The Silent Majority
Anyone that knows me, knows I have been Crossfitting for a really, really long time. I don’t plan to stop. I love it. However, as in anything in life you need to question and be critical of the things that you love the most.
Lately, there has been a lot of push back in the CrossFit community against the "if you work out, you will hurt your baby." This is great and very much needed so people can stop being afraid when they see a pregnant lady working out. It can be scary for people that haven’t seen that before. I get it. These things are all relative. Keeping my heart rate down might look different than someone else, just as a weight that is light for me might look heavy to someone else. However, with all of this focus on the health of the baby one important thing has been missing…..
What happens to all the Crossfit moms that don't end up happily every after like the mom featured in the latest CrossFit Journal video?
Somehow we only hear the success stories. There are glorified videos of moms doing Crossfit pregnant. Moms trying to one up each other or compare what they can do compared to someone else. Then that turns into how fast they can get back in the gym and continue doing said glorified exercises. These stories of women recovering fast are only part of the story. So what happens to all the Crossfit moms that don't follow this storyline?
In the past two years of trying to find answers and fix my extreme case of Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation), I have found a graveyard of CrossFit women silently suffering with prolapse, incontinence, diastasis, umbilical cord hernia, and other pelvic floor complications. They are either embarrassed that they can’t keep up, feel like they failed, or are just clueless on how to get help because of the lack of information. I found that I am not some random abnormality. And, after my own traumatizing experience, I just cannot let this continue any longer. Women need the whole picture. All of the information. THEN they can choose what they want to do during pregnancy and postpartum.
Pelvic floor health and pregnancy are very individualized and complex, so you cannot just blindly follow one person’s story and think that will also be your own. You must find your own way. Additionally, just because you avoid certain exercises during pregnancy and postpartum doesn’t mean you’ll be problem free. However, with the right information, you can find your own way much easier. For example, when I was pregnant with Chase I had no clue about Diastasis Recti or pelvic floor health in general. If I had, I would have avoided certain exercises knowing that I was already at risk (big baby with a short torso). I also would have implemented some breathing methods, alignment considerations, and loads of other strategies that I have recently learned (Check out Julie Wiebe, PT and Brianna Battles, MS, CSCS, USA W). In fact, some people in the CrossFit community even made fun of me for avoiding certain exercises when I was pregnant with Chase and this was before I had the information that I have now. Why is pregnancy a competition to see what you can do? Why can’t we just move and be healthy for baby and for mom’s health? As I “listened to my body” for many months, I just made my Diastasis Recti worse. Listening to your body just doesn’t always work in this case.
For those of you that saw the former CrossFit Games athlete jumping on a really high box at 32 weeks pregnant, the reason I wrote that cryptic, angry post on Facebook was not because I was worried about her baby. Well, okay, it did freak me out but hey- Her body. Her baby. Her choice. The jump looked effortless for her. Not worth the risk in my opinion but 100% her choice and like I said before - it is all relative. My issue is that Crossfit HQ just posted it there to stir the pot while also looking like they promote a type of pregnant competitiveness that isn't healthy for women. Where is the pelvic floor health information about jumping? Where are the interviews with pelvic floor physical therapists on the CrossFit Journal? I want more. Not just interviews from female coaches that were pregnant themselves and then coached some pregnant women. The scope is WAY more than that. CrossFit is not in expert in this area. Let’s talk to the pros.
We desperately need to break the silence and open up the conversation with moms struggling postpartum. And, no, I am not talking about starting some crazy fear mongering. In fact, it is just the opposite! When you have all the information, it is actually a lot less scary! But we need moms to be making educated choices along with feeling like there is hope if they experience incontinence and/or a weakened core with a protruding stomach. Let’s weigh the risk vs reward in all we do pregnant and postpartum. I did CrossFit almost my entire second pregnancy, it just looked different than the first.
At this point I stop and ask myself: do I want to do this because I just want to do the movement OR will this actually help my healing process? It is hard to reign it in. I get it! However, we need to set a healthy mentality for others to follow. We need Crossfit HQ to set the right example. We need moms to speak out and help support each other. We need coaches to get educated on how to guide these women. We need to encourage women to seek physical therapy* as soon as possible.
As Brianna Battles always says. “ Pregnancy is temporary, Postpartum is forever.” I am now finally embracing my journey of healing. It may take longer doing it the right way, but I will be much stronger for it.
*This is tricky because not all physical therapists understand the athletic demands of CrossFit. Shop around before you settle in with one particular physical therapist.