Going Upside Down In Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.3

Welcome back for week 3 of the CrossFit Open! If you’re new here, hi! And welcome. Each week I’m offering considerations, strategies, and modifications for the Open workouts for pregnant and postpartum athletes.

Open 19.3 - For Time:

  • 200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge [Scaled: front-rack]

  • 50 dumbbell box step-ups [Scaled: same]

  • 50 strict handstand push-ups [Scaled: 5-in. elevated]

  • 200-ft. handstand walk [Scaled: bear crawl]

    • Time cap: 10 minutes

    • Men: 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box

    • Women: 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box

As in previous weeks, let’s break this down movement by movement!

Dumbbell Overhead Lunges

Considerations:

  • The main consideration with an overhead position while pregnant or postpartum is are you able to maintain core control to keep your ribs over your hips, without thrusting your rib cage up to the sky? Thrusting your rib cage puts extra tension on your core - of consideration if you’re healing a diastasis, or are pregnant and trying to keep avoid excess stretching. Second, thrusting your rib cage takes your diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor out of alignment, possibly meaning more strain on your pelvic floor than necessary.

  • If you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), lunges may be something that is aggravating to you at this point. Really, my only advice here is, if it hurts, don’t do it:)

Modifications:

  • Front rack carry, and/or reduced weight: could help to take away any rib thrusting, and will be kinder on your core and pelvic floor.

  • Squat instead of lunging for pelvic pain: Since the squats won’t move you forward, either pick a reasonable number to do that you can do with controlled form, or take a few steps forward after each squat.

Dumbbell Box Step-Ups

Considerations:

  • Hip movement: Pelvic pain or not, as we get bigger in pregnancy and adapt a “waddle”, there’s no need to exaggerate this movement with a step onto a 20” box. Try to pay attention to if you’re able to maintain control on the way up and down.

  • Again, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), step-ups may be aggravating. Same advice as above - if it hurts, don’t do it, or at least not as written:)

Modifications:

  • Lower box and/or reduced weight: Does a lower box or step help you better control the movement? Does it diminish your pelvic pain?

  • Hip thrust (shoulders elevated), with or without dumbbell on your hips. Alternate between right leg, left leg, and both legs for variation.

  • Consider reducing reps.

Handstand Push-Ups

Considerations:

  • Holy core pressure batman. Lol. I don’t even know what else to say. Hah! Read below under “Handstand Walk” for my take on doing these upside down movements. For the record - being upside down isn’t necessarily the issue - if you’re a gymnast or yogi and have been inverted for the last 5, 10, 20 years, your body is familiar with this position. What’s more the issue, is the core control required to do the movements while upside down - the push up or walking itself.

  • Plus the whole being upside down thing in pregnancy - nausea, dizziness, acid-reflux, all the blood rushing to your head.

Modifications:

  • 5-in. elevated: while this is the scaled option, I don’t particularly love it as a modification. It’s sort of like saying single skips are a modification for double-unders. Still a TON of core pressure here. Let’s maybe leave upside down for a little later.

  • Push-ups: From the floor - still core intense but not as much, or incline - getting better on the core pressure situation now.

  • Dumbbell Z Press: From a seated position this one is all upper body, and is a great alternative to HSPU. Not only that, you’re directly working on strength to eventually be able to do a HSPU, when the timing is right.

  • For any of the above, feel free to reduce reps as well. 50 is a LOT of one movement in a row, and form is likely to diminish no matter how strong your first 20 look.

Handstand Walk

Considerations:

  • Core pressure, core alignment - all of it! For fun, I googled “pregnant handstand walking” and found a number of videos that visually showed what I expected to see - a LOT of lumbar curve. Think about it - you’re walking on your hands, feet in the air, with a large belly throwing your centre of gravity off. Most women won’t have the strength (or balance) to maintain a neutral spine, so to compensate for the belly their belly is forward, while hands and feet are behind - resulting in a huge “C” shaped body. The resulting pressure on your outstretched belly is a lot, as you walk across the floor.

  • While postpartum doesn’t have a belly pulling you forward, I’d still caution being in this “C” shaped position and the strain it will place on your linea alba (abdominal muscles), particuarly if you are healing or managing diastasis.

  • Again, being upside down in pregnancy and dealing with nausea, dizziness, and/or acid-reflux. Not fun.

Modifications:

  • Bear crawl: If having your head down doesn’t make you dizzy or want to vomit, bear crawl is a much more core friendly movement.

  • Offset front rack kettlebell carry: If you’re later into pregnancy and being bent over in any way shape or form is just not happening, opt for an upright walk instead. You’re still working on a ton of core stabilization, plus you can walk the same distance as everyone else - just be sure to switch hands at the half-way point.

How did you modify your workout? Let me know below! I’ll be doing mine later today and will check in with you all after:)

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy. What I really needed, was a supported pregnancy.

During pregnancy everyone asks about the baby. Your doctor wants to know how much it's grown. The nurse asks if you plan to breastfeed. Friends ask "what's the gender?", "what's the name?", "will you do baby-led weaning?" Family asks which school system they'll attend, and if you'll still be home for Christmas. Coworkers ask how many weeks left. Strangers ask how many are in there.

But what about the mom?

There is one message out there, and while it carries benefits (or at least I think is trying to), I'm going to unload my issues with it. That message? #fitpregnancy and everything surrounding it. The MAIN focus we see being directed towards moms during pregnancy, is fitness.

Sound weird that as a trainer I have issues with this? Hear me out.

First - YES there are absolutely multiple benefits to working out during pregnancy. Research supports this, I am not disputing this, nor saying that someone shouldn't workout during pregnancy. I absolutely support and think they should - in ways that feel good for their pregnancy body, and ALSO support their mind.

Buuuuut. (You knew there was a but coming).

