Category Archives: Second Trimester

Pregnant and Crossfitting

Ever since I was a (highly energetic) little girl, my parents knew that burning off that energy was key to my happiness, and team sports was the way to do it! I started playing soccer at age 5 and never looked back. My dad also wanted to make sure I could keep up with everyone in my class, so he made sure to teach me how to throw a baseball/football properly, and shoot a basketball/box out like one of the guys. This set the foundation for a serious love affair with activity, exercise, competitive sports and all things movement!

Skiing, snowboarding, wake boarding, biking, volleyball – I was up for anything! Once I left high school (which was the epitome of competitive sports for me), I naturally moved into the fitness realm. I had a trainer briefly, fell in love with group exercise classes for a while, ran a half marathon, had a mild-obsession with yoga for 2 years and then started to lift heavier and do high intensity training on my own at a gym. That eventually led me to Crossfit, which I quickly realized was a perfect fit for me. The community, the focus on PRs (never on weight or how you look), the competition, the doing things I didn’t think were possible (like walking into the gym, thinking “there’s no way I can do this WOD” and then just doing it!) – it was a match made in heaven. I’ve been Crossfitting for 2 years now, anywhere from 3-5 days a week, and I honestly can’t imagine any other style of working out! And then I got pregnant…

 

Pregnant and Crossfitting

Pregnant & Crossfitting | AmandaNaturally.com
photo cred: http://www.natashagivens.com

So what? I was pregnant not injured! So there was no way I was stopping exercising. Here’s why:

  1. I have always exercised so I’d lose my mind if I had to stop.
  2. It is totally and completely safe to do what you’ve always done, during pregnancy (albeit with some modifications as things progress).
  3. I couldn’t imagine better preparation for labour, than staying strong. 

I’ve had a few questions about how I scaled/modified workouts to suit my changing body, and I also want to document for future pregnancies (or friends at the gym who decide to follow suit) so here is a breakdown/timeline of how I changed my workouts as I progressed throughout my pregnancy. At the end I have a quick summary of common Crossfit movements, and how you can scale them.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or medical professional. All exercise during pregnancy should be discussed with your health care provider. This is simply a documentation of what worked for me, my body and my pregnancy! Know yourself and be safe. Maintaining strength and mobility is important during pregnancy, but smashing PRs and going all-out simply isn’t. The priority is building a baby – which is a hell of a lot of work! Listen to your body and move it accordingly.

 

First Trimester

  • No More Inversions – as recommended by my functional chiropractor. Handstand push ups became dumbbell/barbell presses. Nose-to-wall holds became plank holds. Rationale: redirecting blood and lymphatic flow away from the uterus, which is in the delicate stage of creating a brand new placenta (read: a new organ), isn’t a great idea.
  • No Twisting – interestingly Crossfit doesn’t include a lot of work in the twisting plane, other than sort of twisting/countering a twist in rope climbs. This one wasn’t too hard. I just started working on strict pull ups instead of rope climbs. Rationale: limiting intrauterine constriction.
  • No sit ups – I subbed in plank work. For example, I would set up plank about a foot away from the rig. For every 1 sit up RXd, I would do 4 rig-touches (2 with each hand). As in, I would lift my left hand off the floor and touch the rig, quickly put it down, repeat on the right side. Or sometimes push ups, elevated push ups, KB swings or even air squats – depending on what made sense for the WOD. Rationale: limiting intrauterine constriction and preventing Diastasis Recti (permanent separation of abdominal muscles that doesn’t return to normal postpartum).
  • No Explosive Jumping – step ups instead of box jumps. Or 12″ box jumps instead of 20″.
  • No Getting Out of BreathRationale: if you’re panting, baby’s not getting oxygen. I started taking a few more breaks during the WODs. In many cases, I would go heavier with stricter movements. So instead of high volume, lower weight kipping pull ups / touch-n-go olympic lifts, I focused on strict pull ups (banded) and heavy cleans/snatches.
  • I told my Crossfit coaches I was pregnant very early (like 4 weeks early), so they would understand and help me scale appropriately. They’ve been awesome. 
  • Still Worked Out Hard – in fact the Crossfit Open started when I was 12 weeks. I fully participated, RXing a few WODs and even getting my first chest-to-bar pull up!!
Pregnant & Crossfitting | AmandaNaturally.com
photo cred: http://www.natashagivens.com

