A Shift in Ability: A Note from one Pregnant Athlete to Another

They say that there are four main life events/stressors in one’s lifetime: Marriage, purchasing your first home, dramatic job changes and having children. Well, my husband Chris and I have done all 4 within the last 10 months, and are expecting twins to boot.

All of these amazing life events happening at once leave us elated, but also exhausted and sometimes too busy dealing with the ‘necessities’ to enjoy the ‘niceties’ that having extra time once afforded us. …this is the part where I tell you that for a period of two months, I used my Unlimited membership at Crossfit three times. I went from 6x a week, to a couple times a month. During this busy time, I felt guilty for not getting myself to the gym. My body was changing with the pregnancy, I was on the phone with our realtor constantly in between client meetings, during the evenings we viewed listings and homes, I juggled multiple medical visits with meetings in the offices of mortgage brokers and lawyers. This compounded with the common pregnancy ‘complete lack of desire to do much of anything’ that left me feeling left out during the Crossfit Games Open. All my talented friends were enjoying their bodies and abilities at the gym while I was adjusting to my body’s new inabilities.

This dramatic shift ‘lack of ability’ for me was not subtle or a slow decline. It was a sudden slap that left me out of breath while walking up a flight of stairs, unable to do 5 pullups consecutively, and with the stamina of a manatee. These changes reinforced my already lacking desire to do anything (not just the gym, but cooking dinner, filling my car with gas, taking a shower, going grocery shopping, etc). I was so busy with work and the worries of first-time pregnancy and the house-hunting that my two hours of ‘down time’ at the end of the day lead me to bed and protesting any other productive actions on my part… including Crossfit.

I’ve read a few posts and articles online authored by pregnant women who have experienced this awkward shift in priorities, abilities and desire. I thought it would be worth mentioning on our blog that if you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone! And if you’re too tired to participate in your sport, it’s because you’re building a human (or humans!) inside of you- something that your superstar athlete friends aren’t doing at the moment.

Before we conceived, Crossfit was a large part of my well-being, and general feelings of worth/accomplishment. It helped to keep me on track, keep me focused and gave me an outlet for stress. So what now? Well, since we finalized the purchase of our home, life has settled down a bit (talk to me in a month when we move and renovate). I seem to have shaken most of the ‘listlessness’ that I felt during my first trimester. I was fortunate to never be sick, but I was extremely tired and now feel like the first trimester fog has lifted not that I’m 16+ weeks.

The past two weeks I’ve been easing back into the gym. Attending 3 classes a week and keeping my expectations for myself in check. After 4 months of pregnancy, my view of ‘normal’ athletic ability has changed (finally!) and I find myself comparing myself to my yesterday, not my 5 months ago. This has helped dramatically. I’m learning to love my new body and my new bump. And of course the support at my gym Alchemy Crossfit is tremendous, which really lifts my spirits.

Getting back to the gym feels great. It’s not the same, and I’m realizing that it may never be the same. My life has changed and I have new priorities that give me just as much joy and fulfillment. Crossfit will always be a part of my life and lifestyle, but perhaps not 6 days a week for the next couple of years. My athletic goals have shifted from ‘building’ to maintaining’. And where my life used to fit around my Crossfit schedule, I’m learning now to fit Crossfit into my new life. For a first time Mom and a competitive athlete, this happens just one WOD at a time.

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2 thoughts on “A Shift in Ability: A Note from one Pregnant Athlete to Another

  1. I just came across your blog by googling things about crossfit and pregnancy. I used to do crossfit 4-5 times a week, until I found out I was pregnant… only because I got sick pretty quickly after I found out (with our honeymoon baby). I’m 14.5 weeks along now. I always thought I would be one of those women who continue on with crossfit through the whole 9 months; but I haven’t been able to go the whole pregnancy so far… I’ve been feeling all the things you described and on top of that I feel sick mostly in the evenings, which is the only time I can get to a class. I still have been trying to stay active and work out during my lunch break, and I’m also finally able to go on short, slow jogs again. Since I am starting to feel better I really would like to start going back to crossfit… I am just nervous to go back! Reading your posts have helped me though and I might email my coach to gain some confidence and try going to a class next week. I really do miss it and being a part of something for myself. I know I will have to change a lot of things and won’t be in the shape that I was…. but like you said, my goal is to maintain my fitness at this point.

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    • Hey Claire, Congratulations on your pregnancy!!

      Thanks so much for reaching out and reading our blog 🙂 Fear not! You should regain some of your energy very soon and may feel up to heading back to a class or two per week. I am now almost 32 weeks (with twins!) and have just as of last week put my membership on hold at the gym. After the first trimester, I was able to regain and maintain my fitness level but have now entered the last leg of my pregnancy and am finding mobility extremely difficult… agility is but a distant memory. My last WOD involved empty bar thrusters and mountain climbers. Bending down to pick up the bar was nearly impossible with my big belly in the way and I’m now finding dynamic movement very difficult due to the shift in balance.

      I admire your commitment to the gym and understand how you feel now finding your abilities shifting uncontrollably. Remember to love yourself and take heart in the fact that your body is now constantly on the ultimate workout: building a human! You mentioned that you were nervous to go back to Crossfit. That’s totally normal! You’ve probably never felt so responsible for anyone in your life (I know I haven’t!). Talk to your coaches and develop a plan to take the ups and downs as they come. You may not be able to WOD as it’s written on the board for very long, but there are tons of alternatives to every movement. As my pregnancy progressed, I found that I was able to do less and less. Not because I wasn’t strong enough, but because the change in my body composition (it actually looks like I’m storing a gigantic beach ball under my shirt) made it literally impossible to move gracefully and purposefully. I find that now my fitness involves cutting the lawn, housework, hikes with my dog and husband and the occasional bike ride. No shame! I am looking forward to getting back to the gym once the boys arrive and I settle into the ‘new normal’.

      Best of luck with everything- I hope your sickness passes soon. If you have any questions as you progress or have any updates, please reach out! I would love to hear from you. You sound like a go-getter like me and I’m sure maintaining your fitness will not be an issue for you. Remember that you’re naturally burning way more calories just sleeping than the average human these days! 😉

      xo Jess

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