Pregnancy and CrossFit: Modifying your WODs

Rosie Marshall
Athlete Spotlight:  Rosie Marshall

What do you do for a living? I’ve been a full-time Dental Hygienist for 4 years.

How long have you been Crossfitting? I have been CrossFitting for just over 2 years. My husband and I finally found the courage to try CrossFit in early 2011 after hearing so much about it for several months. Within 6 months, I was competing in my first CrossFit competition as a member of Crossfit Fire’s 2011 Regional team. Last year, I served as Crossfit AMRAP’s regional team alternate. Things have slowed down significantly for 2013 as I prepare myself for the ultimate wod: Childbirth! I did decide to compete in the Open during my fifth-sixth month of pregnancy and managed a 374th rank out of over 2000 women in the NorthCentral Regional.

What trimester are you in? or weeks? Currently in my 26th week of pregnancy. 14 more weeks to go!

Does your doctor know you are crossfitting and if so, what did they tell you? Well, she knows I workout. She is not familiar with the extent of my workouts or CrossFit in general, although I’ve held nothing back from her. But her advise to me is the same as it would be to an avid runner or athlete of any type: “Don’t stop what you are doing”! There are many guidelines for physical activity and nutrition she and many other healthcare professionals would like me to follow:
– Increase your carbohydrate intake
– Don’t bench press more than 40 lbs
– Don’t squat below parallel
– Don’t let your heart rate get beyond 140 beats per minute
– Don’t lie on your back after the first trimester
– Eat lots of grains
My doctor also understands (although she may not agree with) the Crossfit/Paleo lifestyle. She also knows that my body is more than conditioned to continue with my workouts , maybe just not at the same level and intensity, and that Paleo is something I will continue to follow. She has made it clear that during pregnancy, blood pressure decreases, but blood volume increases by up to 40%. Between that and all my organs getting smooshed together (by week 26, the uterus has grown from the size of a fist to the size of a head of lettuce), getting winded and out of breath comes quickly during wod’s!

How have you scaled or adapted your WODs? The main thing I’ve scaled back is intensity, especially on longer workouts. Sometimes its difficult not to think I’m using pregnancy as an excuse, but I know now is not the time to test my physical limitations. I’m still doing most Crossfit moves and weight Rx’d with a few modifications as my belly grows: no more hand release push ups, I don’t flop down on burpees, Box jumps are games-standard with a pause at the top. At this point all I’m trying to do is maintain my fitness and not set PR’s (although I’ve done that a few times). I have a few rules I try not to break during workouts:
-Take water breaks as needed (yes cross fitters, you CAN drink water during a wod!)
-Don’t go 100%, stop at any point if something feels off or achy. Don’t push through pains/aches.
-Never get to the point of collapsing on the floor after a workout, which means lots of short breaks to catch my breath and check form.

…Speaking of form, Hormone levels will change during a pregnancy, especially the hormone Relaxin, which increases up to ten times the normal levels as you approach the big day. Relaxin makes your joints a bit more loose to help you pop out that baby but it also means you need to be extremely conscious of the stress and strain you are placing on joints. Good form is critical. Reducing momentum-based movements like kipping pullups and muscle ups which rely on stretch reflex loading to transfer energy are good ideas later in pregnancy or as you feel necessary. Injury is likely if that energy goes into loose joints.

What challenges have come up as the weeks go by? Luckily, I didn’t just wake up one day with this belly! Modifications have been gradual and have fluctuated a bit as have my energy levels. Slowly I’ve been modifying any ground to overhead to a 2-part movement: dead lift or hang-position to overhead. My starting foot position for lifts has gotten a bit wider to make room for my belly.

What advise have others given you? Listen to your body! If you question it for a second, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Your body will tell you when something is off or shouldn’t be done (So true, our bodies are amazing self-regulators!)

What advise do you have for women who are pregnant and crossfitting? Most importantly, let your body guide you and stay within your own comfort zone. You will get plenty of advise and guidelines, but every pregnancy and previous athletic levels are different. So guidelines are just that: a guide, no one-size fits all. Aside from your doctors recommendations, set your own rules and make sure you have coaches aware of your pregnancy immediately so they too can help keep you on track.

Not a lot of information is out there on CrossFitting while pregnant. There are just a lot of personal experiences being posted. The big thing is to make sure you are under care of a health professional. And also not to add anything new to your exercise routine.

Another great athlete article is from Again Faster: Heather Bergeron

CrossFit Training During Pregnancy and Motherhood: A New Scientific Frontier (The CrossFit Journal)

Stay Fit and WOD On!

Dr. Nate

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