But why is it "fit pregnancy"? Images of thin women with round bumps looking adorable as they squat, in adorable outfits, smiling. Or in the CrossFit world I follow, videos of women well into their second or third trimesters doing workouts at a 9/10 intensity with little to no scaling or modifications. We've hit another extreme. Swing, pendulum, swing!

The message this gives off: We care about you, too, moms-to-be. But we still have impossibly high expectations of you while you're pregnant. Be fit. Be strong. Be amazing. Be invincible. Be superwoman. 

Enough.

You know what a pregnant woman wants when she goes to the gym? To be spoken to like she's NOT just a vessel for another human to rent out for 40 weeks.

When's the last time you told someone at the gym how big or small they look?

When's the last time you reached out and touched someone at the gym's belly, without permission, and made a comment it as you touched it?

While you get asked about 500 times during pregnancy, "how are you feeling?" I would actually much prefer to hear this over and over. Because at least it asks how I'm doing, and gives me the opportunity to answer for myself, as a whole person, not just a body that happens to be growing an incredible little human being.

The focus goes from fit pregnancy, to bouncing back. Getting in your old jeans. Shedding the baby weight. Barf. I am so sick of these phrases.

What, instead, could be helpful for a new mom?

Do you have resources for BOTH breastfeeding and bottle feeding?

Who can help you have some time to yourself when baby is born, so you can sleep, nap, or take a bath?

How do you feel about your transition from career life to mom life?

Do you have someone who you feel comfortable talking to when things get tough (because they will)?

Do you have some numbers on hand to reach out to for depression, anxiety, PTSD, or couples therapy?

What do YOU need from me?

And moms-to-be, what do you need from yourself? 

Grace, to know you're going to have bad days, but that doesn't make you a bad person, nor a bad mom.

Patience, to know that you are going to heal, and that you are going to make it through.

Confidence, to say no, and to ask for what YOU need.

Permission to ease off, of the gym, of work, of life's tasks. Permission to do LESS, and not be invincible.

Acceptance, that some things won't be the same. But also Faith, that some of those things will be even better than before.

Courage, to speak up about the hard things, and to take action even when fear is telling you not to.

Resiliency, to forge your own path - the one that has your best interest at heart. Not what society wants of you, not what medical staff want of you, friends, family, social media - the list goes on.

I am not immune to the body talk surrounding motherhood. I know it's not easy to shift your thinking. But, together we can interject in the conversations that revolve solely on aesthetics. We can speak up when someone fails to understand there is SO much more important things to talk about than how our physical body has changed.

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy, but what I really needed, was a supported pregnancy. Someone to say, it’s okay to ease off. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel lost. You are not defined solely on what your body can or cannot do.

I'm curious - what did you think you wanted in pregnancy, and what did it turn out to be that you actually needed in retrospect? Comment with yours below:)

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Double-Unders and Toes-To-Bar in Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.2

Open 19.2

  • 8-min. AMRAP + bonus time:

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 15 squat cleans, 135/85

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 13 squat cleans, 185/115lb

My first thought when I saw this? "Well shit." Haha. Way to throw some of the least pregnancy and postpartum friendly movements in this week!

My toes-to-bar strength hasn't returned yet, nor has my pelvic floor stamina for that many double-unders at once. Ah well, modifications here I come:)

If you are new here, each week I'm doing a post on the Open workouts with considerations and modifications for pregnant and postpartum athletes. Postpartum can be any point in time from 4 months to 10 years postpartum. These considerations would also apply to anyone who hasn't had children, but who is experiencing pelvic floor or core dysfunction. Let's dive in.

Toes-To-Bar

Considerations:

  • Main consideration here is the core pressure that's created. While you may visually be able to see it on your abdomen with coning, what you may not also feel is the pressure on your pelvic floor.

  • [Edit] During pregnancy I would not recommend T2B, K2E, or hollow holds due to the core pressure they create.

Strategies:

  • Breath: You're going to see a common theme here week to week;) Test out what works for you - exhaling as you start your kip, or maybe a little bit later of an exhale as you raise your legs.

  • Core control: If you are coning or trenching, are you able to activate your abdominals to control the gap and pressure as you raise up? Practice first on the ground so you can get a solid feel for it, and then progress your way back up to the bar.

Modifications:

  • Knees to elbows: Can you better control your breath and core if the movement is shortened?

  • Ball slams: They'll keep the pace of your workout moving, again remember to breath with these!

  • Hollow body hold or repetitions: The hollow body position transfers to so many CrossFit movements. What do you notice? Are you better able to control your core with repetitions? Or with a steady hold? When you're steady holding, how long are you able to hold it before you feel your core engagement start to go?

  • Birddog: Seriously Nicole, birddog in the Open? Here's the thing. If you aren't at a point where you are able to control coning or pressure or your breathing, why chance taking a few steps backwards in your recovery for an Open workout? Yes, they are exciting, it feels like everyone is doing it, but remember you're in this for the long game. Is it worth the risk to push hard for a couple Open workouts, only to be a few steps behind in physio and recovery after? Be kind to yourself, and your healing or growing body. 

Double-Unders

Considerations:

  • Where do I start, lol. Double-unders are highly taxing on your pelvic floor. So are single skips while we're at it, just not quiiiite as much. If you experience leaking during skipping, I wouldn't recommend it. Leaking is a sign that your body is taxed - perhaps your pelvic floor is tight, perhaps it's weak - either way, leaking is a sign to back off of skipping.

  • If you are postpartum and aren’t experiencing leaking, I still would not recommend diving into skipping in your first year UNLESS you have built up to impact movements slowly, and with a ton of strength work in addition (like, a few months of strength work). If you’re only just starting to introduce skipping or impact work into your workouts again - 50 double-unders isn’t the way to introduce it;)

  • If you are pregnant, even if you're not experiencing leaking, I recommend to my clients to stop skipping after the first trimester, that is if they reeeeaaaally want to be skipping at all - if it’s not important to them, we’ll remove it right away. Again, where is your risk versus reward conversation taking you?

