Pregnant and CrossFitting Interview

Sep 4, 2013

Courtney Nickoles and Margie Spees are both members at 8th Day who have continued to train through their pregnancies. Courtney’s baby girl is due October 2nd and Margie and Walter’s baby is due October 4th. 

1. How is crossfitting different when you are pregnant?

Margie: The main difference came during the first trimester. From the VERY beginning I became very breathless during workouts and at times a bit dizzy. This primarily manifested itself in cardio-based metcons. Besides that, I was actually hitting some PR’s in my lifts for the first few months! Over the course of the rest of my pregnancy I have scaled back intensity and weights and been diligent to not let myself become overheated or over-exhausted during workouts. Sometimes that means lots of breaks during a workout even though we’re being timed!

Courtney: Most noticeable difference is in intensity. After being used to really going after every WOD, attempting new skills, continually trying to get stronger; it was a definite mental shift to be mindful instead of taking breaks when out of breath, heart rate raced or when core temp started rising too much. Basically learning to be smart about limits rather than trying to crush through them all the time.

2. How did you decide to alter your workouts?

Margie: In the first trimester I had to drastically slow down my pace (hard to hide when people are used to seeing you go hard!). I told some of my best girlfriends at the gym that I was pregnant as soon as I found out and I asked them to hold me accountable to not work too hard and also to just keep an eye on me. I also reduced my weights for metcons in order to keep my heart rate in check. Other than that, I continued to train 5-6 days a week at a reduced intensity throughout the entire trimester.

During the second trimester I was able to continue to do most things but somewhere around 4-5 months along I stopped doing box jumps. The g-forces just felt uncomfortable and I thought it would be better to be cautious. Somewhere around 5-6 months along I had to stop running as it seemed to really strain some of the muscles attached to my hips. Also, as soon as I began to “show” I stopped doing movements that require being prone on your stomach. Somehow, flopping to the ground for a burpee just felt unsafe for the baby… ;) Also, somewhere around month 4-5 when I learned the hormone relaxin (a hormone that loosens your ligaments during pregnancy) kicked in I decided to stop attempting max efforts for lifts in effort to not injure myself.

During this third trimester I have had to give up any core isolation movements (sit ups, happy russians, toes 2 bar) and barbell lifts where the bar travels up the front of your body (sumo deadlift high pull, cleans, snatch).

Courtney: At first I didn’t alter much besides the intensity as mentioned above. As the pregnancy progressed however, the first changes I noticed were my core strength diminishing quickly {it became difficult to hold good form on a prescribed push up, toes to bar quickly became too challenging} and inverted moves became difficult {HSPU’s, inchworm – mainly due to bad heart burn}. When I noticed certain moves becoming challenging, I scheduled a one-on-one session with Joe. Together we went through all moves that could be encountered in a WOD and made modifications for moves that needed them {or would eventually need them}. Some of the most impactful modifications were using the racks to guide the bar for overhead squats, doing push ups on a slight incline, changing to kettle bell swings instead of completing a snatch with a bar. Instead of T2B, I did K2E for a while, then went to stationary floor wipers. I altered burpees to squat thrusts. On one work out at about 31 weeks in, I modified burpee box jumps to push-up step overs {did an incline push up, stepped onto and over the box, did another incline push up}.

3. What has surprised you about continuing to CrossFit during your pregnancy?

Margie: Overall, I have been surprised at the things I’ve still been able to do unmodified: pull ups, handstand push ups, double unders (DU actually improved during pregnancy), many of the lifts… For the first 8 months of pregnancy, after each class I became known for doing my “PP’s” (Pregnancy Pull ups). I’d do two or three sets of strict pull ups to failure with the goal that as I gradually gained weight, I’d gain strength! And once I have this baby I’d be a bodyweight rockstar! I’d been doing well up until just this week when I had my first failure. Oh well, I guess you can’t win em all!

I’ve also been surprised at how long I’ve been able to continue to train. I had no idea that I’d be able to continue training into my 8th month of pregnancy. I’m still feeling GREAT so maybe I will be able to go until I’m full term! Maybe the jokes I’ve gotten about making sure to stop working out if I see a puddle under me will actually be a reality! ;)

Courtney: I have also been surprised by the things I have been able to do unmodified: I continued running 3 – 5 miles until recently {I am 35 weeks at the moment}, all squats with the exception of overhead which I started using the racks to guide the bar for balance, I even busted out a few pistols on each leg during a WOD a couple weeks ago.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how strong I still feel and how I am able to still get a great workout even at 8 months in. I have to believe that staying strong has contributed to me enjoying an active, healthy happy journey. I plan to continue as long as I feel good…which I anticipate will be up to the end.

4. What words of wisdom do you have for other women who crossfit during pregnancy?

Margie: Be Careful. You are carrying a precious gift from God--another life! There is no reason to go crazy and be unwise with what you are doing. Many of us women who do CrossFit training are very competitive. You need to shake that. This isn’t about going hard anymore, this is about staying healthy and doing what’s right for you and your baby. Modify anything that doesn’t feel right. Here are some of my modifications that I have personally used:

Box Jumps → Step Ups
Burpees → Squat Thrusts (same movement but just kick back into an extended-arm plank instead of touching chest-to-ground)
Prone Extensions → Quadruped Extensions
Running → Side Shuffle, Biking, or Rowing
Atomic Sit Ups, Happy Russians, Toes 2 Bar, Knees to Elbows, etc → do Knees 2 Chest or just Kip on the bar. Or do a completely different exercise altogether.
Cleans → Single Arm Kettlebell Clean
Snatch → Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch
SDHP → Kettlebell High Pull

**A note to my 8th Day Family: Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me throughout this pregnancy. It means the world to be able to come in and train with you every day. I don’t know what I’d do without that!

Courtney: Listen to YOUR Body! I completely agree with Margie – you are now responsible for a precious blessing from above which far out-shadows trying to compete with the person next to you or achieving a PR during this time. Everyone is different and it is about tuning in to your own body – knowing your strengths, weaknesses, when to push and when to take a break. As you probably noticed in our answers above, Margie and I used slightly different modifications based on our abilities….and I think that is awesome.

Educate yourself! I highly recommend taking the time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and plan ahead for modifications.

Be inspired, be encouraged, be confident! As your body changes, embrace it. Don’t give up working out just because it needs to look a little different for a few months. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself some grace and enjoy the journey – it is truly a miracle!

**I echo Margie’s sentiments on the shout out to the 8th Day Family – having so many people cheering me on, being interested and invested in wanting me to succeed has really been amazing and I am so grateful to have shared the experience of my first pregnancy with such a great community!