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Rest Day

Throwback to TFBA Charlotte, the original CFSBK mom

CrossFitting While Pregnant: An Interview with Four Women and a Coach, Part 3

By Kate Reece

In case you missed it last week, we continued our three-part series about training CrossFit while pregnant. In Part 1, we introduced you to four CFSBK women who became pregnant in the midst of their training, and also spoke with Coach Fox. The women answered our questions about their reaction to finding out they were pregnant and the best kinds of advice they received. Last week in Part 2, we heard from them about whether they continued to CrossFit after becoming pregnant and how that decision affected their experience. We also asked them to share any advice they might have for other women. Coach Fox weighed in with his advice for women who become pregnant and want to continue training. (He also wrote a helpful document called Guidelines for Training While Pregnant at CFSBK, which we wrote about on Inside the Affiliate.)

This week, we’re concluding our series by addressing the postpartum experience of getting back into the gym. 

CFSBK: Talk to us about getting back into the game after giving birth. How did it go for you? Did you have a plan going into it? Did your body interrupt those plans? What advice would you give to other postpartum women? 

Bethany E.: After Alex was born, I waited for my requisite midwife clearance and came back to the gym around six weeks postpartum. I think I did some very gentle mobility-type work at home on my own around four weeks but mostly just kept it to walks while I recovered. At my six-week checkup, my midwife diagnosed me with diastasis recti, but said it’d probably close up on its own, so I just came back to group class. I did a small amount of research and knew not to do sit-ups but other than that, I just hoped it’d heal on its own. 

I think it was about six months postpartum with Alex before I started feeling remotely like myself training-wise again, I remember doing a 215-pound deadlift and feeling like I was coming back. However my core weakness was really still an issue and I knew it and could feel it—I still couldn’t do a hollow-hold, for example, and my squat weights weren’t really going anywhere. I found a fellow mom who’d just completed Pilates training and was looking for students and started doing once-a-week sessions with her, which helped. We did super-modified Pilates and yoga in my home once a week and my diastasis closed around the time Alex turned one. I vowed for any subsequent pregnancies to address any diastasis and core weakness first before hitting the weights hard. Right about the time I was starting to feel strong again, I got pregnant with Oscar.

My postpartum experience with Oscar was very different. Because I’d worked out the entire 39 weeks of my pregnancy, and because it was my second baby, my recovery was much easier. I felt energetic and healthy and also very, very anxious to get back into the gym (hello, crazy post-partum hormones!). I don’t know why I let myself do this, but I came back to group class around three or four weeks postpartum which was too soon. I had diastasis recti again, my entire core was mush, and I had additionally been diagnosed by my midwife with pelvic floor prolapse, which I was slightly in denial about. I started physical therapy and was lucky to get a therapist who does CrossFit and who advised me that it probably wasn’t the best idea to be back. After my own additional research, I realized she was right and decided to back off of CrossFit for a bit and put all my efforts towards dealing with the diastasis and prolapse.

I’ve been doing the MuTu Focus program every day for the past 10 weeks and my diastasis is nearly closed up, which is fantastic. I’ve returned to group classes occasionally when I can modify the movements to be safe for me (no heavy lifting, no heavy kettlebell swings, etc.), and am in general just trying to feel out what works and what doesn’t. Anything that creates too much intra-abdominal pressure is out, which is a lot at CrossFit. I’ve also been going to KH’s Tuesday night Pilates class when I can, and was just careful to modify any movements there that were too advanced for my recovering core or unsafe for diastasis. I’ve been seeing Debbie Parsons [link] once a month to help me with my alignment and breathing. So, on the positive side, even though I’ve been absent from any regular lifting and training at CFSBK, my body at five months post-partum feels healthy and my core feels stronger than it ever did after having Alex.

