Dr. Jessica Robinson, PT, DPT
Yay, you’re having a baby! While this time will come with many changes, your exercise routine doesn’t have to be one of them. The days of doctors telling you to sit back, relax, and avoid exercise during pregnancy are a thing of the past (unless under certain conditions, i.e. being placed on bed rest). These days exercise is encouraged for women who are going through an uncomplicated pregnancy as it has been shown to have many benefits. These include helping to reduce common pregnancy complaints such as back pain, boosting energy level/reducing fatigue, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and it may even help reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Regular exercise can also help prepare you for the labor and birthing process by increasing muscle strength and stamina.
It is always important to listen to your body while exercising. Things you may have been able to do prior to pregnancy and in the first trimester may be very different from what you are able to do and feel comfortable doing in the second and third trimesters. Safety and comfort are always key, and you should err on the side of caution if ever questioning whether to keep doing an exercise or activity. You should also avoid activities that may result in a fall or traumatic injury. Asking yourself the question “should I?” rather than “can I?” can set you on the right path when choosing exercise activities or considering modifications to ensure a safe and efficient pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Every person and every pregnancy is different, and you should always consult your healthcare provider regarding your exercise routine during pregnancy.
As you progress through your pregnancy, you may find certain moves or exercises become more challenging or just don’t feel good. For the rest of this blog, we will talk about ways to modify general exercises and common CrossFit moves. It is important to maintain good communication with your coaches to let them know how you’re feeling on a day to day basis. They are also great advocates and can help with appropriate modifications as needed.
When making modifications to a CrossFit or general exercise routine, keep in mid these suggestions. Change the reps and/or weight: avoid overdoing it and creating excessive fatigue as well as lowering reps/weight with more of a focus on form and safety. Change the intensity: again, avoid creating excessive fatigue and go for quality over quantity to ensure proper breathing and muscle control. Change the exercise: substitute for a different exercise that is safe and more comfortable. Below are some examples of common exercises and modifications that can be made.
With barbell movements, you may need to modify the bar path starting in the second trimester. However, if this starts to compromise for or safety, opt for making it a two-handed movement instead by using kettlebells or dumbbells. Other modifications for barbell movements can include starting in the hang position and ending in the power position if you experience pain, pressure, or discomfort with full squatting. The Valsalva maneuver (holding your breath during heavy lifting) should also be avoided to prevent excessive pressure on the abdomen and pelvic floor as well as the risk of elevating blood pressure. Instead, use the “blow as you go” technique: inhale during the descent of a lift, and exhale as you rise.
Exercising and CrossFit during pregnancy can be completely safe with the appropriate pacing, progressions, and modifications. Remember to stay hydrated and replace fluids lost during exercise. Modifications are not something to be looked down on or discouraged, and not every workout will feel great or perfect. That’s okay! Always remember to give yourself lots of grace during this time. You’ve got this, momma!
Performance Coach Amy Nguyen, CF- L2, USAW L1
B.S. Foods & Nutrition, M.S. Exercise Physiology & Nutritional Sciences
Regular physical activity has been shown to help prevent and manage diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. Also aiding in prevention of hypertension, maintenance of healthy body weight and improving mental health, quality of life and well-being.
The American College of Sports Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for physical activity state that adults aged 18–65 yr should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days per week and every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week. According to data from the CDC the percentage of adults (18+) that met the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity was only 23.2% (2018 National Health Survey). People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Furthermore, over 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.
Benefits of physical activity include; improvement of muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, bone and functional health; reduced risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer); depression; reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures; and helps with maintaining a healthy body weight. In children and adolescents physical activity has been shown to improve physical fitness (cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness); cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, dyslipidemia, glucose, and insulin resistance); bone health; cognitive outcomes (academic performance, executive function); mental health (reduced symptoms of depression); and reduced adiposity.
You may be wondering what is considered physical activity? The World Health Organization defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity refers to all movement. This can include activities we do for leisure like walking your dog, walking to class, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn, and even cleaning your house. Because of our modern day lives with technology and obligations like work or school, we are much more sedentary than we should be. Not having enough opportunities to move and be active throughout the day, many rely on exercise to get physically active. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but not every physical activity is exercise. Exercise is a planned, structured, and repetitive activity for the purpose of improving or maintaining physical fitness.
Starting an exercise routine can be challenging and we can face many obstacles in getting started and building consistency. Some of the barriers many face are lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of support, fear of injury or lack of skill. And these can all seem daunting when first starting!
Here are a few tips when trying to get that journey started.
Lack of time, lack of energy
Rearrange your current routine. Take an honest assessment of your day and see how you can play with your schedule and time. Focus on one small step first and see if you can fit step number one in, whether that’s going to the gym during lunch three times a week instead of going out to lunch, waking up twenty minutes earlier each day to go for that walk with your dog, or winding down an hour earlier at night for better rest and your overall well-being. Try to put all the excuses to the side and be open to redesigning the day and really give it a chance. Let it settle in for a few weeks before judging it and do not judge yourself. Find a way to fit in the enhancements for a better routine, for you, your happiness and health.
Lack of motivation, lack of support, fear of injury or lack of skill
Joining a gym or fitness facility with qualified instructors is a great start! We at Olympus have a community of athletes and members who support, motivate, and keep one another accountable. Our qualified instructors ensure proper movement, progression and growth for each individual.
Find your step one, work on building consistency a step at a time. Give yourself grace and remember that physical activity and exercise are empowering. Our bodies are amazing beautiful things. It's amazing what we can accomplish with them, at the same point it is important to prioritize taking care of it!
Author: Annemarie Alf
"We Specialize In Optimizing Teen And Active Adult Lives In North County San Diego By Addressing The WHOLE Person. We offer A Holistic, Integrative Approach To Performance And Wellness That Will Assess And Address The Root Causes That Lead To Pain, Hormonal Imbalances, Fatigue, Weight Gain And/ Or Decreased Performance."