Athlete profile: Lisa Glen on CrossFit while pregnant
It’s been an extra special year for one lady at CrossFit 57 North. Only recently, Lisa Glen has tied the knot with her long term fiancé Stuart Glen, and also, given birth to their baby boy Cameron.
We asked Lisa if she could reflect on the past year of training, whilst pregnant, and in turn, provide an insight which may offer some helpful advice to any other ladies who want to keep up their fitness whether it be CrossFit or any other kind of exercise.
Here’s what she had to say:
1. How long had you been CrossFitting for prior to pregnancy? What training had you done prior to joining CrossFit?
I had only been CrossFitting 6/7 months before falling pregnant. Before CrossFit I had tried lots of different ways to keep fit. Spinning, body – combat/pump/attack, various gym programmes etc. Not long before discovering CrossFit I had started to look into the benefits of proper strength training. I had read Starting Strength, New Rules for Lifting for Woman and Strong Lifts 5×5. I found myself really enjoying that aspect of fitness but was never motivated enough to do it on my own. This was when a yoga instructor mentioned CrossFit and once I started, I never looked back.
2. Did you have any doubts or fears continuing with exercise while pregnant?
Not really. All the research I had done had discussed the positive aspects of keeping fit while pregnant, it seemed a no brainer to me. I had also discussed it with my GP and he was very keen that I continue.
3. Apart from the coaches, where else did you seek advice?
The first place was my GP, he was very supportive and even suggested I increase my exercise (not realising how much you do at CrossFit I think….). I also researched thoroughly online, from pregnancy websites, through to fitness and specific CrossFit websites. At my first midwife appointment we also discussed this and she was happy that I continue. CrossFit Mom was probably the best source of information directly relating to the moves in CrossFit though; and I did receive very helpful information from another lovely lady who attends another Scottish CrossFit box and had kept up training during pregnancy.
4. A summary of how you felt through the first trimester?
The first trimester was by far the toughest as I wanted to keep the pregnancy secret until the 12 week scan. Of course, the coaches were the first to know so they could help plan my workouts and ensure I did them safely. At this stage I was still ok to do most moves; I just had to drop the intensity. But it was difficult keeping the intensity of my workouts in check, especially when I could feel myself getting carried away and wanting to give it my all.
I also suffered with mild morning sickness, which was like a daily hangover. This made the thought of working out sometimes not so good, but usually I found that getting a workout in would make me feel better.
5. A summary of how you felt through the second trimester?
Second trimester was good. This is the part where you are supposed to ‘bloom’. I’m not sure I bloomed but I definitely felt a lot better. And now that everyone knew, it was easier to adjust workouts without having to not rouse suspicion.
On the flip side though, I started to develop a condition called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) where the ligaments in my pelvic area had loosened too much causing my lower back and hips to ache if I did certain exercises, running being the worst. I was determined not to let this stop me though and after discussing with coaches I just made further adjustments to my workouts.
6. A summary of how you felt through the third trimester?
The Third trimester was pretty much a continuous struggle. I felt so heavy and cumbersome most of the time. I was still determined not to stop CrossFit though, and this was a good decision, as every workout I completed made me feel amazing!
CrossFit Mom was a brilliant site. I didn’t actually use any of the daily workouts as all my coaches were happy to set or adapt workouts for me. I preferred this as it made feel like I was still part of the group and not doing my own thing. But the site was a brilliant source of information on how to adapt movements and also detailed which movements were and were not safe. This was also detailed by trimester making it even easier to follow.
8. What tips or training advice would you have for those training while pregnant?
I always wondered what it meant when you were advised to ‘listen to your body’, but this does become clear if you are over doing it. Make sure you do listen to your body, if something does not feel right, stop doing it!! Other than that just keep at it, even on days when I felt rubbish and tired I would feel better for going to the gym and completing a workout.
9. Did you change your eating habits?
Not really, I followed the medical advice of making sure all meat was cooked through, no soft eggs and avoid pate and certain cheeses etc, but other that I just tried to focus on getting plenty of protein.
10. How did you feel post pregnancy?
Post pregnancy I felt great. My labour was straight forward and my body recovered very quickly. One midwife actually commented that ‘I was made for having babies’, when she was doing a postnatal check on me and referring to my quick recovery.
As mentioned above my labour was straight forward, quick, and not as painful as I had feared. Although I can’t say for certain this was due to CrossFitting, I believe that it was the reason. I didn’t realise I was in labour for most of it; I was having pains but these were very manageable. When they did start to get worse I went to hospital where I was told I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing. After this my baby boy was with us in about 40mins. As it all happened so quickly I wasn’t able to get any pain relief, but still found it all fairly manageable. I think having a strong core and keeping myself fit throughout the pregnancy definitely contributed to this. Also, completing workouts requires a certain amount of mental determination – this definitely helps during labour!!!
I also felt that, continuing to CrossFit kept me sane throughout the pregnancy. I love my box, the coaches, and all the other athletes are brilliant; I would have hated to stop going for that length of time. Also, as so much of your daily life starts to change; it’s nice to keep certain aspects of it the same as before.
Having Lisa continue to train with us was a real bonus. She constantly asked if she was a burden as we had to alter the workouts for her; however we assured her this was nonsense. It is well known that those who continue to exercise while pregnant are more likely to experience:
* Fewer pregnancy discomforts
* Increased energy levels
* Easier, shorter and less complicated labour
* Less need for pain relief during labour
* Have reduced weight gain and fat disposition during pregnancy
These are just a few of the benefits. We were delighted to be able to facilitate her through a healthy and active pregnancy.
Below is an example of some of the changes we had to make for her during each trimester. If I am being honest, a few of the coaches here had never had the experience of training someone who was pregnant. Therefore you can imagine how rapid we immersed ourselves in the relevant literature.
However what we found worked best, was to consult with Lisa every session and gain her feedback before and after each workout. Another point with that was, to use the talk test and ensure she could hold a conversation at any point while exercising.
One day before she broke the news to me, I had actually just received a poster from ‘CrossFit Mom’ which showed scaling options for each trimester. This was an excellent quick reference guide for movements – however I did not expect anyone to break news like that to me so soon!
Below is an example of changes we made each trimester for Lisa with some helpful tips:
Not much change needs to occur here. If you have been CrossFitting before, most of the movements should be OK still to carry out. From the start the talk test should be used. The goal is maintenance and high intensity workouts should be dropped. Most women also should be OK to lie on their back until the 12-16 week mark. Sit-ups can still be done, but stay off the GHD.
More changes to occur now and lying on the back should not take place for any exercises. Squat only to 90’. Use a lighter kettlebell. Do push-ups as long as you can and then use an elevated surface or carry them out on the wall. Step-ups rather than box jumps. Clean and snatch from the hang position and with lighter weights. Deadlift with a kettlebell rather than a bar. We had Lisa carry out ring rows instead of pull-ups and Knees to chest instead of T2B.
This is where much of the weight dropped right down and kettlebells were substituted for most barbell movements apart from pressing overhead. Rather than following class programming with scaling options, set workouts were then programmed for Lisa. Due to her pelvic girdle pain a fast walk was used instead of a jog, but in many of the workouts the rowing machine was still used to good effect.
If anyone would like any further information, please visit the below useful links and of course, speak to your doctor.