Advice I would give any postpartum women: first and foremost, the weeks after having a baby should be about healing and restoring your body while enjoying your baby, not about training or “getting back in shape” or losing weight. Be kind to yourself! Your body and internal organs have been rearranged dramatically, you have to give yourself and, specifically, your pelvic floor some time to heal. There is nothing heroic or bad-ass about coming back to group class too soon. Be on the look-out for crazy postpartum hormones that are telling you otherwise. Wait for your medical clearance, make sure you’ve been tested for diastasis and if you have it, work on closing it first before coming back to group class. If your doctor or midwife doesn’t test you, Google it—the test is very simple. If anything feels “off” down there (i.e. leaking, heaviness or bulging feelings), do not chalk it up to “Oh, I just had a baby.” You need to get it get it diagnosed and deal with it first before putting any stress or weight on it. 

I highly recommend the MuTu System Focus program as your first postpartum exercise. You can start it as early as two weeks postpartum. I wish I’d had it after I had Alex! I’d even recommend it to anyone who hasn’t had a baby, but is dealing with leaking during double-unders. Katy Bowman’s “Katy Says” blog is also an amazing resource for alignment, pregnancy, postpartum, and pelvic floor health.

When you do return to the gym, focus on the basics. Start light and work up from there. Even if you did get to work out the entire pregnancy, you’re going to need to re-learn how to do those movements without a huge belly in front. Make sure your whole-body alignment is good before you start putting any weight on your back. 

I will admit though that after both pregnancies, tears were shed after group classes because I was so humbled at how far my body needed to come fitness-wise to even be at the point it was WHILE I was pregnant! Nobody really tells you that the postpartum period is really hard even if you work out right until the end of your pregnancy. Just know you have the whole rest of your life to be the super-fit mom you want to be. Pat yourself on the back for even making it to the gym, and enjoy your “me time” without getting too hung up on numbers and times.

Noor A.: Because my daughter ended up being breach, I had to have a c-section, and so my required recovery time was about six weeks. But through whatever miracle of surgery my ob/gyn did, I felt ready to come back much, much sooner than that. I think I finally did go back to the gym about a week earlier. I could tell that I had lost some abdominal muscles, I could barely jump up on the small box, hollow rocks were looking more like just plain rocks, but after a few weeks things seem to be getting better. Plus, since I was on unpaid leave for about five months, and Samir was on sabbatical, the gym became our main social space. We hung out there for three hours almost each day, taking turns holding our sweet little sleeping princess in the carrier. Oh, the days when she would just sleep like that, it was amazing!

Courtney S.: This was the part that surprised me the most. Since I had such an easy pregnancy, and trained often during it, I really expected to go back into the gym after my six-week medical clearance and be in the same place that I was before I got pregnant. Not the case. I was completely shocked when the empty barbell (which hadn’t felt heavy at 40-weeks pregnant) felt like it weighed 100 pounds and I could barely lift my toes to the bar. I also really had not accounted for the physical and mental toll that sleep deprivation and breast-feeding a newborn would play in my recovery. 

Having these unrealistic expectations was tough, because I pretty much knew after five minutes in the gym that I was going to have a long road back and I hadn’t expected that. After a few disappointing gym sessions, I decided to take some time off from CrossFit and spent the next few months outside of the gym, re-building some endurance by running and walking. After five months, the baby was sleeping better, I felt less mushy, generally had more energy and was finally eager to get back in the swing of CrossFit-type things. Even four months back into CrossFit, however, it is still not easy and I still oftentimes feel myself getting frustrated with the fact that I am not at the point I was pre-pregnancy.  

In the end, I really wish that people would discuss postpartum recovery more. There is tons of information out there on CrossFit while pregnant, but very little about what to expect what the baby is born, how best to get back into the swing of things, how to deal with breast-feeding while exercising, etc. Which leads me to my biggest piece of advice for postpartum women (and something that I would like to remind myself next time around): be patient with yourself, mama. 

CFSBK: What advice would you give mothers for their game plan after giving birth? Do you have any recommendations for easing back into their training? 

