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The Formerly Pregnant Crossfitter: A Reflection

The Formerly Pregnant Crossfitter: A Reflection

CrossFit, at the best of times, has a stigma of being the workout regimen for the insane, balls to the wall, would rather puke than rest individuals. Yes, it can be intense but it’s all a matter of personal choice. But the general population does not see that. Now take a woman who does CrossFit and tell her she’s pregnant.

Pregnancy, back in the day, meant a woman was to stay in bed and do nothing except grow a baby. Slowly through time, women were allowed to walk around and do the bare minimum, but don’t strain yourself, sweetheart. Fast forward through the centuries to today when everyone has a theory, insight, or, best of all, an opinion on how or if a pregnant woman can approach exercise.

What people need to understand, from what I experienced during pregnancy, is that the level of intensity a pregnant woman can work out at is dependent on that woman and her baby. That’s it. One pregnancy is not the same as the next. It never has been and never will be.

I was lucky enough to have an OBGYN who stayed active during her pregnancies and recommended I keep doing what I was doing during mine. Her only advice was to watch my heart rate and listen to my body. She recommended this not only because of her experiences but also because I had been doing CrossFit faithfully for 2 years when I got pregnant. My body was used to the intensity; I had self-awareness built up to know when to go hard or dial it back. The takeaway here is that I could keep doing CrossFit through pregnancy because it was familiar. Pregnancy is NOT a good time to start Crossfit if you’ve not done it before.

The first trimester was a learning experience.

As much as I wanted WODs to be business as usual, it became more apparent that adjustments needed to be made. During the 2019 Open, I did the workouts the best I could but found that my heart rate would get way too high to keep the baby safe. A woman’s heart rate naturally gets higher during pregnancy to accommodate the little alien and all the extra blood in the body. Weights went down slightly on all my lifts. The first three months were all about learning to play the same game but with new rules.

The second trimester is when the belly starts to form. As weird as it sounds, it’s about re-learning how to move through familiar movements. Once my bump started to show up, I had to adjust my position in my squats. All my extra weight was on the front of my body, forcing me to send the rest of my weight further into my heels. Modifications started coming into play. The beauty of CrossFit is that mods can be made without sacrificing intensity. I kept doing box jumps and double unders until they became cumbersome and uncomfortable. Then I did weighted step ups or went on the assault bike instead of using a rope. Running was almost completely replaced with rowing or biking. I always watched my heart rate and made movement choices based on what was best for me and my little girl.

Things got frustrating in the third trimester.

Burpees were long gone, most barbell movements were replaced by dumbbells, and my beloved wall balls were downsized from the Rx 14 pounds to 10. Pregnancy is psychological as well as physical, so through all the adjustments that I almost felt insulted by, I reminded myself that this was for a greater good.

My last CrossFit workout was 3 days before I went into labor.

I’m proud to say that I was able to attend Crossfit WODs at least 12 times per month each month of my third trimester. That was possible because we did it the smart way. My coach knows my mindset and knew how to communicate with me when I wanted to crush a WOD but he knew I shouldn’t. He made each workout approachable for a pregnant person without it being too simple, keeping my fragile ego intact. Looking at you, Baby Traps.

Another helpful factor was having an OB that understood my lifestyle and goals.

This, obviously, isn’t something a gym can provide as they are not doctors, but it is important to have a doctor who supports you. If my OB had said no working out during pregnancy, I would have gone insane. Working out during pregnancy is mental as much as physical. It gives you a sense of normalcy when everything else is going upside down.

The last important ingredient is to have a great support system.

Surround yourself with people who know your pregnancy and postpartum fitness goals.  My pregnancy goals were to keep from gaining a ton of preggo weight, (which I ultimately had no control over), and to stay sane through the mind-numbing, endorphins-producing “cult” of CrossFit. My postpartum goals, which will be attacked as soon as my doctor says it’s cool, are to go as hard as my body will let me and allow myself time to get back to where I was as far as performance.

