Training during and after pregnancy with Jocelyn McCauley | EP#33
What can you do and what can't you do in terms of training during pregnancy?
Jocelyn McCauley, pro triathlete, explains how it's possible to train within 24 hours before going into labor and be back training a week after. And then race your first 70.3 11 weeks after. No biggie!
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- What type of training and training intensities are suitable for training during pregnancy
- How to resume training after pregnancy and progress your training
- What to do if your doctor has a conservative view on training during pregnancy
- Managing training with raising a toddler and having a job
Jocelyn’s triathlon background
- Became a pro 2.5 years ago
- First full triathlon was 3 years ago, in May 2014.
- Qualified and as an age-grouper for Ironman Hawaii and was 1st overall amateur female. This way she earned her pro card.
What made you progress rapidly in triathlon?
- Jocelyn has a long and strong athletic background.
- She ran cross country and track and field in high school, college, and post collegiately.
How did you train during pregnancy?
- During my pregnancy, life was really crazy because I just signed up for my 1st half Ironman the year before - before I knew that I was pregnant. My due date was 10.5 weeks before the race. So I thought, since I already signed up for it, I might as well do it. I was also at the same time in my last year in nursing school.
- I used training as my meditation time to be all by myself and also for studying. I always had a book in front of me on the bike or on the treadmill. I had flash cards and was looking through them on the run.
- I did a lot of treadmill running and trainer riding because I was pregnant through the winter and then spring, and I live in Ohio which has ice and snow outside in winter.
- I’m fine running in that when I’m not pregnant but I didn’t want to fall, and fall on my stomach in particular. And didn’t like to crash on my bike and have any damage.
- And also, I’m closer to a bathroom whenever I need it which is helpful in the last couple of months during the pregnancy when you have to go to the bathroom every hour at least.
- I didn’t do any swimming because I didn’t want to buy a new swimsuit that would fit me while I was pregnant. But swimming really is the best for you when you’re pregnant.
- My doctors were progressive. They said that I didn’t need to worry about my heart rate and going too hard, because my body is going to deprive me of oxygen, and not the baby and I will need to slow down before I damage the baby at all.
- So just go off of feel and go off of pace and just let how you feel dictate how you can train.
- Swimming is a great way to train during pregnancy, and indoor running and cycling are also very good.
- You don't need to worry about damaging the baby by training too hard. It's not going to happen.
- Let how you feel dictate how you train.
At what point during your pregnancy did it start affecting the way that you train?
- I didn’t have a whole bunch of intensity in my training anyway, because when I was training for this half Ironman, I wasn’t as concerned about accomplishing a certain time goal.
- But I still kept a little bit of intensity which was more like tempo efforts
- The Saturday before - my daughter was born on a Wednesday - I did a 2.5 hour ride on my bike trainer at a nice aerobic pace.
- The week before I did a 13 mile run. Every week I did one run that was at least a half marathon.
- The day before my daughter was born I did a 5-6 mile run and then went into labor that night and she was born the next day .
- My pregnancy didn’t really affect me. I was still able to do everything that I wanted to do and I was fortunate and blessed in that.
Note: The tempo effort that Jocelyn mentioned is Zone 3. Check out
for more about tempo or Zone 3 and other zones.
Would you say that you can just train as long as you feel good, are not getting sick?
With degrees in both nursing and exercise science, and work experience from nursing, Jocelyn has some professional expertise on the subject in addition to her personal experience.
- You can do what you want. Your body is going to limit you in some areas. Listen to your body basically.
- One of the biggest thing about not getting nauseous with pregnancy and working out is being able to keep calories down by eating every half hour, because as soon as I get hungry in the tiniest bit, I get nauseous and would throw up.
Did you do strength training during pregnancy?
- I didn’t do strength training. I think this is one area that is a little bit gray.
- You can’t do any really heavy lifting because you don’t want to create abdominal pressure.
- Now I have strength training back in my program. I do it twice a week.
What advice can you give to listeners who have conservative doctors?
"You have your doctors to advise you but they’re not the boss of you."
- In healthcare in general, you have to be your own advocate. You have your doctors to advise you but they’re not the boss of you. You’re the CEO of your life. You can choose what you want to do.
- Having a good frank conversation with the doctor is always a good idea.