Strategies:

  • Alignment: Rib cage down, chest straight ahead, eyes forward.

  • Breathing: Breath naturally. Double-unders aren't a movement you'll be able to match breath to movement for, so just keep breathing, focusing on big breaths into your ribcage - avoiding breathing only into your chest (shallow breathing).

  • Relax your belly: This is probably one of the ones I see the most with clients - and to be honest with myself until I caught it and realized it was causing the majority of my problems with double-unders. Our mind says, "I'm jumping, I need to grip to keep from leaking and protect my pelvic floor" but our pelvic floor says, "hey, you're restricting my natural movement by squeezing me with a vice grip - lay off a little and let me do my job." [Side note: wouldn't it be seriously amazing if our pelvic floor could actually tell us what it needs? I mean, assuming we'd listen all the time?]

Modifications:

  • Single skips (if not pregnant, and if you’ve built up to skipping over a number of months): If the above strategies don't address leaking, try single skips. If that's enough of a change in stimulus that it stops leaking, carry on. If not, try the below.

  • Bike: The bike, like ball slams, will keep your workout moving if that is your goal. For 50 double-unders I'd probably sub around 10-15 cals on the bike, again depending how early postpartum, how late in pregnancy, or how exhausted you are from the previous night's (lack of) sleep.

Squat Cleans

Considerations:

  • Load: 85lb may be a doable weight for you, but the caution I would place here is that you have 15 reps in a row, in a competitive environment. Can you breath through each rep? Can you do each rep with proper form?

  • Exhaustion: You’re coming straight off of 75 reps before getting to your first round of squat cleans, meaning you’re already going to be out of breath and fatigued. The first two things that usually go in this case? Form, and breathing. Form is a consideration for anyone, regardless of pregnancy and postpartum. Breathing and not straining or holding your breath is going to be important for pelvic floor and core pressure.

  • Power movement: With any power movement, there is no slowing it down, unlike a squat or deadlift that you can really take your time on to pay attention to form and breath. It’s a dynamic movement requiring quick response by your whole body - brain, muscles, joints, and pelvic floor.

Modifications:

  • Dumbbell hang power clean: Particularly if you are pregnant and your belly is now in the way of the bar path, switch to dumbbell hang cleans instead. By continuing to train with a barbell you are undoing all your previous training to drill the correct bar path in. [Check my blog post here on this very topic].

  • Reduce load, reps, and range of motion: Perform with an empty barbell, cut the reps in half, reduce to a hang power clean - do any one of or combination of these to allow you to move with intention for each rep.

I am loving seeing your posts on how you are modifying your workouts!! Please keep tagging me and keep them coming. You are also a HUGE support to moms going through the same thing - it’s so helpful knowing you aren’t the only one wishing you could do it, and knowing that there are more like you out there who have long term health in mind over one season or competition. Big love to all of you who are taking care of yourselves, it’s not easy, but you are doing it.


Box Jumps: How To

Box jumps build explosive power, and are a hip extension exercise. If box jumps don't:

a) translate to your sport of choice, or

b) aren't something you enjoy - then really, why ARE you doing them?

"Because they're fun!"

"Because my sport requires explosive power!". Great answers!

"My gym programs them, but they kill my knees." Probably time to find a substitution. 

Here are five ways to build up to box jumps, as well as two common faults with some ideas on how to work on correcting them. Check this post here for all six accompanying videos.

  1. Jump on the spot: Get used to launching off of two feet and landing on two feet. Practice using your hip (glute) power to launch you straight up. Not sure what to do with your arms? Think of them leading you where you want to go, down as you load your glutes, and UP as you jump

  2. Kettlebell swings: KBS are great for training hip extension and power. I also like KBS as a postpartum progression to train your breath and pelvic floor for more dynamic movements PRIOR to including impact.

    Let's pause and talk breathing for a second: Everyone will be different, but my go-to breathing technique for box jumps is exhaling BEFORE my feet launch off the ground. If I try exhaling when I'm in the air, I have a tendency to leak with multiple reps. Whatever works for you just remember to BREATH. Don't hold your breath. I promise, that little bit of extra air you're holding in your lungs isn't really having the hot air balloon effect you're hoping for to get you higher. I would not have someone start with ANY jumping movements until a solid strength base is built up and breathing techniques have been incorporated into non-impact dynamic movements.

  3. Low box: I wouldn't recommend my unstable IKEA stool, but if you're at a gym that has the stackable 6" and 12" mats, start with these. The foam will help ease your nerves, and you'll be able to master solid reps at lower heights first.

  4. Box jump: Look forward to go forward (skiing between trees? Same idea.) Land with both feet FULLY on the box, knees slightly bent. Step down to save your achilles.

  5. Common fault - knees caving in: I couldn't bring myself to actually land with my knees caved, but you get the idea - check your landing form. If needed, lower the box height, do some banded squats to work on form before adding complexity.

  6. Common fault - no hip extension: If you're landing in such a deep squat are you really even jumping or just tucking your feet under you to land on the box? Go back to #1 and #2 above, or do some banded goodmornings, deadlifts, hip thrusts - anything to work on fully extending your hips - squeeze your bum!

Questions on the breathing and how to get back to impact activity? I am launching a Return To Running online program that will start with foundations, and build you back up to launching - whether onto a box or down the running trails. Sign up for more info via rawfitnessyyc.com/run

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Exercises to Help Ease Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy & Postpartum

Let’s talk pelvic pain during pregnancy & postpartum. You’ve probably heard a variety of names for it: pelvic girdle pain, pubic symphysis dysfunction, sacroiliac joint dysfunction - or simply SI joint pain.

What are they? Why are you getting it? And what can be done?

Check this mini video series here to find out, and send this to a pregnant mama friend who could benefit from this info!

