Real Life: A "Fit" Pregnancy

I’ve mentioned in a few of my Instagram posts recently about having some struggles in my pregnancy. There’s been a mix of physical, mental and emotional struggles.

Physically, I was starting to experience a lot of pubic pain. I had a feeling that my pubic bones’ alignment was off, and I was right. However, even after getting that adjusted, things still weren’t right. I was beginning to have discomfort with some activities at the gym. All of a sudden, I began experiencing symptoms with running, I was not able to stride out and do more than an easy jog without feeling like I was about to pee my pants. Some days double unders didn’t feel great, so I’d switch to singles, and other days they were fine. And then squats started to become an issue, causing discomfort, severely limiting my range of motion.

I had started following Brianna Battles on Instagram a while back, she is a strength & conditioning coach that worked with Lindsey Valenzuela throughout her pregnancy and postpartum. Lindsey, an elite level CrossFitter, gave birth in May 2016, and just competed at the California Regional last weekend. As I was dealing with all those above symptoms, I saw an Instragram post from Brianna of an email an athlete had sent her. The athlete was a Regional level competitor and talked about how she eliminated running and other activities as Brianna recommended during her pregnancy and how she was coming back better than she expected. This got me wondering if I needed to further change my workouts, so I reached out to Brianna.

I did an online consultation with her a couple weeks ago and it really helped shape and focus on my thinking and training. We talked about the issues I was experiencing, and she gave me recommendations. She recommended I avoid any impact movements going forward, as my body was already starting to exhibit some signs of pelvic floor issues. If I didn’t address it now, there’s a very good chance it would manifest into pelvic floor dysfunction. We talked about lifting heavy, and she recommended avoiding lifting heavy that required me to brace. Bracing increased the pressure in your abdominal cavity, which I was and am already experiencing a lot more of, due to this pregnancy.

A couple things Brianna talked about really resounded with me. First, she asked me why I wanted to be able to do double unders or lift heavy. At that time, I didn’t have a good answer besides “because”. However, as I’ve had more time to ponder that question, I think I’ve started to unravel the why. It’s an ego thing. One thing I’ve struggled with since I started CrossFit is defining myself and my worth by what I can physically do. Unfortunately with being a coach and owning a gym, this has only seemed to deepen and worsen inside of me. At our gym, we preach about safety, technique and consistency, which I probably emphasize more than the other coaches because of the injury I have gone through and dealt with. I don’t want myself or the members of Light the Fire CrossFit to feel that they are only as worthy as their abilities in the gym are. 

We live in a performance driven world- you need to prove to me why I should listen to you. As in I feel that I have to constantly prove to members why they should listen to me as a couch. So really that’s an emotional and physical issue all tied together.

The second thing that Brianna said to me that has stayed in my head is “pregnancy is temporary, postpartum is forever”. What you do during your pregnancy CAN AND WILL dictate how you feel physically for the rest of your life. With my pregnancy, I am not looking to get stronger or even “maintain”. I’m looking to keep myself and Baby B healthy, set us up for the easiest possible delivery and put myself in an optimal position for my postpartum work, to return to doing what I love.

All over social media, I see “fit pregnancies”. The world of social media is great because it puts so much information at our fingertips. But unfortunately is also gives us a platform to compare ourselves to others on. There are some elite level CrossFitters that I follow, who are also pregnant at this time. Some more than others post videos of them working out with their “bumps” and it makes me question what I’m doing. I find videos of women kipping well into their second or even third trimester, something I eliminated at the beginning of my second trimester to decrease the risk of diastasis recti. Some women post about how much they have gained. Experts say a weight gain of 20-30# is a healthy pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight quickly in my first trimester, which I attribute to being at my leanest before becoming pregnant. At this point in my pregnancy, I have gained about 25-27#, and I still have a ways to go. I’ve consulted with my nutrition guy, who has told me not to worry, and that I can go over that 30# mark because of how lean I was prior to pregnancy. However that doesn’t make it any easier, when I see someone who is 4 weeks farther along than me and has only gained 19#.

So what’s right? How do we determine if the amount of volume we’re training is ok? How do we know if our weight gain is ok so far? Weight-wise, I’m leaving most of that to my healthcare providers- my midwife seems to be very happy with how I and the baby are growing. The training question is a lot more complex, there really is no exact answer or guideline for that one. Listening to your body is a good start, but it’s not enough.

A “fit pregnancy” should not be about how much volume you can still do, how much you can lift or what kind of gymnastic movements you can still do. That doesn’t measure the successfulness of a pregnancy. A successful pregnancy in my mind is a healthy mom and baby, with a good set up for postpartum. Your postpartum care and training will set yourself up for the rest of your life. So much change and trauma occurs during pregnancy and birth, that needs to be addressed before resuming physical activity.

Pregnancy, just like anything else in life, is so individual. I know when I have my second child (God willing), my pregnancy will be different than this one. Sometimes I’m better at reminding myself of this than others. When I think about the weight thing, I remind myself that at the last ultrasound, Baby B was in the 81st percentile of growth. I was over 9# as a baby, my husband was over 7# and a bit early. We will probably have a bigger baby because of all that, bigger baby = more weight.

I told a client recently how much of a blessing this baby has been to me. I have not had the back and pelvic pain that I had for over 2 years. My pregnancy has also peaked my interest in pelvic floor PT and pregnancy/postpartum care, something I never thought I’d want to specialize in or really treat. This has given me additional direction in my professional career, which I’m excited to continue to develop.