Is CrossFit too intense for a pregnant woman? Is it dangerous for someone who is expecting to lift weights, work up a sweat or follow a regimented WOD at the box? (cult-speak for ‘workout’s in the gym’) This is a hot topic at the moment, ever since those pictures went viral of the now famous CrossFit Mom. (If you don’t know the ones, read this article)

I am not in any way comparing myself to CrossFit Mom who was a former body builder (and thus much more capable of coping with heavier weights and a more strenuous workout) but I am 100% PRO CrossFitting through pregnancy. This belief has earned me more than a few raised eyebrows. The first thing people do when I say I’m CrossFitting while pregnant is gasp in horror, then mutter accusing words about how I should be more careful now that I’m with child.

Which is exactly what I am doing.

Allow me to explain, with a little background.

The Past

The last 3 years have been quite something for my body and me. We went through seriously tough times, a few surgeries, healing, and getting fitter than ever before. I started to look out for this thing that carries me though life, and people noticed. Not because I’m ripped (I’m not) but because I am looking happier and healthier than ever.

I was intending on starting a ‘fitness and nutrition’ journal here on my blog, focusing on the normal, everyday 30-something woman and sharing my story of pursuing my health goals. But pregnancy got to me first.

Pregnancy is a real game changer!

Before I fell pregnant, I was an avid CrossFitter. But don’t let that fool you. When people hear the word ‘CrossFit’ it magically conjures up visions of hard, muscular bodies, glistening with sweat and grimacing faces of the show-offy-variety.

0% body fat and 8-packs never looked so good as it does on a CrossFit body in a motivational meme.

But that was never me. I call myself the worlds least fit CrossFitter, because I don’t run the fastest, can only dead-lift 75kg’s and still can’t do an unassisted pull up. And as for my body fat percentage…lets rather not talk about that. But for the 2 and a half years that I did CrossFit, I took on a new shape, new strength and I loved every moment of it. I was as proud of my 2-pack as anyone ever could be of their 8’s – pot belly and all!

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December 2014 – first month of pregnancy

Once pregnant, I had to re-look at my fitness regime. Most of the first trimester was a scary time for me, and I took extra precautions not because my body needed it, but because my nerves did. Not only was I falling asleep like a narcoleptic, I was just not feeling as strong and motivated as before. My focus shifted from pounding myself into shape to protecting and nurturing the growing bundle of cells in my belly.

Of course, I didn’t stop exercising all together – something my doctor encouraged me to keep doing. I started taking brisk 10k walks along the oceanfront. I upped my pilates classes per week to make up for the fact that I wasn’t CrossFitting regularly anymore and added in yoga sessions to open up and stretch out. But I never stopped missing my WOD’s in the box.

The Present

Strength training is safe and one of the best ways to minimize aches and pains – FITPREGNANCY.COM

The second I was feeling stronger, more comfortable in my new changing vessel of a body, and got the green light from my doctor, I returned to CrossFit. My doctor (a top South African OBGYN specialist who had seen me through previous complications) explained in detail how someone at my fitness level prior to pregnancy could benefit from keeping up her regime. The risk is not what people think it is – in fact, it is beneficial to keep going.

What is risky for expectant mothers is starting to exercise heavily from scratch only after you have become pregnant, or to stop all together. It is more important to stay fit and healthy for the baby before, and right through pregnancy, and so I went back to CrossFit armed with happy positivity, stretchy gym pants, and a completely new approach.

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April 2015 – 5 and a half months pregnant, working on my squat.

I am almost 6 months pregnant, and feel more alive and energized by my CrossFit sessions than ever. It’s a matter of quality beating quantity. I scale all my workouts accordingly, doing all the moves I can, but with much lighter weights, and I swap in alternative moves for the things that are not recommended while pregnant or that just don’t feel good. I listen to my body, the coach, my doctor, and read up a lot to make sure I am not doing anything that might cause damage to my baby.

I invested in a heart rate monitor too, just to be on the safe side, and follow the recommended guideline given to me by my OBGYN. I make sure to keep my heart rate within a conservative range and never go over to the place where the muscles could boguard oxygen (essentially ‘stealing’ it from the uterus and my baby).

