Pregnancy and CrossFit

Pregnancy and CrossFit - The Pros and Cons

Once the endorphin inducing, confidence building CrossFit bug has bitten, it can be difficult to give it up when falling pregnant. Apart from a serious case of FOMO, retreating to the couch with no physical activity is sure to lead to muscle loss, unhealthy weight gain and a psycho mom who has no healthy way to rid her of hormonal frustrations and emotional build up.

Pregnant? Adjust training, don’t stop

Obviously the first step is to seek medical advice. Consider whether there are any factors particular to your pregnancy that would make training unsafe. If not, adjust the WODs to suit your stage of pregnancy, the size of your belly and how you feel on each particular day.

General rules

·         Do not allow your core temperature to get too high (no higher than 38.8 degrees)

·         Avoid working to respiratory exhaustion as this will limit the baby's oxygen supply (you should be able to continue a conversation while training)

·         Be cautious of plyometric and fast sideways movements because the ligaments supporting the joints are laxer during pregnancy

·         Rope climbs, handstand push-ups and box jumps are not worth the risk of falling

·         Heavy, max effort or high volume lifting should be avoided as the potential for injury or falling is too high 

Q&A with our very own pregnant CrossFitter:

Rowina Dawson

1. Did you train while you were pregnant with your first child? If not/if so, why?

I stopped CrossFit very shortly after I found out I was pregnant with Amber as there wasn’t much research at that time about CrossFit and pregnancy. Being diabetic, I already fall into a high risk pregnancy category so I didn’t want to complicate things further. As it was my first pregnancy, I was also a lot more paranoid about what I could and couldn’t put my body through.

I was advised to keep my heart rate fairly low if I did want to train, and after monitoring it for a few weeks during my last CrossFit sessions, I realised it was going to be near impossible, so instead I moved back to training at Virgin Active and did so up until I was 7,5 months (when I got the flu). Once I’d finally recovered (because pregnant flu is worse than man flu) I took a few yoga/Pilates classes at the gym, as I couldn’t bear the thought of being inactive.

When I did train, I did a lot of light weights (15-20kg bars) and kept to as much of the CrossFit movements that I could do. I practiced front squats, back squats, kettle bells, push presses, overhead squats, etc. I also did some light jogging on the treadmill which eventually turned into walking the more uncomfortable it got.

2. Have you taken a different approach to training with your second child?

I have definitely taken a different approach this time. Although the advice from the gynae has generally been the same, and most of the guidelines haven’t changed (i.e. still keeping your heart rate under 120 bpm), there is more public information available about CrossFit and pregnancy so I don’t feel as worried as I did the first time. Also having trained the way I did with the first pregnancy, I know what I am capable of now and how far I can push myself.

I do still worry sometimes about pushing too hard (because what fun is CrossFit if you can’t push yourself until you fall over), but I’ve been really well looked after by our coaches, particularly our paramedic/coach, Judy, who is there to answer any of my concerns and has sent me a lot of interesting reads about pregnancy and CrossFit.

3. What has the biggest change in your training regime been since becoming pregnant?

Without a doubt having to adapt to a bigger and more uncomfortable body. I’m not used to being the size that I am and being restricted to any movements, so having to adjust almost every WOD to what I can do, and what I can’t do, and what I should do and what I shouldn’t do, has been both mentally and physically challenging and frustrating. I am also a lot more tired now, so finding the energy to get to class has been difficult at times.

4. How have you had to adapt your approach to training during this time?

I’ve had to lower my weights when lifting, not push to get PBs or 1RMs, but rather stay at a comfortable lifting weight. I’ve had to cut down or totally cut out anything cardio related, so running, rowing and cycling are now just a gentle stroll in the park. I’ve had to substitute things like burpees, push ups, T2B, box jumps for more gentle versions, but most of all I’ve had to ensure that my heart rate doesn’t go too high (my resting heart rate is already elevated, so this is by far the hardest task). A simple warm up can send my heart rate through the roof sometimes!

5. Has training had a positive effect (physically and mentally) while pregnant?

I would say that when I have been able to train, 9 times out of 10, training has given me a great high! Maybe not so much physically (as even the simplest movements are a lot tougher now), but definitely mentally. Just like the completion of a tough WOD used to be rewarding in the past, I have a similar sense of achievement knowing that I’ve put in another training session, pushed as hard as I could and (hopefully) reaped as many of the benefits as I could.

Training with all these restrictions is slowly teaching me not to get frustrated at not being able to do what I used to do, but to just accept that this is where I am now and to appreciate it. After all, there aren’t a hell of a lot of women who do remain active during pregnancy. It doesn’t come easy though, and I constantly need to remind myself not to get frustrated.

6. Is there anything that frustrates you about training while pregnant?

Everything!! But most of all, training when you’re pregnant means that you miss out on a lot of the social aspects of each class, as you often have to work alone, because your training is just so different to the rest of the class. So I do miss the social interaction and being able to work with a partner/partners.

7.  Would you recommend training to other pregnant moms?

Definitely!! My only regret with this pregnancy is that I wasn’t able to train for the first 3.5 months (all day morning sickness, 4 week-flu that turned into bronchitis, followed by another cold and a stomach bug), so I have only just gotten back into it, and am really feeling the strain now. Not only because I’m more than halfway through the pregnancy but I’ve also been off for such a long time. So like any normal athlete, it’s a slow return back to fitness with an added small human being to carry and consider.

By Diane Teles, Co-Founder of CrossFit 360Vida, Level 1 Coach and Physiotherapist