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Rest Day

Bethany's Mother's Day CrossFit Total 

CrossFitting While Pregnant: An Interview with Four Women and a Coach, Part 1 

By Kate Reece 

Over the last couple years, the CrossFit blogosphere has exploded with articles about pregnancy and CrossFit. Beyond the typical and legitimate concerns about what is “safe,” many women who become pregnant while CrossFitting often find themselves lost in a sea of conflicting information—not just on the Internet, but also from their doctors and other well-intentioned friends and family members with strong opinions. In the interest of caring as well for CFSBK’s community of women and parents as possible, we decided to enter the conversation from our perspective and experience, and gather as many resources as possible for anyone who is training with us and becomes pregnant. 

Our approach is simple, and acknowledges that everyone’s experience is different—and that the most important thing is listening to your body. We talked to four CFSBK members who became pregnant during their training: Bethany E., Noor A., Courtney S., and Ellie M. We also interviewed Coach Fox about CFSBK’s guidelines for training women who are pregnant (available here). 

We got such great information from these women and Coach Fox that we’ve broken the article into three parts, which we’ll post over the next three weeks. There will also be an article on ITA soon. 

CFSBK: Tell us about your training history before you became pregnant, or where your CrossFit journey intersected becoming a mom. Did you already have a child before you started CrossFitting? 

Bethany E.: When I became pregnant with my first child, Alex, I had been CrossFitting for about four years already, and was a few weeks into my second consecutive Strength Cycle with Coach Jeremy. Two years later when I became pregnant with my second son, Oscar, I was a week or two into my fourth Strength Cycle. 

Noor A.: I was CrossFitting for about three years before I became pregnant—the intensity of the workouts were a perfect antidote for the stress of law school. The game plan between my husband, Samir, and me was to make a baby while I was in school, and for me to start Coach Jeremy’s Strength Cycle while we were working on it. By the time I started Strength Cycle, there were already two or three other pregnant women who had gone through at least one eight-week cycle, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give the “Squat Whisperer” a try.

Courtney S.: I started CrossFit in April of 2011 when I moved from San Francisco to New York.  In June of 2012 my box started, and I participated in, a competition team for those who were interested in CrossFit training at a competitive level. We trained two-plus hours a day, five days a week. I trained with the team until I moved to Brooklyn this past September.  My first child, Hannah, was born October 4, 2013.

Ellie M.: I started doing CrossFit-type workouts sometime in 2008 when I lived in Virginia with McDowell. I followed the main site programming, with everything scaled beyond recognition, but I enjoyed it, and was able to start building skills just by reading, watching videos, and winging it. I took Foundations at CFSBK when we moved to Brooklyn in August of 2011. For the past two years, I’ve focused on training and learning, participating in random local competitions, and just having fun with it.

CFSBK: What was your reaction to finding out you were pregnant in the context of your training? 

Bethany E.: Delight and an even stronger commitment to my physical health and consistent training for the duration of my pregnancy. I have non-insulin dependent diabetes, and was well aware of how carefully (i.e. medically) diabetic pregnancies are treated. I wanted to have the most low-key pregnancy possible and a natural, unmedicated delivery, and knew that training would help me achieve that. 

Noor A.: After years of trying not to get pregnant, Samir and I assumed that the minute we actually consciously tried to make a human it would happen. Not so much. To spare you the details, I was pretty psyched when I finally realized I was pregnant. I was in the middle of my second strength cycle at the time, and felt pretty good overall. More than anything, the forced abstention from alcohol and caffeine probably did me a lot of good, because if I remember correctly, I was pretty happy with my Total. 

Courtney S.: I knew that to the extent I had a healthy and low-risk pregnancy that I would continue to CrossFit throughout my pregnancies. I found out I was pregnant with Hannah two months prior to the 2013 Open. I honestly didn’t expect to get pregnant so quickly, and although I was ecstatic that it happened right away I was (secretly) a little bummed that I wouldn’t be able to help the team qualify for Regionals. I actually think I napped in the corner of the gym during the Open workouts that year. 

Ellie M.: I was so excited to be pregnant. I knew it would be a big change, and I kind of looked forward to slowing down and focusing on something different for a while. Gwen Stefani once said, “I imagine my children will save me from my vanity.” (Who knew I’d ever be quoting Gwen Stefani’s maternal wisdom?) I like this quotation, because becoming a parent means sacrificing your vanity, and women certainly experience that when they see their bodies and training change so dramatically.

CFSBK: Did you seek out resources or advice from our coaches or other coaches about how to proceed? What was some of the best or most resounding advice you received/learned about how to proceed?