Some people still worry that exercise prevents blood from flowing to the uterus, but in actual fact, the complete opposite is true. Mindful exercise (carefully following guidelines for pregnancy) that gets your blood pumping increases circulation, which assists in carrying oxygen and nutrients to all corners of the body effectively and efficiently. It also helps with so many common pregnancy woes (swelling, water retention, varicose veins, constipation, hemorrhoids, insomnia…the list goes on) that it’s not only worth the time on the ‘black-mat’, it’s probably necessary. The verdict is in: Mommy has a health boost from being active – and this study showed that the babies of active moms-to-be benefit too.

Three of us are pregnant at my CrossFit box, and we often train together. It’s so much fun to be in the same boat, experiencing this crazy new phase of our lives together while getting those endorphins worked up into a frenzy (a great way to combat the preggie-hormone-blues!) My friend, Bee, even invented our own ‘preggie burpee’. Now that’s dedication.

While we all scale, we have different thresholds and do what we feel is right at an individual level. Because every pregnancy and every woman is different, it’s a comfortable place to be. No one questions the other, and no one pushes us to do any more than we decide to do. Mommy Knows Best.

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B and Bee – the other two preggie-fairies at the box

Even still, I could be seen as the most cautious of the trio. But instead of berating myself for being the worst at the box, I congratulate myself for being able to shift my focus. It’s not that I don’t want to go harder, but I decided right from the beginning that I was going to use this time to be a little more inward focused, and to work more on correct form than on power. I tackle those squats with the lowest weight I feel happy with, and try to use my time making sure I keep my posture right, shoulders set, knees out and correct all the things I may have rushed through before when I was going for gold.

I have found that pregnancy is doing wonders for my concentration on each individual move because I am completely focused on what my body is telling me for the sake of my baby. As a result, along with all the yoga and pilates, my mobility is improving in leaps and bounds –something I really needed but never got around to paying too much attention to before.

So while intensity is not goal for me at this time, functional movement is, (another core foundation of CrossFit) and I am enjoying it more than ever.

The Future 

Weight training strengthens and tones your muscles and helps you build stamina, which you need during labor and delivery – BABYCENTER.COM

Every woman and every pregnancy is different, but those who exercised before pregnancy are usually able to continue working out at the same level – This is what the doctors are saying now.

Gone are the days when pregnancy was an excuse to sit on your butt and eat a tub of ice cream in front of the TV every day. Gone is the lie that we are ‘eating for two’, or that pregnant women can’t do anything more strenuous than walk over to the fridge for another slice of custard pie…

More physically active pregnancies have taken the place of sedentary ones, as research has shown that a healthy routine (including weight training) is beneficial for both mom and baby, helping with everything from blood circulation to birth. A recent study showed that 50- to 55-minute sessions of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and flexibility-building exercises gave the babies of those active moms a lower risk of being injured during birth and/or developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer later in life.

We are no longer eating for two, we are exercising for two!

It is now, as they would say in the olden days, more prudent to be a weight-lifting CrossFit Mom than not doing any form of exercise when navigating a pregnancy and bringing new life into the world.

 

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The Verdict

I am fully aware that things are changing in my growing body, and what I am comfortable with today might not work for me (and baby) tomorrow. There are days when I just can’t face a WOD, but the days I can, I do. I am entering the final trimester now, so things are going to start escalating from here on. But I will take every step along the way with as mindful an approach as I have been doing, and will always put my baby first.

Maybe, from now on, instead of telling people I’m CrossFitting when they ask what exercise I’m doing, I’ll just say I’m doing a little bit of light weight training in between my preggie yoga, pre-natal pilates and walks on the promenade to keep them happy.

And then baby and I will keep doing what we know is best.

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IMAGES: 1. Via GET THE GLOSS / 2. Via BRUCE SIMPSON / 3. Via My iPhone / 4. Via TAGG CROSSFIT / 5. Via ETSY.COM /