It’s important to note that this is a reflection of only one pregnancy, mine. I had an incredibly easy pregnancy that allowed me to keep moving at the speed I was used to. That’s not the situation for everybody.  Some women are high-risk pregnancies and need to scale earlier or more drastically. And CrossFit allows for that. There are women who become so flexible during pregnancy that lifting the loads they are used to is dangerous. They can maintain the intensity by modifying the movement and CrossFit allows for that.

Moral of this long story:

If you know of a pregnant woman doing CrossFit, support her. She has talked with her doctors and coaches and is doing what she needs to do. She will scale as she needs to, rest as she needs to, and perform her best. Outside opinions are not necessary. In fact, applause to all the pregnant women, past, present, and future, who endured the CrossFit stigma as well as the endless opinions about safe fitness during pregnancy. You were strong before but, damn, you’re titans now.

As for myself, I can’t wait to get back and annihilate some girl WODs. Specifically Karen, Kelly, Cindy, Barbara, Helen, Annie, and Fran. Because after labor, nothing can hurt me now.

 

Squats on squats on squats

Squats on squats on squats

The Squat

In the dynamic, multi-joint movements that are practiced in every Flux class there is a foundational movement that must be mastered before any more complex movement should be attempted. These foundational movements build strength, stability, and ensure that our range of motion is safely being utilized. What’s funny peculiar, not funny haha, is that these movements are so foundational that some of the best examples are kids.

No joke. Ask a toddler to pick something up off the floor. They don’t bend forward and strain their lower backs and over-extend their hamstrings like we adults do. They squat. With nigh-perfect form! Their knees are wide, their chests are up, and they go diaper to dirt with their heels down. As adults stuck at desks or in cars for most of our lives, we have lost a lot of the flexibility in our hips and ankles, and strength in our backs to perform a healthy, strong squat. It takes those of us who have forgotten how to move a long time before we get that back.


Squats are used in almost everything. Imagine Bubba Gump and his shrimp; that’s how many movements use a squat. Air squats, front squats, overhead squats, back squats, squat cleans, squat snatches, box jumps, med-ball cleans, wall-balls, thrusters, and so on. And that’s just in the gym! Squats are fundamental in everyday life, the most obvious and basic being using the bathroom.

A strong healthy squat has several key points of performance. Starting from the ground up, the heels must remain on the floor. If a person has tight Achilles’ tendons or stiff hips, knees, or ankles, the squat might not reach depth which means the hips might not descend below the knees. And that’s ok! The more the ankles are working, the more flexibility will be built in the Achilles so that the squat can sit lower.

The knees must follow the path of the toes. The toes are pointed slightly out instead of straight forward. In order to save undue strain on the knees, they must follow the path of the toes. This means the knees are wide at the same time finding an even distribution of weight through the foot. For a depth squat, the hip crease gets below the knee crease. This activates the big muscle groups of the thighs, your quads and adductors, as well as the glutes.

As you work on flexibility in the lower half of the body, you will also be working on strengthening the core and back. The chest is meant to be as upright as possible in the squat. This means bracing the abdominals to support the torso, and in order to balance the body the erectors of the spine are activated. There’s a lot going on, but once the air squat is mastered the body is ready for any variation of the squat.

Squats are great not only for making one’s butt look good, they also build strength, stamina, cardio endurance, flexibility, and a host of other skills that make a person a better athlete. Can’t make it to the gym one day? Crunched for time? Want a leg day but don’t have weights around? Rock out 100 squats. Your heart rate rise, you’ll sweat, and you will certainly feel it in your legs.

#diamondbutts

Clean Eating

Clean Eating

In any fitness regiment, the most important, and often least considered, element is the diet.  And by diet, I don’t mean a fad diet saying you can’t eat any carbs ever, or you can only eat cucumbers for the next 30 days, or shakes for every meal for the foreseeable future.

None of these are sustainable over a long period of time and oftentimes they don’t even address the actual root of a bad diet.  A wise woman once said to me, “You can’t outrun a bad diet,” meaning that no matter how dedicated you are to working out, a bad diet will thwart your results every time.  So what can we eat to supplement and enhance an active lifestyle while at the same time being fulfilling and full of freedom?  Short answer: clean eating.