Bethany E.: Because I was enrolled in Strength Cycle at the time, Coach Jeremy was the first person after my immediate family to know about both of my pregnancies! We both did our research and didn’t find a whole wealth of information on pregnancy and powerlifting specifically. There is a lot of good info on CrossFitting and pregnancy so that was a good start. We decided to just take it a session at a time and use common sense and listen to my body. The best advice I’d read was exactly that: use some common sense, protect your belly and abs from diastasis (no sit-ups!), stay cool and hydrated, and in general just listen to your body. There is a great forum on BabyCenter.com called “BBC Crossfit Moms” that I found helpful. 

Noor A.: My mother’s a doctor, and … I knew many women who were cautioned against doing anything by their doctors while pregnant. … [I was skeptical of] medical advice regarding working out and pregnancy, [so] I decided to use the more unscientific approach of asking around, checking out blogs, and listening to my own body when it came to working out. Of course, I was aware of certain changes to look out for, such as the effect of the hormones relaxing my ability to maintain proper form on my squats, or problems that could arise if I were dehydrated or overheated. I don’t consider myself to be an overly competitive person, so I wasn’t too worried about overdoing it. 

My general principle was to keep coming to the gym, to keep moving, and to do things at a pace where I felt good and stayed in proper form. The best advice I got was from other moms, who told me to make sure I could always keep up a conversation while doing any WOD, and those who taught me to adjust my stance in my squats, or in my rowing, to make room for my growing belly.

Courtney S.: Oddly enough, I was only the second member at our box, and the first who was training competitively, to become pregnant. As a result, my coaches—who were the first people to find out I was pregnant outside of my immediate family—and I did a lot of experimenting with modifications and substitutions throughout the different stages of my pregnancy. Learning to think creatively and modify workouts within the context of my pregnancy was not only fun, but allowed me to do many of the workouts up until the last weeks of my pregnancy (Barbara at 37 weeks—yup!), and also allowed me to continue to train with the team as opposed to doing totally different workouts off on my own. 

Aside from seeking advice from my coaches whenever I had a question or needed inspiration, my main focus was to simply listen to what my body was telling me felt okay on each particular day I made it to the gym. Although it sounds simple, that was the most important lesson that I learned during my pregnancy:  to listen to my body on a day-by-day, movement-by-movement basis. What felt good one day often did not feel good the next, so I would try to focus in the moment and not push too much or have too many expectations about what I should or could be doing. 

Ellie M.: I read a lot online, seeking a story like mine. I wanted to hear about another experienced CrossFitter who kept it up throughout pregnancy, and find out how it felt, how it benefitted the pregnancy, what’s possible, etc. I know that relying on the voices of the Internet can be tricky—I had to navigate my way around a wide spectrum of opinions and experiences. But basically, I knew deep down this was something I wanted to try. I never discussed CrossFit with my doctor.

The biggest challenge is all the conflicting information. You see guidelines that tell you not to go upside down or lie on your back during the second trimester, but find that those movements still feel just fine, and that your handstands are actually better than ever! Or you’ll see videos or photos of pregnant women in their third trimesters doing muscle ups. It’s hard to determine what’s safe.

The best advice I received came from CFSBKer Kristin H., who told me that from her experience training pregnant women, she learned that exercising while pregnant is a deeply personal and relative experience for each woman. We decide what is best for us and what we feel safe doing. That might seem obvious, but with a first time pregnancy, you are seeking some kind of blanket advice to help steer your actions, and the truth is, this is it. The best thing you can do is take it one day at a time, listen to your body, and put your vanity aside.

CFSBK: Coach Fox, how do you respond, as a coach, when a CFSBKer tells you she is pregnant? What resources do you point them to? 

Coach Fox: Usually a smile and a hug or high-five first. Then if I don’t know already, I’ll ask if it’s their first kid, and how they’ve been feeling. I’d explain many of the things we included in our new internal guide—explaining what to expect in the beginning, and how things change in the second and third trimester. CrossFit as a whole obviously supports women working out while they’re pregnant, but I can only speak from my experience training pregnant women and doing research. All the useful information is common sense—how does it feel? If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. I tell women not to ever be afraid to scale something, ask if they’re not sure, and to look at the next nine months as maintaining a level of fitness. You’re not going to be coming in and crushing workouts. 

We’ll be back next week, with Part Two!

News and Notes

  • ATTENTION FIGHT GONE BAD COMPETITORS! Teams need to reply to their welcome email with the name of their team captain ASAP. Team captains will then receive a separate email with details on how to set up their fundraising page, invite their teammates, and start fundraising! Also, if anyone got assigned to multiple teams, email Info [at] CrossFitSouthBrooklyn.com ASAP!!! We're also still accepting registrations for anyone that missed the boat but still wants to participate.
  • People’s Climate March is this Sunday, September 21! The March takes place two days before the UN meets to decide on key issues regarding climate change. If you are interested in participating in the March (which starts on the west side of Central Park), CFSBKer Keith F.would love if you’d join him. First, sign up here, then email him at keithrfr [at] gmail.com. 

