Last week a major “CrossFit Controversy” was unleashed when California bodybuilder Lea-Ann Ellison posted a picture of herself lifting weights on Facebook. That is, lifting heavy weights while 8 1/2 months pregnant.
Google “CrossFit Controversy” and you can read as much of the firestorm that followed as you’d like. CNN. Fox News. The Guardian. Huffington Post. You name it, they’ve been talking about Lea-Ann, as those both pro- and con- intense exercise during pregnancy speak their minds.
It’s no secret to my readers that I, too, am a fan of CrossFit. In fact earlier this year I did a mini series on my journey CrossFitting postpartum after my second baby and also while pregnant with my third child. Since this latest controversy has sparked many a CrossFit conversation in my own family and circle of friends, I thought I too would “weigh in” (ha!) with my own two poods.
While the pictures of Lea-Ann weight lifting while preggers is quite shocking to most of us, it’s my opinion that those who’ve been harshly judging Lea-Ann’s pregnancy choices are judging her through the lens not of “what you are doing is intrinsically bad” but instead “what you are doing would be intrinsically bad for a pregnant woman like me.”
Most of us women are not bodybuilders. Most of us have not been coached in an exercise regimen that could hold a candle to the training Lea-Ann has been through in the past two and a half years. I’ve come to realize, especially during my recent third pregnancy, that each woman is capable of a unique set of strength and stamina skills, and we each have to make our own choices (while consulting with our doctors of course) during pregnancy about what our bodies can handle.
When I was in college my best friend’s sister-in-law was a Marine Corps training officer. At up to six and seven months pregnant, my friend’s SIL was leading her troops out into the wilderness on week-long training/endurance missions. She was running many miles a day, sleeping in the woods, and eating fairly lousy food. It would be easy for most of us women to look at this pregnant mama and judge “that is just dumb – you’re putting your baby and your body in danger.”
But the reality is, it would be dumb for most of us pregnant women to be out in the wilderness. Me at seven months pregnant? HA! I’d be a total freaking disaster left outdoors for a week. But my friend’s SIL was conditioned for her job – she had strength and stamina before getting pregnant that I only dream of having. Her body and her baby could handle it, while mine certainly would not could not should not.
Another prime example is my younger sister, who is an amazingly fit athlete and marathon runner. My sister ran close to thirty miles a week for her entire pregnancy. In fact she was just stepping on her elliptical for an afternoon “run” when she felt her first real contraction and went into labor. My nephew was born just hours later. Now, many women could easily cast stones at my sister, saying to run great distances and work out intensely during pregnancy is “unwise” and “bad for your baby”. But that’s because most women aren’t marathon runners. And those elite athletes who are can often handle exertion in pregnancy in ways the rest of us cannot. Me run 10 miles at a time while pregnant? Forgetaboutit! But for my sis, it was the best thing she could possibly do to maintain her super healthy pregnancy.
My experience CrossFitting pregnant was unbelievably positive. While I was extra careful and went super slow with my WODs while pregnant, it gave me just the right amount of strength and conditioning to maintain a healthy physique, a healthy amount of weight gain, and the energy and general health I needed to keep up with my two toddlers while incubating my third Bear Cub. By far this third was my easiest pregnancy, and I attribute that in large part to my CrossFit regimen.
When I look at Lea-Ann’s pictures, I’m reminded how important it is for each of us mothers to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle through our diet and exercise decisions. We need strength and energy and focus to keep up with our kids all day (and night!) long. We deserve to feel great in the process – for our own sake and for our family’s sake. Each of us doesn’t have to be a bodybuilder or an elite athlete like Lea-Ann to achieve the goals of health and wellness. But each of us does need to pay attention and do the best that we can – both during pregnancies and afterwards.
Instead of judging those Mamas who’ve achieved unique fitness success, even while pregnant, it’s probably more productive to pursue what each of us can do to become a better, healthier, more fit version of ourselves.
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Photos by Nick Stern.