Not all pelvic pain needs to be blamed on relaxin, the hormone during pregnancy that causes joints to be more mobile, and this is good news! Why? Because if there’s more to it than just relaxin, it means there are things within your control to help limit, or hopefully eliminate the pain.

Here are 9 movements combining both releasing tight muscles as well as strengthening supporting muscles in the hopes it can help ease some of your pelvic pain.

Your best bet is always to visit your doctor, chiropractor, or physiotherapist, as they’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your specific symptoms and give you individualized treatment.

But in the meantime, here’s why I’ve chosen this sample of movements today:

- Stretching: releasing tight muscles that attach to your pelvis (there’s a lot of them!) may help reduce symptoms by easing the pulling that tight muscles can cause on the pelvis.

- Strengthening: by strengthening surrounding muscles and learning to engage those muscles, you will be helping to support your pelvis, again hopefully with a reduction in pelvic pain symptoms!

1. Roll your glutes with a lacrosse ball: can be done laying down but is much easier against a wall if you’re pregnant 

2. Half kneeling adductor stretch: gently rock back and forth

3. Banded laying hamstring stretch

4. Half kneeling hip flexor stretch

5. Couch stretch (hip flexor and quad stretch)

6. Roll hip flexors with ball: I prefer these sand balls to a lacrosse ball as they are a bit more forgiving!

7. Banded lateral walk

8. Banded goblet squat

9. Shoulders elevated hip thrust: when pregnant this is much easier if done on a large exercise ball - start by sitting on it then walk your feet out to come to the hip thrust position, and reverse to come back to seated to get off.

Click here to see videos of all 9 movements above.

This is just a sample, let me know if you try them and need some extra ideas.

Tag a mama friend who could benefit from these moves below, and let me know how they feel for you!


When Trying All The Things Still Isn't Enough [PPD]

[Content warning: Postpartum Depression]

This morning I went through with one of the most terrifying and simultaneously bravest things of my life. I felt like I was going to puke as I parked my car, felt like I hadn't eaten in weeks, and even though I was dreading the meeting, my mind was done fighting at this point, letting my legs walk me in rather than run the other way. At almost 23 months postpartum, I sat across from my doctor and asked her through tears if we could discuss medication for my postpartum depression. I rehearsed the simple question over and over on my way to the doctor's office, scared I would chicken out and skirt the issue, or make it out to be less than it really was and leave without a prescription.

The past 23 months have gone something like this…


"Women with a history of being on anti-depressants are more likely to have postpartum depression." - Not me, I'll be different. I didn't really need them those few months I took them over a decade ago.


"Women who have trouble conceiving can be more prone to PPD." - Not me, I'll be different.

It's just because I'm not sleeping well, it'll pass once she sleeps through the night.

It's just because I'm breastfeeding, it'll pass once my hormones level out.

It's just because I'm not working out, once I start working out again I'll feel better.

It’s because I haven’t gone to therapy in a while.

It’s because I didn’t take enough notes when I read, “Girl, Wash Your Face.”

It's because it's winter...

It's because ...

I had a plethora of excuses to miss events, dinners, surprise birthday parties, stagettes, business opportunities, you name it.

I slowly ran out of excuses.

And I got really f$@king tired.

Tired of cancelling.

Tired of having music fall dead on my ears.

Tired of missing out on my daughter's life because I was trying to navigate in my head how I could possibly keep up this charade of being the best mom I can be to her, while inside I feel like I'm being held under water with cinder bricks tied to all 4 limbs. 

Tired of "needing" a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day, without really tasting it anymore.

Tired of wondering, “is this it? Is this how it’s going to be the rest of my life?”

Tired of cancelling work project after work project.

Tired of being sad, but so much more so, tired of being weighed down by apathy.

And so SO tired of acting, of playing the dance. Because you can cancel a lot of things, but sometimes you have to show up for those big major life events. Put on your mask, it's show time!

I must have said "thank you" at least 20 times to my doctor today, she was the most wonderful person I could have asked for to speak those words to. She gave me so much hope that this is not the mind I have to live with for the rest of my life.

My doctor put it so simply but so perfectly, “Depression is a liar and a thief.”

Depression continuously tells us lies, keeping us in this dark place, and it robs us of the life in front of us. So many times I’ve felt robbed of the past 2 years with my daughter, while I’ve been there in physical body, my mind has clouded the experiences.

And the lies it tells. Want to know the single biggest factor that kept me from asking for medication earlier? I didn’t think I deserved help. Who was I to be depressed, when my life is so blessed. I’m a white middle-class Canadian woman, married to a wonderful man, with an amazing healthy daughter. What kind of a selfish ungrateful person am I, to have all this, and be depressed. The shame is unbearable. Couple that with the stigma of mental health, and add on the bias around medication? No thanks, I’ll just keep trying to therapy, sweat, and self-help book my way out of this. [Spoiler: It didn’t work for me.]

For you, if you are reading this feeling like I've opened up your head and am looking directly into your thoughts, please know that making the appointment will be the second hardest thing you'll have to do. The hardest thing you'll have to do, is keep that appointment, show up, and ask for help.

How Do I Make Working Out a Lifestyle?

I’ve been asked this question a lot, and while I think there are a plethora of answers out there about “finding your why”, I think there’s just a bit more to it than that. Yes, knowing WHY you want to workout in the first place is helpful in getting you out the door, setting goals, etc, but there’s so much more to it than that, in my opinion.

I recommend grabbing a piece of paper (or blank screen) and brainstorming your own answers to the questions below. You might just find out some things about yourself that you didn’t know along with some ways to make working out more consistent for you.

