Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reflections: My CrossFIT Pregnancy

I have been wanting to write about my experience as a pregnant CrossFitter for a while now. There was an article in the CF Journal recently entitled "Working Out For Two", and it inspired me to sit down and document my journey.  I wrote a couple posts during my pregnancy that you can check out here.

I am so grateful for CrossFit, not just because it drastically and positively affected my pregnancy, birth, and the health of my son, but because it has changed my life.  CrossFit has redefined how I view health, fitness, and strength.  Having struggled with disordered eating for half of my life, CrossFit has really helped me cross over the bridge from equating health with thinness, to internalizing strength as my new definition of healthy. 


 Shortly after finding out Finn was a being, at Fight Gone Bad IV last year.  About 6 weeks 

 16 weeks- box jumps
 18 weeks- kettle bell swings

 20 weeks

 22 weeks- good mornings 

 28 weeks- prowler pushes!

30 weeks- pull ups!

32 weeks- KB swings

 more pull ups!

33 weeks- deadlifting

 such an  excited daddy to be!

 35 weeks- Over Head Squats

 tired after MORE pull ups

 I ran throughout the pregnancy, it stared to get a bit hard at the end!  36 weeks!

 My belly says "4 more weeks!"



 KB swings, 37 weeks

 trying my best to do sit-ups!

ACK !  Pull ups at 38 weeks!


Mostly, I had positive feedback and awesome encouragement throughout my pregnancy.  People in the CrossFit community had a "more power to you!" attitude and really seemed to "get it" that I was just continuing to stay committed to the same activity level as I had before pregnancy.  Others seemed to be in awe and did not quite understand how I could still do pull ups when I was 39 weeks along, but were supportive all the same.  A few people expressed concern, and maybe others were worried but never approached me about it.  Then there was the "old wive's tales" contingency who said things like, "if you put your hands over your head, the baby's cord will get wrapped around its neck!"  or, "if you pick up that heavy thing, you will strain your overies!"  That's sooo 1910...

When I found out I was pregnant last September, I did my research.  I knew that not exercising or really even changing my fitness lifestyle significantly at all was not an option. So I talked to some experts.  The best advice I got came from a former Olympic athlete named Alex Allred who continued to train under the close supervision of an OB who monitored her  and her baby's health throughout. She is the fitness and nutrition expert on pregnancy.org

This is her response to my questions about continuing  high intensity exercise while carrying child:

"First things first -- yes, a heart monitor is important.  You don't want your heart rate so high that it causes distress to the baby.  But here in lies  the problem with elite athletes -- as I believe you are. A heart rate of 140 bpm may be significant to a woman in average shape but for you, this is nothing.  So, you naturally want to push a little harder. And because there is no real hard science on heart rates and elite pregnant athletes, its a crap shoot.

You can allow your heart rate to exceed 140 but what I tell my clients is do not stay there.  If I am working with someone who has gone up to 170 or more (be careful!!!), we work to bring it right back down.  As you know, there are plenty of ways to really work hard yet keep the heart rate stable.  What I am most interested in is your inner core temperature. Your baby's temperature is one degree Celsius higher than that of your own but unlike you -- your baby has no sweating mechanism and cannot regulate heat.  In other words, as you heat up ... so does baby.  I know this is gross but I swear by it and will not let my clients (pregnant) train without this one tool -- a rectal thermometer.  When you go to the gym, break after 18-22 minutes into the routine, go the bathroom and take your inner core temperature.

Women don't like this and always ask, "can't I just feel how hot I am?" or "can't I tell by how much I'm sweating?"  The answer is no -- because many times your body temp will spike as you move to different exercises.  You need to keep a tab on your body temperature every 20 minutes or so. Once you get near 100.5 degree F -- you are in a danger zone.  I don't like people to get higher than 101 degree F.

Two more tools -- water and a journal.  By keeping a written journal of each and every workout and noting your inner core temperature, you will also get a better idea of what exercises make your inner core temperature spike.  

