by Kikkan Randall
After the Olympics in Sochi, I knew that I wanted to keep ski racing, but was not ready to wait another four years to start a family. So my husband and I did some strategic planning and decided the 2015-16 season would be the best time to take some time off from racing to have a baby and then return to racing for the 2017 World Championships and 2018 Olympics. It seems some other women on the World Cup circuit had similar ideas.
In the planning and preparation phase before I got pregnant, I tried to learn as much as I could about guidelines for training while pregnant and what other Elite female athletes had done during their pregnancies. It wasn't easy to find information, especially about Elite Nordic skiers, but I was able to collect enough advice from healthcare professionals and find bits and pieces of stories from some top-level runners. The recommendations all confirmed that it was considered safe to maintain the same level of training the athlete was accustomed to before the pregnancy, but not to increase the level or intensity. All types of training were permissible. All sources emphasized the importance of listening to your body.
The first month I was pregnant, I didn't even know it. I was training as usual for the upcoming race season and attending a vigorous training camp in Sweden and Norway, complete with a four-races-in-threedays series at the end of the camp. On the eve before the first race, I had an inkling that I might be pregnant, so I called my doctor back home. She assured me that if I was indeed pregnant, racing should have no negative consequences and she wished me luck. I completed the four races, actually felt pretty strong and notched a few decent results. It was exciting to learn on returning home after the camp that I was already four weeks along.
I immediately shared the news with my coach and we decided to shift the goals for my training. Goal No. 1 was to have a healthy baby, and goal No. 2 was to maintain as much fitness as possible without compromising goal No. 1. We decided to reduce my volume slightly and dial back my intensity training to a shorter duration of aerobic threshold intervals. During the first trimester, I experienced some extra fatigue and some queasiness, but only ended up giving up on training one day. Most days, I felt better after training, and I was able to maintain pretty normal heart rates and speeds. I was still able to participate in most of our US National Team camp in Park City, Utah toward the end of the first trimester. It took me a little bit to adjust to getting slower every week while everyone else was getting faster, but mostly I was just excited to still be a part of the team.
Coming into the second trimester, I got the awesome boost of energy that everyone talks about. I was able to settle into a good training rhythm at home and was training twice a day most days. While the conditions were good, I continued skiing, running, biking and working on strength. When the weather took a nasty turn toward the end of the November, I moved my training inside and kept cranking: treadmill, spin bike, Skierg, Exergenie and swimming. I kept a flexible mindset, doing the training that fit my energy levels and safe conditions. I also let myself be open to other opportunities beyond training, which I normally can't afford to do. It was hard to be watching the races from the sidelines, but also refreshing to be able to fit in more family time, some advocacy work for the team, work for my sponsors and a few fun activities, too. Even with some flexibility, I still managed to train a fair amount, and by the end of month six, I was feeling pretty strong.
Now that I've entered the third trimester, my belly is definitely starting to grow and there is no denying I'm pregnant! However, skiing continues to feel good and I've added in some running time on the Alter-g anti-gravity treadmill to keep touch with my normal pre-pregnancy running pace. The strength work also continues to go well, and I've been pleasantly surprised with how my core is still feeling strong and intact. At this point, I am incredibly satisfied with the amount of training I've been able to accomplish so far, and from now until the baby comes, I am ready to play it by ear and fit in what I can. Although my pace has slowed and my training clothes are getting tight, I am happy to be able to continue being active every day and am getting so excited for the baby to come in April.
With just a couple of months to go now, I find myself reflecting both on my career thus far, as well as the exciting changes that are coming in the near future with a new baby in our lives. As a fierce competitor at heart, it's been challenging to sit out the season. Yet, I think this year away from the same routine I've had for the past 18 years might end up being the best thing for my return to racing next season. There is no doubt working my way back into racing form will be tough, but I am feeling refreshed and inspired and can't wait for the next chapter of my life to start.