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Chloe's Story

"My main motivation for keeping active is for my mental health."

Cycling is my main outlet for physical health, which in turn also helps my mental health - but my cycling journey only began initially due to an injury stopping me being active! I've suffered from patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee) in both knees due to multiple football injuries as a teen.

Due to this chronic issue with my knees throughout my adult life, I’ve had a constant on-off relationship with fitness. Ten years ago I had taken up running and took part in a few 10k charity runs, but then had to stop due to constant knee swelling.

I'd get into a gym class routine, get injured then stop going for months. It was a constant stop-start, which was always frustrating as I have always been physically active and very much enjoyed physical activities as a child.

During the pandemic in 2020, this issue flared up once again and I was recommended by a virtual physiotherapist to take up cycling to help strengthen my knees. I already had a mountain bike and was not working due to being put on furlough, so thought it was a good way to get out of the house for my 'allowed fitness'.

Solo rides turned into rides with my partner, then socially distanced rides with friends, and then eventually joining established cycling clubs. Since then, and excluding the months whilst I was pregnant during 2022-2023, I haven't stopped!

Chloe holding her daughter, giving her a kiss.

My main motivation for keeping active is for my mental health.

In 2020 (the year I started cycling more regularly), my mental health took a particularly bad hit across different aspects of my life.

During that year my paternal grandmother passed away, my job at the time was eventually made redundant and multiple close relationships of mine broke down. The year ended with me feeling at my lowest point and was eventually diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

Something as small as going for a Saturday morning group ride was genuinely getting me through those days/weeks. My mental health has since improved and is well managed, but I will always give credit to cycling as my personal escapism which kept my head above water during my darker times.

I gave birth to my daughter in August 2023 (currently writing this whilst on maternity leave), and to this day, cycling is still used as my personal escapism for my physical and mental health.

Understandably, I'm not able to be on the road for outdoor rides as much, but I make use of my indoor turbo trainer for quick virtual rides when I can, and also enjoy yoga (always via apps/YouTube - I prefer to be told what do!).

I will always give credit to cycling as my personal escapism which kept my head above water during my darker times."

After giving birth, I felt comfortable to start riding again after 12 weeks.

I started with short local rides/indoor virtual rides and joined my first outdoor group ride in February earlier this year (when 6 months postpartum). With that said, I am still getting used to my postpartum body. I had a very difficult pregnancy, so was off the bike completely for nearly a year.

During that time during pregnancy, I developed an irregular heartbeat, which caused me to have breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue, sciatica, migraines and developed gestational diabetes from 36 weeks - added to my pre-existing asthma!

Now my daughter is 8 months old, I do sometimes find it difficult to fit in exercise and to also care for her. Often, unexpected circumstances crop up (e.g. lack of sleep the night before, unwell baby etc) which can understandably disrupt any set plans.

I try to be kind to myself during these times when I cannot train. When I can, I mainly exercise indoors when she naps during the day, as well as try to go out for weekend solo or group rides.

Chloe and her cycling group posing together.

Thankfully, most of my pregnancy-related ailments have disappeared. I do have some circulation issues in my hands and feet (they swell after extensive workouts/rides, and are always cold) which I’ve been told can happen after a caesarean.

My body will also never go back to its pre-pregnancy state, but I’m enjoying this new phase of my life and getting to know my new body.

The main difference now is that I look forward to the best post-exercise cuddles from my little girl. 

Cycling makes me feel 'present'. Sometimes life can present itself in ways which can feel quite overwhelming, which in turn puts the body into a high-functioning state underneath the surface.

For many years, this state was quite normalised for me (especially as I suffered from anxiety). During busier or stressful times my mind and my body can often feel disconnected.

Cycling has a way of making my mind and body focused, giving myself peace and feeling in a more connected state. So naturally, I always feel happier and more present post-rides!