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Thursday, October 4, 2012

CrossFitting for a Healthy Pregnancy

22 weeks pregnant
Hello, it's Mike's pregnant wife!  I wanted to share my experience CrossFitting while pregnant. I actually started working out regularly 3 times per week about 3 months before I got pregnant. I'd also been eating pretty "clean" (mostly organic, one ingredient foods) for about 2 years prior. I'm only 22 weeks into my first pregnancy, and this is purely anecdotal evidence but I'd like to think that my healthy eating and regular workouts helped us to not only get pregnant on the first try, but has also (so far) helped me have a very easy and pleasant pregnancy.  I've gained about 10lbs so far, and it seems to only be in the mid section at this point so that's good news!  I like to think I come from a very fertile family (7 children on both my mother's and father's sides, 4 siblings of my own, and about 45 cousins.) with no history of major disease or birth defects which of course does help, but I firmly believe that aside from genetics, diet and exercise are the most important elements to a healthy pregnancy.

It's a Boy! Mike & I the day we found out the sex. (At CrossFit Syracuse)
I am very lucky to have a husband that is a personal trainer. And I am ashamed to admit that he's been a pretty serious CrossFit fanatic for over 5 years and I've only been doing the workouts for about 8 months now. It took me a while to get into it, but now that I am knee deep I sure do love it and can definitely see myself doing this for life.  When I found out I was pregnant, I didn't even stop for a second to contemplate quitting my workouts. There are a number of reasons, #1 would be because Mike is my husband and I know how safe he is, and how since I am carrying his child he will be exra careful in supervising me while in the gym. #2 is because one of my good friends CrossFitted up until the day before she gave birth and I saw how great it was for her. We interviewed her at a CrossFit competition when she was 6 months pregnant check it out here. The third reason I am eager to keep working out during my pregnancy is because I know how beneficial it is for both me and the baby.  I see it as training for labor for both of us. I know that labor will be HARD WORK, and it will challenge just about every muscle in my body and every last ounce of my mental capacity and then some. CrossFit trains me every single workout not only in a variety of muscle groups, but mentally and emotionally as well. When we're told to push as hard as we can for a certain time period, we do it. Whether we're doing a hollow hold, max pushups or rowing for distance.  During labor and during a WOD (workout of the day), you can't just give up and stop in the middle of it because its too hard. You keep going!

During a workout, I do everything everyone else does, I just scale it to what I feel comfortable doing. As I get more and more pregnant, that comfort level will decrease, and I will take it easier, but I will always do some sort of workout. The mission each workout is to get the body moving in some way, and to do what I can to help keep my core strong and capable of making it through labor as quickly and as safely as possible when that time comes.  I do not pay attention to time or weight amounts, I just pay attention to how I feel. Some people recommend using a heart monitor to make sure you don't go over a certain beats per minute because that can put stress on the baby, but I've also read that all you have to do is listen to how you feel, and use the "talk test" - if you can talk comfortably through the workout, you're working at a completely safe rate.  Obviously every one is different and you should always "talk to your doctor" about what you're doing in the gym. But to be honest, most doctors don't know what the heck CrossFit is and some will even say you should stop working out. It is up to the person what they choose, but personally any doctor that tells me I should stop working out once pregnant is not someone I'd like to ever see again.

21 weeks pregnant, doing leg lifts at CrossFit Syracuse
As far as the workouts, I do scale just about everything. Or rather Mike will scale it for me. For instance, instead of burpees he has me just do squat thrusts because he doesn't want me slamming my stomach on the floor over and over again (great guy, huh!?). Another exercise that is great for pregnant women in that it is great at strengthening the back and core is the deadlift. For that, I usually use a 75lb kettlebell (so the weight is evenly dispersed) and always make sure I can comfortably carry on a conversation while working out. It is also good to use dumbells instead of barbells because eventually the belly will get in the way of the bar.  For a workout we did yesterday, everyone else ran 800m and Mike has me run about half that.  I do banded pull ups (haven't been able to get a pull up on my own yet, but hope to once I lose this babyweight- figure a 9month weight vest is good training!) and just recently I did leg lifts on the bar instead of toes to bar. Those are just some of the examples of scaling that I've done. CrossFit Mom is a great resource for scaling and modifications for pregnant women. They take the workout on the CrossFit mainsite each day and post alternatives for all skill levels/pregnancy levels. It's a very handy resource I highly recommend. Fortunately, I haven't really had to use the site much, as Mike does the scaling for me, but it is nice to have that community of knowledge there to back CrossFit and its advantages.

FACTS ABOUT MATERNITY WORKOUTS
Retrieved from CrossFit Journal Article

Women who exercise during pregnancy:
  • Have reduced weight gain and fat deposition during pregnancy
  • Have fewer pregnancy discomforts
  • Report a more rapid physical and emotional recovery from delivery
  • Tend to have easier, shorter and less complicated labors
  • Have less need for pain relief during labor
  • Have more stamina during labor
  • Increase their aerobic capacity
  • Decrease their susceptibility to illness
  • Increase their energy level
Babies of exercising moms:  
  • Have significantly lower heart rates than babies of non-exercising moms
  • Are better able to cope with the stress of birth
  • Have a greater ability to adapt to life outside the uterus
  • Are more healthy at birth
  • Are leaner at birth and tend to stay lean as they grow
  • Sleep through the night sooner
  • Are better able to self-calm
  • Score higher on tests of general intelligence and oral language skills
  • Have decreased risks of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases later in life
  • Have better attention spans often in their second year of life (if the mom ingested Omega-3 during pregnancy)

It helps that I started working out prior to getting pregnant, so continuing the workouts while pregnant has been an easy transition. Obviously starting CrossFit brand new while pregnant isn't a bad thing, but you may have to go really, really easy and not freak out if you don't see awesome results or "gains" as they sometimes call them. CrossFitting and working out in general while pregnant for the normal non competitive athlete like myself should be about training for labor and just getting the body moving each day to get strong enough that the pregnancy experience goes by without any major discomforts. I know there will be discomforts, but hopefully the stronger I am, the less those will affect me! I honestly believe that my eating well and exercising regularly has helped me not have morning sickness EVER and has helped me to keep the little aches and pains that go along with pregnancy at a minimum so far. (Actually, I am sure the minor aches and pains I have had here and there have more to do with normal muscle soreness from workouts and from sitting all day at work than from the pregnancy!)

I've done a lot of reading about other people's experiences CrossFitting while pregnant and I wanted to share my story. I'm just over halfway there and so far its been a great pregnancy! I hope it stays that way, and I'll be sure to post more updates as I continue on this journey. Come February 2013 we'll have a happy, healthy, bouncy baby boy Elliott to welcome into the world! Thanks for reading, I hope this post helps someone just like the resources below helped me!

Some blogs/resources from other CrossFitters that I've enjoyed:

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