Coach Fox: As some of the women note in this article, they’re often shocked by how hard it is to come back in and train postpartum. When they still have the baby in there, the abdominal wall is stretched out, pelvic floor muscles are stretched too, but you’re still able to brace. Once the baby’s not in there, and you’ve got 30 pounds missing plus some wrecked muscles, you have no idea how to use your abs. The main thing we’re concerned with postpartum is that you’re going to worsen any diastasis recti, or cause more trauma to your pelvic floor. 

So take your time. Don’t come right back. Minimally, we like six weeks, maybe four if someone has had a check-up sooner. It takes time for the muscles in your abdomen and pelvic floor to come back into their normal shape. Furthermore, when you do come back in, look at it as if you’re starting over. It’s not going to take you three years to get you back to where you were—but it might take you a year. Bethany mentioned “crazy postpartum hormones,” and how they can affect your experience in the gym. It’s almost like manic-depression. If you feeling depressive and frustrated with your body, you don't want to get up and go to the gym. Manic is like, “I’m going to PR my squat today.” That could be dangerous. You could wind up prolapsing, you could wind up peeing your pants. Just really be patient coming back in, and as everyone has said, the most important thing is to really listen to your body.

Some parting tips from Bethany E.:

  • Find a good medical team that is on-board with you continuing your pre-pregnancy exercise program.
  • Resist the urge to be a badass at the gym. The fact that you are growing another human being already makes you one!
  • Learn about pelvic floor health and how to reconnect with yours after the baby comes and don’t ignore little signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, like leaking during double-unders.
  • Don’t attempt to train on zero sleep if your baby isn’t sleeping. Take a long walk with your baby instead.
  • Reach out to your fellow CrossFitting moms, as they are an amazing resource. I’m always happy to share birth stories with any interested CFSBK parents-to-be. You can email Coach Fox at Chris [at] CrossFitSouthBrooklyn.com to get my email address.

Useful Links
CrossFit Mom
Be Fit Mom
Habit-it Pelvic Floor 

A huge thank you to all our CFSBK moms who participated in this article series, and to Coach Fox! 

Race, Trust, and Split-Second Judgments Pacific Standard
The Bro Hug: Embracing a Change in Custom New York Times
An Analysis of the Hormonal Response to CrossFit Breaking Muscle
Blown Away in Canton WanderWOD

Reader Comments (23)

Wednesday's Programming

Back Squat

Fitness: 3 x 5 Linear Progression
Start a few pounds lighter than where you ended the previous cycle. 10 pounds off is enough if you were still moving well, up to 20 if you were really grinding through reps.

Performance: 5/3/1 5 week
65% x 5
75% x 5 x 5
85% x 5+
Percentages are based off your TRAINING MAX (90% of a recent 1RM). Aim to hit 10 plus on the rep out, but save 2 reps in the tank.

Post loads to comments.

For Time:
1000m Row
50 Goblet Reverse Lunges 53/35 (25ea, alternating legs)
30 Ring Rows

For Time:
800m Row
40 Overhead Squats 115/75
20 Chest to Bar Pull Ups

Post time and Rx to comments.

September 29, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Hi all,

As many of you know by now, I lost my phone to the crack between the ledge and the wall on Sunday night (pics of retrieval efforts are on Flickr). I am not dying to shell out a ton of money to buy a new phone, so if anyone has an old iPhone that is in good condition that they'd like to sell to me, please email me at jmbrown224@gmail.com. I'll post something to the classifieds as well

BIg make-up sesh with my postings here:

Worked up to a 1rm HBBS. Going to try out low-bar this cycle, so I wanted to see where my high bar was at. Hit 220 (a 5 pound PR). Failed at 225, but it didn't feel unreasonable!

Then the NFT DL's and walll-balls for Sat with 225#.

