CrossFit and Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

*Always consult your doctor before participating in any exercise program*

I’ve been in the CrossFit world for over 5 years, as both a coach and an athlete, so I am very familiar with the workouts typical of a gym (aka “box”). I am also familiar with the reputation CrossFit has, especially among people who are on the outside.

“CrossFit is too intense!” “It’s only for competitive people…” “You will definitely get hurt if you go to CrossFit.” “CrossFit will make you bulky…” “I’m not fit enough for CrossFit.”

While I don’t always agree with the CrossFit programming, I believe it can be made for everyone, with the appropriate modifications and the right coaching. The basic premise behind CrossFit is to be “ready for anything”, which is an idea I can totally support.

Can I get hurt doing CrossFit? Of course you can, but you can get hurt doing literally anything. I think it’s up to the coaches (and the people who hire & train them) to ensure that people are moving appropriately. There are good and bad CrossFit coaches and programs, just as there are good and bad trainers, gyms, and coaches in other places.

What about CrossFit and pregnancy?

First, I want to say I never recommend beginning anything new in pregnancy. But if you have been doing CrossFit for a while, and you want to continue as long as you can because you enjoy it, here are some things to consider:

  • Tell your coach about your pregnancy as soon as you feel comfortable. He/she should be understanding about your need to modify workouts, and should not push you to do more than you feel comfortable doing. Also, they could potentially be trained in coaching pregnant woman, or know someone who they can refer you to!
  • Be mindful of your exercise intensity. CrossFit is known for its intense workouts and competitive nature. Pregnancy is not the time to compete (against yourself or anyone else) or to attain personal records. Work at your own pace, pay attention to symptoms, and be sure you can still carry on a conversation throughout your workout.
  • Know what symptoms to look out for. Diastasis recti (abdominal “separation”), pelvic organ prolapse (heaviness, fullness, or pressure in the pelvic area), and incontinence (leaking/urinating) are some more obvious symptoms that can arise during pregnancy. If you notice any of these symptoms, DON’T FREAK OUT, they can be managed/improved, but please find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (here) who can help you. Some less obvious symptoms are minor pain, cramping, or if something “just doesn’t feel quite right”. If any of these symptoms arise, take a rest, make sure you are properly hydrated, and adjust your form and/or breathing to see if it passes. If the symptom persists, decrease your intensity, or stop that particular exercise for now. A Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach can help you with how to adjust your workouts. Find the directory of coaches here.
  • Exercises to avoid. There are a few things I recommend every person stay away from when CrossFitting while pregnant. These would be exercises that put you at risk for falling, such as rope climbs, box jumps, muscle ups, and handstand work.
  • Other modifications: Finally, other CrossFit-specific movements that you will likely have to modify at some point during your pregnancy are olympic lifts (snatch and clean + jerk), impact exercises (running, jumping rope, burpees), and anything that requires a lot of core involvement (abdominal exercises, push-ups, pull-ups, other overhead movements). Stay tuned for my follow-up post on specific exercise modifications in CrossFit!

Final thoughts – CrossFit CAN be safe during pregnancy, depending on a variety of factors. Training specifics will look different for each person, because everyone’s experiences and considerations are different. The important thing to remember is that you should be training throughout your pregnancy because you enjoy it and it feels good, and not because you are afraid to lose anything or want to prove something. Also, ask for help when and where you need it!

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