What is clean eating?

Clean eating is the basic idea of eating food as close to its natural, raw form as possible.  This does not include boxed, bagged, or packaged foods.  It also excludes processed foods as they contain a TON of unnecessary sugar, salt, saturated fats, all the unhelpful stuff.

Imagine your grocery store.  Now picture the perimeter of the store.  All the produce is there, (fresh fruits and vegetables galore), raw, fresh cuts of meat, the eggs, the spices; the stuff that you could eat from nature without having to add preservatives.  The purpose of eating clean is to eat for nourishment and fuel.

Clean eating powers the body more efficiently.  The fibers in fruits and vegetables keep the metabolism working longer.  Fresh meat contains protein to help build and replenish muscles.  Healthy fats that run the cells smoothly are found in eggs, nuts, seeds, and more.  Essentially, the more naturally colorful the food is, the better.

From personal experience, after clean eating for two months then dipping my toes back into the processed food world, I felt sluggish, out of focus, and noticed I didn’t perform as well in the gym.

Balance in Important

Of course, life is about balance.  If you discover that you’re drinking a soda or two everyday, replace them with Zevia, Bubly, or La Croix.  If your meals are mostly microwaved from a box, start weaning yourself off your sugar/salt addiction by replacing a meal with chicken tacos, with fresh veggies, or any number of delicious, fresh meals.  Eventually, work your way into the 80/20 realm where 80% or more of your food intake is clean food and 20% or less is your treat food.  This way you can satisfy your cravings but you take in much more quality sustainence.  Meal prepping is invaluable in this.

Clean up your act!  Eat clean!  (Insert cheesy wink here)

Want More Info/Help with Nutrition?

Clean eating is a great place to start, but if you want more information or a more specific plan and some accountability Icehouse does offer Nutrition Coaching.  To learn more with a free Intro call, snag your time here to see if we can help: https://meetme.so/IcehouseNutritionConsult

 

Why Water?

Why Water?

Why Water?

Everyone has heard the advice of “Drink eight glasses of water per day” in order to stay healthy and hydrated. We don’t need to go over that again. What we do need to think about is where water goes, how we acquire more, and why it is so important.

People don’t often think about all the ways that the body gets rid of water. There are the obvious modes of sweating, saliva, and our bathroom bodily functions, (to put it delicately), but we never stop to think about evaporation. Evaporation, seriously? And yes. Our skin being the porous layer that it is allows water to evaporate out of the body just to keep the internal systems at a normal temperature and functioning as they are meant to. The act of breathing even uses up the body’s water supply. So between just existing and eliminating wastes, the human bod eliminates A LOT of water each day. The amount of water it goes through is also effected by the climate, temperature, age, and all sorts of environmental factors that the average person, myself included, never thought about. Crazy…

When you feel thirsty after all that breathing, you could go for the obvious choice: a glass of water, which is good! Water is water and nothing will ever substitute a tall, cool drink of that clean crystal-clear. However, food contains a bunch of water, too.

Just as drinking more water instead of other liquids, such as sodas, energy drinks, juices, etc, all of which have a TON of sugar, eating water-laden foods will help the body lose excess fat by taking in more quality calories. Vegetables and fruits hold more water than the comfort foods of baked goods and sugary, creamy deliciousness. Not that these foods don’t have water, but fruits and vegetables have the added benefit of being lower in calories and fats. Water-rich foods also take longer for the body to digest, which makes a person feel fuller longer. In effect, there’s less snacking on the other stuff. Water is sneaky like that. It hides out in the health food and health-s you up, hard.

Eating water-rich foods and drinking more water greatly compliments and enhances an active lifestyle. Water keeps the body sweating, which cools down all the internal systems, from respiratory to digestive to nervous and everything in between, to keep the body functioning the way it should. Dehydration, the act of taking in less water than the body expels, causes muscle fatigue and can do even more damage to the organs since the body will try to over-allocate the finite resource of internal water. Which is why your coaches always tell you to drink water before, during, and after your workout.

