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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How to Know When You Need to Change Your Strategy Postpartum

How do you know when you need to change your strategy postpartum?

While there's a lot to be gained by working with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, as well as a certified Pre/Postnatal trainer, there ARE some things you can watch for yourself.

That whole, "listen to your body" thing - well, it's kinda (incredibly) confusing when you don't know WHAT you're supposed to be listening for.

1. Pain: Pay attention not only WHILE you're doing the movements, but pay attention to pain the rest of that day and even into the next day. Sore muscles because you worked them is one thing, pain is different - you'll know the difference.

2. Peeing: This one refers to loss of control of either bladder or bowels, at any point in the day - not just while doing the movement. So while you may not leak DURING squats, are you losing control of your bladder (or bowels) more than normal the rest of the day, or into the next few days?

3. Prolapse: If you haven't been diagnosed with prolapse and are wondering what this is, it may feel like a heavy sensation in your vagina like something is out of place or causing downward pressure. Or, it may feel like you need to have a bowel movement even when you don't. This is one I was acutely aware of when my daughter was still in the front carrier - I didn't feel anything WHILE walking with her, but later that day or the next day I would have an obvious heavy feeling, letting me know it was either time to switch her to the back, or shorten our walks.

4. Pressure: Are you creating excess pressure in your abdomen while doing movements? This one can be assessed either visually to check for coning, which looks like a little mountain ridge protruding down the center of your abdomen - usually most obvious at the belly button. Have someone watch, or video yourself. The second way to assess this one is with your fingers, checking your diastasis and how it's responding (another video for another day!) during the movement.

Lastly - not everything is going to give you feedback when pregnant and postpartum, which is why I think it’s SO important to work with a Pelvic Health Physio and a *certified* Prenatal/Postpartum coach.

So, where do we go from here?!

Join the newsletter to be sure not to miss future posts on HOW to change your strategy, PLUS I'm creating posts for individual movements starting with box jumps. Is there a movement you're wondering how to modify? POST IT BELOW and I'll do a video series based on your request!

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!


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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