“Dear Pregnant Crossfitter,
YOU? You are B.A. I know this because I encounter women like you in the gym on a daily basis. You want to be fit and active during your pregnancy, I commend that.
But friend, you’re also not invincible
If you’re anything like I was during my first pregnancy you are confidant that as long as you listen to your body during pregnancy, you’ll be completely fine in the gym. You’re aware of the moms in your gym who joke about leaking pee during box jumps and double unders, but that won’t be you.
I’m not here to scare you
Let’s get one thing straight right away. I’m not going to be the trainer that is going to kick your pregnant ass. But I’m also not here to tell you every scary statistic and horror story in order to scare you into submission.
I’m here to give you a framework to help you continue your Crossfit journey safely.
In the 5+ years I’ve been involved in involved in Crossfit I’ve come to know 2 strategies women employ when they become pregnant.
Strategy 1: Continue exercising pretty much the same way you always have, making minor modifications for your growing belly as you need to.
Strategy 2: Get scared that intense exercise is going to harm your baby (or yourself) so you keep intensity super low and fear and caution super high (or quit exercising all together).
To be honest, I don’t like either of those options.
The Struggle is Real
You could be the fittest woman on earth. A crossfitter for years. When you become pregnant, your body is different, your movement patterns become different, your posture becomes different. This has to be accounted for before you put your body under load (aka weight) at high intensity.
Simply modifying one exercise for another seemingly “safer” exercise (doing knee raises instead of ab mat sit ups) it isn’t enough.
In order to minimize postpartum dysfunction its going to be important for you to be educated on breathing, alignment, intensity, and learning to let go of any unrealistic expectations you might have for yourself after searching #pregnantcrossfitter on Instagram.
Generally speaking, I do believe you can Crossfit safely in pregnancy. HOWEVER (and this is hugely important) there are a few things you need to consider when determining your game plan for exercise during this period of your life.
Real Quick: I’ve put together a free handbook for pregnant moms. A trimester by trimester guide of things to consider in exercise while pregnant. It will help keep you active & safe in your pregnancy (whether you’re a Crossfitter or into some other kind of exercise). Grab your copy for free here.
Things to Consider when Crossfiting while pregnant
Risk Vs. Reward
Yes you physically can lift that barbell, run an 800 at 8 months pregnant, kip your pull ups, maybe even rock out a few GHDs.
But should you?
This is an important question to ask yourself, particularly the second half of your pregnancy and early postpartum.
Yes you physically CAN do something but should you? Is the reward of doing that thing worth the potential risk to your body?
Maybe the answer is yes, I’m not here to tell you that it is always going to be no. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself (and it will likely vary depending how far along your pregnancy is). I’m simply here to give you a few things to think about.
A heavy deadlift:
Reward: Mental excitement, pride, joy of lifting heavy shit. It makes you feel like a badass which transfers to badassary in all other areas of your life. Stronger glutes, hamstrings. Plus people around you give you lots of props for lifting heavy weight.
Risks: That heavy lift is going to require you to hold your breath. Holding your breath creates a significant amount of interabominal pressure. That pressure puts excessive stress on the core and pelvic floor leaving you at higher risk for a diastasi recti that is difficult to heal, and leaking pee (incontinence) postpartum.
Looking at risk v reward here. You have to ask yourself:
1. Is it worth it?
2. Can you achieve the same physical reward (stronger glutes and hamstrings) in a different/safer way?
It’s tempting to think that you’ll be fine. Particularly if there is no pain associated with the movement. However 1 in 2 women who exercise experience some form of urinary incontinence (they leak pee). Is the heavy deadlift, the box jumps, or the running later in pregnancy worth that risk?
The #1 thing I hear coaches tell their clients during pregnancy is “Listen to your body.”
Seems like good advice right? Tune in to what is going on, notice if something is off, hurts, or just doesn’t feel right then stop or modify based on that.
But what if you don’t know what you’re listening for?
