Navigating exercise and Crossfit during pregnancy can be difficult. As a pregnancy and postpartum athletism coach created a guide to help keep your body and your baby safe.
I’m slowly emerging from the haze of raising a newborn. Those first few weeks post baby are a bit of shit show. What day is it? Have I showered? Is that the baby crying or am I hearing things again (What is up with phantom baby cries you guys!?).
It’s strange but refreshing to know that I’m never going to be pregnant again. Never going to have to lug my baby bump to the gym, squat with a bowling ball attached to my body, or grunt and groan as I get off the couch. But I want to help those who will. I want to share how to safely continue Crossfit during pregnancy.
3 very different experiences with exercise during those pregnancies.
Yes, I Crossfit right until the last few days of each pregnancy. However, what I was doing at the end of stages of my 3rd pregnancy was a helluva lot different than the 1st.
Kid #1- I had no idea about my core & pelvic floor. I feared losing my body. I was terrified of “becoming soft” (aka not a badass). I struggled with allowing myself to actually be pregnant and tone it done with the intense exercise.
Kid #2- I had just started to learn a bit about the core & pelvic floor but instead of feeling empowered I felt scared. Everything felt like a bad idea so I didn’t do nearly as much.
Kid #3- Educated and confident after completing several pregnancy & postpartum exercise certifications. Maintained a pretty solid exercise regimen but kicked my ego out of the decision making process when it came to what I was doing and how I was doing it.
Reflecting back, there are a few things that I did dramatically different the 3rd time around that made it my best pregnancy yet in terms of exercise.
5 things I did differently in Crossfit during pregnancy the third time around
1- I educated myself
In 2017 I became a pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach as well as a postnatal fitness specialist. The coursework I went through along with my experience working with real moms was a game changer.
This pregnancy I knew how to take care of my body and how to adjust what I was doing in the gym to match how my body was evolving.
You don’t need to have all the education that I do to continue to exercise safely and smartly through your pregnancy.
Here are the things I think are important for you to know:
- How to protect the core and pelvic floor in pregnancy to preserve its
- long-term function.
- How to modify exercise selection
- Accepting that you can’t control everything
- Basics of breath and alignment in exercise
I touch on much of that in my free guide, How to modify exercise in pregnancy.
2- I had a plan
A 3rd kid scared me. For a LOT of reasons, one of which was how it would affect my body. Not from an aesthetic perspective, but from a pain perspective.
Backtracking… After my 2nd child my body was in rough shape. I struggled with low back pain for a year and a half. I spent so much time and went through a lot of work to get things feeling and functioning well again. I knew another pregnancy had the potential to leave me in pain and that was terrifying.
So I made a plan to continue Crossfit during pregnancy.
It started with a list titled “If I were to do it all over again here’s what I would do differently.” That plan included:
- 2x/week of strength work, mostly lower body
- Extra attention to glute strength through accessory work (think banded monster walks, glute bridges, etc)
- Drop the dynamic exercises at appropriate times (pull ups, running, jumping, etc). For me this was by the beginning of the second trimester.
- Seeing a PT throughout my pregnancy
- Less ego, less comparison (More on that below)
- Be extra nice to myself in the 1st trimester because I always feel so shitty.
Coincidentally I took my “plan” and turned it into an entire pregnancy exercise program along with my friend Brianna Battles.
Personally, I would have preferred someone else to tell me exactly what to do week by week of my pregnancy, since that didn’t exist, we created it.
You can learn more about that HERE.
3- I kept my ego in check
My ego…. she’s a real pain in the ass. She’s kinda insecure and always has something to prove. Her voice sounds like:
Yes you can still lift this heavy weight
Yes you can still jump and run,
Of course you can keep up with non-pregnant people in your crossfit class.
My ego lives on praise and recognition from others. She wants to be told she is a badass, she wants people to clap for her.
She had to go this pregnancy.
Accepting that I had nothing to prove was the most freeing thing that I could have done for myself. If I can be really honest though, this wasn’t something that I did day 1 of pregnancy and then my ego never crept back in. It was a practice, I had to quiet her constantly, and I had to give myself a different way to measure success.
Instead of success being how much I could lift or how bad I could make my lungs or muscles burn.
Success was being consistent.
Success was not beating myself up
Success was exercising without pain.
Success was honoring where my body was at and letting myself be pregnant.
The outside world doesn’t really clap for those things, the outside world claps for the pregnant lady doing a heavy deadlift or whipping out pull ups.
In my 3rd pregnancy I learned to clap for my damn self.
4- I stopped comparing myself to others
As I let go of my ego it became easier to not compare myself to other people in the gym. I let them do their thing, I did mine.
However, if there were other pregnant people in the gym who were working out more intensely than me, pushing their limits a little more, well that was a harder to not compare to.
