Bringing a new life into the world is a thrill like no other. Returning to the sport you love after weeks or months of rest and recovery? Almost as exciting.

If you’ve been counting down the days until you can get back on the bike, you owe yourself a safe and enjoyable transition back into training. Unfortunately, that can be challenging when you’re on the receiving end of countless mixed messages about what postpartum fitness should look and feel like.

To clear up any confusion and help you develop a plan that works for you, we spoke with the experts, including pregnancy and postpartum-certified cycling coaches, a pelvic floor physical therapist, and a pregnancy and postpartum corrective exercise specialist. Here’s what you need to know.

Recognize the Factors at Play in Postpartum Training

Even If you’ve taken time off from cycling in the past (maybe to recover from an injury), returning to training postpartum can feel like an entirely different experience.

“Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum, especially postpartum, and there are external factors, like sleep, or lack thereof, hormones, whether or not you’re breastfeeding—these all factor into how quickly you may be able to progress,” says Alison Marie Helms, Ph.D., pregnancy and postpartum corrective exercise specialist and founder of Women’s Running Academy. Add in the physical and emotional labor that comes with caretaking, and you may have significantly less time and energy than before giving birth.

Additionally, not everyone experiences the delivery and birth outcomes they had expected or hoped for, and those circumstances can greatly influence training. For example, some new parents may be simultaneously dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety, a child’s medical diagnosis, or grief from a loss. While getting back on the bike can offer a restorative activity, mental and emotional stress can compound the physical stress of exercise and make workouts exponentially harder. “If you’re having any kind of postpartum anxiety or depression, that affects the way you can take a breath,” Helms says. “You’re not a robot.”

But you are still a cyclist, even if everything else about your life has changed since you’ve been in the saddle. And with the right approach and a little patience, you will discover your “new normal” and return to the training you love.

Check In With Your Care Team Before Returning to Cycling After Childbirth

First, you’ll need to get the okay from your doctor or midwife. This typically happens at the six-week follow-up appointment, but if you had a cesarean birth (c-section) or experienced any complications, your timeline might be longer.

While a physician’s approval is an encouraging benchmark, it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider before returning to riding. Most coaches who work with postpartum athletes also recommend seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist after giving birth (as well as before and during pregnancy, if possible), as pregnancy and childbirth can significantly affect the pelvic floor muscles, which support the pelvic organs, stabilize the core, contract to control urine and feces, and play a role in sexual health.

“Cycling does demand a great deal of core strength, which is why it’s important to check in with a pelvic floor physical therapist to confirm the health and readiness of your core muscles,” says Jen Kates, C.P.T., founder of Shift Human Performance. “Especially for those who had a cesarean section, a difficult vaginal birth, or if they experienced any tearing during birth, that can impact their comfort on the bike saddle due to the pressure involved.”

Tracy Sher, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder and CEO of Pelvic Guru and owner of Sher Pelvic Health, explains that a pelvic floor physical therapist’s assessment is different and typically more in-depth than a standard gynecological exam.

“We’ve been trained very differently than on the physician side. It complements well. We can spend extensive time assessing positions and movement to see how everything functions together, including the abdominal wall, legs, spine, pelvic floor, and the vaginal, vulvar, perineum, and tailbone areas,” Sher says. A physical therapist with this speciality can also assess c-section or vulvar wound healing, as well as the strength of the lower extremities and back muscles. “We’re looking at all the components together and separately to see how you function as a human and as an athlete,” she adds.

While a doctor can give you the go to exercise, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you better determine your readiness based on their physical assessment and prescribe treatment that’s more individualized than just “do Kegels.”

“We’re looking at the strength, relaxation, coordination, and endurance of the pelvic floor, and all are equally important. It’s not necessarily that everyone will get Kegels and pelvic floor contractions. They might actually need to learn how to relax the pelvic floor or coordinate better,” Sher says.

Check In With Yourself to Make Sure You’re Ready to Return to Cycling

While meant to be empowering, the advice trope “listen to your body” can feel frustrating when you’ve never been pregnant or postpartum before, and everything feels strange and foreign. However, the answers to some questions can strongly signal whether you’re ready to get back on the bike.

Do you have pain-free bathroom trips?

Can you urinate and have a bowel movement without experiencing pain, bleeding, aching, or stinging during and after? If not, you may have a wound that requires more time to heal or a pelvic floor issue that a pelvic floor therapist can help you address before you get on the bike.

Do you pass the “sit test?”

Ali Frendin, CPT, PMBI MTB coach, pregnancy and postpartum exercise specialist, and founder of MTB Mamas, recommends taking the “sit test.” “Sit on a chair with your legs hovering off the floor to mimic the pressure on the perineum [the area between the anus and vulva] from the bike seat,” she says. “If you’re experiencing pain, then you’re not ready.”

How do you feel in the saddle?

Sher suggests simply sitting on your bike for a few minutes at a time to see how you feel. If that goes well, conduct a short test ride. “Keep it flat and with really light or no resistance,” she says. Look out for pain and numbness in the genital and perineal area, as well as significant discomfort in other parts of the body.

“It might be, because the core and pelvic floor are not as strong as they were before and don’t have as much endurance, it might show up as other things,” Sher says. For example, you may experience back pain or shoulder pain because of the destabilization.

How do you feel postride?

Take note of how you feel the day after a test ride, Helms says. “The body might feel good in the moment. There’s the adrenaline and the happiness from being back to doing the thing you love. But then later you’re like, ‘Oh, I did too much,’” she says. And that’s a sign you might need to take it easier or add in more rest between rides.

