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December 15, 2012

CrossFit Training During Pregnancy

Written by Damect Dominguez

Pickles and ice cream, 30-pound weight gain, fatigue, nausea…a typical pregnancy experience, right? Perhaps. But six women, six CrossFitters, are defying the odds—and they say you can too.

If there is one thing that’s for sure, women who CrossFit are not your average baby mamas. CrossFitters define “virtuosity”—performing the common uncommonly well, even if that “common” is pregnancy.

While some may question exactly how a woman can do pull-ups, push-ups, run and control her midnight cravings throughout the nine months of pregnancy, these super women did just that—and more. Here’s what they had to say about their experience.

Sarah Spealler, Age 32-Spealler’s Leading Lady

Park City, Utah, CrossFit Park City
Mom to Roark, 2 ½ years old, Myla, 9 months

sarah-spealler-crossfit pregnancy

When Chris and I were thinking of having a baby, CrossFit was something I definitely wanted to continue. I remember watching a video of Annie Sakamoto doing pregnant pull-ups and I wanted to do the same! I was determined to continue using Rx weights, shooting for blitzing speeds, etc. As time went on, there were days where I wouldn’t worry about the clock or the weights. Some days if I was felt well, I’d go hard. Other days, I was glad I got in and moved! Chris was always so supportive. I think any gal who works out while pregnant is a Rock Star! Whether you’re a firebreather or not, it’s just super cool! When I was pregnant, I got some concerned input from some of the older crowd in the gym, but usually all positive comments from women my age.

It was difficult in the beginning because I had morning sickness periodically throughout the day. Yet, when I did workout though, I’d feel better. That was a huge benefit early on. After the first trimester I stopped feeling nauseous and got my energy back. I could push myself more in workouts. There were times when I did push it too far; times I felt like I was going to faint and needed 20-30 minutes to recover from the WOD that took me 8 minutes to finish.

By the end of my pregnancy, I was doing push-ups on my knees and I couldn’t do pull-ups anymore. My strength was there but the motion was not agreeing with my body. I’m grateful for the nutritional knowledge I’ve learned through CrossFit. I really tried to eat healthy -Zone/Paleo-esk. In the beginning, I craved carbs like no other, but of course if when I ate them I’d feel guilty. Chris would put things in perspective for me and reassure me that it was okay to “eat the english muffin” or “bowl of cereal.” He’d say “if you want to eat, eat!” After I got out of the “yucky-feeling sick” stage I tried not to eat those types of carbs.

On Post Pregnancy Life

I would LOVE for training to be one of my top priorities but that’s just not the case right now. Life gets busy once you have kids, especially when your hubby is busy working to support his family! This is a season of life and I know my little ones won’t be this little forever. So until then, I’m just going to enjoy this “down time” with them. Once they hit elementary school it’s on! Bring it!

Taz Barber, 30-First time’s a charm

Norcal CrossFit
Mom to Oakes, 2 months old

Taz Barber-CrossFit Pregnancy

Going into the pregnancy I had every intention of CrossFitting as usual, 3 days on, 1 day off. In the first trimester, this became unrealistic as I was constantly nauseous for about two months. I still managed to workout, however I approached it with a more relaxed attitude and trained as often as I could. During my second trimester it was much easier to fall back into a routine with training, I had a lot more energy. I modified my movements if I felt my body needed it. During my third trimester, it was really important to me that I work out; so sometimes I’d do a quick bodyweight workout in our back yard just to get something done. I worked out right up till the birth; what I mean by that is I moved my body through functional movements at a pace that was manageable for me. I wasn’t setting PR’s or breaking any records, I was moving.

Taz’s Advice

Listen to your body. Don’t feel like you have anything to prove. If you aren’t feeling it, take a rest day or try something else. If you choose to CrossFit, don’t confuse being uncomfortable with it being harmful to your baby. You are growing another human, your body is not yours anymore and it will feel weird every day. Have as much fun as you can with your pregnant body, your baby is more durable than you think. Also, make a point to eat well, but relax and eat whatever you want occasionally. Controlling what you eat is the key factor in maintaining both your and the baby’s health during the pregnancy.

Natalie Groenenboom, 35-Two Successful CrossFit Pregnancies

Park City, Utah, CrossFit Park City
Mom to Knox, 17 months, & baby girl, August Rae, 2 months

Natalie-Groenenboom-CrossFit Pregnancy_CrossFit Mom

CrossFitting throughout my pregnancies kept me sane, made me feel “normal” and truly made the pregnancies worlds better than I think they would have been otherwise. There is so much old school information out there. I think women who act like being pregnant is a disease or complain constantly about how they feel pregnant are the very ones who aren’t active or stopped being active just because they’re pregnant. I truly owe CrossFit for two amazing pregnancies for many reasons. Having the community’s support is mentally wonderful. I also believe being strong, and continuing to lift weight (yes, even heavy) is why I never had any aches and pains. Continuing to CrossFit also kept me from gaining a ton of weight. Lastly, labor, delivery and recovery for my body felt easy. Seriously!

Getting Through the WODs

It seemed like our warm ups were physically harder for me than the workouts. Certain stretches and mobility positions are just plain difficult with a human in your belly, and of course, having to go to the bathroom during a workout, sometimes more than once, is a little annoying but essential when baby is bouncing on your bladder. On a totally different note, the most difficult aspect of CrossFitting through pregnancy is ignoring the negative comments and opinions. I was asked, by people I knew and didn’t know, if what I was doing was hurting my baby. I got dirty looks and the typical comments about how I shouldn’t be lifting anything heavy. I knew I was not a wreckless person that would endanger my child. But of course, unsolicited advice is everywhere you turn even if you’re not CrossFitting!