 

Second Trimester

  • 16 weeks – stopped kipping pull ups because I was starting to get a slight bump, and my abs were starting to change/separate. I did strict, banded pull ups when it made sense. For high volume, I did ring rows. Rationale: preventing Diastasis Recti. 
  • 16 weeks – burpees to plank position, instead of all the way to the ground (belly in the way)
  • 19 weeks – step out burpees. With changing anatomy and achey hips, I was having a hard time jumping back in. So I started jumping out to plank, then stepping back in. Quickly moving to stepping out and back in.
  • 20 weeks – stopped bench pressing. This was surprising, but I found that my abs were really kicking in, and it was super uncomfortable. Switched to slightly elevated push ups. Rationale: preventing Diastisis Recti.
  • 21 weeks – I stopped running. The reasoning for this is I had 2 ultrasounds, a week apart, and the baby was in the exact same position. My functional chiropractor recommended stopping running to limit intrauterine constriction, which may have been impeding the baby’s ability to move around freely. This was a very conservative move, and lots of women run comfortably throughout their pregnancy. To be honest though, I quite enjoy running normally, but I really did not enjoy it with a belly – it was seriously uncomfortable! I substituted rowing for the remainder of this trimester – keeping the RX distances the same
  • 22 weeks – no more olympic lifting. While many pregnant women continue doing snatches and cleans with a belly, it seemed very counterintuitive to me. The whole focus of olympic lifting is to keep the bar as close to your torso as possible, which takes so much practice. To change form for a few months, and have the bar go out and around the belly, not only increases risk of injury, but undoes all of the hard work on technique I’ve put in so far. So instead, I switched to dumbbell cleans/snatches, KB swings, or technique work on parts of the lifts (like pulls, jerks or snatch balances)
  • 22 weeks – all WODS with squats/presses etc. from the floor, I started taking from the rack
  • 24 weeks – elevated burpees. With the ever-growing belly, burpees are constantly changing! Haha. Now I put a barbell on the rig, about a few inches off the ground. Just to give me a bit of extra room to accommodate for the belly. I was able to switch to jumping out and in again by elevating them.
  • 25 weeks – switched from double unders to singles.
  • 26 weeks – easily tied my old back squat PR at 165#. To be fair, it was a year old and I had only been CFing for 6 months when I tested it. But still!
  • 27 weeks – stopped rowing. My belly doesn’t let me anymore! Luckily it’s the summer, so running is the preferred form cardio…which I scaled to farmer’s carries (see below)
  • Front/Back squats – I took about 20# off my 1RM and used that for all RXs. So if the RX was to do 5+ at 85% of my front squat 1RM (which is 155#), I did 5+ at 85% of 135# (115#).
  • Strict/Push Press & Jerks – no change. In fact I PR’d my split jerk at 120# at 27 weeks!

Pregnant & Crossfitting | AmandaNaturally.com

 