EMOM 8 min, 2 hang snatches at 35kg--it had been a while since I snatched!!
3x3 Push Press @ 115#
then a little FGB prep of my own invention:

5 rounds for time:
Row 250m
10 Push Press (75#)
10 box jump (20')

Jerks @ 125. Did not feel fantastic (probably because I push pressed on Sunday). It's my goal to significantly improve my jerk form this cycle!
WOD: 4:58 Rx
L-Sit: all Rx, with a :31 max effort on the tenth one.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLil JB

6am with McDowell and Jess - doing Monday's work. 115#x5x3 on the push presses. These got a little heavy at the end, but it feels like a good weight to start the cycle. 10:24 on the wod @ 24kg kettle bell. The double unders were definitely the slow element here, but I'm consistently stringing together 10-15, which feels like a near miracle. Overall, this kicked my ass more than I expected.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

6am with McD and Jess Fox

Did Monday's programming

Partnered with BK on the Rack Press. Started at 80% for rep 1 at 170#, worked up to 185# by rep 5. Felt good and crisp, even without my lifting shoes on. :)

WOD was definitely a DU workout for me. Hit 5:58 rx. Set 1: DU's and KB's unbroken, Set 2: DU's 25/25, KB unbroken, Set 3: DU's 25/10/10/5, KB unbroken. Definitely knocked the wind out of me way harder than I expected.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Affronti

@Lil JB - bummer about your phone. On the plus side, your work-outs are inspiring. Thanks for posting

Yesterday was not a good training day, but it was salvaged by the great crew in the massive 6:30 class. 120# on rack jerks. Not heavy but far from crisp. Thanks Karl and Dan for your support

6:05 on work-out. DUs went surprisingly well. Hit solid sets but counted some attempts in there to keep moving. Otherwise Rx - thanks to that look I got from Dolce when I almost went for 20kg. Fun to partner with Ari for his very first group class work-out. Great wor Ari!

More DUs and L-sits. Time to get better at these wretched things.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

6am. HBBS (linear progression): 245x5x3. Dropped back 20# from where I ended last cycle, but this still felt heavy. Perf metcon Rx in 9:27. Finished the row right at 3min. Overhead squats were broken up 14-10-9-7. Was planning to do 3 sets (15-15-10), but lost the mental battle. C2B were in small sets because my grip was fried at that point.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

6am with Jess and McDowell.

BSQ: Started performance this cycle. Managed to do 4 extra sets before Jess caught me, because David's comment says 75% x5 x5 :). 175x5, 200x5x4, 225x12. Squats felt good. I imagine I could have done more on the rep out if I hadn't burned myself on the 4 sets at 200.

Perf WOD RX: 13:14. I knew going in to this that 40 reps of 115 would not be easy for me and I was right. Hit 10 reps the first set and then broke them up a bunch after that. Failed twice. C2B pullups were tough after all of that. Hit 5, then a couple sets of 4's, 3's, 2's, and some singles at the end. Thanks for everyone's encouragement :). I'm going to feel this tomorrow.

September 30, 2014 | Registered CommenterElliott

6am with McDowell & Jess

Rack Jerk with Michael. 165x5 (85%). I got a few good pointers from McDowell and Fox. Fox's pro tip of the day: wear your oly shoes, you are not rich froning and need as much help as you can get.

WOD: 7:30 Rx.
The 1st round of DUs were not great but significantly improved subsequent rounds. I broke up the swings after the 1st round and burpees were just burpees. Grip became a significant factor.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBK

Hey folks - off topic but our dog Hunter was attacked by a another dog this morning and we're looking for the dog/owner to make sure he's got all of his shots. The dog's name was Gumbo, he looked like a Pit mix — white with a grey brindle spot on his eye. If anyone knows the dog/owner, please let us know! You can email me at mathew.a.katz at gmail dot com. Thanks!

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Katz

Make up post from yesterday - 7:30 with David and Ro

Did 155 for five singles on the jerk. This is 80% of my 1RM, but I think I can push it a little more, as these all felt pretty good. Probably should have gone with 85%, but oh well. I had one slight press out, but I think I was really just trying to race the clock a little too much and not focusing on my set-up. Looking forward to gaining some ground here this cycle.