What if you can’t hear what your body is saying (aka no pain with movement, pain comes later)
Do you stop when it feels weird or off or only if its incredibly painful?
Listen to your body is well intended coaching advice but on its own it isn’t enough, particularly for Crossfitters.
This is the group of people with Pukie the clown as our mascot. Going hard until you puke and then continuing to go when you’re done is the norm. To be fair….that’s probably not you now that you’re pregnant. However, you HAVE to feel comfortable stopping or modifying a particular movement if something feels off, not just if you feel like you literally might die or your doubled over in pain.
A great trainer understands how a pregnant athlete should breathe, what their alignment should look like, and doesn’t try to “kick their ass.”
The trainers at your gym may not know the best way to coach you outside of encouraging you to “Listen to your body.” That doesn’t make them a bad trainer, good information on pregnant and postpartum bodies is scarce and not taught in most certification programs.
Which brings me to my next point
Remember: Ribs over hips, get your butt behind you.
2. Breathing Matters
I want you to avoid holding your breath, learn to connect your breathing to your core and pelvic floor and I want you to exhale and then do things.
For example, I want you to inhale on the easy part of an exercise (the lowering into a squat) and exhale on the hard part (as you stand from a squat). Inhale as you bend over to pick your kid up off the ground, exhale as you lift him/her.
Remember: Exhale and then do things
3. Please don’t do crunches or situps.
From about 14 weeks on its best to avoid these exercises. You can and should train your core in other ways that are actually way more effective exercises (1/2 kneeling kettlebell press, farmer carries, pallof press to name a few). I personally would also avoid planks past about 14 weeks or so. The downward pressure on your linea alba (the connective tissue between your abdominals) can be pretty intense increasing your risk for a diastasi that is difficult to manage in postpartum
For more detailed information I have a free handbook for Pregnant Crossfitters which is the compilation of of the training advice I give my clients based on the specific trimester of pregnancy they are in.
Listen you’ve got to let going of giving any fucks about what people in the gym think of you. Both when they are giving you positive praise or throwing shade your way Judging you for taking it easy? Who cares! Praising you for doing a super heavy lift that you probably shouldn’t be doing at this point in your pregnancy? Nope, their opinion doesn’t matter.
I heard a story from a gal at a conference recently about how she was praised up and down in her gym for being such a badass during her pregnancy. Continuing to lift super heavy weight, performing GHD situps well into her 3rd trimester, jumping rope, etc. After each workout people would commend her, tell her how strong she was, tell her they hoped to be like her one day when they were pregnant. It was super gratifying to this woman in the moment.
Months and even years later though this same woman was experiencing incontinence with exercise, a severe diastasi, and though she is fit as hell, she continues to look 4 months pregnant. The damage to her abdominal wall is significant.
My point here is that you are the one who has to live in your body for the next 50 ish years, not your friends at the gym.
You cannot give a shit about what they think. You cannot try to impress them in order to make you feel better about yourself. I know its so hard to take it down a notch now that you’re pregnant. You’re competitive and you don’t want to look weak. However, if you truly want to bounce back quickly postpartum then don’t put your body in a position where it has to heal itself not only from the birth but from major disfunction caused by an ineffective approach to exercise in pregnancy.
Your baby is probably safe
So much of our thoughts during exercise during pregnancy is about keeping the baby safe. But the reality is that for most people in normal pregnancies your baby is probably safe. If mom isn’t too hot and able to carry on a conversation during the workout, things are probably ok for baby.
What we need to really focus on is mom. How can we keep you safe mama? Not only for today but indefinitely.
Check your ego at the door
And for God’s sake please don’t strive for the perfect #pregnantcrossfiter post that gains you hundreds of “likes” on Instagram.
That shit doesn’t matter
If you’re finding yourself confused on how to keep your body safe in each trimester of your pregnancy snag a free copy of the Crossfit In Pregnancy Handbook I put together. A trimester by trimester guide of things you should be considering along the way. Grab your copy of the free handbook here