Yes, I’m one of the “soon to be moms” that is going to continue Crossfitting throughout my pregnancy, baby bump and all. In fact, I came in 2nd in an individual competition at 6 weeks pregnant and I am actually competing in a 4 person team competition in April (18 weeks into pregnancy). At this point, you may be looking at me like I have 3 heads and thinking “how unsafe and dangerous!”.
It can be easy for new moms to get lost in a sea of conflicting information—not just on the internet, but also from doctors and well-intentioned friends and family members. So, the point of this blog is to provide you with the most recently updated research as well as my personal experience of Crossfitting while pregnant.
Thankfully, there have been a lot of elite athletes that have continued their pre-pregnancy workout routines throughout their pregnancies and have delivered perfectly healthy babies while doing so. For instance, Serena Williams won the Australian Open while 2 months pregnant and continued to play tennis and workout at a high intensity even at 8 months pregnant. Similarly, Olympian Alysia Montano ran an 800-meter race while 34 weeks pregnant! And the list keeps getting longer and longer.
I’ve been doing CrossFit for almost 5 years now (6-7 days per week consistently), and I am 12 weeks pregnant. At my 8 week check-up I made sure to tell my doctor that I liked to do CrossFit (alot) and asked him if there were any precautions or guidelines that I needed to follow in regards to working out. The only information he gave me was to limit my heart rate to 140 bpm once I got into the 2nd trimester. As you can probably guess, my doctor wasn’t very familiar with CrossFit and didn’t have any specifications or recommendations on movements I should or shouldn’t do. And naturally, as soon as people found out I was pregnant, I received a couple of comments like “you better lift while you can, you won’t be able to for much longer” and questions like “when are you going to stop lifting heavy?”. So, wanting the best for myself and my baby’s health, I dove into research instead of listening to what other people’s comments, questions, and concerns were.
The more I researched, the more I came to realize that most of the information out there was based on the more “conservative/traditional” view of pregnancy. For years and years, medical professionals have erred more on the cautious and careful side when it came to exercising while pregnant due to lack of research and evidence. But, thanks to elite athletes and the women in CrossFit that have continued to workout throughout their pregnancies, I’ve found that it’s actually MORE beneficial for pregnant women to remain active. For instance, labor and delivery are probably one of the most physically demanding tasks our bodies will ever go through and this task is somewhat comparable to competitions, meets, and/or marathons where we exert the most effort. You wouldn’t compete in these events without training and preparing! Exercising during pregnancy is almost like training for delivery!
Do I have to monitor my heart rate?
In regards to my doctor’s recommendation, I’ve found that the more recent research says that if you’ve been working out regularly before pregnancy, then there’s no need to be concerned about heart rate during pregnancy. “For healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends [AT LEAST] 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — without any specific heart rate limits. This recommendation also advises that pregnant women who were previously engaged in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or who are highly active can continue their activities, provided they remain healthy and talk with their health care providers about any needed activity adjustments over time.”
“Heart-rate precautions do not have scientific backing and gynecologists no longer recommend even monitoring a pregnant woman’s heart rate if she exercises because heart rates vary so much from pre-pregnancy levels, as do the heart rate’s responses to exercise. Dr. Shangold recommends using perceived effort as a guide and making sure that the effort remains moderate. But, she said, there are no rigorous studies to back that up [either]”. While heart rate isn’t a huge concern, it is important to understand that our bodies are working overtime during pregnancy and our natural abilities will diminish. So instead of finding that dark place that leaves us lying on the floor from exerting so much effort, workouts should be more about moving intentionally, sweating, and staying active and healthy.
What I’m Doing Now
At this time, I haven’t scaled or changed anything about my workouts. I am still working out 6-7 days a week, performing ring muscles ups, handstand push ups, burpees, toes to bar, box jumps, and all the other fun stuff that comes with Crossfit. I’m currently still doing all of the workouts as they are prescribed (with high intensity), not out of persistence and stubbornness, but because my body feels great (besides the fact that I have to pee more often) and I haven’t experienced any weird aches, pains, or discomfort. I still feel fully capable and good about these movements without feeling like I am putting the baby at risk and I plan on performing these movements for as long as my body can handle it. I know I may have to scale back and modify at some point in the near future and I am fully willing to do so. After all, the baby is my number one priority and I want he/she to be as healthy as they can be.
Another common question I’ve been getting is whether I’ve gotten sick or if I’ve had to change anything with my nutrition. Well, there was one week during my first trimester where I did feel nauseous everyday and didn’t want to eat my typical foods, but I never actually got sick. Once that week passed, I was back to normal and have been eating my regular meal prep ever since. A lot of other women have told me that the first trimester is the worst (when it comes to sickness), so I’m thankful that I’ve made it through with minimal sickness so far! I also haven’t felt the need to eat more than usual nor have I had any cravings yet. I do know these things can change in the blink of an eye, so I’ll keep y’all updated with any changes!
The best thing you can do is listen to YOUR body. Your heart rate, your ability to continue certain exercises, and your nutritional needs are all variable and dependent on your history and pre-pregnancy health and ability. There’s no “one size fits all” piece of advice, so if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! Your body is smarter and more resilient than you think.