Parenting and Professional Cycling – in conversation with Lizzie Deignan.

Finding the balance between work life and family life can be tough for just about anyone, but when you’re a professional athlete, performing at the top of your game, the training is hard, work is hard and often means much time away from your family in competition. In a new series on the Pusher of Pedals blog, I’m talking to professional athletes who are also parents, what’s it like getting back in to training, who does the night feeds and what’s harder, training for the next big race or leaving the family?

I’m very excited to say that opening the new series is former road race and track world champion and in 2016 was the reigning World, Commonwealth and National Road Race Champion, Lizzie Deignan.

  • What is your best advice for new parents who want to fit training around parenting? 

Good question! If you have the time and you’ve made the time in your schedule and when the time comes and you think actually I’m just too shattered to go out – ignore those feelings and go out anyway! Once you’re out you will love it – the freedom and the break from being a parent for just a couple of hours I think gives you the motivation and enthusiasm to return and be a better parent.

  • Women’s cycling really is doing something which seems arbitrary to add maternity leave to contracts in 2020, aren’t they? Shouldn’t this have been added sooner? 

Yes of course it should have been added sooner – there’s plenty of things that should have happened sooner but the main point now is to focus on the future and the positive steps going forwards. I’m delighted they’re adding the maternity leave clause and I hope that by having clauses like this and by me and other athletes being examples that there are more people who can hopefully combine motherhood and professional sport.

  • Rest is an important part of training, there must be times when you’re so tired from parenting and training? 

Yes absolutely but it is a funny one because I think most parents will tell you that there’s an extra energy reserve when it comes to your own children. Plenty of parents are at work all day and then come home to do the bedtime routine and the rest of it. You just find energy from somewhere.

  • We’re the same age – I’ve two boys Barnaby, who is two, and Elijah, just a month old. I’ve entered my wife and I in to the World Championship Sportive… she’s obviously thrilled at the idea… any advice? 

Well I look forward to seeing you at the finish line – I’ll wave you over as I’ll be there supporting Leeds Cares (the official charity of the UCI World Championships and sportive) all being well! My advice for you both would be to be realistic about the amount of training that you can do so that you don’t feel guilty or like a failure if you miss a session and just try and do some – even if it is just little and often. Just make sure you are doing some riding even just at weekends and make sure you enjoy it!

  • There are many things which I can use as an excuse to not train after we’ve eventually got the kids to bed! Fatigue, house chores, kids are down too late to train, not in the mood… list goes on. What mental hurdles do you have to get over to train or is it just something you want to do, no matter? 

No absolutely not! I don’t always want to train but I think I’m in the fortunate position that my job is professional cycling and I’ve never been someone who has skipped work or commitment. I have to be conscientious and the repercussions of me not training only impact on myself. Nine times out of ten you feel better for training anyway so I suppose it’s about avoiding the guilt of not doing it.  

  • I’ve read that you plan to retire after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, what’s the motivation behind this, if it’s true?! What’s the plan after retirement? Inevitable question… more kids? 

Yes that is the plan at the moment because I want to expand our family and also because hopefully I will have achieved everything I want to in my career by then.

  • Do you feel you’ve changed as a bike rider since Orla has come in to your world? 

Yes! I think the fact that cycling is not my sole focus anymore means that I can be a bit more balanced and motivated than before. I have a different perspective on it.

  • You must be sick of people asking if Orla is going to be as successful on the bike as her parents when she’s older? 

Not as sick of it as she will be!

  • What kiddie accessories have you already got for your bike? 

Yes we have! I’m actually really looking forward to using it – I think she will delighted. A friend gave us one of those chairs that you stick on the front and knowing her she will love it as she loves anything where she’s up and moving.

  • The world champs in your home county is exciting, are you chomping at the bit for the rainbow jersey back? 

Yes! I’d forgo any other race to win that race.

  • The first time we’re also seeing males and females competing together at the Worlds, do you ever think we would see a mixed gender peloton? 

No, I don’t think so.

  • What are your thoughts on the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad being halted because the men were going too slow? 

I think it was a shame that it go so much bad publicity because I think they’re an incredible organisation who do a lot for women’s cycling. It wasn’t great, there was obviously a mistake and they shouldn’t have been set off at that time but the logistics of stopping the men’s race to then have to stop it again potentially – you’ve got to think of the health and safety of the riders first and foremost and I think they made the right decision.

  • As a breastfeeding mother, were you ever worried than training could affect your milk supply? 

In my experience it didn’t have any impact on my milk supply. Things that had an impact were not eating enough, not drinking enough so you obviously have to account for the fact that when you train you need to eat more and drink more because you’re going to be dehydrated and under fuelled if you don’t but it’s definitely possible to do both.

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So there we go, Lizzie seems to be fitting in professional cycling perfectly with being a parent, sometimes I wish I had the ability to get on the bike after a day with the kids but I guess that’s one of the many factors which separates me from pro athletes!

As Lizzie herself mentions, she is an ambassador for the Leeds Cares charity which will be the Official Fundraising Partner of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, which will run from 21st September to 29th September 2019. As a charity dedicated to championing exceptional healthcare in Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond.

If you want to ride in the UCI World Championship Sportive then you can with Leeds Cares, these places are the first to be released, so by signing up you can ensure you’re guaranteed to take part  in one of the greatest cycling events in the world. As these places are the first to be released, you will be assured your place in one of the greatest cycling events in the world by signing up. Simply pay a deposit of £50 now and pledge to raise an additional £395 (£445 total) by 31st July, 2019 and you will be part of the action. You’ll also receive an exclusive limited edition Leeds Cares branded Santini cycling jersey to wear on the day.

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