Going a little bit deeper into detail, water keeps your kidneys healthy. And a happy kidney is a productive kidney. Kidneys are the waste removal organs of the body. The wastes that humans eliminate from the body are what the kidneys hunt down and kick out. This process removes the toxic matter from our organs, our blood, all of our tissues. Why did our mothers tell us to drink a lot of water when we were sick? Because water cleanses the system. Water cleans ALL. THE. THINGS. And the healthy kidneys, brought to you by water, evicts all that grime from the stuff you need.

Improved brain function, more youthful looking skin, and regular bodily functions are also benefits of drinking enough water. A decent gauge to go by: drink half your weight in ounces. So if you weigh 160 pounds, drink at least 80 ounces of water each day. Extra credit if you drink more.

Listen to your mother! Eat your fruits and vegetables! Drink your water!
In the name of science!

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule

Like most human beings, my family has an obnoxious amount of unhealthy food ready and waiting during the holidays.  All the starch, sugar, and cream-based goodness you could ask for is just sitting there, staring you in the face.  How do you, someone with fitness and health goals on the brain, survive the temptation, especially when grandmas and aunts are personally offended if you don’t eat what they have provided?

Enter the 80/20 approach to food.  This is not a diet.  It’s a lifestyle guideline designed to focus on balance, but allow some indulgence, in your intake.  Let’s be honest, a hyper-restrictive diet that allows for no deviation is difficult/impossible to maintain.  You can’t be perfect 100% of the time.  You just can’t.  And if you attempt that 100% perfection and slip up by having one sip of soda or a nibble of chocolate, it’s very common for a person to feel guilty about what they have done.  A lot of people feel like a failure if they indulge slightly.  This can wear on a person’s mental health as well as their self worth.  

Food is delicious!  We shouldn’t feel bad for being humans and enjoying it.  On the other hand, indulging too much can have the same effect as being too restrictive: a loss of self-worth and feeling out of control.

The beauty of the 80/20 rule is it allows you to satiate your cravings for salty chips or sweet candies every now and then without compromising your entire diet.  80% of the time, (and this can be per day, week, month, what have you), consume clean food.  Clean food means unprocessed munchables.  Stuff you can pull off a plant and eat or meat, (for you herbivores, some protein substitute that’s naturally produced).  Cook this with healthy fats, spices, and herbs.  Essentially, follow Greg Glassman’s credo to eating.  We’ll discuss that further down the line.  Food for fuel!  

The other 20%, feel free to eat whatever you want.  Within reason. 

Always a catch.

Sure, nom on the good stuff, the things you have cravings for during the other 80% of the time.  However, since you are part of the community that is focusing on self-betterment, challenge yourself to select “treat food” that is on the healthier end of the spectrum.  Instead of ice cream, try mashed frozen bananas with a little vanilla extract.  No, it’s not the same, but your body will thank you later.  Instead of four slices of cheese pizza, try two slices of veggie or meat pizza.  Homemade sweet potato chips instead of Doritos.  The list goes on and on.

Spread out your 20%, too.  Instead of being healthy and consistent through the week then gorging on the weekend, allow yourself a small treat each day.  Small.  Did I say small?  A SMALL treat each day.  And while you’re enjoying a SMALL indulgence every day, make healthy, clean meals that taste good.  Do your research.  Find recipes that include foods that you know you like.  Take time to prep them for the future so you don’t deviate from the 80/20 world into the 50/50 world.  

Other than the 80/20 allowing for little bits of happiness each day, it is also sustainable.  This is a highly functional method of thinking about food consumption.  When you eat primarily healthy food, you will see improvements in athletic performance, brain function, and bodily function, such as digestion and respiration.  At the same time, acknowledging your cravings and being in control of them keeps you from going crazy with said cravings.  Guilt will be less and less of an issue because you know you are fueling your body more than you are spoiling it. 

Take the time.  Prep your food, prep your snacks, prep your treats, and don’t worry.  You got you.