I’m wrapping up my 25th week of pregnancy, which means I’m getting pretty close to third trimester territory. When I first found out I was pregnant, I honestly wasn’t sure how long I would feel comfortable CrossFitting. Especially since I didn’t CrossFit with my first pregnancy. But I am really happy to say that CrossFitting in the second trimester has been pretty great.
I’ve had to make some adjustments, and there are workouts where I feel like I’m doing a completely different WOD than everyone else. But I’ve been able to find movements that are comfortable, and have kept me feeling strong. I’ve gotten a number of questions about CrossFitting during pregnancy, so I want to share a little bit of my journey so far.
CrossFitting in the Second Trimester
So, first things first. I’m clearly not a medical professional. I’m a mental health therapist, project manager, and running coach. Which means I am 100% not qualified to give anyone medical advice. But I am happy to share a few precautions I am taking when it comes to working out during pregnancy. Keep in mind though that you should always be discussing your workouts with your health care provider to make sure you are doing what is safe and healthy for your unique body and pregnancy.
That being said, if you are working out outside in any capacity (CrossFit included), you may want to keep an eye on your internal body temperature and heart rate. There isn’t necessarily a specific heart rate that every pregnant person needs to stay under, but knowing what’s normal for you and asking your doctor for some guidelines never hurts. Being able to say a few words (not necessarily a full blown conversation) is a good sign that you’re not over-taxing your body. I’ve read that it’s recommended to keep your body temperature below 102. Even on the hottest days (so far), my temps have stayed regulated!
I think what has helped me stay in the safe zone (temp-wise) has been the fact that I’m pretty diligent about staying hydrated. Partly because I know staying hydrated helps my body regulate its temperature, but mostly because I know how much leg cramps suck, especially during pregnancy. Making sure I’m drinking water with an electrolyte supplement (like Liquid IV) has helped me avoid waking up my husband screaming at 2am. We both appreciate it.
There’s also a few things I’ve made sure to avoid. I don’t do anything that makes me feel light-headed, like deadlifting super heavy weights. Generally I’m not a fan of being the center of attention, and nothing will cause a scene quite like a pregnant woman passing out in the middle of a workout. I’ve also decided not to do anything that puts me at an increased risk of falling, like rope climbs or handstand push-ups. Finally, it’s generally recommended to avoid movements that involve laying on your stomach, once your bump has “popped.” So things like hand-release push-ups and burpees probably need to be subbed out.
Movements to Modify
Now that we’ve covered some basic things to avoid in the second trimester, here’s a few movements I’ve been subbing out or changing.
- Burpees – While not my favorite movement, they can be adjusted by eliminating the push-up, and maybe just doing walk outs and walk ins if jumping is problematic.
- Jump Rope – While some women feel comfortable jumping far into pregnancy, I’ve decided to substitute single and double unders for another form of cardio or body weight movement like forward lunges. I could probably do small rep schemes at this point without any issue, but I just don’t feel like the risk of straining my pelvic floor is worth being stubborn about it.
- Pull-Ups – One movement I was surprised I would need to change was pull-ups, which can exacerbate diastases pretty early on. Once your ab muscles start separating, it’s recommended that athletes opt for ring rows to avoid over stretching the midline.
- Box Jumps – This movement goes into the “fall risk” category. While I probably could do some box jumps just fine, I’ve decided to sub them out with box step ups or air squats.
- Hand Stand Push Ups – There’s mixed recommendations on being upside down while pregnant, but if you’re not super confident, I’d recommend utilizing strict or dumbbell push press.
- Sit Ups, Toes to Bar, Knees to Elbow – Because once your abs start separating there is zero benefit (and a lot of negative consequences) to completing traditional movements like sit ups. Instead, look for core movements that are diastases safe like dumbbell hip thrusters, plank, or side plank.
- Push Ups – To avoid squashing your growing stomach, switch over to push-ups from the knees or onto a box.
- Rope Climbs – Because nothing is guaranteed to freak out your workout buddies quite like seeing you try to climb up a 15 foot rope with a belly. Instead of dangling from the ceiling, try going from a laying position to pulling up to standing with the rope instead.
While my olypmic lifting has certainly changed since heading back into the box during my second trimester, I have still been able to move a barbell (for now). Most pregnant women will probably want to reduce their weights by 25-35% of their pre-pregnancy lifts. It can also be helpful to start lifts from the hang position, instead of the floor once the belly starts interfering with bending over.
I’ve also found that I’m slightly more comfortable with a wider stance during deadlifts and squat movements. Now that baby Brambila is moving around a lot more, I’ve gotten a few kicks and pushes anytime my stomach rests on my thighs. Widening my stance helps to avoid this. A lot of women will want to substitute barbell lifts with dumbbell movements once the belly impacts the barbell path. I haven’t quite hit that point personally, but every pregnant body is different, so be mindful.
Rules of Thumb
Modifying movements, slowing down a little, and adjusting my lifts has helped me continue CrossFitting throughout my second trimester, but I want to end with a few things every pregnant person should know when working out. The first is that there is no amount of “acceptable leaking.” If you’re leaking, it is a signal that your body is sending to let you know that whatever you’re doing is putting too much strain on your pelvic floor. If you notice any leaking, either stop or modify immediately. And consider reaching out to a pelvic floor PT to start addressing the issue.
Also, be careful with that relaxin. It’s the hormone that allows your ligaments and bone structure to shift in order to accommodate the body changes that are required to creating a human being from scratch. It can increase range of motion, which can be sorta nice, but it can also put you at a higher risk for hyperflexion to the point of injury. So be mindful.
And finally, don’t compare what you are able or comfortable to do with anyone else. Including your pre-pregnant self. Every pregnancy is different, every pregnant woman is different, and pregnancy is not the time to compete. Working out, staying healthy, and moving your body is so beneficial during pregnancy, but not if you find yourself feeling badly about your performance or ability. Remember that growing a human is hard work, and anything additional is just a bonus. At least for a little while.
If you need some additional guidance and resources for CrossFitting during pregnancy, I really recommend that you chat with your box coaches. You can also find some really great modification recommendations on this PDF from the CrossFit Journal. If you’ve been able to participate in CrossFit during pregnancy, please share your experience in the comments!