  • Do you like group classes? Prefer to do it solo? Partner training?
    • Group classes: endless! Barre, spin, yoga (and so many variations within that), pilates, CrossFit, boxing, circuits, etc
    • Solo or partner training: gym membership, with a trainer, or home-gym 
  • Do you like having a coach, or are you self-motivating?
    • If you like having a coach, do you need them right in front of you to keep you accountable, or is having one on-line checking in on you enough? If you have an on-line coach, do you require daily, weekly, or monthly check-ins?
  • What’s most important to you while working out? Do you like hard workouts that get you sweaty?  Seeing your strength increase? Learning new skills? Short or long workouts? Intense or slow burners? Making your mind work as hard as your body (I love CrossFit for this as it’s always teaching me new skills), or do you like to zone out and know exactly what’s coming next? Each has their benefits – but it always comes down to what YOU like.
  • What time of day are you MOST likely to stick to it? Least likely?
  • How new to working out are you? Brand new? (If so – definitely get to a trainer if you can, even for 6-8 sessions to learn proper form and pinch out bad habits before they start). Intermediate? Advanced?
  • If your workouts rely on others, when are they most likely to be able to help you? For example, if your partner consistently works late, maybe signing up for 5pm classes isn't going to be the best of ideas if you need them for childcare.
  • How much time realistically do you have to invest in working out daily? Weekly? If you only have 30 minutes a day to workout but keep signing up for 1-hour classes and then missing them, is that really helping you make it a consistent habit?
  • Do you have any performance goals? Racing, lifting competitions, a weight you want to hit, a skill you want to master? If the answer is YES, do you have enough knowledge to do it on your own, or would you benefit from a one-on-one coach or a group coaching setting to not only train you but also keep you accountable?
  • What do you ENJOY doing? Are you doing an activity because everyone does it or you want a particular body type? Or are you doing it because it boosts your confidence, gives you energy, and leaves you feeling happy you did it once it’s over? Spoiler alert: I ask if you feel awesome AFTER, instead of during, because yes, sometimes exerting yourself will make your muscles or lungs burn;) I’m not a believer in working out so hard you’re sore after every single workout, but I am a believer in giving as much effort into a workout as your body (and mind) allows you to that day. On days I really really don’t want to workout at all but I still go – I don’t beat myself up if I’m not doing 100% of what I’m capable of that day – I celebrate that I actually made it there at all. Days when I’m feeling great? Yes, go for it.

There are some you'll need to give a little on - unfortunately we can't have ALL the things at once. Perhaps you're not a morning person but that's literally the only time of day you can get it done. Or maybe you love group training but can only make it once a week - you may need to find ways to do shorter solo workouts at home on the other days.

It’s a little more than just “finding your why” when it comes to working out. Create the easiest path for yourself to work out, so that it CAN become part of your regular routine. Removing as many barriers as possible will make it that much easier to lace up each time.

Let me know below if this exercise was helpful for you, and what ONE thing you learned about yourself that you are going to apply going forward!

P.S. Summer Strength is available right here if you're looking for 20-30 minute at-home workouts requiring nothing more than dumbbells.

Re-writing your rules of working out

I wrote this entry 2 months ago, but I never did hit publish. However, my upcoming posts will make a lot more sense if you have the back story. The story of the rise is only complete if it begins with the story of the fall.

My Rules:

  • Squats have to be below 90 degrees.
  • When working out, do what you enjoy.
  • Workouts should be structured and programmed.
  • Trainers need to have their shit together - in the gym and in the kitchen.
  • Country music isn't working out music.

All false.

All things I at one time believed, and made myself abide by. Except maybe the country music part, I've been deadlifting to Eric Church for years.

If there's one thing I love(d), it's structure. Routine. Rules. Rules keep things in order, and leave no room for second-guessing.

But what happens when your routine is broken? When there is no structure? When your whole life and what you thought you knew is turned up side down?

The rules then become handcuffs, road blocks, complete show-stoppers.

It has taken me 15 months postpartum to realize this. FIFTEEN MONTHS.

I used to LOVE my (almost) daily workouts. I couldn't wait to go. My whole schedule was set around them. Prep time for pre-workout pancakes. Post-workout socializing. Staying in my workout clothes just a little longer than socially (more like hygienically) acceptable. Getting stronger, fine-tuning skill work. Defining myself based on my physical strength.

When my routine was halted by pregnancy joint pain, followed by the postpartum whirlwind, then adding on ongoing injuries and pain, none of my rules worked anymore.

I can't squat below 90 without pain.

I have zero, and I mean zero, desire to go to the gym. 

When I try to structure myself a program, at the first sign of pain I write the whole thing off, again. Over and over.

I definitely don't have my shit together in the gym or in the kitchen. Unless macaroni and cheese and chocolate have been added to the "top foods trainers recommend list" since I last checked.

Country music is still good:)

I'm taking a new approach to working out as of this week. And I'm not sure I even want to call it working out for now. That brings too much pressure with it.

I'm calling it movement. I'm calling it therapy.

If you've ever been to therapy, you know how much the drive there sucks, because you know you're going to have to get uncomfortable. While therapy is beneficial, the act itself kinda sucks. You know in a few days, a few weeks, a few months, after repeatedly going, the therapy will pay off. But you have to continually do something uncomfortable that you really don't want to do, over and over, to get there.

So, this is how I'm viewing movement now. It's a part of my mental health therapy, and while I don't want to do it, I know over the long term it will pay off. And I am not talking paying off in jean size here. I could actually give less f@cks if I ever fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again. I am much more concerned about clearing the mental fog, reducing the postpartum rage, and bringing more laughter into my life again.

So. I'm changing the rules.

The New Rules:

  • Squats look like whatever feels good for your body.
  • Sometimes working out won't be fun, you might not even *love* or enjoy it. But sometimes you have to buck up and do it anyways, knowing you will be better for it.
  • Just move in various ways, consistently. Stop stressing about the "best program.”
  • Trainers are human, they're going to mess up, and that's okay. More than okay. And hi, same goes for everybody else, because, well, we're all human.
  • Move to whatever music you are feeling. Or silence. It really doesn't matter.

