I’ve been doing Crossfit for over 4 years now, and was keen to continue my twice-weekly routine during pregnancy.
The sport often gets a bad press for being too intense, extreme, and dangerous. But that’s not the case at our gym – Chikara Crossfit in Akasaka, Tokyo. I’d seen women – Japanese and other nationalities – working out, at their own pace, until they were 7 and even 8 months pregnant. So, as early as I could, I informed the Chikara coaches of my situation, and have felt really supported and encouraged at every class since then.
For me, the reasons for loving Crossfit have become even more relevant over the past 9 months.
So, why Crossfit in pregnancy?
What’s not so well-publicized is that Crossfit is a totally scalable sport. Everyone attending class does the same work out, at different levels of intensity. For a weightlifting session, while the strongest athletes may be lifting 3 sets of 3 deadlifts at 250kg, I’m at another rack, lifting 75kg (30kg later in pregnancy). We start and finish our workouts at the same time, which is great for camaraderie, and it’s energizing to learn from athletes of various levels and ages, no matter how much weight is on each person’s bar. The focus in our gym is always on form – how well you’re carrying out a particular movement – as opposed to how many kilograms you’re lifting, or your number of reps.
Throughout the past few months, it’s been interesting to see how my body and baby react to certain moves, and to learn scaling options when necessary. Push-ups became knee push-ups, and then bar push-ups; deadlifts became sumo-deadlifts; toes-to-bar became knees-to-elbows, and then knee-lifts (not particularly graceful, but hey-ho). Rather than “15 seconds at maximum intensity on the air bike”, I would cycle for 1 minute at an easy pace. For a running segment, I would instead row the specified distance – 200m or 400m.
If I ever started to feel uncomfortable, our expert coaches would be on-hand to suggest further scaling alternatives. “Listen to your body” they said. So I did.
Crossfit focuses on constantly varied and functional movements, meaning that each class is different. Weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, high-intensity interval training – it’s all in there, so motivation levels never really plateau. (I’ve tried long-distance running and cycling over the past few years, but neither have kept the boredom at bay!) Having wound down the number of evening engagements I attend for work, I’ve found fun in the anticipation that comes from not knowing what awaits me when entering the gym.
During each trimester of pregnancy, with my vital organs re-positioning and the baby’s weight starting to take its toll on my lower back, it’s been a relief to continue stretching out and working a variety of muscle groups at the end of the work day. I’ve still been able to use equipment such as barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and rings, though for some movements (e.g. dumbell lunges) I’ve switched to body-weight exercises only.
As a fall-back option during more strenuous workouts, I’ve been doing half and quarter squats – which will hopefully stand me in good stead for labouring, when the time comes!
It’s 1 hour
The thought of toiling away in a gym for hours gives me nightmares. Crossfit classes take 1 hour out of your day (an hour and a quarter in total for us, as we’re lucky enough to live close to Chikara) and involve clearly-defined, timed stages: mobility; warm up; “work out of the day”(WOD); and cool down. Sometimes the actual “work out of the day” may only be 10 minutes out of the hour – a bite-sized chunk of time, that can suit the busiest of busy people.
For the duration of class, no matter how stressful work might be, or how many things are on my mind (Can I take paid maternity leave? Where will the baby sleep? How can I get through labour without killing my husband?) I’m “in the zone” – focused entirely on completing the workout at hand.
When energy levels began to wain at certain stages of pregnancy, and all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa and eat lemon ice-cream, it’s been easy to stay motivated by telling myself: “it’s only an hour, no excuses!”
It gets results
After every single Chikara class I can feel a positive difference in my posture, muscle tone and strength – not to mention my mood.
Although I have less interest these days in logging my scores in the master computer, there’s no denying that Crossfit continues to deliver regular outcomes for most athletes. Some key, trackable measurements include – cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, and balance.
In the final few weeks of pregnancy, I acknowledge and accept that my body has changed (I’m 8kg heavier for a start!), so my balance and speed are movable feasts depending on the day, and some exercises, such as pull-ups and sit ups, are no longer possible. Still, sometimes even just stepping onto the rower can feel like a victory in itself. Showing up – whether pregnant or not – is half the battle, right?
As the days roll by, I continue to gain energy, strength and sanity being around Chikara athletes – good people of all nationalities, striving for improvements and personal bests.
And, finally, and oh-so-importantly, while Crossfitting over the past few weeks, I’ve loved wearing my ‘Training For Two’ vest, received as a third-trimester gift from my sister-in-law 🙂
What do you think about exercising during pregnancy, and / or exercise in general? I’d love to hear your views!
PS – Pregnancy is likely not the best time to start a completely new, intense regime, so I can only advocate doing Crossfit during this time if you already have experience of the sport.
To learn more about Chikara CrossFit: http://www.chikaracrossfit.com/