Could it be possible that I feel stronger during pregnancy #2??
Short answer: YES!
First, a little background info about me… I played college soccer and have been doing CrossFit for 7 years now. I like to compete in a lot of local competitions and enjoy the competitive nature that comes along with CrossFit. I’m currently about 7 months pregnant with baby girl #2 and I’ve continued working out daily. My first daughter, Harper, was born September 2021 and I did CrossFit the entire pregnancy as well – like I literally did a Hero WOD (a really tough CrossFit workout usually named in honor of fallen soldiers) the day before I gave birth. I actually came in 2nd place at a competition when I was in my first trimester of my last pregnancy and did two more competitions during the first trimester of this pregnancy (click the link to check out that blog!). I, thankfully, had a great delivery with Harper and had no complications.
This pregnancy, though, I’ve made some changes within my day to day training. During my first pregnancy, as soon as I saw the first sign of symptoms of something “abnormal”, I stopped the movement causing it, and changed things completely. For example, one day I started noticing coning/doming of my core during the 2nd trimester.
What is “coning”?
When you’re pregnant, it’s normal for your abs to separate in order to accommodate your growing belly and baby. Coning what happens when you see a ridge or bulge popping out down the midline of your belly. This typically occurs when you’re not engaging the deep muscles of your core OR if the movement is too difficult for you to engage the deep muscles of your core. This is your body’s way of telling you that the exercise being performed may be too much for you to handle and it’s suggested that you try to modify the movement so you can better control your core. This leads to a much stronger version of YOU!
As a result, I stopped all the movements that produced the coning, which was almost all rig work (pull-ups, toes to bar), rowing, and I even had some discomfort in my groin when running. I would substitute those exercises for slam balls, kettlebell swings, biking, etc. See my past below blogs for more info!
This time around, I challenged myself. What do I mean? This time, instead of being fearful of the symptoms I saw and altering the movement altogether, I tried to see how close I could stay to the prescribed movement WHILE controlling the symptoms. Here’s what I did…
Gymnastics in CrossFit refers to any exercise that uses your body weight as the load such as sit ups, planks, pull ups, toes to bar, etc. Once I started to notice the coning/doming of my core with kipping pull ups, instead of quitting the movement, I tried engaging the deep muscles of my core and coordinating my breath with the movement. I then found that I could continue the movement without the coning! As my pregnancy progresses and my belly gets a little bigger each week, depending on the workout, I would add a band, limit how big of a kip I do, and/or perform smaller sets in order to keep my deep core muscles engaged. The same thing happened with rowing, sit ups, and planks. If I engaged all of my core muscles, I could perform the movement with no symptoms.
My first pregnancy, I started to have what I thought was round ligament pain when running during my second trimester. I’ve now come to realize that the round ligament gets all the blame even though it is rarely ever the problem child. More often than not, because the round ligament does change throughout pregnancy, practitioners associate that change with the symptoms pregnant women experience. However, I’ve yet to come across a patient or athlete that cannot reproduce their “round ligament” pain with simple testing of the muscles surrounding the core/hips. Weak and/or dysfunctional muscles can cause the same symptoms that usually get labeled as “round ligament” pain.
For instance, for me, my adductor muscles in my inner thighs (because they attach to the changing pelvis) were causing my “round ligament” pain. Once I began strengthening them, I no longer felt that discomfort and have continued running throughout my pregnancy, even though my round ligament continues to change!
During my last pregnancy, I complained of mid-back pain with overhead lifts – a common issue for most pregnant women. Growing another human inside you causes the core muscles to stretch, lengthen, and weaken, and having a heavier front side makes the lower back more likely to excessively arch (which is the leading cause of back pain). I was able to fix that discomfort last pregnancy by implementing the “ribs down” cue. But this time around, I haven’t had any issues with back pain. I honestly feel stronger than last pregnancy, and like I’m able to control my core position much easier now than before. I attribute this to my improved mind-muscle connection where I’ve learned how to engage ALL the muscles of my core. I even PR’d (personal record) the workout D.T. (5 rounds of 12 deadlifts, 9 hang power cleans, and 6 shoulder to overhead at 105#) with a time of 3:54 at 6 months pregnant! And I feel great!!!
My biggest takeaway from this pregnancy is realizing that I can actually feel stronger from one pregnancy to the next! I consider myself a pretty experienced athlete and I continue to learn more and more about the human body as I go through these new seasons in life.
I challenge YOU to not be fearful of exercises in the gym that may bring on symptoms. Instead, can you be aware and alter the way you’re performing the movement by implementing certain cues such as “ribs down”? Or can you maintain a better hollow body position during the exercise.? Can you modify lightly by adding a small band or limiting reps/sets, etc. to where you’re still working the same desired muscles, but successfully managing symptoms? Instead of changing and avoiding the movement altogether, how creative can you get with modifying the prescribed movement?
If you’re unsure of how or why to modify certain movements in the gym during pregnancy, I’d love to help out. Just click this link to learn more about pelvic floor and pregnancy physical therapy or inquire here to get started!
Thanks for reading!