I'm requiring a 30 minute commitment to movement from myself. Tonight I wrote a workout on the board, it was a little optimistic, but I wrote it out anyways. When I got to 30 minutes, I had completed the strength portion but hadn't made it to the met con yet. I didn't feel like it, I wanted to be done. I had given my 30 minutes, so I turned off Eric and called it a night. It was still a success, still a checkmark for the day. And this - THIS is a HUGE checkmark for my mindset. Two years ago what I did tonight would be a warm-up. "Half-assed." "Quitter." Not anymore.

I would encourage you to write down and look at the rules you have created for yourself. Are they helping you, truly? If not, how can you alter them?

If you're feeling the need to add movement to your day, email me or comment below with what is holding you back the most right now.

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CrossFit Open Workout Considerations

The Open has begun. An exciting time to test yourself, cheer on your friends, and partake in some loud and energized events. 

A time when, if you're pregnant or early postpartum, can be really hard mentally. You know you could probably do the scaled version, but should you? See my last post for reasons why I would recommend revisiting why you're doing the Open this year if you're pregnant or early (less than 2 years) postpartum.

If you are pregnant or postpartum but still want to take part, each week I'll be outlining some considerations in a Facebook Live on Friday's at 2:15pm MST, as well as posting a summary here on my blog.

First off, my disclaimer. Your body is unique, and you and your professional medical team know best what is and isn't appropriate for you at this time, and/or what you are cleared for. Please consult with your Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, Midwife, OB, or Doctor to ensure what you're partaking in is right for your body. I am only providing suggestions on possible ways to modify the workouts - there aren't THE modifications, they are just some ideas on ways you can alter the workouts that may work better for some bodies. The best modifications will be unique to you, and will involve assessing your breathing technique, your alignment, and your execution of the movement itself.

Let's get to the workouts.

18.1 - 20 min AMRAP

  • 8 toes-to-bar (scaled: hanging knee raises)
  • 10 DB hang clean and jerks (Rx: 35lb, scaled: 20lb)
  • 12 cal row

Modification

20 minutes of continuous movement (not balls to the wall - form before fast)

  • 8 KB swings OR 8 ring rows
  • 10 DB hang clean OR 10 DB single arm push press
  • 12 cal row OR bike for equivalent time

Considerations

  • Toes-to-bar: Consider the huge amount of pressure these place on your core and pelvic floor. If you insist on doing them, at the very least have someone watch your stomach for coning. [What is coning? It looks like a little mountain ridge popping out of the center of your stomach, usually most visible at the belly button but it can travel both above and below the belly button. It appears due to the internal pressure being forced out through the separating abdominal muscles (diastasis recti)].
  • Hang clean and jerks: Consider lowering your weight to one that you are easily able to breath through, *no breath holding! Consider how well you can get the weight overhead for repeated reps without sacrificing your alignment, and thereby affecting your pelvic floor pressure and functioning of.
  • Row: Again have someone watch your abdomen for coning, and ensure you are implementing a breathing technique that supports your core and pelvic floor. An alternative if you continue to experience coning, or if you're pregnant to the point it's uncomfortable, would be to swap out the row for a different cardio machine - bike, high incline treadmill walk, etc.

18.2 - 12 minute time cap

  • A) 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
  • Dumbbell squats (Rx: 35lb, Scaled: 20lb)
  • Bar-facing burpees (Scaled: stepping burpees allowed)
  • B) 1-rep-max clean

Modification

  • A) 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
  • Dumbbell squats
  • Incline burpees, with step over bar
  • B) For remaining time left, perform an EMOM of 5 DB hang clean

Considerations

  • DB squat: Consider lowering the weight, changing your breathing pattern to recruit your pelvic floor and avoid bearing down on your pelvic floor, assess your alignment for better functioning of your pelvic floor and core system, and consider shortening your range of motion (not going down as far).
  • Burpees: With burpees, consider the pressure they cause on your core, and with jumping over the bar consider the impact of the jump on your pelvic floor and also on your pelvic joints which are loose due to pregnancy hormones (relaxin). A less core intensive alternative would be incline burpees, and a more pelvis friendly alternative would be stepping over the bar.
  • 1-rep-max clean: I'm just going to say it... don't do it. What are you testing at this point by doing a 1RM? What are you risking to your pelvic floor? Pelvic floor aside, cleans are an explosive and powerful movement, one where completely healthy athletes who've never been pregnant before have injured themselves. I am not against max testing, but why risk damage to your body for this one thing. I PROMISE you, 1-rep-max testing is still going to be a thing when your body is ready for it:)

Week three, and it's a little insane on the skipping, no?! Even if you aren't pregnant or postpartum this is a crazy amount of volume for your pelvic floor. As I've mentioned before I experienced incontinence well before having a baby, and I have a feeling a ton of women will be slightly fearing this workout. If you are - I highly recommend finding a pelvic health physio in your area to help you with any incontinence issues - it's not normal at ANY age, and a pelvic health physio can help you address this.

18.3 - 14 min time cap:

2 rounds:

  • 100 double-unders
  • 20 OH squats
  • 100 double-unders
  • 12 ring muscle-ups
  • 100 double-unders
  • 20 DB snatches
  • 100 double-unders
  • 12 bar muscle-ups

My take one it is...

