Friday, December 30, 2011

Maintaining Fitness During Pregnancy

Staying Active During Pregnancy

While I am definitely slowing down now at week 39, I wanted to share that many CrossFitting women can continue working out all the way to due date or at least as long as feels good with their body--like I did until just a couple of weeks ago.

Although the third trimester brought back a bit of fatigue like I felt in the first, I still CrossFitted and did work around the house and yard up until about the 37th week.

My CrossFit Modifications

For CrossFit, here were some of my modifications:
  • lifting lighter weights and working technique instead of trying to set new PRs, 
  • using knee raises hanging on the pull-up bar instead of sit-ups (ideally these would be knees to elbows or knees to armpits, but I can't get that tucked anymore) and transitioning to shoulder press towards the end for midline stability work,
  • using ring rows instead of pull-ups (the bands don't feel comfy hitting my bulging belly and kipping feels too violent and heavy), 

  • performing hollow rock holds while hanging from a bar instead of the ground, 
  • stepping boxes instead of jumping, 
  • rowing and biking instead of running, 
  • using parallettes for push-ups and burpees (adding knees on the ground for high reps/speed), 
  • not squatting with weight at very high speed (i.e. no full squat snatches or cleans) since I have heard of women having ligament issues with that during pregnancy.  However, I did do weighted front squats, back squats, overhead squats, and snatches and cleans landing in the power position. And I transitioned to using dumbbells instead of the barbell once I realized I was arching the barbell way out to get it past my belly and returning it was belly-skimming sketchy. 
  • and finally scaling down to stretching in the final weeks when opening, softness, and readying the body for birth is the goal (setting aside my CrossFit brain for a time to not be concerned with weight, reps, or time--which is really hard!). 

Lessons Learned

What I have found through personal experience:
  • Rapid hip opening leads to round ligament pain in me so intense I have to stop and wait it out before continuing to straighten.  That happens when I try to get up too fast (I need to slowly transition from the rower or just from sitting to standing), bear crawl then try to stand, or when I open and close my hips with too much intensity and repetition--like long, hard rowing.  To avoid it, I know I can row a 250 with intensity, so that is my distance of choice, or I can go long and slow if I want to stick out a 500 or 1k, but I have to be really slow getting off the rower and stand up slooooowly.  And to note: round ligament pain is completely normal when you belly is quadrupling in size and latched in place by just a few ligaments. 
  • Holding my breath is a no-no (it makes me dizzy and isn't good for the baby), so no more slow, heavy lifting.  I can go lighter and move quicker while holding tight and breathing at the beginning and end of the movement or breathing while holding tight during the movement if I stabilize tightly.
  • I have to lift things off the floor with wide leg position and row with bowed legs too--which makes me laugh since I feel like a pot-bellied heavy lifter.
Listen to Your Body

Overall, I surprise myself with what I can still do and how it makes me feel--I love it.  Even though I am not CrossFitting now, I can still walk and lift and move things around the house that are reasonable.  I just learned to take the intensity down a notch to not get seriously winded and I feel out the movement--if I get ligament pains, I slow down or stop if necessary and wait them out to continue.  A lot of it is just feeling it out and using common sense.  Like with eating when I'm hungry and trying to provide my body with fuel not junk--I listen to my body. 

For the yard projects, in my third trimester I helped haul concrete chunks from the cracked slab we removed from our backyard, spent hours spreading mulch from our landscaping project, and helped shovel 4 cubic yards of granite base rock for the new patio, which my husband put in with the help of our friends on a weekend.  I single-handedly moved a woodpile across the yard--just me and the wheelbarrow.  Who says pregnancy needs to be a time of rest?

Pregnancy Side-effects

I am so lucky to have not had the quintessential pregnancy back pain.  I credit my level of fitness obtained over years of getting expert CrossFit coaching at CrossFit Santa Cruz to help drill midline stability and make lifting with a straight back second nature.  I am careful lifting to not go too heavy and strain my back that already has such a load to support on a daily basis.  But I certainly still lift--it's functional and necessary to life.  I love shocking the check-out clerks at the grocery store as I string multiple bags from my body like a Sherpa--"Nope, I don't need any help out today, thanks!"

I have also noticed that my recovery during pregnancy is truly amazing and much more accelerated.  The speed at which I recover when I do feel a little sore and how rare soreness is for me now is truly remarkable.  Another wonder of pregnancy!  I continued taking 5g of omega-3 fish oil a day for most of my pregnancy, but started to decrease that to just over 1g by the end so that I don't overly bleed during delivery and recovery (fish oil thins the blood and I have found that especially true with my body).  My soreness now in the final weeks is mostly upper back strain counterbalancing that medball-sized 50# weight in front and leg numbness/cramping, which is just my uterus squishing nerves in there.  Normal, but annoying.

But I must admit: at week 39 and 3 days I am getting more and more uncomfortable, which is a good thing.  I have LOVED being pregnant and have felt wistful about losing the amazing feeling of having my little one so close and squirming and hiccuping inside.  I already feel like I will miss that intimacy, the happy cocktail of hormones that have made me feel amazing and literally glowing, and the mental time-off from caring about body image.  But as the end approaches, I am happy to be about ready to leave behind my amazing pregnancy and embark on a whole new journey of discovery and wonder at my little one.  I can't wait to meet him and share the world with him! 

So the moral is: basically eating healthy, home-cooked foods and exercising using functional movements really does help a pregnancy go smoothly and become a wonderful, fun experience?  Go figure!