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Reader Comments (25)

Wednesday's Programming


21-15-9 Reps For Time of:
Thruster 95/65
Pull Ups

Post time and Rx to comments.
Compare to 10.2.2013 and 2.13.2013.

September 15, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

6am with McD and Lady Fox

I did Monday's workout, hit 13:53 on the perf version at rx. I'd echo what many folks said yesterday; the row was super tough, the MU's were so/so, and the push jerk was the easier part. Definitely a bit of a gut buster.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Affronti

6am with Jess and McD.

Fran in 6:04. This was my first Fran so I didn't know what to expect. Thrusters were unbroken in round 1, then 8/7, then unbroken for 9. Pull-ups were 15/6, something like 8/7, then 5/2/2.

I wish I had known I was so close to sub-6, so that will be my goal next time. Amazing forearm pain after this one. It took at least 10 mins to start feeling slightly normal again. And the Fran cough! Still feeling some scratchiness.

September 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterElliott

Love these interviews! Frankly, I am scared #@*&less of the idea of losing control of my body for not only the 9 months of pregnancy, but months afterward. I will have to take a cue from these strong and gracious ladies (especially the bit about losing your vanity) someday.

Also, I think Pigeon may have just peer-pressured me into promising to do Fran tomorrow. After four months of not doing metcons. EFF ME

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStella

6am with Jess and McDowell

Fran in 6:24

Been a while since I've been in the gym, plus I had bronchitis last week, so while it was a small triumph just to be here today, I'm not sure my body was quite ready for Fran. I was pretty destroyed and got a headache for a while afterwards. I think I'm just still not breathing properly or something. Gonna see how the rest of the week goes.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex C

Such a great video and write up. Thanks for putting this together guys! Seeing the footage of the totals (with a little commentary at the end from Radhika and Bev) really made me miss my strength training family!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNoor Alam

I absolutely love this video of Bethany. So well done!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKH (a.k.a. Cage)

Noor! Miss you! Love this video too. It was one of things which inspired me to do Strength Cycle. Great interview- looking forward to the next part. You moms are amazing.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Posted in classifieds already, but I've got two extra tix to the Black Keys next Wednesday 24th at Barclays. Section 213, row 3. $68. You get to sit next to me and Mr. Ben Whitney

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLuca

This was an awesome article. In my first group class after I finished up foundations we were back squatting. Jess was pairing up rack mates based on what we were squatting and I was pretty clueless and kind of ballparking it. She paired me up with a quite pregnant Bethany "because she knows what she's doing and she can help keep an eye on you."

When I got home my wife asked if I had been as weak and slow as I was fearing I would be. I told her that I'd finished the metcon dead last by a significant margin and oh, yeah, during the strength portion of the proceedings my quite pregnant rack mate had easily squatted an amount of weight that well exceeded the amount I had struggled through, but everybody was really cool anyway and I didn't pass out or anything, so I think I'm going to like it there...

Almost a year later, she still clowns me about that, despite my telling her that it's not (just) that I was kinda wimpy, but that said pregnant rack mate was actually just a badass. I'm going to show her this article and finally prove my point. So, thanks for that!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

bethanny is a total badass, i remember doing foundations while she was pregnant with her second child and saw her doing some WODs was like 'man she is so cool!' all of you gym moms are cool though!! great article!!

i have never done fran before so im nervous and excited at the same time for tomorrow!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCamille

crap sorry i gave you an extra 'N' there! forgive me!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCamille

Love the article Kate! And thanks to the lovely ladies who shared their experiences! This is exactly why I love CFSBK! Even though I'm not there yet, if it happens down the road, it's nice to know you don't have to stop doing crossfit completely and there's a supportive community and coaching staff who have been through it before.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Bethany is certainly a TFBA and easily one of my favorite people in the gym. Partly because she has maintained consistently good training habits over the years that I've known her, partly because I dig it when a southern accent comes out, and partly because she's almost always smiling or can easily be coaxed in to a smile with a simple hello. Good egg, that one.