On the metcon, I did it RX'd in 10:37. All kb swings unbroken, burpees in an even pace. I have decided to stop scaling DUs (so, no more counting attempts or decreasing the volume anymore). Got 50 in just over a minute in the first round, and then things steadily declined from there - I think i probably spent about 6-7 minutes total on the DUs. I feel like I am gaining confidence in them, though, so that's a plus.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

8am with Lady Fox. Repped out at 125# for my HBBSQ, got to 10 and stopped there. Definitely had a few left in the tank. Performance WOD in 14:25 with regular kipping pull ups. I knew going into this that those OHS were not going to be fun, but instead of scaling to 65# I just decided to buck up. Did the entire 40 in sets of 5, and really felt like that was more than enough. By rep 4 each time they started to feel disorganized. Then pull ups in sets of 2. News flash: I still stink at these, especially when my heart rate is through the roof as it was after all that squatting. Great WOD, and the perfect one to do before my Wednesday rest day!

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKH a.k.a. Cage

Kind folks of CFSBK, I am selling my ipad mini retina 64gb wifi in slate, I'm asking $475 for it. Its in mint condition and barely used. Comes with its box charger cable and a case. The rates on CL are above my asking, and we can negotiate a CFSBK price. Let me know. rusted.brooklyn@gmail.com I'll put this on the classified as well. Heres the link to http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/ele/4692714834.html

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPigeon

10am with Lady Fox and McDowell.

Push Press
45 x 5, 65 x 4, 75 x 3, 85 x 3, 95 x 3 (80%) 90 x 3, 85 x 3 x 3.

Had some difficulty with this again today. Was finding it difficult to transfer the force from my legs to the bar as my hands just wanted to keep on gripping it tightly after the first rep, so I took some weight off. Jess helped me a lot with this today. Thanks Jess! I hope I find this easier next week.

WOD in 10.29 Rx. I know this is really slow but I did all of the DUs and that is a big deal. I refused to count attempts, though I was tempted. I also did all of the burpees unbroken which is also kind of a big deal for me. KB swings got heavy quickly- the first set I did unbroken and then did sets of 10 after that. I can't believe people were able to do this whole entire thing unbroken. I really felt my 18 years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day with asthmatic lungs catch up on me on this one.

Still, how far I've come....

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Also- I really enjoyed reading these interviews. Great job Kate, Moms and Fox!

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Awesome job, Charlie! You work so hard!

Thanks to all the SBK moms and Coach Fox for putting in the time on these articles! They were really fun to work on.

4:30 class tonight yesterday's work with Whit.
Rack Jerk, 113x5x1. I haven't jerked in over three months, and this felt great and light. Excited to work on this again.

WOD Rx in 6:24. I told Jess before that I wanted to beat her. I missed her by at least 15 seconds, but it was a good motivator to keep going when my lungs were on fire. First set of DU unbroken, then 10/15/25, then 25/25. KB unbroken. Burpees could have been a little more strict...

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Hey, that's tiny Linus! and me!
So glad for this focus on post-partum recovery. I really agree that it's under-emphasized by all the "training while pregnant" stuff. I had a natural delivery which was VERY fast, so I was, uh, hurting. I couldn't walk more than a couple of blocks for 2-3 weeks post-partum. I think I started working out super-light about 4 weeks after delivery (about when that photo was taken). I didn't feel even close to normal for at least a month after that. And I didn't start squatting heavy until the winter, about six months after Linus was born.
My view is, new moms who have committed to staying fit throughout their pregnancy will bounce back--just not right away. It takes 9 months to grow a baby; it takes about that long to get back to your pre-baby self, photos of movie starts post-baby in Us Weekly notwithstanding. Those people are aliens.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Is anyone an accountant or can anyone recommend one?

