Exercise in general is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby while pregnant. Studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy gain less weight and tend to have easier, shorter and less complicated labors. Babies of exercising moms tend to sleep through the night sooner, are less prone to colic, and are better able to soothe themselves. I’m due with my second baby in about two weeks and have been doing CrossFit throughout my entire pregnancy. Overall, I am happier, more energetic and I have fewer discomforts than I did during my first pregnancy. So, how do we make sure we keep ourselves and our babies safe?
The changes taking place that you want to be aware of include a shift in your center of gravity, which can cause problems with balance and agility. There is the huge increase in the body’s production of the hormone relaxin, which causes softening of the ligaments throughout your body making your joints more vulnerable to injury during strenuous movements. Another notable change is the 40-50% increase in blood volume and cardiac output corresponding to a rise in heart rate. How should you adjust your workouts to deal with these changes? Crossfitmom.com offers some great guidelines and scaling options for each stage of pregnancy. I used these as general guidelines, but I definitely did not adhere to each recommendation. The most important changes that I made from the start and continued throughout my entire pregnancy was to make sure I was not getting too out of breath. I always made sure I could hold somewhat of a conversation during the workouts. I also made sure not to get over-heated and to drink water before, during and after the workout.
In the first trimester you can continue to use your normal weights, but it’s not recommended you go up in weight or do max effort lifts. This is the time when you really want to focus on shifting your work out mindset. If you are a competitive person, as most CrossFit athletes are, not giving 100% can feel a little dissatisfying at first. It’s important to remind yourself that during pregnancy, you aren’t aiming for PRs. You’re doing CrossFit to maintain your fitness and to strengthen your growing and ever changing body!
In the second trimester, Olympic lifting should be modified, lowering your weights about 25-35%. During this stage you will likely need to start modifying movements like box jumps, toes to bar, push-ups and pull ups. Scaling and modifications of these movements is really dependent on how you feel and your skill level. At this stage the guidelines recommend against squatting below 90 degrees. I don’t really agree with this and even at this point in my pregnancy, I am still doing full squats. I think squatting is great for pelvic strength and mobility, but again, listen to your body! At this stage they also suggest staying off your back. Personally I felt fine doing movements on my back (i.e. sit-ups, hollow body, etc.) until my 5th or 6th month.
In the third trimester, your growing belly will be in your way for a lot of exercises. Especially in regards to Olympic lifting, your form will likely be compromised at this stage. Doing a clean around a big belly or trying to snatch without using your hips can be difficult and put some strain on your body. For these reasons, I lowered my weights even more, probably by 35-45%.
It’s likely that you will encounter people who don’t understand the importance of maintaining your regular workout routine while being pregnant. Don’t let other peoples misconceptions deter you from doing what is best for you and your baby. The best thing you can do is take it one day at a time and listen to your body. I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to the coaches and my fellow athletes who have been so incredibly supportive and encouraging over the last 9 months!
Move Well, Live Well…
Dr. Mallory Feinberg-Hewitt, DC