The second trimester will bring you more energy but by the third, you will slow considerably. Into your second (midway) trimester, I would like to see you move away from the plyometrics -- jumping on the boxes.  Here's why.  Can you handle it?? Yes.  And the inner core temp is even manageable BUT your body is moving into the third trimester and joints are beginning to soften in preparation of child birth.  It is in the third pregnancy that there are more injuries to joints for moms-to-be who misstep, move too quickly.  Research shows that it is inactive, non athletic moms to be who experience the most injuries -- we jocks know how to move and have better muscle tone -- BUT you need to be careful.  The bounding is too hard on the joints.  As you get into the phase -- come back to me and I will set you up with intense workouts on the treadmill that minimize bounding but will really challenge you."

So I took all this advice.  I drank a ton of water. I kept a journal with my heart rate and core body temperature.  I stopped jumping on boxes when the belly got too big, and did step ups instead.  I did not go for one rep maxes in my lifts.  I used a little thing called common sense, and it served me very well. I am so happy that I worked as hard as I did.  It paid off.   I gained a minimal healthy amount of weight.  I had no post-baby body. I was in labor for 5 hours and I pushed for 20 minutes.  I progressed from 1cm to 9cm in an hour and a half. The nurses were shocked at the speed and ease of my delivery as a first time mom.  I whole heartedly believe I have CrossFit to thank for my easy delivery and healthy strong baby.  So thank you CrossFit and thank you ME for getting my ass into the gym when it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do!

34 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this Alex! What an inspiration you are to all pregnant women:) I think it is so important for women to know they can still workout and that it is ok. I had a friend once tell me that she compared pregnancy to training for a marathon. You wouldn't do a marathon without training and it should be the same thing for pregnancy. I think your labor experience is proof of what training can do for a pregnant woman. Hope you all are doing well!

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    1. Just a question, I can measure core temperature, during the weight section of the workout, my question is, what about during the met-con, isn't that when your heart rate really rises??

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  2. Great post darlin, it was an amazing inspiration to watch you work so hard through all the phases of the creation of our Finn!

    And coming out the other side of the pregnancy stronger and faster than ever before, evidenced by your placing as the 15th fittest woman in Colorado just three months later!

    Love you Strong Mama!

    Your Walden

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  3. Funny timing -- I just found your blog through KERF. We're *contemplating* trying for our first baby in the next year or so, and I was just saying to my husband LAST NIGHT, that there's part of me that wants to be in the best shape EVER before I get pregnant, but then I would just watch all that hard work go down the drain while I sit around pregnant for nine months. Your story proves that is not the case -- very inspiring! I guess I better set some goals and get to work.

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  4. Hi Melissa, you guessed it-pregnancy is not the time to sit around; quite the opposite ! As a friend said, would you train for a marathon by sitting on the couch? Think of labor and those first weeks with a newborn as your marathon :-) find some activity you love, train hard and stick with it throughout your pregnancy- you wont be sorry ! Thanks for reading !

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  5. I'm currently 33 weeks and still going strong, so it was great to hear about your Crossfit pregnancy as there is so very little out there on the topic!

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  6. Emma, that's awesome to hear! Are you CrossFitting as well? Lots of luck to you in your upcoming adventure, your perseverance and strength will serve you well!

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  7. Alex - thanks for posting this - you are an inspiration to all of us pregnant CFers. I am 35 weeks and have been CFing the entire pregnancy. In my second trimester, I even (unintentionally) set some PRs on lifts. I did lose my unassisted pull-up pretty early in the game, but figure the assistance from the band is about equal to the weight I have gained, so I should be back off the band post partum! Now that I am in the home stretch, my WOD times are slower, and I definitely don't do some exercises at all (GHD sit ups, knees to elbows), but most things I can modify pretty easily. I have gotten nothing but support from my CF family, although some co-workers and others think I am crazy! I think it is crazy to use pregnancy as an excuse to just sit around, and hope that keeping myself active will help me rebound quicker.

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  8. Emily, its amazing how much CF wills assist you in your labor and recovery. I think that's the biggest payoff (other than the baby of course !) And since I was doing wods til the day before his birth, I found it really natural to get right back in the gym soon afterwards. all the best !