After giving birth, I took a month off. When I came back, I felt like I had taken 6 months off! However, my strength and wind came back in a few months and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within 4 months after delivery. I also thank Paleo for that! I brought my son to CrossFit every day and he’d sleep in his car seat on the floor next to me. He was used to the loud weights and music in the womb. We eventually hung his bouncer from a squat rack during our workouts and he was happy to cheer us all on!

Unfortunately, I think women accept that they will never get their bodies back after having kids. I think that’s an excuse. Stay active throughout, work hard after and watch what you put in your mouth….there’s no reason not to get your body back.

Lisa Bender Thiel, 34-Went all the way!

Austin, TX, CrossFit Central
Mom to Jacob, 2 months

Lisa-CrossFit Pregnancy_CrossFit Mom

CrossFitting during pregnancy – or anything during pregnancy – requires a mind shift – it’s less about feats and more about keeping moving and doing what is best for the baby. Just making it to the grocery store or to a workout some days is a feat! This is a time to be smart and let off some of the pressure. From the start my midwife was very supportive of “anything I did before” – she strongly advised against rope climbs (anything that I could fall, etc) anything upside down (hspu, hs walk) and anything that didn’t feel right. She really stressed listening to how my body felt and asking WHY I was doing it if it didn’t feel good?!?

While I would not recommend women to start CrossFit when they find out they are pregnant, if they are already doing it then I think they should get educated on how to modify. I agree that without proper education, coaching, or modification it can “too crazy” be but so can a lot of things out there! CrossFit doesn’t mean GO HARD – PUSH LIMITS -at all costs! CrossFit is a methodology of training – it’s varied functional movement and pregnant women can do that! Ask experts. Visit Ask coaches and others who have done it. Listen to how you feel. If you feel confident, keep it up. If not, find another form of exercise that will get you through pregnancy.

Heather Bergeron, 36-The Bergeron Baby-Up

Natick, MA, CrossFit New England
Mom to Maya, 12, Jonah, 8, Bodie, 4 months

Heather-CrossFit Pregnancy_CrossFit Mom

During my first pregnancy, I was an average pregnant woman—no real routine. With my second, I kept in shape a bit more. And with my third, I definitely knew what CrossFit was and did what I could, but my story is a little different than most. I was pregnant in 2011, but lost the baby at 12 weeks. It was horrible—a really sad, depressing time. I know people say miscarriages are common, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was too aggressive with my training at such a fragile stage of the pregnancy. We were very fortunate to get pregnant with Bodie just two months after losing the baby, but this time around, we wanted there to be no question about whether my training was putting our baby’s health in danger. The first trimester was pretty light since they say that’s the most vital time for a baby to grow. During the second and third trimesters, I felt more comfortable, and got back into a routine without over doing it. After the first trimester, I actually trained daily until the day I delivered Bodie.

Since I was more careful about my workouts—not my usual pace or intensity, I was definitely more focused on my nutrition. I wanted to do everything right for the baby that was growing and developing inside me, and I committed to doing Paleo. It was probably the cleanest I’ve ever eaten, and I felt great. I think it was actually easier to stay clean when I was pregnant because my baby’s health was so dependent on what I ate every day.

Heather’s Advice

It can be done. It’s unfortunate there’s so little knowledge about it out there. We got lucky with our OB. After looking for the right doctor, I found an Ironman triathlete. After a few months, she actually became a member at our gym, so we had the luxury of having her around to “monitor” my movements and loads. Above all, I would tell women to just really enjoy the ride—it’s only a short time in the big scheme of life. It’s actually kind of nice to not feel any pressure. Just showing up at the gym is enough to impress people. I’ll take that!

Kat Grosshaupt, 37-Educating Women on Pregnancy and Child Rearing

Hypnobirthing Childbirth Educator and Birth Doula
Austin, TX, CrossFit Central
Mom to Lily, 7, Arlo, 5

Kat-CrossFit Pregnancy_CrossFit Mom

I found CrossFit a few years ago after my youngest was just over a year old and starting coaching a few years later. Most OBs are hesitant about pregnant women doing “too much” so they often recommend walking or yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a CrossFitting Yogi myself, but so much of what do in CrossFit is helpful for a healthy, comfortable labor experience; not only the exercise, but nutrition and the “CrossFit Mindset.”

The mindset during a strenuous WOD is similar to that you have getting through labor. Think about how you prepare mentally to do Fran. You know it’s going to be rough. You know it’s going to take everything you have to get through it. But you know you can do it. You know you will get through it. So how do you keep going when it gets tough? You talk yourself through it. You tell yourself to keep going. Not to set the bar down, whatever. It’s the same mindset in labor. You take it one contraction at a time, one rep at a time, and you get through it. In the end, you come away with it in awe of what your body is capable of. Oh, and you have a really cute baby!

Kat’s Advice

During pregnancy, you aren’t aiming for PRs. You’re CrossFitting to maintain your fitness and to strengthen your growing and ever changing body. You have additional blood coursing through your body which causes you to have to take more breaks. Your body has more hormones flowing through it causing your joints to become looser. And you may feel like you are doing a WOD with a weighted vest that keeps getting heavier! I’ve seen women workout on the day they had their baby. I’ve seen women at the gym two weeks past their due date. As long as you are listening to your body and doing only what is comfortable, you can workout right up until birth.

Life After Delivery

Women need to give themselves time. They need six weeks to recover from labor and then move slowly back into things. Women often get frustrated that they aren’t right back where they were pre-pregnancy. Again, have patience and remember that it took nine months to gain the weight, give yourself nine months to get it off.

Having kids can make it hard to get to the gym. Many moms feel guilty taking that time for themselves, but I remind them they need to move their bodies, sweat and release endorphins. It may mean getting to class at 6am to get a WOD in, but a happy mama makes for a happy household.

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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