CrossFit and Pregnancy
As I sit here 27 weeks pregnant reflecting on the last 6 months, and thinking about all that’s ahead, I can honestly say I’ve never been more thankful for having found CrossFit. Going into pregnancy I planned to continue doing everything as long possible, and for as long as it feels good. That being said, the moment we saw “PREGNANT” on that fateful First Response, I began scouring Google for the guide on “How to maintain your CrossFit gains and grow a baby safely.” Guess what?...try as you night, you will not find one. I am in no way an expert and can only speak from my own experience thus far, but I’d like to think that might be enough to help someone navigate their way through the unfamiliar and taboo terrain of being pregnant and crossfitting.
If you’re a member at CrossFit Simsbury, and have visited the women’s bathroom, you’ve probably read the “CrossFit Mom’s Pregnancy Poster’ about a hundred times. Unfortunately, that’s one of the few materials you’ll find on the subject. What’s more disappointing, the website it references hasn’t been updated in years. In all my research on CrossFit and pregnancy, I was astounded about the lack of information on the topic. The things I could find were opinion based articles, so I made a decision to continue with my training and listen to my own body, as opposed to opinions from anyone else. Luckily, we live in an age where social media provides us with a plethora of information in the form of real time videos and photos where we can “consult” with other CrossFit Mom’s on how to scale appropriately, and at CFS-us pregnant gals are fortunate enough to have had a few bad-ass ladies pave the way and redefine fitness in pregnancy…you guys know who you are 😊
So here are a few of the things I’ve picked up along the way, that I hope can help someone else on their pregnancy journey…
Just keep moving. You’ve got to do it. Was I able to maintain 6 days per week of CrossFit the first trimester [when I thought I might actually be dying a slow death]? Heck no! But I did make myself go three days a week. Prior to getting pregnant working out was my favorite part of the day, and then suddenly it became a daunting task I wasn’t sure I was up for. Thankfully, my ever-encouraging (tough-love-kind-of) husband was all about me staying active. And I can honestly say, the community in a CrossFit Box is more energizing than any nap would have been. So who cares if you have to scale, or you’re literally moving at a snail’s pace, just keep showing up. Is it a bummer when you’re lifting 50% of your one rep max and you keep recounting the weight, as you’re sure it has to be a new PR? Of course…we’re crossfitters and we’re competitive by nature. But do you know what’s cool? You’re growing a baby. There’s an actual whole other person…in your belly. Mind blown.
Nutrition….this is a highly variable/debatable topic, so I’ll keep it short. Eat what you can eat. For me, that was a bagel. Every day. For three months. Yikes. As a health and wellness coach I felt like a fraud! I would literally cry to Rob about the state of my nutrition because I knew what I should be eating but I couldn’t stomach it. Once I got over my imbalanced macros and realized I just needed to get calories in, I could focus on fueling my body the best way I could with the way I was feeling. Luckily, around 17 weeks I began feeling like normal Denise again and was able to say goodbye to my new friends at Brookside Bagels and hello to a more well-balanced diet. I shifted from being extremely strict with nutrient timing (pre-pregnancy) to focusing on eating whole foods and a balance of protein/fat/carbs at each meal…because it’s what feels right for me! You’ll find an overwhelming amount of literature on nutrition in pregnancy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. To keep it simple, ask yourself this; is what I’m about to eat fueling me and my baby? If you’re honest with yourself and listening to your body, you’ll be able to make the best decisions for the both of you. If you are looking for a protein supplement, I am a big fan of SFH. Both their “Pure” and “Fuel” proteins are safe for pregnancy [and breastfeeding] and they are quite tasty. Instead of using a recovery protein, which has a lot of added amino acids, I switched to SFH Pure post-WOD. The same way we tell every athlete at the gym to get carbs in after a workout, pregnant women need them too! For me, my go-to is an apple or banana. You’re not just fueling your muscles after working out anymore-you’re growing a baby!
Comparison is for the birds. (This could go for everyone, not just the pregnant folk.) What worked for your friend in her pregnancy may not work for you. And what you still feel comfortable doing might make other people wonder if you’re crazy. This is where “listen to your body” becomes so incredibly important. Each one of us is going to have our own experience with pregnancy and no one else knows exactly how you feel, so do you and what you feel is best for you and your baby. A coworker at the hospital was horrified when she inquired about how I monitor my heart rate during CrossFit, and I said I didn’t. “But don’t you need to make sure it doesn’t go above 160 when you’re pregnant?” she asked. It seems strange to me this arbitrary number is thrown out there, when pregnant women come from all different lifestyles and fitness backgrounds. There is no black and white, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can get back to enjoying fitness and experiencing all the changes pregnancy will bring.
Get yourself a pregnant friend…or two. I know, I just said “don’t compare.” But this is different. Having someone who is going through a very similar situation and who can understand what the struggle of choosing full panel vs. under the belly pants is like, is priceless. Your husband won’t…in fact he’ll be horrified by both options, and that’s no fault of his own. But a pregnant pal is a gift, so if you have one, treasure them, and if you don’t…I’m your girl[DO1] .
Be confident in your choice to maintain fitness while you’re pregnant. Perhaps I’m repeating myself, but I feel so strongly about this. You know what is best for you and your baby! If I had a dime for every time I’ve been cautioned about my workouts while pregnant, we’d have an outdoor rig in the backyard. My own father tells me every time we talk; “Now Denise, don’t lift those heavy weights…you need to be careful.” But guess what, “heavy” is relative, I like lifting weights, and I’m pretty sure baby O digs it too. So do what feels right for you, and use your coaches-they are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to working with/around your ever growing baby bump.
Approaching my third trimester I’ve got to say I’m psyched to see what’s in store. Fitness has never felt quite so functional and I can already tell that CrossFit is setting me up for success in the WOD we’re looking forward to on/around February 16th, and a rewarding postpartum journey.
About the author:
Health, fitness and nutrition have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember. It seemed natural to me to pursue a career in healthcare, as the human body fascinated me from an early age. It was time and experience that taught me being “healthy” goes far beyond just the physical body.
I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing in 2010. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different settings, which eventually led me to pediatrics. I currently practice nursing at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center-a job that most definitely provides a sense of perspective. Shortly after beginning my nursing career, I found myself searching for something to balance the stress a hospital setting often emits. I developed a deep appreciation for yoga and the unique way it both mentally and physically challenges you. I furthered my practice by becoming a Certified Yoga Instructor in 2013 and began teaching [yoga] classes at the CrossFit box in my town, which eventually led to my love and enjoyment of CrossFit training. I completed my Level 1 CrossFit Certification in 2016, and now have the opportunity to share my passion for fitness as the coach of the Kids and Teens Program at CrossFit Simsbury. Throughout my training in various exercise modalities, along with my training as a nurse, I’ve invested a significant amount of time into developing a deep understanding of nutrition and the science behind the food we put into our bodies. Having learned so much over the course of my studies, I began to realize that I wanted to take a more proactive approach to health. This is where coaching came into play. Realizing that I could use the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained along the way to help other people live out their healthiest, happiest lives became my main goal. I completed iPEC’s coach training program, with a focus in health and wellness. Now, as a Professional Health and Wellness Coach I have the unique opportunity to pair my tools as a coach with my vast experiences in the field of health to help others transform their lives and achieve things they never thought possible.
Outside of coaching and nursing, you can find me soaking up every moment I can with my husband, my step-son and our sweet dog, Lincoln. I enjoy everything from being outdoors, to relaxing with a good book, and chances are-I have a cup of coffee in hand, as I’m certain it is the elixir of life.