Third Trimester

  • Cardio (skipping, burpees, jumping jacks – anything except running) – step ups with a 16″ box, then a 12″ box. Scaling the number appropriately – so if the RX was 20 burpees, I would do 40 x 12″ step ups.
  • Opting Out – 500m row for time, 7 minutes max burpees, max height box jump… there was no point in scaling these! Instead I cheered on my buddies or did accessory work.
  • Deadlifts – from risers because I couldn’t bend over far enough! Also did sumo deadlifts to account for the belly.
  • Plate Snatches – for metcons (which I did slowly).
  • Pull Ups – I did exclusively ring rows at this point. Even strict, banded ring rows were hard because the band was pressing against my ever-expanding belly
  • 28 weeks – running WODS modified to farmers carries (instead of rowing). A 400m run RX, would turn into 100m farmer’s carry with 2x 35# Kbs – one in each hand.
  • 30 weeks – I decreased from 4 WODs/week to 3, to give me more time to recover, and another sleep in day (I normally go to the 7am class).
  • 30 weeks – still squatting, all the way down. Don’t need lifters anymore because my belly keeps me in good alignment! Haha!
  • 34 weeks – PRd my deadlift at 215#, although it was from risers AND in sumo stance, so range of motion significantly decreased
  • 36 weeks – switched from barbell thrusters to dumbbell thrusters. I could still do barbell thrusters, but I found with the added weight out front (I’m all belly), my low back was really sore later in the day. Which is clearly not where you’re supposed to feel a thruster! Dumbbell thrusters allowed me to keep better form and not stress out my low back.
  • 37 weeks – I was cruising along feeling great, until baby dropped at 37 weeks. Suddenly I was waddling and all movements became much more challenging. Cue air squats, walking, gentle step ups and pretty high ring rows!
  • 38wks + 3 days – my last WOD. I fully planned on working out, lightly, until I went into labour. But that evening, I was quite achey from the WOD and I started thinking about what it would be like if I went into labour right then. Labour is a highly demanding WOD – lol – and I didn’t want to go in depleted. I made the decision then and there to stop CFing for the remainder of my pregnancy, build up my internal strength and walk like crazy! (Most days I did 2 x 30-45 minute walks with the dog – seeking out lots of hills. In August. During the hottest summer in 75 years.)

 

Emotions

So I want to briefly address this. As a competitive, Type-A individual, I love pushing my body hard (within reason), seeing improvements, hitting new PRs and getting stronger. Which is why I love Crossfit so much. I’m going to be honest with you. Modifying things during the first trimester, when my body more or less looked exactly the same, was hard. I didn’t even feel pregnant and yet, my workouts were suffering. I was frustrated, there may have been some tears. But I knew it was for the best, so I checked my ego at the door (which is critical at Crossfit regardless, otherwise you’ll get injured), and just started following the recommendations I knew were best. Once I started actually showing, and my body started changing, it was WAY easier. Of course I felt slight pangs of jealousy as my friends were doing rope climbs and I was doing ring rows, but, I was also doing 20# weighted ring rows, and GROWING A BABY! I took pride in what I was able to do, while pregnant, instead of what I couldn’t do.

 

Summary of Modifications

Bench Press – elevated push ups.

Box Jumps – change to step ups. Reduce height as pregnancy progresses.

Burpees – burpees to plank, step outs to plank, slightly elevated burpees (using a box, or a bar on the rig), elevated burpee step outs.

Cleans – once belly is present, switch to dumbbell cleans or front squats.

Deadlift – maintain proper form. Decrease weight as necessary. Pull from risers. Adopt sumo stance if belly is in the way.

Double Unders – single unders, then step ups.

Handstand Push Ups – dumbbell/barbell press

KB Swings – maintain proper form. Decrease weight as necessary. 

Muscle Ups – strict C2Bs + ring dips. Ring rows + supported ring dips. 

Presses/Jerks – no changes necessary. Or switch from barbell to dumbbells if more comfortable.

Pull Ups – as belly starts to develop, eliminate kipping pull ups. Strict pull ups (banded if necessary) and ring rows for high volume.

Push Ups – elevated push ups. Ring push ups.

Ring Dips – maintain proper form. Stop kipping as belly develops. Floor/box supported dips. Bench dips.

Rope Climbs – strict pull ups. Ring rows.

Rowing – maintain good form. Decrease intensity as necessary. Shift to step ups or farmer’s carries (see running) if belly is in the way.

Running – maintain form, keep breath rate reasonable so you can have a conversation. Out of breath = baby has no oxygen. If you are uncomfortable running, switch to rowing or farmer’s carries. Row the same distance as the running RX. Do 25% the distance for farmer’s carry, with a dumbbell or KB in each hand.

Sit Ups / Toes to Bars – stop altogether, to prevent damaging your abs (Diastasis Recti). Sub plank variations, push ups, KB swings, air squats, GHD holds.

Snatches – once belly is present, switch to single-arm dumbbell snatch, plate snatches or OH squats. Or work on snatch balances.

Squats – maintain proper form. Decrease weight as necessary. Widen stance slightly. Take from rack if the RX is from the floor.