Gina, are you an accountant? Did I make that up?

Let me know lborducci AT gmail


4 rounds of:
10 PVC pass-throughs
10 OH squats
5 push-ups
5 chin-ups

4 rounds of:
Bench Press (8 reps) 73#, 78#, 83#, 83#
Wide Grip Pull-ups with blue band (6 reps)

4 rounds of:
:30 slam ball 14#
:30 rest
:30 mountain climbers
:30 rest
:30 "man-makers" w/ 8kg KBs (push up, rows, clean, jerk)
Total reps: 319

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Came in for 10 AM with Chuckles and did yesterday's work.

Jerks at 108. I'm pretty sure I'm strong enough, but not necessarily coordinated enough, to go considerably heavier.

WOD with 25 DU attempts/round in 7:55. DUs came in twos and threes mostly. I'll take it as I couldn't even get one most of the time when we did them last week. Hopefully they won't take as much time to relearn as they did to learn the first time!

Stuck around to do some negative HSPU work and ring dips while Chuckles and Serene did pullup club. I need to work on not being terrified of going all the way down on the negative, because I kept bailing at around half range of motion. Yes, I had an abmat under my head. No, my reptile brain did not consider this a good enough reason not to take over and go "AAAAAA NO!"

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStella

I'm going to try to start posting my workouts more regularly again. Still struggling to get back to where I was before the summer, but so it goes.

I did tomorrow's WOD tonight at 6:30 with Jess. High bar squats at 120x5 - 138x5 - 157x10. Then did the performance workout with regular pull ups, not chest-to-bar, in 10:44. Tough on the hands and wrists, that.

Yesterday, I did rack jerks at 125x1x5. Need to step my front foot out farther, and also land lower/with my knees more bent. WOD RX'd in 8:23. Thought I was gonna die.

This pregnancy series has been a delight! Thanks to all the moms (and Fox) who contributed and to Kate for assembling and editing; I loved reading it.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mc

6:30 - Jess

Tuesday's Wendler 5

285 - is my training max

I'd say overall positive first day squatting after about 2 weeks without squatting in a cycle. Felt a little rubber legged...but that'll go away.

Metcon - Perf - scaled the pullups to kipping, no c2b - 10:5something

The damn row I pulled something in my back on my first pull...felt fine after a couple more pulls so kept going. I really gotta work on that race start. Kept it under 1:39 the whole time. OHS were a lot harder than advertised. I went 10-6-6-5-8-5. PU's were 4x5.

I liked the hollow holds + Jets/Patriots/Giants bashing as a cashout.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

6:30 with Jess. Wednesday workout.

I worked out with Brad and Jason, doing the Wendler. My one RM max on the back squat is 310lbs, so my training max is 280lbs. I did:
185 x 5
215 x 5
235 x 8 (I probably had a rep or two more; Lady Fox agreed)

Did fitness version of metcon in 9:44

Balancing 4 things right now - gearing up for my 9th NYC Marathon, keeping my strength up for the 10/25 Starting Strength competition with Fox in Queens, Fight Gone Bad, and more generally getting back into the WOD "regular CF" routine. A balance for sure.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob Underwood (@brooklynrob)

Made up Jerks on Tuesday at 7:30
85% (205) x1x5
First one out in front, so took video of the 2nd. Threw the bar out in front and had to catch up with it. Also got a cue from Joel that my dip seemed over-slow. I'd intentionally slowed my dip down some time ago to groove a better dip but it seems I'd over-corrected. Focused on a quicker dip and turnaround for the 4th and 5th reps in addition to picking up my eyes and throwing the bar behind me and those reps felt "perfect".

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFox

First workout back after 5 days boozin and eating everything in New Orleans

Rack Jerks: 185, 195, 200, 205, 205

WOD: 5:10 RX This actually felt pretty good. I so much prefer Russian swings to American, and my burpees stayed reasonably fast.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

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