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  9. Hi, I did Ironman Canada shortly before getting pregnant with my first. I was in great shape before pregnancy, I gained abaout 25lbs during pregnancy and wore my prepregnancy jeans home from the hospital 2 days after my son was born. I did some moderate exercise while I was pregnant, yoga, swimming, a bit of running, hiking but eased off the Ironman business a lot. What I found out though, is that the baby takes a lot out of you, during and after pregnancy. I suspect that I was depleted in some nutrients and minerals even though I ate well, took vitamins, clorella, D's, Omegas you name it. I struggled with energy levels and anxiety and quickly had to adjust my goal of getting into PR shape within 6 months (that was a stupid goal looking back), but partly due to sleep deprivation. I think that if you have been really fit within the last little while, this is not the time to worry about losing your fitness, or trying to be the most fit of your life during pregnancy or right after if you are breastfeeding. It comes back quickly once you decide to get back into it after. My personal lesson was that I should have instead focused on being in the best emotional shape of my life at that time. Whatever that takes is most nb. There is nothing more important when you are a new mom.

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  10. I am a committee crossfit mom of two toddlers 5 and 3 years old. I've been doing crossfit since December 1, I found out I was pregnant with my third baby on the 7th! Im now 6 months pregnant and have been doing crossfit 5 days a week. I feel fantastic and healthier than I've ever felt in my life!!! With the approval from my ob, and supervision of my trainer its been the best thing (and eating healthy) I could have ever done! Throughout these past few months we've had to modify as needed, and yes there is always a modification to be made for any workout!! I plan to continue as long as comfortably possible. I have gained 20 pounds so far, I think its about average? I look great and feel better than i look, its truly been the best pregnancy for me and i have crossfit to thank for that. My previous pregnancies I did not do crossfit, I gained 30 with my first and 40 with my second. I didn't workout regularly with either, but ate pretty healthy throughout with both. Overall Im healthier and happier, and love my Crossfit!!

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  11. Ashley, that's amazing you feel so much stronger with this pregnancy. Go girl! Isn't it a great feeling getting into the gym and doing WODs with your little one along for the ride? Congratulations and keep up the hard work :)

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  12. Alex, how quickly after you gave birth did you go back to doing CrossFit. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and have been doing CF through the pregnancy and it's been awesome. I'm wondering what the recovery will be like and how long I'll have to stay out of the gym. Any advice?

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    1. Anna I waited 1 week after birth. I had a fast and easy delivery and very little tearing. My only concern was opening up the stitches (which were minimal anyway ) when I went back I pretty much resumed normal training with no ill effects. Of course it totally depends on how your labor and delivery goes. You'll know very cleary how you're feeling and your body will tell you when it's time to go back ! Best of luck !

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  13. Thanks for sharing this! I've been CrossFitting for 2 years now. I just found out I am 7 weeks along(!), but I feel so tired (and nauseated) during WODs, I wonder if I will be able to keep this up. Pre-pregnancy, I was a 5:30 am WOD'er but waking up that early now, and putting a full day in at work is difficult! It is summer in South Texas, so I am worried about WOD'ing in the afternoons due to the extreme heat. Did you find your energy levels rose after the 1st trimester? Thanks!

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    1. Congratulations ! It was very very tough finding the motivation in those first few weeks. I just had to force myself to get into the gym. It was definitely easier after the 1st trimester passed. Best of luck, I don't envy your Texas summer !

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  14. I just found out that I am pregnant and I was researching to see if I can keep crossfitting. I found your posts extremely helpful and motivating. Just curious if you follow the paleo diet and if you continued during your pregnancy. Thanks!

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    1. Hey Katie, congratulations ! I didn't actually really embrace the paleo diet until my son was 6 months old. So he definitely had the standard American diet to some extent (gluten, whole grains etc) in utero. But he's been pretty much a paleo baby since birth. Our whole family is now paleo but we do believe strongly raw milk. There's lots of good online resources on staying Primal/paleo during pregnancy. All the best !