Modification for 18.3

1-2 rounds, 14 minute time cap of continuous movement (not as hard as you can go for 14 minutes):

  • 10-15 calorie assault bike OR 250-350m row
  • 20 goblet squat or front squat
  • 10-15 calorie assault bike OR 250-350m row
  • 12 ring rows + 12 floor press
  • 10-15 calorie assault bike OR 250-350m row
  • 20 DB snatches OR 20 DB hang snatches
  • 10-15 calorie assault bike OR 250-350m row
  • 12 ring rows + 12 floor press

Considerations

  • Double-unders AND single-unders are intense for your pelvic floor, and in my opinion, should be left out of any pregnancy programming, and while it can be introduced into a postpartum program when the individual woman is ready for it, and has worked up to it, it should be introduced slowly and systematically. Definitely not 100 at a time, for multiple rounds. It comes down to risk - I want mom's to know why we're asking them to be kind to their pelvic floors - they've gone through a lot no matter if you had a vaginal birth or cesarian, and even if you don't have diagnosed prolapse, it's still just not worth (in my opinion) the stress on the pelvic floor.
  • OH squats I would take down to a front squat (bar) or goblet squat (KB or DB) - reason being is an overhead position can mean more rib thrusting, versus a front squat where your core is definitely forced to work, but in better alignment.
  • The deal with the muscle-ups and variations is similar to the discussion on pull-ups from last week and the pressure it puts on your abdomen.
  • DB snatches may be okay for most, but I would again consider load, and perhaps doing a hang snatch as well.

18.4 - 9 min time cap:

21-15-9

  • Deadlifts 155lb (Scaled: 95lb)
  • Handstand push-ups (Scaled: hand-release push-ups)

21-15-9

  • Deadlifts 205lb (Scaled: 135lb)
  • 50-ft handstand walk (Scaled: bear crawl)

My take one it is...

Modification for 18.4

9 minute time cap of continuous movement (not as hard as you can go for 9 minutes):

11-7-5

  • Deadlifts at a reduced weight
  • Push-ups, incline push-ups, or DB push-press

11-7-5

  • Deadlifts at a reduced weight
  • Farmer Carry for 50-ft

Considerations

  • Volume: Without even looking at the individual exercises themselves, it works out to 45 reps of each exercise per round, and 180 reps TOTAl for the whole workout. 90 of those 180 reps are just deadlifts. So. Much. Volume. So my first recommendation? Tone down the volume. Above in my modification I've cut the volume in half, for a total of *only* 92 reps for the whole workout, leaving *only* 46 deadlifts.
  • Deadlifts: With the volume issue addressed above, the next thing to take note of is the weight. While the scaled weights of 95lb and 135lb may fall under 50% of your 1RM, the point isn't really about what your 1RM is, or was, it's about the load you're putting on your pelvic floor and core, period. 135lb, whether 75% or 50% of your 1RM, is still 135lb being moved over and over for 46 (or 90) reps. That is A LOT of weight. 90 reps of 95lb is 8,550lbs moved. WHOA. I know. I'm throwing a lot of math out today, but bottom line: volume and reps add up to a lot of load for your pelvic floor. So please consider reducing that load, giving yourself time to work up to form, load, and reps, before putting that level of strain on your system. In case you haven't followed previous weeks yet: we're in this for the long-term game, be kind to your body today so you can continue to play for years to come, hopefully symptom free (or at least close to).
  • Handstand push-ups & bear crawl: Core pressure considerations here again - how much pressure if being created, are you coning, are you able to control it with breathing and alignment?

Why the Crossfit Open Can Wait

Last year when the Crossfit Open kicked off I was 7 weeks postpartum, a whole week past that magical 6-week clearance from my doctor to resume activity.

I went to one of the Open events to watch and cheer, and was asked by someone as I held our 7-week old daughter, “are you competing today?” I thought the person was joking until I realized they weren’t, and while I think they were just trying to make polite conversation, I was baffled because I know this is the thought process of MANY in the athletic world. Six-week check up, mom was active, obviously she’s ready to hop back in, right?

Omg no.

I was struggling with anxiety hardcore at this time, and still incredibly sleep deprived. The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough - you cannot recover from workouts without sleep. Your central nervous system will not function properly without sleep. You cannot recover physically from childbirth - whether vaginal or c-section - without sleep. I’m not going to tell a mom, “sleep when baby sleeps” because I too was shooting daggers when I was told that, but I will say, if you aren’t getting adequate sleep yet - adequate uninterrupted sleep - holding off on strenuous activity, particular the Open, would my strong recommendation.

Sleep aside, let’s talk about the actual format of the Open. It’s exiting, it’s loud, it’s fun, you push yourself and find out what you’re capable of, because you can’t help but get caught up in the music blaring, friends and coaches cheering, and the adrenaline of the clock running. You can’t help but push outside of your comfort zone, and when you’re done the butterflies you went in with are replaced by a great feeling of accomplishment.

But, is your body ready? I don't doubt your mind is.

I don’t doubt you could go out there and do it all in the scaled division. Or muscle through some pretty ugly Rx reps. I don’t doubt you might “feel fine” doing it. I definitely don't doubt your athlete brain is ready to go. And yes, you do have that “doctor’s clearance” behind you.

But can we think about this for a second? Your body grew a human, another entire human being, for 40 weeks give or take. Your pelvic floor supported that little being, plus an entirely new organ your body made just for one purpose, plus 50% increased blood volume, plus still kept you alive (though perhaps not thriving), for those 40 weeks.

Then, you delivered that baby. I don’t care if you had the “easiest, no complications birth” ever - you GAVE BIRTH!! This isn’t like a little orthoscopic procedure where the doctor repaired a torn muscle or ligament - you delivered a human. And I’m sorry, but we got the short end of the evolution stick when it came to birth, because we don’t get to just dig up some sand, drop some eggs, and then hop back in the ocean and swim off like all we did was have a bowel movement. Sea turtles, I envy you a little. For us humans, childbirth is major on our body. Again, no matter the birth story.

If I had had ACL surgery and was on the couch with crutches, I would have been waited on hand and foot. But deliver a baby the size of a melon, and it’s like, “so you doing the Open?" (or for non-Crossfitters, replace "Open" with any other pre-pregnancy activity in full force).

