that have done it before” 

“I think that people do think they have to put on this brave face, and it’s like “oh you’re coming back so soon”

“I had originally looked at those people as really motivating. For example, somebody back doing an ultra UTMB three months after having a baby, that’s amazing, God like wow if she can do it then maybe there’s hope, but then actually the more I understand I realised that it isn’t necessarily the be all and end all. A friend of mine, who again, is a role model only recently told me that she took a very long time to be comfortable running and she’s only now going for PB’s and her daughter’s five”

Pregnancy and Performance: Training for Triathlon

Sorting through, and questioning information that is given to you

Some of the information that is given to pregnant women is outdated, and not appropriate for active individuals. For example not getting your heart rate over 140bpm, 140bpm is an arbitrary number anyway, as everyone’s resting heart rates and threshold heart rates are different.

Heather has listened to her body throughout pregnancy and has done what feels appropriate for her level of fitness, and activity. 

She says “I was thinking well why not (get your heart rate over 140bpm) because our bodies are incredibly clever, and people have been having babies for centuries, we didn’t have this information before, and there’s still not that much research so I wanted to work it out myself”

Managing Expectations, doing what works for you

As you progress through pregnancy your body goes through massive changes, and what you can do in each trimester will vary wildly depending on you as an individual, so again it’s a time to be self-aware, and not compare yourself to others or put pressure on yourself to be doing something a certain way. After you’ve had your baby things will be very different too, and you need to find a way to integrate everything into your life that makes you and your family happy. 

Near the end of pregnancy, Heather has reframed training as exercising to take some pressure off herself.

“I can go run/walk for an hour but then that’s not really very aerobically taxing so I’m balancing things depending on the weather and my mood”

“I do feel a little bit of that pressure of oh you’ll just bounce back because I’ve had a smooth pregnancy, I find it very flattering that people say that, but they also don’t want that to pressure me”

Support System

Having a great support team will help so much, I was lucky to have my mum living close by, and she helped out a lot in the early days. My husband is very supportive of my training and goals too.

Heather has also been seeing a women’s health pelvic physio to get expert advice and help after the birth, she’ll be able to get advice after having her baby, as to when it’s safe to be able to start training again. Every birth is different, and we all recover differently, so having specialists to help you can make a big difference to your long term fitness and injury risk.

“If you can afford to go and see a woman’s health physio, even if it’s just for one appointment before and then one after, just so you know where you’re at”


Instead of feeling resentful or frustrated with yourself remember that it’s a short amount of time in your life that you are pregnant and have a small baby. It can be a really tough time for many of us, but reminding yourself of the positive aspects of your situation can be more constructive.

Heather says

“I’ve chosen this and it’s a privilege to be pregnant, I’m very lucky, so I have to remind myself of that and try to enjoy the fact that I can still be active rather than resenting it. For me outdoors is the key and I’ve also still been able to do loads of travel”

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