Like the ego thing, it was a constant practice of reminding myself what was best for me and not trying to judge or police anyone else’s choices. There was too a time in my life when I insisted on doing all the things in my pregnancy. We are all on our own path, my job was to keep my eyes on my own paper.
5-I lived by the mentality that: This is temporary
I’ve always been someone who is in tune with my body. I know the types of food that make me feel good, I know I’m better when I’m rested, I know that when my glutes are strong my back doesn’t hurt. By the age of 34 I was feeling more confident in my body and soul than I ever had before.
Then I got pregnant and everything was different.
The first few months of pregnancy, I was the hottest of messes.
Exercise made me feel nauseous and was taxing on my body.
Food made me want to dry heave.
Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant, everything inside of me was shifting and I HATED how it all felt.
“This is temporary” became the mantra I repeated to myself over and over through many months of wondering if I was going to make it.
It can be hard to see everything shifting. It’s easy to fear it all, to wonder if you’ll ever be as fit and active as you once were. Will your body “come back?”
The truth is your body will never be the same, everything will be different. Its also true that you can be just as strong and fit as you were pre-pregnancy.
18 months after having Piper I was stronger than I was before I got pregnant with her.
18 months after having Lucy I was the strongest I had ever been in my life.
18 months after this baby? I have no reason to believe that I won’t be just as strong as I ever was.
I’ll never have my “Pre-kid” body back, but honestly… that’s fine. My body has made and birthed 3 kids. It’s different now. But its stronger than it ever was before those babies and the woman I am is a whole hell of a lot more confident than she was pre-kids.
That counts for a lot.
My 3rd pregnancy was significantly harder for me than my first pregnancy, no doubt about it. I was sicker and my emotional health was fraught.
When it came to how I approached exercise though I felt better this go round than I ever did in my previous pregnancies.
How about you? Are you pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and want to continue Crossfit during pregnancy? Check-in with me in the comments, I’d love to know more about your experience.
Hey Heather! I just found out I’m pregnant, and am a littler nervous about working out. I’m 38, and have never been an RX athlete, so I don’t really know what or when or how to modify. And I am also a lover of cuss words HAHAHAHA!
Cuss word fans unite!!! Congrats on your pregnancy, I hope you’re feeling well! I totally hear you on the nervous thing, but just focus on educating yourself and let that help build your confidence. If you haven’t had a chance to download the free guide mentioned in the post definitely do, I think it will help you know when and how to modify. Send me an email or a DM if you need some specific guidance!
I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and have been doing CrossFit through my whole pregnancy. I’m a coach and I’m currently in school for physical therapy! I have learned a lot through following you, and a few other women who have done it before. Thank you so much for all the knowledge! When I found out I was pregnant, my OBs only recommendation for exercise was to do 60% of what I was doing before 🙄. What does that even mean? 60% of the weight? Or the intensity? Of the bike cals? 😬. I knew that answer wasn’t going to be good enough for me to keep going safely through CrossFit so I found you. I’ve modified most everything. Some days this is easier than others. Some days I have that ego kick in as well and tell me I can still do those things. However, I know that I can still do those things but it doesn’t mean I should do those things.I also am staying fit for a different reason now that I have this little precious boy growing inside of me. I have been trying to work on strengthening my glutes, however is there anything else in particular you think I should focus on? I am nervous about recovery and want to make sure I do things the best I can so I can come back stronger than ever!
Thanks for being so real and inspirational!
Hi Melissa! You’re in the home stretch and it sounds like you’re doing a great job. I often here similar sentiments from women on the confusion with these very generic guidelines. You definitely need more specific guidance, I’m so glad you’ve found it through some oof my work. It sounds like you’re doing the right thing, keep working those glutes, at this stage learning how to relax your pelvic floor through breathing and consider seeing a pelvic floor pt at this stage for a baseline assessment. They can really help you with that relaxation/downtraining of your pelvic floor which will help with birth. Other than that I’d just recommend honoring your changing energy levels, as you progress you may find yourself a little more tired, that’s normal. It’s ok to slow down. Lastly, consider picking up my guide on returning to exercise postpartum (I think there is a link on the right side of this page), that will help you wrap your head around how to return to exercise after baby. You’re doing great work girl, keep going!
This is a super useful article for me. I’m 36 and having my first baby end of November, and still doing Crossfit. My awareness of what to cut out and how to “listen to my body”is so foreign right now!! Your tips are a really great starting point, thank you.
I’m so glad it’s helpful. “Listen to your body” is really confusing. What are you listening for? When do you stop? Crossfitters have a tendency to not slow down unless they are dying which isn’t helpful when you’re pregnant. Bri and I came up with an acronym: ABCs of how to listen to your body. A-Awareness of how you’re feeling. B- Breath (make sure you’re breathing and pay attention to how your core looks and feels) C- Consider (Consider why you want to do a certain movement, is that the best option for your body at this stage? Is there a better alternative?)