MY PREGNANCY ATHLETICISM JOURNEY
Working out while pregnant / postpartum / and now pregnant again :)
Working out while pregnant / postpartum / and now pregnant again :)
Whenever I say "journey" I feel like it sounds like I'm on an episode of 'The Bachelor!" I think it's an appropriate word though, because it's been such an evolutionary process - going from an athlete with no-one else dependent on me - to a mom, who still wants to be fit, do what I love, and be able to keep up with my kiddo(s)! So here goes...hope this resonates with some of you!
When I was pregnant with Caden (my first), I was initially told to “just keep doing what you’re doing.” I thought that I was being very smart by just ensuring that I could talk throughout workouts (not getting my heart rate so high that the baby wasn’t getting enough O2), and not maximally lifting weights. I continued running, jumping rope, lifting barbells, etc, with small modifications in the daily Crossfit workouts programmed for our gym until 28 weeks pregnant, when I experienced bleeding after a workout (never a good sign at that point in pregnancy). It was at that point that my midwife said, “You were squatting with a barbell?!” (Um, yes, 35 pounds is WAY lighter than I normally even warm-up with!) and told me that I needed to slow down ASAP. Well, this did not sit well with my athletic brain (after all, how was I supposed to “prepare for childbirth” and “exercise the baby out?” if I couldn’t Crossfit?) We’ve all seen those videos of women lifting weights or being in the gym hours before giving birth, and I was SURE that I would be one of those women.
Well, things definitely did not work out that way. From 28-36 weeks I did not lift a barbell, but I continued with dumbbells, rowing, biking, etc. At 36 weeks my midwives told me to “just walk or swim.” BORING, but :::sigh::: fine. At 38 weeks, my blood pressure started to creep up, and I was put on modified bed rest - only allowed to walk around my house and a few blocks to walk the dog. At 40 weeks, I was put on complete bed rest (probably the most miserable I have ever been), and at 41+4 days was finally induced at the hospital (goodbye plans for a drug-free water birth at the birth center), and Caden was born 12 days past his due date - following many an intervention - induction, epidural, extra fluids, vacuum assist due to baby heart-rate decelerations.
Afterwards, while incredibly grateful to FINALLY have a sweet, healthy babe, I felt cheated. Like my body had failed me. I had never really experienced this before. Being an athlete, I could always practice more, train harder, eat better, etc, and my body would follow suit - gain muscle, lean out, be able to perform practiced skills. I felt defeated - what did I do wrong? So, I was extra eager to get back into the gym and “get back to normal.” Oh mama, how naive I still was. There is no “going back,” mentally nor physically, no matter how many “get your body back after baby” workout or diet programs are promoted on IG or FB. I got after it though, because that’s what I thought I needed to do. I started with a post-partum pilates class at 3 weeks PP, and I was shocked when I was a shaky mess, able to hold a plank for all of 10 seconds. I went back to regular classes at the Crossfit gym after “being cleared” by my midwives and OBGYN at my 6 week check up - without any sort of physical exam. While I thought I was taking things slowly, still avoiding heavy movements and things that felt “weird,” I developed stress urinary incontinence with double unders - and while I could do box jumps and lifting without leaking most days - I was still always afraid, and eschewed my normally bright workout pants in favor of “safe” black - ESPECIALLY on jumping days. Being a PT, I knew that this was common, but NOT normal, so I sought out a pelvic floor physical therapist (Christine Pieton, DPT - check out her Mamas Run Wild Facebook group!) and Christine guided me back to full participation in Crossfit without symptoms - and I ended up being stronger in all ways - than prior to having Caden. WIN.
After my experience with Caden, I had decided that I needed to do something to educate myself for an eventual second pregnancy and fill this major gap in pre / postnatal care in our community. Mamas deserve so much more than “listen to your body” / “keep doing what you’re doing” or “don’t lift more than 25 pounds” (hello, my toddler is more than 25 pounds and does not care that I’m pregnant!). With my second pregnancy, I knew I wanted to maintain my strength routine, as switching to prenatal yoga for the duration of my pregnancy did not appeal to me, but to do so in a protective manner, with the “long game” in mind. I found Brianna Battles’ Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Course and dove right in. Her philosophy and training ideals really spoke to me, and I loved that she is very against any “one size fits all” regime, which is what I’ve found with my physical therapy practice. I've also taken a lot of pelvic floor physical therapy and coaching continuing education courses - and while I am NOT a certified pelvic floor therapist, I collaborate closely with several girlfriends who are certified PFPTs.
Fast forward to pregnancy #2. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant, about a month into the third trimester. I stopped doing any sort of running, jumping, kipping movements at around 8-10 weeks (WAY earlier than during my first pregnancy), and stopped barbell snatches and clean and jerks mid-second trimester when my bump started to get in the way of my bar path. I still use dumbbells, (and did biking / rowing before the “Stay at home” mandate), but limit my overhead movements and modify the weight / number of repetitions / etc to ensure that I still get a sweat, but simultaneously am very mindful of protecting my deep core and pelvic floor. I also stopped all but the most gentle ab work recently, as it felt like my lower abs were stretching / ripping with even modified planks for longer than 15 seconds - yeah, no thank you. Not worth it.
I have also been instructed by my OBGYN not to return to working in the clinic until after baby is born (the clinic where I practice PT is very manual-therapy based, so I’d have my hands on a good number of people every day), so I’ll be working on sharing the remainder of my pregnancy fitness regime, as well as how I ease back into post-partum athleticism (YAYYY - cannot wait to meet our new little one and get back to the things that I love to do and eat (bring on the sushi!!)).
Thanks for joining me on this ride, and let me know if you have suggestions on what you’d like to see or learn more about in the fitness / physical therapy realm. I’m happy to help with specific modification questions, adapting workouts from your home box to fit your new needs (because we all know that our community is a HUGE part of why Crossfit is so awesome - and it’s no fun to have to do your own stuff all the time). I’m also planning on running a post-partum class once Babyfos2 has arrived, so all of you soon-to-be-new-mamas, be on the lookout! XO - Erin