- Bringing research articles to them so that they can progress their practice, as long as they are willing to sit down and listen to you.
What did your training look like post-pregnancy?
- Usually doctors say that you can’t do anything for two weeks after. But my doctor said that I could do walk-jogging after a week.
- I remember the first couple of days after she was born I didn’t want to do anything. But when the week came I felt a lot better and I started to do my walk-jogging.
- A lot of doctors say that the bleeding should be what you use to guide you with what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. If you start bleeding a lot heavier then you need to back it off. So this serves as your guide to the level of what you can or can’t do.
What was your training progression with 11 weeks to go before the half Ironman?
"Basically, 4-5 weeks after she was born I was doing the same training that I was doing before she was born."
- First I did the walk-jogging, then I progressed this after a couple of weeks. Basically, 4-5 weeks after she was born I was doing the same training that I was doing before she was born.
- Because I was there already just 4 weeks beforehand, jumping right back into it was not a big deal.
- It’s like you did a race, you took a week or two off and you’re jumping back into training. You can jump back a lot faster when you’re just taking a week or two off.
- I was able to build up for a couple of weeks and then build back down into the race.
Did the race go alright?
- It did. I had my unofficial/official goal of going under 5 hours and I did it - 4:58:59. So I was able to do it. Barely, but I did it.
How much fitness could you retain during your pregnancy and post-pregnancy compared to where you were before pregnancy?
- I would say 85% of your fitness. Honestly, as long as you continue to train through your pregnancy you can jump back into it without losing a ton of your fitness. It’s not a huge change in your fitness.
If you stay consistent, you can maintain most of your fitness during pregnancy and post-pregnancy, and then get back to the original level fairly quickly.
How did you manage training, working and raising of a toddler?
- When I trained for my first Ironman, I was working full time and she was about one year old. It was intense and it was a balancing act.
- I felt like having the different dimensions of your life is really key in progress and in accomplishing your goals. It’s like you need to not be 100% in one thing or you’re just going to drive yourself insane.
- So having those different dimensions of my life really helps. I was working as a nurse so I would either work 7 am to 7 pm, or 3 pm - 11:30 pm.
- When I would work 12 hour days, I would usually have an hour run in the morning before I went in. Then after work, I would do a shake out ride that night just to get that blood flowing through your legs again at night.
- I would be working 3 days a week, and if I had the next day day off that would be a heavier day. If it was a 12 hour day then it would be lighter.
- Having a trainer for my bike has always been key because I can train while she is sleeping, playing on the side with her toys, or have a play date now that she is old enough. I also have a gym with childcare that I can take her to while doing a lot of treadmills runs at the gym.
"You can make it work. You just have to be flexible in your training and in what you will be doing each day."
When you were working 12 hour days did your husband take care of Emily or did you bring her to kindergarten?
- I had a good friend who would watch her. It was basically a childcare that she would go to.
Time management tips
- Every Sunday, I would plan out my dinners for the week so that I wouldn’t have to think about it during the week, it would be all set. Then do some preparation for those meals if I have time.
- I always make extra for every meal so I would have it for lunches that week as well.
- Every night, I would plan the next day to have different goals to accomplish each day.
- Plan and prepare your meals in batches in advance
- Plan your next day the night before.
Other things that you want to share in relation to these topics?
- I think another thing that has been a lot of fun was involving my daughter in this.
- On some of my runs, I would take her riding in her stroller, and she would call them adventure rides. This is a great bonding opportunity. We started out by identifying colors of different things, identifying things, counting the cars. Now we have this little speaker that we bring playing disney princess sing alongs.
- It’s really key for her to see me set goals and accomplish them.
What are your plans now for your professional career?
- For this summer, I have this little local race in Maine, in New Hampshire, called “Sea the Summit”. It’s a fun adventure triathlon race that I’m looking forward to.
- After that, I will be doing a 70.3 Boulder in August.
- And then hopefully I will have enough points for Kona.
- Usually the start of my season is winter here in the US. So I usually have a southern hemisphere season.
Rapid fire questions
- Personal habit that helped achieve success: Time management and having the different dimensions of my life.
Links and resources
Subscribe to That Triathlon Show and never miss an episode!
MORE ON THAT TRIATHLON SHOW