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  15. Alex - I can't tell you how thrilled I am that I finally found another person as dedicated to staying fit throughout pregnancy. I am on my second pregnancy, 27 weeks exactly, and have been in the gym, and doing cross fit, all the time. I pushed in the gym till the last day with my first, and intend to do so this time as well.
    I do, unfortunately, have a lot of people who tell me how "crazy" I am, and that I push too hard, etc...although I am strictly supervised by both my trainer and the cf trainers constantly. Did you have any negative reactions to your training? If so, how did you respond?
    Also, when it came to running, did you monitor your heart rate or breathing more closely? I find that very recently it has become increasingly difficult to run without my heart rate really jumping up.

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    1. Isn't is a great feeling ? I'm sure you experienced the benefits of staying so active and dedicated to CrossFit through your first pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I know it's not always easy so congrats on being so strong ! Honestly, I was in a really supportive environment in my box so the naysayers were pretty few and far between. Mostly I encountered folks who were just.baffled and couldn't understand how I could life heavy things, do pullups, and run through the entire pregnancy. Nothing really unkind though, just ignorant. I'm sorry if you've experienced negativity, remember you know your body better than anyone else !

      After the first trimester, I didn't monitor heart rate very closely, but I continued to take my internal body temp and of course drank tons of water. Best of luck !

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  16. This post is just what I've been looking for! I statrted Crossift 8 months ago and have accomplished so much. One week ago, I discovered I'm expecting. I'm ecstatic but was instantly concerned about having to lose the ground I've made in Crossfit. The advice you give - and the specific criteria we can track during exercise - is so helpful in that it helps me to keep going at the box with some ways to know I'm not stressing the baby. Yay! You made my night. Awesome work, by the way. You're inspiring me.

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  17. inspiring, and as a crossfit soon to be mom (23 weeks!) i get it, and live by it! my friends don't understand and think i'm crazy! never stop life, we aren't sick, we are pregnant! modify modify modify xo

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  18. This was such a helpful post! Me and my husband are trying to have a child right now. We both do Crossfit together everyday and I'm actually a trainer. I understand how keeping up the work will help with the pregnancy but I still get a little discouraged when I think about having a baby in me while working out! It was just neat to see your progress. And keeping your body temp through out the work out is a very good idea. I 100% believe the movements of Crossfit are so functional being able to do them while being pregnant will be good, challenging at times; yes, but good!
    One question though, what did your OB think about you doing Crossfit? Being its a high intensity type of program. Was he understanding?

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    1. My OB was veeeeeery laid back. She was very trusting of my judgement. I know other moms with docs who are not as supportive. Keep up the awesome work, CrossFit definitely proved to be functional in labor, delivery, and recovery.!

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  19. Thank you so much for this post! I have JUST found out I am pregnant...eeeeek! I am determined to keep strong, healthy and crossfitting even though I already feel nauseous. I have spoken to my Doctor and my trainer who are both supportive of my plans. Already friends are saying "oooh you'll have to stop crossfit/weight lifting/you're crazy fitness stuff." I think I will find it a challenge if people are critical but I hope that my little CrossFit community will get behind me :)

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    1. In my experience during my pregnancy and seeing other CrossFit moms to be in various boxes, the community is so supportive and wonderful. You'll inspire everyone around you ! Those who don't get it , well... They just aren't ever going to get it. Best of luck !

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  20. This post was very inspiring for me and I'm very glad you decided to share your experience. I did start crossfit about a month before I conceived but didn't feel like I'd got into it enough to continue during pregnancy. However, I was doing outdoor boot camp (HIIT, kickboxing and body weight exercises 3x per week) and running (8-10km 2x per week) for 1 year before and decided to continue. I'm now 22 weeks pregnant, but beginning to struggle! Did you have any problems with the stretching of ligaments? I am getting stitch-like pain often when I run or do push ups. I'm very sensible and slow down or stop when I get sore, and then resume when I'm feeling better, but it's very frustrating! I've gained quite a lot of weight (18lbs) so far and I am beginning to really stuggle with body weight exercises.....although kikcboxing is wonderful as I can just stand and punch/kick! Did you find you put on extra muscle as you got heavier? You were still doing pull-ups with an extra 25lbs! My body fat % has only gone up ~2% so I presume most of the weight gain is baby, placenta, fluid etc. and possibly a bit of extra muscle....although that is possibly wishful thinking!