Moms, I COMPLETELY get your desire to want to compete and get back to normalcy. Trust me, I get that so much. But the one thing I hold on to continuously is that I want to be active and healthy for YEARS to come. Not just this year, not just this season. If going out and proving I can do something today means putting my body at risk for longer-lasting injury or life-long conditions, then it’s not for me. Not right now at least.

This is not a “never do Crossfit again”, or “never run”, or "never compete”. This is my plea to you to hold off, just for now, for this short chapter, so that you can enjoy all those things well into your own real-life version of the Golden Girls, or Jerry’s parents in Florida (where my Seinfeld peeps at?). Is the reward of pushing too fast or doing too much now, worth the risk of long-term discomfort? For me, it's not.

This is also not a “be scared of working out.” You can absolutely work out. I encourage you to work out! But I know what type of people Crossfit attracts - because I am one. Lots of former varsity athletes, or currently competing athletes, or people who thrive on competition and want to be pushed. So I know that doing the Open is not “just working out”. It’s pushing, it’s testing, and it’s intense. And as much as you tell yourself, "I'll hold back and be cautious", my guess is you won't drop and do deadbugs instead of toes-to-bar when it comes your time to go, with music blaring and all the spectator eyes on you.

So, for the sake of your pelvic floor, your healing diastasis, your lax joints from the relaxin produced during pregnancy (which also hangs around until 3-6 months post breastfeeding), your exhausted sleep-deprived body - consider holding back, just this year. Build up your strength and conditioning slowly and steadily over the next 12 months, and then return. Return with confidence that YES, you have trained for this, YES, your body is ready for this, and YES you have strategies in place that will allow you to keep working out months beyond the Open.

While I'm 13 months postpartum now, time alone doesn't mean I'm ready. Because of a nagging knee injury that flared up in pregnancy and postpartum, plus finally getting a rotator cuff tear diagnosed (3 years later) my workouts have been incredibly few and far between, and I have not had the chance to build my base back up. And it really does need to be built back up, gradually and methodically.

You will get stronger. You will get your lungs back. Your pelvic floor will regain function so you can skip and box jump without fear of leaking. You’ll be able to kip without worrying about your shoulder joints that have been neglected for months, or worrying about your diastasis with every rep you pull up. You’ll be able to run without pelvic pain or heaviness. But you have to give your body the time it needs to heal, and you have to take the road of slowly and steadily increasing weight, reps, and intensity.

Be the mom getting cheered on by her 5 year old in a few years, not the one continuously in physio over and over again for preventable issues. Sidenote: some issues are not preventable, some are handed to us without choice. But, causing prolapse or separating your abs further from doing high volume, high load, high intensity? Preventable.

You’ll be back. And you’ll be stronger than ever. In becoming a mom, you’ve already become mentally stronger than you ever have been before in your life. Give your physical body the time and grace it deserves to come back to its strength as well.

2019 Edit: Over the next 5 weeks of the Open I’ll be hosting live chats weekly on Thursday nights @ 7pm MT on my IG page @rawfitnessyyc & on Facebook. Click here to add yourself to the FB event to get the reminders.

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A Letter To New Moms

From this week until the end of December, we are expecting 7 new babies in our family and friends circle, and it got me reminiscing on those first days of motherhood. My daughter was born on the 7th, on a Saturday, so at this time exactly 9 months ago I was about to become a mom in less than 24 hours. And my world would be rocked!

Just shy of my daughter being 2 weeks old, my cousin came to visit for some baby snuggles. With a gift was a letter she had written, passing on some sage mom wisdom being a mom of two herself.

I BAWLED the first time I read the letter - I mean, I was 2 weeks postpartum and perhaps slightly (okay totally) overwhelmed and hormonal. But still. I think I only made it half way down the page the first time I read it because I literally couldn't see through the waterworks of tears.

For any women about to become a mom, or perhaps has recently become a mom, I would like to pass on my cousin's loving words (with her permission), in the hopes that perhaps it will give you a bit of reassurance and comfort during this absolute whirlwind time. Let's be honest, I just re-read it and cried again, it's great advice no matter where you are on your motherhood journey.

Let me start by saying how very happy I am for you and your new family! This is an exciting time that will without a doubt trump all other moments in your life thus far. As a fellow mom, I feel it is my duty to warn you about all the “super helpful” thoughts, ideas, and suggestions you will receive in the next while, and remind you that on those days you think you are going crazy…nope, you really are just normal. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts for you:
A little advice on taking advice:
Take all the “offered” advice with a grain of salt. Always remember, “mother knows best”…meaning you!
When someone offers help, take it! This does not make you weak, this makes you smart.
You will have those days that being short on sleep and overtired get the best of you, and you may look at that baby and say, “holy shit, what did I do!” Don’t feel bad, this makes you normal, and anyone that tells you they never had one of these moments is lying to you. Rest assured, when that sweet baby curls up in your arms and falls asleep to the rhythm of your heart, you will fall in love all over again.
Your baby does not come with a program, as each and every child and situation is unique, so take what you want from all those baby self-help books, and brainwashing Google sites, and toss the rest away.
Take guilt-free time for YOU! These are necessary sanity breaks, and YOU DESERVE THEM!
Join a baby group, but don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Some women will tell you that their child is perfect no matter what…seek out the ones that make you feel normal, not inadequate.
Lastly, don’t forget each other. After all, this baby wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the love that brought the two of you together. Some day that little baby will grow up and get a life of it’s own, and you don’t want to lose sight of each other and your marriage in the meantime. You will find date night takes on a whole new meaning once you have a baby – it means you get to eat a meal while it’s actually hot, wear something other than yoga pants and a hoodie with barf, poop, or snot on it, and perhaps even risk the idea of putting on a regular bra again, even just for an hour or two.
I can’t wait to watch your little baby grow and become the beautiful little person she is destined to be.
With Love
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