Thanks to all of the women in the article who shared their experience and for being great role models. I am very excited to get to see Vesper June again tomorrow!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFox

Great interviews! I have to say, since starting CF I have seen a couple of different sensationalized "news" bits about the dangers of doing Crossfit while pregnant. These are usually authored by people who don't seem to know anything weight training and/or some dude MD who is reaching back twenty years to remember his eight week clerkship in OB/GYN (I think I've seen pieces on both the Today Show and GMA). They've really rubbed me the wrong way - they just seem full of misinformation, weird biases, and a hefty dose of misogyny. It is great to read the perspective of women who have gone through it and know what's up! Thanks, all, for sharing.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Love this interview. I haven't been in the gym in a looong time, but when I started Foundations in the Lyceum I was 14 weeks pregnant and I have always treasured how supportive David and Margie and all the coaches and other athletes were of me throughout my pregnancy. Love all the CFSBK babies whose mamas have lifted throughout their pregnancy!

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Great interviews. Kudos to those amazing moms!

I did my first Fran today in 7:41 with 95# thrusters and green banded pull-ups. I can't wait for the day when I can do the kipping pull-ups without a band - hoping that will be in the next six months or a year!
I was very cautious about the pacing and strategy (11/10,5/5/5, 5,4) as I didn't want to fall apart on either movement - even so, I was exhausted at the end. Jeremy forced us to walk to 3rd avenue as a cool down and it was like running a marathon. Nonetheless I did feel I had more in the tank - I could have pushed harder into discomfort and now that I've gotten a sense of the workout maybe I can do that next time.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMrav

Funny story, Shawn. I never heard it before.

It's been a while since I watched that video, it can get a little "junior film school" at times but was a blast to shoot Bethany.

Great interviews from all our moms. I feel so fortunate to get to work with you guys through your pregnancies. Looking forward to many more.

September 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Definitely a fun read. I love the way our gym is completely unafraid of talking, tackling, posting about pretty much any topic in the fitness world.

6:30 - Jess

Fran - 5:10
I've done Fran before but don't remember the time or have it written down...so, yea, I guess...PR...this is why we post here, so google can tell us what our last Fran time was, right? All day I for some reason had 5min in my head. Thought I could break it...would've like to have had a little more juice in the tank on the last nine pullups and went 5-4 instead of 3-3-3...right shoulder was barking a little bit from 3 straight days of shoulder work.

Lesson learned...I should've taken the passing biking K Reece up on sunset pictures in Red Hook...then I wouldn't be sitting here wondering where I could've found 10 more seconds.

Sunsets > Fran

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Glad everyone is enjoying the article! Much more to come. Thanks to all the ladies and Fox for participating and being patient with me as I took forever to get it all together.

4:30 class tonight, yesterday's WOD.
13:35, I think? With 30# DB. I just hated this, which feels weird. I sandbagged the last set of ring rows and didn't make them as hard as I should of. And I skipped the cashout to stretch. Oof.

Then, as Brad mentioned, I became evangelical about the clouds after I exited the gym and biked over to Red Hook to watch the sunset and play. Perfect.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Snatch, last heavyish day before the meet on sunday
*These lifts were off program. I like to go a bit heavier in the snatch closer to meets. Its not that physically taxing, and I feel i get a positive psychological benefit if ive gotten under some heavier weights (in the snatch) the closer i get to a competition. Snatching well often comes down to the belief that you're going to hit it ( more so than the CJ, which is more of a brute strength lift.)

Clean and Jerk, 70%x1x2, 75%x1x2, 80%x1x2

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

Came in early before coaching for a quick session:

-orb in right hip flexor/quad

WU: 3 rounds:
-10 each side plank shoulder taps
-5 squat jumps up to handstand with hover

WOD: I might call it... "Franball" ?
Wall Ball: 16#, 9'
Time: 6:01

wall ball: 12-9, 8-7, 5-4
pull-up: 7-7-4-3, 5-5-3-2, 3-3-3. these did not feel as put together as they did a couple weeks ago. just need to practice a good kip more often. wasn't staying hollow/tight enough in the swing.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

Great interviews!

Fran at 2:56. SUPER happy about this! Last time I did this I got 3:08, and was unsure I would be able to go unbroken this time. Thrusters felt light and pull-ups felt good. Butterflied all pull-ups but the last two---just had to get a kip in there to get my chin over the bar. Next time, I'll butterflying all the way.

From yesterday:

Worked up to a heavy C&J at 145 (pr is 150). Could not clean 150, elbows were too slow.

Perf metcon at 14:22 (I think?) Major muscle up problems (lots of failures, had to get tape half way through), and I was poorly warmed up. Jerks felt good though! Fun workout.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLil JB

Also, Fox seems to think that I cannot do a sub 6 minute Fran. I am FULLY sure that I can go sub 5. Let it be known that next week after my meet its going down, and Coach Fox will owe me fish tacos and beer.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

@Jake - I don't remember wagering tacos and beer but I'm all in. Let me know when this is going down. Shall we say < 5min and I buy, 5min > and you buy?

September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFox

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