Tag Archives: pregnant

Postpartum Fitness

If you asked me during my pregnancy, when I would be back to the gym after having a baby, I would have said “6 weeks, maybe 2 months”.

Oh how naive I was…

Aside from the fact that (unknowingly going in) I was a full-on attachment parent, or that our baby girl nursed every 20-90 minutes (but I never knew when it would be 20 vs. 90), the pounding your body takes in the early weeks of having a baby is like nothing I have ever experienced. Here’s how it went down for me:

  1. 14 hour labour – which isn’t too long in the grand scheme of things. But it was like a constant workout, and I stopped eating about 30 minutes after labour actually started. So I did a 13.5 hour workout without eating more than a few grapes and a glass of juice.
  2. 2.5+ hours pushing – yeah so that was intense. Especially since it was unmedicated. It was like doing a max-effort workout for an entire minute. Every 3-4 minutes, for over 2.5 hours. Again, on no food. And one hell of a workout for my pelvic floor muscles.
  3. 24 hours awake – from when my water broke to when baby girl arrived, on very little food, with adrenaline going like crazy. Oh and labour. 
  4. 4 hours sleep – she arrived at 3am, we fell asleep by 6am, and woke up around 9:30am for our first day with our baby girl.
  5. Up 2-3 times/night for 45-90 minutes for 6 weeks – so after that marathon and a half, what would have been amazing, was a goodnight sleep to recover. But nope! 
  6. Creating milk to sustain another human – on little sleep, struggling to eat enough and full of stress hormones (amongst other hormones).

Soooo, now that I’ve painted a beautiful picture of having a baby – haha! I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, I promise. In fact, writing that makes me proud about what a freakin’ badass I am. Women are strong. Shockingly strong. But I digress…

By the time I hit 6 weeks postpartum, I was pretty darn depleted. As someone who historically didn’t let themselves workout on less than 7 hours of sleep, due to a history of adrenal fatigue, I was feeling super torn. I wanted to go back to the gym SO badly, but I couldn’t knowingly put my body through that, on top of what I was already demanding of it. Also, I was pretty sure that the almost 3 hours of pushing likely resulted in some muscular damage/imbalances. So here’s what I did:

1. Embraced this season of life.

This took a lot of introspection and mental work on my part. Never in my life have I taken a significant time off from being active. The most was 5 or 6 weeks with minor injuries, but I often figured out how to work around it, like participating in basketball practice while my hand was in a cast (smart Amanda, real smart). Being active, and more recently, being a Crossfitter, is actually a major part of how I self-identify. So on top of the massive identity shift that happens when you just, become a mom, I was also no longer working on our business (which is also one of my life’s passions) and I was very quickly losing strength, mobility and the mental clarity that comes with exercise.

A few quotations that helped me embrace this season of life were:

“Don’t treat a gift as a burden.”

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“This is the longest, shortest time.”

I didn’t want to look back on this incredibly short time (although it seems sooooo long when you’re in it) and wish I had snuggled my baby more. So I put going back to the gym out of my mind entirely. I was unknowingly putting pressure on myself to get back, so I just stopped. I took it off the table, knowing that the time would come when it would seem very manageable to get back.

2. Saw a pelvic floor physiotherapist.

 There is more and more discussion on how this should be part of standard postpartum care, and in some areas of the world it is. And I can’t recommend it enough. I am strong, I had no obvious damage (no tearing, no stitches), I wasn’t experiencing any incontinence and I wasn’t in much pain. But when I was assessed by my pelvic floor physio at 7 weeks postpartum, she gave me a 1/5. I have never received 20% on anything in my life – LOL – so this was a major blow. Haha! But I did a few weeks of prescribed exercises and jumped to a 3/5. At which point I was discharged, especially because I was asymptomatic, and was sent away with a handful of exercises to continue doing. I credit this step with now being able to do everything I was able to do before, like box jumps and skipping/double unders, without peeing! Unfortunately it is now considered normal to pee when jumping or running, after having a baby…to that I say, just because it is common, does not make it normal. See a pelvic floor physio if you’re experiencing unwanted voiding!

3. Yoga

At 4 months PP the kiddo started having slightly more predictable naps. I was also sleeping quite a bit more at night, so I didn’t need to nap when she napped anymore. My husband and I started trying to strategize about getting me back to the gym for the morning class, but I decided it wasn’t the right time yet. She routinely slept in til 8-8:30ish, which I embraced and slept in with her. I knew that would come to an end soon, so I took those sleep-ins as a gift and an opportunity to continue to recover. Especially since I was experiencing some pretty gnarly arthritis as the hormone relaxin left my body. So instead, I found a wonderful series of yoga videos on youtube, that were 25-30 minutes in length – perfect for nap time, which at this point was rarely longer than 40 minutes. About 5 or so years ago I went through a period of major yoga love. It was right after training for a half marathon (which killed my love of running for a significant while). Yoga felt like I was taking care of my body, after the beating I had just put it through, and was a wonderfully healing experience then, so I hoped to have the same response now. Boy did it do the trick! It felt so wonderful to move my body, work on mobility, engage my muscles and start building up some strength again – in a gentle way, without causing too much depletion. I even (for a split second) considered going back to yoga as my primary exercise instead of Crossfit (it was a short second, I swear, lol!). But if I’m honest, after about 6 weeks of yoga, I started making reasons to skip it. I was getting a bit bored – not because of the yoga, which was still a wonderful program – but because I was used to working out hard, in a group environment, where we all cheered each other on! I really missed Crossfit.

4. Back to Crossfit!

The combination of taking time off, rehabbing my body properly and introducing movement back to my life with yoga in a way that built up my strength, rather than depleting it, set me up perfectly for getting back to the gym by 6 months postpartum. It was a little humbling realizing how much strength I lost, but I reframed it by thinking of how I, you know, grew another human being! After being back for a few weeks, I’m actually more proud of myself than I was before. I can’t believe what I can do, after having a baby and taking 6+ months off! It’s exciting to see my skills come back, muscles starting to show a bit and slowly but surely, feeling my strength come back! 


As is always important with Crossfit, I had to check my ego at the door. When you start Crossfit, you are simultaneously learning new skills and developing strength. I was in an interesting position of having the skills, but not having the strength, or the lungs. So I had to be extra careful not to overdo it an injure myself. I scaled every WOD, and then scaled a bit more. I took epsom salt baths, supplemented, ate really well, foam-rolled and did mobility work at night, and even managed to go for a massage!

To Sum Up…

While it took a while for me to get there mentally, I couldn’t be happier with how I approached my return to exercising during the postpartum period. While many figure out how to get back 6 weeks PP, I truly feel that going back to the gym earlier was not the right decision for me, or my family for that matter. Instead, by being gentle with my body, rehabbing properly and slowly reintroducing fitness, I set my body up for success with Crossfit going forward. And more importantly, I’ve set my body up the best I can, to be able to handle another pregnancy (should we decide to go that route), hopefully as well as it handled this one!

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.)



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

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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