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?

Let's Talk Peeing During Exercise

If the thought of skipping makes you worry about peeing your pants, you're not alone. Perhaps you avoid skipping - whether double-unders or singles, box jumps, going on the trampoline with your kids, or doing any sort of plyometric work, all out of fear of leaking. Maybe it's as simple as a cough or sneeze that causes an unwanted trickle. Or maybe it takes nothing at all.

"Okay, yup, been there. I only wear black pants on days with jumping. Where are you going with this?"

Good news - it doesn't need to stay like this for you forever. While very common, it's not normal for the human body to function this way. Common does not equal normal.

I first encountered stress urinary incontinence in University as a varsity athlete on the track & field team. For me, the "stress" part that caused it was the plyometric component of our training, and often during the bounding exercises I would get a little of that unwanted trickle. I assumed it was normal, and was too embarrassed to ask my coach.

Fast forward years later when I discovered Crossfit, and amoung fellow female class members we'd ask each other, "what's your number?" and know exactly what the other was talking about -  how many double-unders can you hit before you pee a little? The fact it's so common really does make you start to think it's normal, and that it just comes with the territory of being a female athlete.

Keep in mind - both the track bounding and the Crossfit double-under issues happened years before I ever got pregnant. I didn't really think it was normal before having kids, and I had always heard "it's a mom thing", so I have to admit I was a little worried about what would happen to me once I actually did have kids, if I was already experiencing it pre-babies. This is what led me to Heather at Lakeview Physiotherapy while pregnant. I wanted to learn more about pelvic health, and what I could specifically do for my own health.

For moms, there's definitely the "it comes with being a mom" reasoning, which is sad, because women are apparently walking around assuming this is normal, likely going to great lengths to avoid embarrassing moments, or missing out on potential fun social and energizing activities. Even seemingly innocent exercise like spin class too soon after having a baby can be too much, because let me tell you, there is no way doing anything with quick feet out of the saddle post-baby is an option until  strengthening of the pelvic floor has happened. When I took a spin class at about 2 months postpartum I let the instructor know that I'd be sitting during some songs because of where I was at with my healing process post-baby, and she openly told me she completely peed herself her first class back teaching after becoming a mom.

What I want female athletes and moms (either pregnant or postpartum) to know is this: leaking is not a sign of normal pelvic floor functioning, and there is specific treatment to help no matter if it's  been an issue for you for one week or a decade.

The best kept secret around that particularly every athlete and mom needs in their life is the pelvic health physiotherapist.

If you're wondering a) what & where your pelvic floor is and b) "there's physio for that?" - then stick around, you're in the right place. I'll dive into "what & where" your pelvic floor is another day, but for today, know that there are experts who can help if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms from the list below, taken directly from the Lakeview Physiotherapy website. And fellas, this isn't just for the ladies! Men can experience any of these symptoms as well, aside from prenatal and postpartum of course:

  • "Urinary problems such as incontinence (leaking), frequent peeing, urgency
  • Bowel problems such as incontinence (leaking) and constipation
  • Pelvic pain - inside and outside the pelvis
  • Painful or difficult intercourse
  • Prenatal and Postpartum
  • Before and after pelvic surgery."

If there is one thing I have changed in my life over the past few years, that's gotten me much more satisfactory results across the board, it's this: Go to the experts for whatever it is you are seeking.

Want a cupcake? Go to the bakery that sells cupcakes and maybe one or two other products - their cupcakes will far surpass a grocery store that caters to all food needs.

Have any sort of issues going on in and around your pelvis? Go to the pelvic health physio - this is their area of expertise! When asked about when woman should seek help, Heather's response was:

"When a woman should see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist really depends on the client. If a woman feels that Pelvic Health Physio could be helpful for her, the Physiotherapist can do an assessment and develop a treatment plan. If a woman is uncertain, particularly during pregnancy, she could ask her physician or midwife if Pelvic Physiotherapy would be appropriate at that time." - Heather Enns, Lakeview Physiotherapy and Acupuncture

If any of the above sounds like you, I encourage you to book in with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist. Heads up there will likely be an internal exam, however a consent form must be signed first so you are definitely able to skip the internal exam if you aren't comfortable with this. But keep in mind the information you can receive from an internal exam will be very beneficial to your treatment. The internal exam is a small portion of the appointments I have, with the majority of the time being spent on any one of the following: looking at my alignment, testing imbalances in muscle strength from side to side, treating imbalances (massage/release/dry needling), and working on breathing.

My goals are simple:

  • To provide resources to athletes of all levels, so we can wear grey pants again on workout days.

  • To make sneezing & coughing comfortable again for the female (and male) population.

  • To educate pregnant and postpartum moms on their bodies, the changes they will go through, and how to minimize damage done to allow for faster and better recovery.

  • To spread this info around like wildfire, so that women (and men) can get back to the things they love without pain, discomfort, or embarrassment.

11-14-17 Edit: I am so excited to announce this article was picked up by Impact Magazine, and am incredibly grateful that it has been featured in the November/December 2017 edition. To check out the digital version click here.