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Working out for two: CrossFit Hoboken moms and those expecting

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By Matt Aquino

There’s a baby boom in the air at CFH!

Becoming an expecting mother is an exciting time and also one full of uncertainty (even for those that have already had a child).  Every pregnancy will have its different challenges and changes to the body.

At CrossFit Hoboken there is plenty of support from coaches and other members and we want to share some of our experiences with you:

  1. Movement guidelines CFH coaches follow for expecting mothers
  2. Experiences and quotes from mothers who recently worked out at CFH through pregnancy and returned after

There are a ton of resources out there on medical advice and do’s / do not’s. Each individual should discuss her plans for exercise and specific routine with her doctor and agree on the parameters.  Here are few high-level guidelines that we as coaches at CFH follow:

1st Trimester

  • Can continue your regular routine; not a time to initiate a new workout regimen
  • Keep nourished, lots of water!
  • Varying energy levels

2nd Trimester

  • No laying on back for exercises after 16 weeks
  • No going upside down; no repeated twisting or rotations at core
  • Just focus on maintaining a level of fitness—not PRs

3rd Trimester

  • Watch bar path—consider switching to dumbbells
  • Remember to keep breath at a conversational pace
  • Strategically modify many movements (no box jumps)

Post-partum

  • Must have doctor clearance to return—DON’T RUSH IT (typically 6 weeks)
  • Slowly working back into it; remember not to try to do too much
  • Nutrition is important for the mom and the baby; not a time to go on a low calorie, intense diet

We think it is always a good idea to make your coach aware and collaboratively come up with appropriate modifications and scaling for each workout.  At end of the day, you know your body best and you need to listen to your body.

Now since I cannot personally speak from first-hand experience regarding working out while pregnant, I went out and did some Q&A with our badass moms. Those I spoke to all worked out at CrossFit Hoboken during a recent pregnancy and returned back afterwards. Some of these moms are now in the middle of their second pregnancy and can provide a different perspective.

The responses were very insightful and a lot of great things can be pulled out of this if you’ll one day be an expecting mother, such as:

  • Feeling very tired in the beginning
  • “OH MY GAWD—CARBS” … food cravings
  • How long it took each of them to come back (differed for all!)
  • How each of them viewed working out as an essential part of their lives both during and after pregnancy

Below is the Q&A and some great pictures of our inspiring moms. Don’t forget there are many more moms at CFH who also deserve our support. And those hoping to become moms in the future, we’re excited to be a part of your journey as well!

1. Explain the first few months of pregnancy and the things you were experiencing with your body both inside and out the gym.

Donna Doria (D) –  First thing I noticed was being GASSED and out of breath during my first trimester.  The simplest WODs felt challenging and I couldn’t catch my breath.  Once I hit second trimester I was so much better and had a ton of energy.

Marisa Huthwaite (M) – During my first trimester, I was feeling more tired and not as motivated to get myself to the gym. I felt as though it was easier for me to wake up and go to the gym before work because I had the most energy as opposed to after working a full day. I just altered my daily routine to make sure I went to bed earlier so I could have enough energy for morning workouts

Rachel Goldstein (R) – For my first pregnancy, I was completely wiped out for the first trimester with exhaustion and nausea.  I was sleeping 11-12 hours a night and still couldn’t wake up in the morning for work, let alone my usual 5:30 AM class.  I ended up taking about 8 weeks off from CrossFit and came back once my energy returned in the second trimester.  This time around, I was able to continue with CrossFit throughout the first trimester, but I definitely got winded easily… I would be out of breath just coming up the stairs to get to class.

Theresa Cataldo (T) –  I wound up not finding out that I was pregnant until I was about 7 weeks (almost 2 months) along.  So for the first 2 months I was powering through working out not even realizing that I was pregnant.  After that I would get waves of exhaustion, like the feeling that I could not even pick my head off the pillow.

Sandy Wojciechowski (S) – My first trimester consisted of eating and sleeping. I’d come home exhausted from work, nap, eat, and then go to bed for the night. I’d try to get to the gym during the week, but struggled to wake up, so that happened maybe once or twice a week. I forced myself to go weekends so I wasn’t slacking too much. When I did go, I felt really slow and out of breath as if I was 8 months pregnant. It was definitely a strange feeling.

(Keep scrolling for more!)

