Childbirthing & CrossFitting
By Coach Manny Alayon
This addition of the coaches blog is going to be a bit different. As many of you know, I recently just had my first child. Although being a new dad is super cool and exciting, I think my perspective on how CrossFit has helped me become a dad really isn’t that impactful. For right now at least. To be honest, it made me realize that us dudes have it quite easy compared to our female counterparts. Watching my baby momma go through childbirth, and without an epidural, was just nothing short of incredible.
I’ve witnessed dozens of our NECF members go through their entire pregnancies with us. It has been very insightful to hear their feedback on how doing CrossFit through their pregnancy really helped them with labor, pushing etc. Now having first hand experience (well, I guess not really first hand) with a woman going through her pregnancy while doing CrossFit, I think it would be cool to interview my fiance and share that with everyone.
Manny: How long have you been doing CrossFit?
Dafne: I started the summer of 2015, so 4 years and some months.
Manny: What were some of your fears about doing CrossFit during your pregnancy?
Dafne: I was afraid of getting too out of breath during my workouts and ignoring an ache or pain that could affect the baby’s health. I also was concerned about feeling crappy about not working to 100% and getting out of shape. Getting in shape was a struggle so the thought of losing all my progress was upsetting.
Manny: When did you stop CrossFitting during your pregnancy?
Dafne: I stopped at the beginning of my 9th month, so around 36 weeks. I stopped because I was retaining a lot of fluid and couldn’t fit my feet into my shoes! I was feeling generally big and uncomfortable.
Manny: In what ways did the NECF coaches help you with modifying your WODs?
Dafne: The coaches helped mainly with moderating my intensity. I was getting really out of breath fast and was cramping often. They helped with my pacing so I could avoid cramping but still get a good sweat. This didn’t work so well for short workouts because my intensity was too low to feel like I got a good workout in, but the longer workouts were typically much better. They also helped me substitute movements if I was feeling a bit off or unable to do them.
Manny: Is there anything you wish you did or didn’t do while CrossFitting through your pregnancy?
Dafne: I wish I came in more often. I sometimes let how I was feeling that day or what was going on with work stop me from going in when I normally would . I also wish I did some extra accessory work to make sure I was strengthening more specific muscles, since I truly couldn’t give it my all.
Manny: Do you think CrossFit helped you with your pregnancy? If so, how?
Dafne: 100%. Not only did it keep me moving, but it kept me connected with my community of friends that made the pregnancy a lot easier. Also, I think that the skills I learned that helped me complete WODs, like pain tolerance and perseverance, helped during my labor. I remember going into labor and pushing with the same approach as I would a sprint--this hurts, it’s going to hurt, but I can do it, it’s only pain. If I did not have the practice of encountering something hard and achieving it, I think I would have had a much tougher time managing the experience. I also think being active during my pregnancy helped me to get on my feet soon after having her.
Manny: Were there any drawbacks or negatives from doing CrossFit while pregnant?
Dafne: I can’t think of a single reason not to do CrossFit while pregnant, so long as you are listening to your body and modifying however you have to. Honestly, the only drawback (or negative) was managing my own ego, body changes, and changes in fitness level that accompanied my pregnancy. It was hard to see myself get bigger and less able to achieve what I normally could in the gym. I always looked forward to pushing myself for that hour and striving to be better, so having to switch my mindset was hard. CrossFit taught me about mind over matter--overriding my tendency to stop when things are hard, and pushing through the discomfort, despite what my mind is telling me. It was hard to switch my mindset from that to pulling back with discomfort, because the goal was now to have a healthy baby and pregnancy. But in the end, I was still the healthier for it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Manny: What advice would you give a woman who is hesitant about working out during their pregnancy?
Dafne: I would suggest to not give up, and instead to make sure to be communicating every day with the coach. There is always a modification or scaling that can be done to make sure of a good and safe workout. The truth is that everyone’s pregnancy is so different, I can’t imagine that there is a single effective approach for everyone, so it is important to make sure you give feedback to the people who are coaching you. Any bit of movement is better and healthier than no movement, and it’s great for the baby and recovering. So my advice is to make sure that you communicate your concerns to the people who are there for you, and don’t stop! (It also doesn’t hurt that you will be seeing a whole community of your friends whose support is as important a factor in a healthy pregnancy as any other).
I try to do my best to not speak for women when it comes to their experiences. But it has always been admiring to hear the feedback from our strong CrossFit ladies who’ve been through pregnancy with us. It is something a bit deeper and different to experience along with a significant other. To experience their daily struggles with trying to stay in shape while their bodies are changing and out of their control. This experience doesn’t necessarily give me a new perspective (because that would assume I thought it was nothing), but an even greater respect for the things they have to overcome to birth a child, while still trying to lift heavy things. No matter your obstacles, even ones that are unique, our coaches are always here to help you along the way. Never hesitate to reach out to any of us for help!