Barbells and Babies

Should you continue to push, pull and press through pregnancy?
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CrossFit Pregnancy

The “glow” we often associate with pregnant women is not typically generated from beads of sweat as mom-to-be maneuvers through a workout, barbell in hand. In fact, for the bulk of the population, that sight might be a bit startling. A baby bump tends to draw a type of helpful attention: people offering to carry grocery bags, reserved parking spots right up front and the assumption that for nine months a woman should remain stagnant and eat plentifully. So when an active mother-to-be is seen jogging, lifting and breathing heavy, an air of concern may develop.

In recent weeks a spotlight was placed on pregnant women who continue to CrossFit. Images of a third-trimester mama, armed with a kettlebell, went viral. Social-media mothers went wild with opinions, and Inside Edition and CNN questioned the safety of a woman in her “state” exerting such effort. As a mother of two, my youngest being only 10 weeks old, I can’t help but address the negative stigma attached to athletic expectants.

I was lucky enough to experience two healthy and uneventful pregnancies. Like many mothers, I took guidance from my doctor, family and friends as I made my way through the better part of those two years. At 24, pregnant with my first, I experienced a great deal of morning sickness, fatigue and low self-esteem. I felt weak and exhausted, despite the fact that I was perfectly healthy, according to medical standards. I walked a few times per week but disengaged from any further physical activity for fear of harming the baby inside me. Shortly after my son was born, I discovered CrossFit, and it reignited my passion for health and fitness.

Fast-forward several years. As I prepared to open my own CrossFit gym with my husband and two other partners, I discovered I was pregnant with my second. I made a conscious decision to keep my health and happiness a top priority. I continued to CrossFit with the approval of my physician and took steps to modify my workouts to accommodate any discomfort or potentially risky movements. Nausea was nonexistent, my energy level remained intact, and I felt strong, capable and confident even through delivery.

Our society encourages frailty in women. Media idealizes waifish models in fashion magazines and fragile expecting mothers. It’s unfortunate that women are given the impression that if they eat a piece of salmon, get their heart rate a little high or neglect to use endless amounts of hand sanitizer, their baby will most certainly be in harm’s way. Relax, folks. Pregnancy is not an illness nor is it a weakness. Our bodies are built for many things, including bearing children and physical activity. If you don’t use and care for a machine, it will rust and deteriorate, and the human body is no exception. I can only imagine that in most circumstances, a healthy and active body has the best shot at delivering a healthy baby and quickly recovering. Family physician Dr. Charity Reiser Baker offered, “There is no evidence that working out during pregnancy causes any harm/miscarriages, and there is good evidence that those who are in shape going into labor/delivery do much better than those who have eaten excessively and laid around for nine months. Labor is like a marathon: Train appropriately.”

I must acknowledge that every woman, every body and every pregnancy are unique. There are most certainly situations in which intense or even moderate physical activity simply must be avoided altogether. And pregnancy is not the time to dive into a new workout regimen. Dr. Reiser Baker confirms, stating, “You don’t embark on new training during pregnancy.”

But for any woman given the go-ahead by her physician, maintaining her level of fitness is the healthiest choice she can make for not only herself, but also her baby. It is not the time for one-rep maxes, “Fran” PRs and pukies, but it is perhaps the most important time of all to be sure your body is in a state suitable to house and provide for another being. So dare to carry groceries, park far away and eat Paleo. Continue to lift, push and press. Because your baby and body will thank you.