Sumo Deadlift High Pull – first modify to rowing or using a KB. Once belly starts getting too large, do high volume deadlifts, slightly higher weight than RXd for the SDHPs.

Thruster – maintain proper form. Decrease weight as necessary. Switch to dumbbells to maintain form if necessary.

Wallballs – maintain proper form. Decrease weight as necessary. 

Pregnant & Crossfitting | AmandaNaturally.com
photo cred: http://www.natashagivens.com

My Second Trimester

Welcome to the second instalment of my personal experiences during my pregnancy. If you haven’t read the first part (and if you want to!) check it out here.

My second trimester was a lot less eventful. I got through the minor symptoms that I was experiencing in my first trimester – namely pretty serious fatigue, and occasional nausea popping up if I wasn’t on point with my food. As most other women say, the second trimester was the smoothest and I felt most like myself! By 16 weeks I didn’t even feel pregnant anymore – except for my slight baby bump!

Major Trends / Lessons Learned in my 2nd Trimester

Nutrients – still my major focus. Lots of collagen (smoothies, jello), bone broth, salmon, veggies, liver, egg yolks and ferments (like kombucha and sauerkraut).

Major Appetite in the Morning – I used to get up, have a coffee and go to the gym. In my first trimester, I ate a banana pre-crossfit, but that was no longer sufficient as of 14 weeks. I needed something quick, mostly carbs with some protein, that I could easily eat before the gym. So I stalked up on some clean sandwich meat (duBreton ham) and a clean gluten-free bread (from Cup of Tea Bakery), and I started having a ham-sandwich (and sometimes a banana too!) before the gym in the morning. While this isn’t the most nutrient dense snack, my body tolerates it really well, it allows me to exercise first thing, and it wasn’t actually replacing another nutrient-dense meal. This snack is in addition to my 3 nutrient-dense meals.

Staying Hydrated – The one thing I desperately crave is water, and it can come on out of nowhere. So I never leave the house without a large bottle of water. With summer approaching and the temperature starting to creep up, I felt like I was drinking tons of water, but not actually absorbing any. So I started adding lemon and a pinch of sea salt, to add electrolytes and enhance absorption. I also started drinking mineral water with lime occasionally. I also just decided to go with it and drink lots of water when I needed it!

Longer Breaks between Meals – by 16 weeks I felt back to myself, and was able to go back to my standard 4-6 hours between meals. As long as I had that early morning snack, 3 squares for the rest of the day worked great. This started to change as I approached my 3rd trimester and my stomach volume started to shrink (see end of post)!

Blood Glucose Testing – because my diet is quite dialled in (I pretty much eat the way I recommend to diabetics), and I haven’t been indulging in junk during this pregnancy, I know my body will not respond well to the glucose load they give you. Not to mention the fact that it’s corn syrup + orange food dye – both of which I avoid like the plague. So I chose to opt out of the standard blood sugar testing, with total support from my midwives and my family doctor. That being said, I was not irresponsible and stopped thinking about it altogether. I did 2 things instead (1) I did a blood test for my HbA1C, a really good indicator of how your body handles your glucose load and (2) around the 26 week mark, I checked my blood sugars using a finger prick test (available at your pharmacy) a few times. What’s right for you? Well that’s for you to decide with your health care provider. However, you do have options. If your diet isn’t optimal for managing blood sugar (high in grains, flour-based foods, sugar etc. or needing to eat every 2-3 hours) or if you have a risk for gestational diabetes, you definitely want to make sure your blood sugars are in check. You can usually do a typical blood glucose test with your doc, but ask for a cleaner sugar-load (like dates, bananas or even honey) so see if your doc will go with that. Alternatively, finger-prick tests are a great option!

Increased Appetite Overall – this is likely compounded by the fact that I workout 3-4 days/week still. So when I feel the need to eat more, I do. I just keep it real, whole foods. Most of the 2nd trimester I just ate more at each meal – I was often eating more than my husband! 

Gaining Weight – I did not worry whatsoever about gaining weight. My number one goal was to make sure I was providing my body with enough nutrients to allow a new human to be built (holy jeez that’s a crazy thought, still!) but also with enough fuel to support the energy demands of both building a baby, but also living an active life and crossfitting 3-4x/week. Interestingly, I didn’t gain a pound until after 20 weeks, even though I was consuming more than my 6’4″ husband!! I listened to my body and when I was hungry, I ate. I just made it (mostly) real, whole foods.