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    1. Morven, I was very lucky and didn't have any ligament pain. Each womans body seeems to respond so individually to being pregnant. Body weight exercises were definitely challenging those pull ups were near impossible. I would say I maintained my.muscle mass throughout, I didn't necessarily gain or lose any. I think that really helped me bounce back quickly to resume training after birth. Kick boxing sounds like a great option, as long as you feel strong, keep on going !

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  21. Dear crossfit moms,how nice to read about your experiences. I started CF in August this year and got really hooked. I hAve always done a lot of sports but easily get bored. I only did three WoD /week but got fast results and its so fun! Now to my concern, Im now 8 weeks pregnant ( my third, one 4year and one 1,5 year toddler at home) and due to hyperemesis I have been unable to exercise for 3 weeks and the only thing that doesnt come back up are carbohydrates. Do you hAve any experencies/ tips how to get back in thebox?! I did exercise during my otherpregnancies but not until from about 16-20 weeks. Good Luck to you all!

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  22. Dear crossfit moms,how nice to read about your experiences. I started CF in August this year and got really hooked. I hAve always done a lot of sports but easily get bored. I only did three WoD /week but got fast results and its so fun! Now to my concern, Im now 8 weeks pregnant ( my third, one 4year and one 1,5 year toddler at home) and due to hyperemesis I have been unable to exercise for 3 weeks and the only thing that doesnt come back up are carbohydrates. Do you hAve any experencies/ tips how to get back in thebox?! I did exercise during my otherpregnancies but not until from about 16-20 weeks. Good Luck to you all!

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  23. Hi there,

    I am a 30 year old lady from the Gold Coast Australia and have been Crossfitting for 12 months and about the start trying for a baby. I have spoke to my doctor as she is very cautious about taking it easier etc (I don't believe she understands whsat CF is). I currently train with Crossfit Babes Miami (formerly Urban Babes)on the Golc Coast in QLD in a all female Crossfit Box (first of it's kind of the Gold Coast). Do you have any tips or experiences you could share that might help me. I don't want to stop doing CF altogether just want to be careful to have the best pregnancy possible. Thanks so much you are an inspiration..

    Nadia

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  24. Hi There,

    My husband and I are planning to start a family soon, which has me doing a lot of research on pregnancy and crossfit, since I'm a committed crossfitter who WODs three times a week. My main concern is if I'm pregnant during the summer and being able to handle the heat. We live in Texas and my crossfit gym is in an old garage that doesn't have AC - just lots of open doors and large fans. The temps during the summer can easily reach 105 during the hottest part of the day. Is there anything additional you'd recommend for maintaining your temperature besides just checking it? Our WODS are usually 15 - 30 minutes within an hour long class - so my temperature wouldn't be high for long. Any additional tips or advice would be great!

    Thanks,
    Meredith

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  25. I envy you. A couple of weeks ago (at 17 weeks), I was told by a medical practitioner that I am NOT allowed to do any crossfit, weight training or running because I am ruining my back. I was very shocked as pre-pregnancy, I was training 4-5 days a week and getting very strong. Although my box really encouraged me (and as I am a personal trainer), I just did what I felt capable of physically. But this just feels like a huge punch in the gut being told no more. Right now, I'm starting to wish the days would speed up just so I can return. I missed out on a state level competition due to morning sickness and the current games because of this doctor, both which I was training hard for. Not happy. Fantastic effort to all you pregnant women who do and who can continue to train. I'm with you in spirit.

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  26. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I love crossfit and when I found out I was pregnant I was told to stop by my doctors and I was harming my baby. My coaches are encouraging me to keep coming and modify as needed. I am almost 11 wks and still doing crossfit. Hope I can continue until the end. Goal is a natural labor! Your story is very encouraging for me to keep going!!

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