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!
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