Crossfit – The beginning of my 2nd trimester I was still rocking along. I did the crossfit open (and got my first chest to bar pull ups!) at 12 weeks pregnant, and even PRd some lifts! The one thing I always did was keep my breath rate in check, cause if I was panting, baby wasn’t getting oxygen. This was hard at the beginning because I felt like myself, but knew I needed to keep my intensity level down – particularly challenging for a competitive individual like myself! Luckily, as my belly started to grow, it became much easier to handle 🙂 By about 22 weeks I was no longer able to do olympic lifting, and while many pregnant women continue doing snatches and cleans with a belly, it seemed very counterintuitive to me. The whole focus of olympic lifting is to keep the bar as close to your torso as possible, which takes so much practice. To change form for a few months, and have the bar go out and around the belly, not only increases risk of injury, but undoes all of the hard work I’ve put in so far. So instead, I switched to dumbbell cleans/snatches, KB swings, or technique work on parts of the lifts (like pulls, jerks or snatch balances). Outside of that, I didn’t have to change too much!

Heat Tolerance – well this was shocking. I used to be able to work out in 35 degree weather, no problem. But now, sitting outside in the shade for 15+ minutes in that kinda heat left me seriously nauseated. I’m having to be really careful about staying cool.

Energy Levels Overall – as of 26 weeks I started experiencing shortness of breath (which makes sense if you know what happens to your internal organs during pregnancy). I’m also quite a bit bigger so moving a little slower. As always, I’m listening to my body and resting when I need to – even if that means taking a nap when there’s something else I need/want to be doing, skipping a work out (which I don’t love doing) or opting out of social events that I know will be draining. 

 

Transition to 3rd Trimester (26 weeks on…)

My stomach volume clearly started shrinking around 25/26 weeks (check out this video to see what happens to your internal organs during pregnancy!) and it is definitely impacting how I have to eat. I can no longer eat a large meal, and cruise on that for 4-6 hours (which is what I recommend in my practice – best for blood sugar regulation, gut health, being able to use both carbs and fat as fuel, and preventing “hanger”). Due to my uterus/baby squishing my stomach, eating a large meal results in serious discomfort – not reflux, but tons of pressure. Clearly there’s no room! So I’m now onto 3 small meals + 2-3 larger snacks throughout the day. For example:

Pre-workout: ham sandwich (2 slices clean ham + 2 pieces GF bread)

Breakfast: 2 eggs + greens + ½ cup potatoes OR green mango smoothie 

Lunch: leftovers (usually 3-4oz meat, veggies, starch) OR eggs (if smoothie for breakfast) OR can of fish + salad + ½ bag plantain chips

Snack: small smoothie (blueberries, cherries, water, collagen) OR apple + organic PB OR banana muffin with coconut oil/ghee OR liver pate + apple slices OR plain, full-fat goat yogurt + collagen + blueberries

Dinner: 3 oz meat or fish + veggies + starch (fried plantains, white rice cooked in bone broth, potatoes, sweet potatoes or sweet potato noodles)

Snack: fruit OR banana muffin OR organic cherries with coconut milk OR ½ ham sandwich

Folate vs. Folic Acid, Neural Tube Defects vs. Autism – Clearing up the Confusion

 
I’ve had some (panicked) questions about the recent articles on folic acid supplementation during pregnancy and increased risk of autism. Let’s chat science:
 
1. This study is what is called an Observational Study. Do these types of studies have their merits? Absolutely. Do they establish causation? Absolutely NOT. This study looked at blood levels of folate and B12 in newborns 24-72 hours after birth, and then the development of ASD later in life. A correlation was established. Correlation – just like how eating ice cream increases your risk of being bitten by a shark.
 
“LOGIC”: eating ice cream happens more in the summer –> the summer equals more people swimming in the ocean –> more people swimming in the ocean increases the risk of shark attacks, therefore eating ice cream –> increased risk of shark attack. Absurd.
 