CFH badass mom Marisa Huthwaite 

2. Explain your initial fears/thoughts/excitement/doubts when deciding to continue working out while pregnant. 

D – I honestly didn’t have any doubts about working out during my pregnancy.  People always had their opinions and talked good/bad about working out but I knew it wasn’t an option for me NOT to work out.  I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t the time to PR but the time to build strength to carry me through pregnancy and ultimately help me recover and get back to normal faster.

M – I was doing CrossFit for a few years before getting pregnant so as long as I wasn’t trying anything ‘new,’ I knew that it was going to be okay for me to continue throughout my entire pregnancy as long as I just listened to my body, monitored my intensity and scaled movements as needed. It was also helpful for me that my doctor was supportive of me working out throughout my pregnancy.

R – I never really had any fears or doubts because we’ve had lots of pregnant role models at the gym and everyone has been so supportive.  I have to admit I was kind of excited to finally have an excuse to scale burpees and HSPUs!

T – Initially I was really nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to perform in the way that I wanted to.  My doctor had only met me once or twice by this time, and she said “you should probably lift no heavier than 35 pounds” and I flat out laughed in her face!  I told her that I just one-rep-maxed a 225 deadlift just a week prior and she just stared at me like “WTF.” I told her yeah I do CrossFit and have been for 3 years so 35 pounds is like nothing for me.  So after hearing that she kind of got it and just told me to keep doing what I was doing as long as it felt good. So that is exactly what I did!

S – I was initially worried about my heart rate and the dizziness I was feeling and obviously worried about the well being of the baby being bounced around. But knowing how Donna was kicking ass throughout her pregnancy and was 6 months further along was comforting to me. She was a beast from start to finish.

CFH badass mom Theresa Cataldo

3. What was the best medical advice you received as it relates to maintaining your health and body during pregnancy?

D – If you’re not breathing, the baby’s not breathing.  I had to remind myself that often because I love cardio WODs so much and that if I couldn’t catch my breath that was no longer a good thing while pregnant.

M – The best advice that I received was to continue to keep active and continue to eat healthy.

R – My doctors encouraged me to stay active throughout pregnancy but were unfortunately a bit outdated with their advice and advised me to keep my heart rate under 140 and lift no more than 20 pounds. I explained to them that I have done CrossFit for years and the empty barbell itself was 35 pounds so I was able to negotiate to that. I make sure to listen to my body. I have scaled back the weights to the point where they feel heavy, but I am not straining to lift.  For heart rate, I follow the guideline that I should be able to hold a conversation if needed so if I feel myself getting out of breath, I take a pause and let my heart rate come down a bit.

T – Keep doing what you’re doing! I was so proud of myself to maintain my pull-ups throughout my pregnancy as well as maintaining reasonable weight on barbell movements.  In fact I worked out up until the day I went into labor. The delivery was tough and she flat out old me, if there was any other doctor in the room, they would have given me a C-section.  But my doctor knew me and knew how much I worked, and she told me (after the fact) that she knew I could handle the labor because of that!  So thank you CrossFit for making me strong enough to have a surgery-free birth!!

S – If you were working out before you were pregnant, you should keep it up. It’s healthy for you and the baby.

CFH badass mom Donna Doria
(with husband JR pictured in top photo)

4. What were your favorite pregnancy food cravings?

D – CAAAAARBS!!!!!  Bagels, pasta—you name it.  I think it’s because I ate Paleo for so long!  And oddly enough—FRUIT!!  I could crush a whole crate of clementines in like an hour!

M – Granny smith apples, watermelon, and pizza.

R – First pregnancy—watermelon; this time around—cherries.

T – My god I craved CARBS!!!  All I wanted in my first trimester was pizza and bagels!!!  But halfway into my second trimester, the cravings subsided and I was back to my normal self.

S – I clearly remember coming home with a giant tray of Reese’s peanut butter cups and Stan (husband) looking at me like I had eight heads. But that was one of many.

CFH badass mom Rachel Goldstein

5. How long did it take post-birth to feel like you were back to your pre-pregnancy fitness (if at all)?

D – I would say 5-6 months.  It took me a while to get back into the mentality of pushing myself and adding weight to the bar because I hadn’t lifted heavy weight for some time.

