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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 2.41.13 PM.png