Now it’s important to not simply throw out a study because it’s correlational. Correlational studies are the jumping off point for mechanistic studies. But, we can’t make recommendations, especially dramatic ones, on correlation. 
 
2. No mechanism is established. But you know what we do have a mechanism for? Folate deficiency and neural tube defects. The neural tube is the part of the embryo that turns into the spine. It closes at 3 weeks post-conception, and REQUIRES folate to do so successfully. There is a known, causal mechanism for folate deficiency and NTDs like spina bifida. And the fact that it is required so early in pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant, shows how important it is to be taking folate (or eating a TON of leafy greens and chicken livers) prior to conceiving.
 
3. Population. Direct quote from the study:
“Data are from the Boston Birth Cohort…that recruited low-income urban, primarily minority mother-offspring pairs…followed them from birth through childhood…”
There are many confounding factors in that statement alone. For example, income is the number one determinant of health. This shows that it is important to analyze the actual study, instead of just reading a headline.
 
4. Folate vs. Folic Acid. Have you noticed that I’ve only used the word “folate” thus far? That’s because FOLATE is the food-based version of this important B vitamin. It’s the one the body needs and recognizes as usable. Folic Acid is a synthetic form of folate – it is not the same thing, and in some cases (usually with genetic anomalies) it can cause problems. Most people uses these 2 terms interchangeably but I cannot stress the importance of recognizing the difference. Finding a pre-natal supplement that contains FOLATE is challenging, but there are a few out there. You want to look for something that says “folate” or “active folate” or “methylated folate”. My favourite is Designs for Health, in combination with lots of leafy greens and regular liver consumption.
 
5. More isn’t better, it’s just more. As with all supplementation, more isn’t better. Follow your practitioner’s recommendations for the amount of folate to consume (just make sure it’s folate, not folic acid, and make sure that if your practitioner wants you to stop supplementing, they read the STUDY not the news article…otherwise get a second opinion.) Better yet, get most of it from your food. Leafy greens and chicken livers are your best sources!
 
6. Nutrients do not work in isolation. High levels of plasma folate and B12 indicate a metabolic issue – either stemming from a genetic anomaly (like the MTHFR mutation) or more often, other nutrient deficiencies. A diet high in all the nutrients (as in, not just from a pre-natal, but from consuming lots of vegetables, fruit, liver, meat, fish, eggs and quality fats) is required for all systems to function properly. Check out my free handout for a nutrient dense diet for fertility and pregnancy.
 
7. The media and nutrition. This is a post in and of itself, but to sum up quickly – the media should be ashamed of themselves for the way they create fear through headlines. No one ever reads the study before creating a shocking, and terrifying title. Case in point this study – the study authors conclusion:
“In this urban low-income minority birth cohort, we observed an elevated risk of ASD associated with high maternal plasma folate levels (>59 nmol/L), which far exceeds the excess cutoff suggested by the WHO (>45.3 nmol/L); however reported maternal vitamin supplementation was protective. Excess maternal vitamin B12 (>600 pmol/L) in pregnancy was also shown to be associated with greater ASD risk in offspring. The risk of ASD was highest if mothers had both excess prenatal folate and vitamin B12 levels. Our findings warrant additional investigation and highlight the need to identify optimum prenatal folate and vitamin B12 levels that maximize health benefits, at the same time minimize the risk of excess and its associated adverse consequences such as ASD.”
An interview with the study authors states this even more emphatically:
“Our work is very consistent with previous work showing that supplementation is critical to maternal health and child development and health, so at this point the recommendation is definitely to continue supplementation. What this study finds is that while maintaining adequate levels of folate is important, extreme levels may be harmful.”
What does all that mean?
 

Continue supplementing during pregnancy!

In summary, please do not freak out if you’ve been taking prenatals thus far. They are incredibly important (and this is coming from someone who prefers food over supplements most of the time!). Ideally switch to a version that contains folate, the active form of the nutrient recognized by the body. Keep the diet incredibly rich in nutrients by focusing on lots of leafy greens, quality meat & organ meats, egg yolks, fish, grass-fed dairy (if tolerated), bone broth and probiotic-rich foods (like sauerkraut & kombucha).

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