Other Guidelines for Getting Back on the Bike

Just like your pre-baby training, your postpartum training will depend on several factors unique to you and your situation; there’s no one-size-fits-all program. But there are some general guidelines that may help you ease back into riding.

Get your bike re-fitted

Your posture, tissues, and how you sit on the bike may have changed since being pregnant and giving birth. You may also need to raise the handlebars, Sher says. “Handlebar height directly affects pressure on the perineum and the genitals for women in particular,” she says.

Test different saddles

The fancy saddle technically designed to relieve pressure may not actually work best for your body. Sher recommends going to a bike shop and sitting in different types of saddles to find the one that’s most comfortable.

Find the right gear

You may be tempted to slip on a pair of padded shorts for cushioning, but both Sher and Frendin warn that extra material can do more harm than good. “I’m not a huge fan of knicks [or padded shorts], but if you do wear them, you might want to choose ones that only have padding around the sit bones. The sit bones are the proper contact points with the bike, and padding elsewhere can just make more points of contact and friction,” Frendin says.

Also, pay attention to how the waistband of your shorts hits your midsection. “High-waisted pants may irritate the pelvic floor by squeezing the organs and making downward pressure worse,” Frendin says. “Low-rise pants may irritate and rub on a c-section scar.” Find the pair that feels best to you, depending on your postpartum body, by testing out different fits.

Start small and progress slowly

“Start with short, 20- to 30-minute easy bike rides to spin your legs, two to three days a week, and see how that feels first before extending that time or distance week to week,” Kates recommends. “Usually a 10- to 20-percent increase in time or distance is adequate for most people, but pay attention to any discomfort you experience along the way.”

If you do feel pain, Sher recommends noting when it tends to happen—after five miles or every time you’re in a particular position, for example—as this info can help a postpartum coach or physical therapist establish your baseline and develop strategies moving forward.

Prioritize strength training

“Pregnancy and rest can weaken and shrink muscles, especially in the glutes, quads, and upper body, and we need these areas to be strong to support posture, the pelvis, and for a strong pedal stroke,” Frendin says.

She recommends doing full-body strength training with an emphasis on exercises that re-establish the connection between breathing and the function of the core muscles. For example, tap into your inhale while lowering into a squat and exhaling as you stand or make sure to breath deeply as you perform exercises like glute bridges and dead bugs.

If possible, work with a postpartum-certified coach

A coach specifically trained to work with pregnant and postpartum cyclists can help you safely ramp up your training while also keeping an eye on your body’s position on the bike.

“Are you hunching? Do you tuck your butt? When climbing out of the saddle and when transitioning from sit to standing, are you bearing down or bracing your abs? These things can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction and discomfort on the bike,” Frendin says. “These are concerns I work with as a coach and personal trainer.”

5 Signs You’re Doing Too Much Too Soon

While it’s smart to be thoughtful and cautious as you progress through your postpartum training, you don’t need to be afraid of doing too much too soon. There’s a common, fear-based narrative that postpartum athletes can “ruin” their pelvic floor or “damage” their bodies if they’re not careful. This messaging can inspire more anxiety during an already uncertain time in an athlete’s life, and it’s simply not accurate, Sher says.

“The good news is that most of the time you won’t necessarily do damage to the pelvic floor or damage to the perineum or genitals or to a nerve there. But you might get irritation of those things, and it might take longer for healing in that area,” she says.

Use symptoms as feedback that you need to scale your training, which may include slowing down, incorporating more rest, or taking a break to allow your body to heal further.

Below are some signs that you may need to dial back your workouts and, in some cases, see a healthcare professional.


“If you notice you’re bleeding when you ride, there may be a wound that opened up,” Sher says. “You’ll want to get that looked at.”

The Three Ps

Frendin encourages postpartum athletes to look out for the three Ps: pain, prolapse, and peeing. Pain is anything beyond muscle soreness, and not just in the genital or perineal area.

Frendin shares that she went for her first postpartum ride five weeks after giving birth because she thought she was ready. “I had no bleeding, pain, or scarring. I had support and babysitters. But, the next day I woke up with mastitis, she says. “I felt this was my body telling me it was too soon.”

A pelvic floor prolapse can feel like bulging, heaviness, or like something is about to fall out of the vagina. And “peeing” refers to any type of incontinence. All warrant a consultation with your pelvic floor physical therapist or medical provider.


“If you’re noticing significantly decreased sensation [in the genital area], it could just be a matter of scaling back, and it takes care of itself. But if, even with scaling back, you start to notice that over the next week or two you’re still having decreased sensation in that general area, you’ll want to get that checked out,” Sher says.

Lack of progress

If you’re putting consistent effort into your training and seeing little to no progress, or if your performance is backsliding, it’s time to reassess. “It probably means you’re doing too much,” Helms says. “You’re not reaping the rewards of your workouts because you’re not recovering enough in between them. You get stronger not in the workout itself but in the recovery.”


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a new parent who couldn’t benefit from more sleep. But if you’re consistently sleep-deprived or exhibiting other signs of overtraining, like depression or anxiety, low immunity, moodiness, or a disinterest in your sport, it may be time to prioritize rest and recovery over exercise.

This is often easier said than done, especially in a culture that promotes a “no excuses” mentality and praises pregnant people for “bouncing back.” Frendin encourages pregnant and postpartum cyclists to do their best to let go of this kind of pressure.

“It’s okay to ride like you had a baby. You have nothing to prove to anyone,” she says. “Modern society praises bouncing back, but there is no going back. There is only forward and through.”

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