(Warning: toddler boys love medicine balls and think they are for them and not for their CrossFitting mamas…)
How I Became a CrossFit Mom (Part Three): Pregnancy Edition
About four months after I had started CrossFitting, my husband and I decided we were ready to try for another baby. As we prepared for the possibility of those exciting double lines on a stick, I asked my husband “what do CrossFitting women do while they are pregnant?”
He instantly replied “CrossFit!”
I looked at him suspiciously. How could women possibly keep up with the intensity of CrossFit workouts while they are pregnant? It didn’t seem to make sense. It didn’t sound very healthy or safe. Or practical. How do you lift anything with the equivalent of a medicine ball inside your belly?
But I was curious. So the Hubs showed me all the research. I was amazed to discover there is literally a movement in the United States right now of CrossFitting pregnant women. Much research and intense studies are going on chronicling the lives of women who keep working out during their pregnancies. And doctors are finding that these women, and their babies, are nothing but happy and healthy as a result. [You can search CrossFit.com for PDF journals on pregnancy research, as well as the stories of women who CrossFitted all 9 months.]
Still suspicious, I took the pregnancy workout question to my team of five OBGYNs. I go to a Catholic (1000% pro-life) OB practice, and the head of my practice is a nationally known author, speaker and TV personality on women’s health issues, so I knew my doctors would give me workout answers taking into full account my health as well as my unborn baby’s health and safety.
So I asked pretty much all of the doctors what they thought about working out during pregnancy. I suspected they’d tell me to take long walks and take it easy, so I was shocked by their responses.
“Keep it up as long and as much as you can!” said one of my doctors. She explained that pregnancy was not the time to start any new workout regimen. “If you’ve never cross-country skied, now is NOT the time to learn” she told me. “But if you’ve been working out intensely and getting in lots of cardio, you can stick to your workouts as long as you’re comfortable.”
“But what about pull ups and crunches and sit ups and things that work my abs?” I wanted to know. My doc said that was fine as long as I could handle it – that there would come a point in the pregnancy where it would no longer be comfortable or practical. “But keep it up as long as you can – it won’t hurt the baby, and it’ll aid you greatly during labor and delivery to have those muscles strong and ready to go.”
Still wanting more professional opinions, I asked the head of my OB practice for his take. “Knock yourself out, Girlfriend!” was his initial silly reply. He was thrilled I wanted to work out during pregnancy. He reminded me not to “push it too much” and to listen to my body. But he couldn’t be more pro-pregnancy-workout. His basic rule of thumb for workout advice seemed to be “what you were doing before you were pregnant, keep it up as long as you can while you’re pregnant, being careful to listen to your body.”
I have two girlfriends in South Carolina who were able to workout from home doing P90x for their entire pregnancies. I was always in awe of them for doing this, but after talking to my doctors, I realized they could do this because they were extremely fit and did P90x before they got pregnant. This seems to be a key element of working out during pregnancy: don’t start an exercise regimen after you get a positive pregnancy test, start exercising beforehand.
Armed with my doctors’ blessings, with CrossFit.com research, and with the website CrossfitMom.com as a source of information and a daily pregnancy WOD, I started CrossFitting pregnant.
(20 weeks preggers. Doing “wall balls” next to my kids’ play room. You start in squat mode, throw the medicine ball as high as you can in the air while you spring up, catch the ball and go back down into a full squat. Repeat. Sweat. Pant. Drink water. Grunt. Repeat. LOL.)
In the first trimester, I didn’t have to change my workout all that much. I just got rid of the timer. I did not work for intensity, just for completion, not worrying how long my workout took or how many reps I got in. The biggest first tri hurdle was awful morning sickness and utter exhaustion. I couldn’t work out every day, but on the days I could, I found it immensely helped my energy and also abetted my morning sickness (just a bit…it was still awful).
Now that I’m closing in on home stretch of the second trimester, I’ve had to scale things back much more. Up until about 18 weeks I was barely showing and my workouts were fairly “normal”, but then from one day to the next shazam! my big boy decided to show his stuff in my belly and my workouts changed quite a bit. [Yesterday afternoon when I went out to get the mail, my neighbor across the street hollered “Are you starting to count down the days yet?!?” I laughed politely but I wanted to retort “Dude, you have no idea what you just did to my second trimester ego.” Haha.]
I no longer do workouts that require lying on my back because it can cut off oxygen to the baby (and myself!) and I follow the prescriptions advised for second trimester moms on CrossfitMom.com. I don’t do any crazy weight lifting, just smaller weighted dumbbells. I focus a lot on squats, lunges, thrusters and things that keep my legs strong – I know this will help during labor. And I also work my arms via push ups, overhead dumbbell exercises, etc.
My second trimester workouts have been tremendously aided by wearing a belly band for extra support. My favorite workout buddy is currently my Blanqi body styler, but when I don’t want to get that sweaty, I also have a more traditional belly band – either one helps so much in holding Bear Cub #3 in place while I’m bopping around the family room.
Sometimes I just can’t get motivated to do CrossFit, and I instead pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD and do that (scaled to fit my pregnant body/condition). Some days I just need TV’s bad-ass trainer yelling at me through my workout.
In the third trimester, I imagine my workouts will look much the same as they do now: they are performed slowly and with good form. I take breaks when I need to, I quit when my body says “time out”, I drink tons of water, and I don’t let my heart rate get out of control. I’m not trying to be a perfectly fit preggers…I’m just trying to keep up a basic, healthy level of strength and stamina because I know it’s good for my body, and I’m confident it’s going to aid immensely in the most intense CrossFit workout a woman can ever, ever do: childbirth.
(Doing pull ups on a bar that’s hanging over my guest bathroom door jam.)
For more information on CrossFitting pregnant, visit CrossfitMom.com and CrossFit.com.
Tomorrow, I hope you’ll join me for a special edition of “Friday Favorites” – I’ll share the resources that helped me the most in getting started with CrossFit.
[Please note: the information shared here is for information purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before working out while pregnant. And if you’ve never CrossFitted before, pregnancy is not the time to start.]