M – I don’t know if I actually ever feel as though I went back to my pre-pregnancy fitness level. I had all of my pre-pregnancy PRs recorded and after I had my daughter, I just started to record ‘new’ PRs for myself and I was okay with that.

R – Coming back postpartum was much tougher than I expected.  Between the lack of core strength and pelvic floor weakness, I was doing less weight postpartum than I was at 9 months pregnant.  Then add breastfeeding and sleep deprivation on top of that so it was really tough.  I would say it took a full year to get back to my pre-pregnancy PRs.  And then I went and got pregnant again!

T – I gave birth in late January and was determined to make it back for the 2017 Open workouts.  I told myself I wouldn’t push it if I couldn’t but a few weeks after giving birth I started to feel really good and I wanted to get back to slowly working out.  I gave myself about 3 1/2 weeks after giving birth.  I started slowly and worked my way back up.  I remember feeling extremely weak when I first started.  But I had to take a step back and look at what my body had just gone through.  I would say it took about 4-5 months to not only feel strong but even stronger than pre-pregnancy.

S – Within 3 months I felt good, but know my body has definitely changed.

CFH badass mom Kim Rossi (and aspiring CrossFitter, baby Bryce)

6. How do you balance your new family life and responsibilities while continuing to make it to the gym? 

D – The gym will always be a priority for me, in order for me to manage work and my stress level.  Every week is a challenge, though, with scheduling, but no matter what I make it work.  I mostly go after work and then go pick him up at daycare—I’m the sweaty mom running in to pick up their kid!!  But it’s important for me to remember that to be a good mom I also have to be healthy and I remind myself that when the ‘mom guilt’ sets in!

M – It was a lot easier to make it to the gym before having a child; however working out has always been very important to me so I knew that balancing family and fitness were goals of mine to achieve. My husband and I just work out a schedule ahead of time so we are both able to stay active. In the beginning, my daughter Charlotte did attend some 10 AM crossfit classes in her carseat and was my biggest cheerleader!

R – The hardest part is that you can’t just go to the gym whenever.  You now need someone home to watch the baby. Fortunately my husband knows I’m a much happier and more pleasant person to be around if I’m working out regularly so he is supportive and takes care of our son in the mornings when I’m at crossfit.

T – It is a balancing act for sure, but I am lucky that my husband doesn’t CrossFit, so he understands that this is my hour and I need that hour so he is super supportive in me taking the time to go to the gym.

S – The struggle is REAL. Being off in the summer was tough because I had the baby all day and he no longer wanted to sit in the carriage and watch me work out. So I did a lot of running with the jogging stroller and took class at random times when I could get a sitter. Stan and I now alternate days so one of us can watch the baby.

CFH badass mom Sandy Wojciechowski (top) and baby Crew (bottom)

7. What advice would you give to other expecting mothers? 

D – A healthy and happy mom helps bring a healthy and happy baby!   I remember getting some sideways stares when I was working out with a huge belly.  I used to laugh—it’s a myth that we aren’t supposed to work out.  Just listen to your body and be smart!  I love seeing all the badass moms at the gym—they are ALL so so inspiring and it’s so great to have such a support system at CFH.

M – I found it very helpful to tell your coach that you are pregnant right from the beginning so they are there to support you and assist you with any scaling as needed. No one knows your body better than you do so just remember to take breaks whenever you need, drink a lot of water before, during and after workouts, and keep a positive attitude. Don’t trust everything you read… I once read that babies of exercising moms sleep through the night sooner—that was not the case with my daughter. 🙂 It took 10 months for her to fully sleep through the night!

R – Be patient with yourself, especially when coming back postpartum.  Pregnancy can be uncomfortable and feel like eternity, but it’s amazing what our bodies can do so just enjoy the ride.  The end result is all worth it. 🙂

T – Being a new mom is tough!  The first few months are the most challenging months you will ever go through, but it gets easier!!! And FUN!  So when you are thinking to yourself WTF I can’t do this?? You can, and it will get better and easier!  In regards to working out, just do what you feel you can do.  Keep working out as long as you feel good!

S – There’s nothing in the world better than being a mom. But it is a hard ass job. Nothing can prepare you for it!

CFH badass mom Tiff Rogers with the Strength crew

Always remember to let your coach know about your pregnancy so that we can help to modify and scale workouts appropriately. And keep being the badass that you are!