With the quick growth of CrossFit, and CrossFit’s ability to scale to all levels, CrossFitters who become pregnant are sticking to the gym throughout their pregnancy. Pregnant CrossFitters require scaling differently, due to a changing body and changing center of mass, and don’t be surprised if the level of scaling has to change often as well. Of course, checking with a doctor is a must, and the amount of scaling will be directly proportional to athletic prowess prior to pregnancy. We followed 2010 CrossFit Games athlete Heather Bergeron, six months pregnant, to see how her changing body is changing her workouts.
Lifting is a great way to keep on your game, and incredibly easy to scale, just take off some of the weight when you notice your form suffering, your body getting in the way or any sort of abdominal pain. It's better to be safe than sorry, so underestimate your lift levels. Squats, presses and deadlifts are great lifts to focus on. The deadlift will turn into a sumo deadlift in the third trimester to allow you to get around your growing bump, but the squats and presses can be performed with minimal scaling.
Hormone levels will change drastically 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 loosey goosey to help you pop out that bundle of joy, but it also means you need to be extremely conscious of the stress and strain you are placing on joints. This often means you need to reduce momentum-based movements like kipping pullups and muscle ups which rely on stretch reflex loading to transfer energy. That energy going into loose joints is a recipe for injury.
Heather is still able to do weighted pullups, but has drastically reduced the weight and these movements are performed under the hawk eye of super-coach, husband and daddy-to-be Ben. Ben has a crucial role in Heather’s pregnancy (other than the obvious). His job is to keep her in check, watch her movements, study up on hurdles she's likely to encounter and tell her when it is time to stop a movement, scale a weight or reduce the intensity of a WOD.
Every pregnant CrossFitter needs to find someone they trust to become their watchful eye. Set your limits ahead of time, how out-of-breath will you alow yourself to be? How hot will you allow yourself to get? What movements will you stop doing and when? The answers to these questions will change from person to person, and no example is right or wrong, but make sure you have someone supporting and policing you at the same time. It's easy to get carried away in a WOD. Remember there are now two of you at stake.
Carrying a growing belly around 24-7 puts a ton of strain on your back, and at a certain point pregnant women should no longer lie on their back, preventing certain exercises like sit-ups. GHD back extensions are a great movement that can be done throughout to strengthen the core and keep the back strong, preventing the inevitable lower back pain from coming on too early.
Continuing CrossFit during pregnancy is a great way to have a fit, healthy pregnancy, and get back to the box in record time. Heather is an inspiration, she was an incredible CrossFit athlete before her bump, and is doing movements and workouts above many athletes’ levels even during her pregnancy. However, she has had to start scaling her weights, and she's no longer doing muscle ups.
Find a doctor who believes in what you are doing, and talk to them about what movements you can and can not be safely doing, as this will change throughout. Enlist someone to keep an eye out for you and don't let the fact you can’t kill every WOD get you down. Keep getting into the gym, and remember that when the little tyke is out, you’ll be able to hit it longer and harder than ever before!
Photography and words by Evan and Erica Saint Claire, co-owners of JournalMENU and proud parents of 20-month-old Isabella.
Heather Bergeron is the co-owner of CrossFit New England, with her husband Ben. She finished 8th in the world at the 2010 CrossFit Games and helped CFNE qualify for the 2011 CrossFit Games team competition.