Lea-Anne Ellison of Los Angeles was probably just posting a photo of her late-pregnancy workout routine on the CrossFit Facebook page to prove that pregnant women aren’t delicate little flowers. But of course she has been met with a whole mess of people wringing their hands and feigning intense moral outrage that she isn’t doing what pregnant ladies are SUPPOSED to be doing.
You know, sitting around, knitting booties and singing to her baby nestled in her stomach and daydreaming about baby names. Lea-Anne has two weeks to go before her due date, and I’m going to assume that since this mom is a fitness enthusiast, has two other kids, and is a 35-year-old grown ass women, she knows what the hell she is doing. But the Internet knows better!
The 35-year-old posted one of them on the Crossfit Facebook page earlier this week with a caption that read: “8 months pregnant with baby number 3 and CrossFit has been my sanity. I have been CrossFitting for 2 1/2 years and … strongly believe that pregnancy is not an illness, but a time to relish in your body’s capabilities to kick ass.”
Good for her, right?
Definitely not, according to the hordes of people who have come out of the woodwork to condemn her. People said it was “sickening,” irresponsible, and “silly.”
“This woman is a disgrace. Pregnancy is a time to take care of your body and be gentle, not test it to the limits,” said one commenter.
From another: “Stupid female…”
While it’s commonly advised that pregnant women shouldn’t lift heavy things, this woman isn’t just any pregnant woman. She’s been doing CrossFit for years, is clearly in amazing shape, and this weight is likely not strenuous for her based on what her body has been doing. Pregnant women should be careful, yes, but they do not need to — nor should they — give up exercise. Still too often it seems women who continue sports and exercise get more criticism than those sitting home eating pack after pack of Oreos.
Reality Check: Pregnancy is the ideal time to get moving. The real hazard is inactivity, which contributes to excess weight gain, high blood pressure, aches and pains, and a higher risk for Cesarean section and gestational diabetes.
The Daily Mail reports for most women, being eight and a half months pregnant means taking it easy, sitting back and hoping that Junior will put in an appearance before too long.
To Ellison’s critics, I say this: You are not in her body. You cannot possibly know what she feels she needs. Do you think a woman is stupid just because she’s pregnant?
Pregnant women are bombarded with messages about what to do and what not to do during their pregnancies. For the most part, this messaging is helpful. Science hasn’t always known that what the mother does during pregnancy actually affects the baby. There was a time when a pregnant woman was thought of as two separate entities, where mom was just the womb and the baby was a perfect and impervious growing organism.
Women used to continue smoking and drinking during their pregnancies without a hint that doing so might harm their babies. Today, this knowledge is common sense. However, in some ways—smoking and drinking aside—a lot of unknown territory still exists with respect to how other health behaviors influence pregnancy and birth outcome. I can imagine a day 20 years from now when people will be aghast at what we did not know.
The genealogy of lifting traces back to the beginning of recorded history where man’s fascination with physical prowess can be found among numerous ancient writings. A 5,000-year-old Chinese text tells of prospective soldiers having to pass lifting tests.
If pregnancy, labor and postpartum were athletic events (I think this is where we lobby for a new definition of “triathlete”) and if I were a coach for these events, I would want to know what training program would help my athletes perform at their best yet would not cause injury or harm.
When elite athletes prepare for their respective competitions, their training programs are designed around the physical demands of the event: their training focuses sharply on the components of fitness they need to develop in order to win or succeed. In fitness and coaching, this principle is called “specificity of training.” This principle is the general rule or belief that training programs should be designed and performed with the relative desired training outcome in mind (e.g., velocity specific, muscle-action specific, energy-source specific).
The continual advancement of our understanding of how the human body adapts to different exercise stimuli will continue to cause experts to argue about the “winning” workout for their respective elite athletes.
Nevertheless, the basic principle is undeniably true: an organism will adapt to the stimulus to which it is subjected. Suffice it to say that moms-to-be are about to enter the fitness challenge of their lives, and the winning program must improve strength and must be functional.
Lea-Ann Ellison is an established, professional body builder. She’s been doing it for years, and just because she’s pregnant doesn’t mean she has to stop. It means she has to think a little more carefully, sure. But I’m betting good money that she has made the necessary adjustments to accommodate her precious cargo.
There was a time when exercising during pregnancy was considered taboo. Women were told to be careful and take it easy. Today’s pregnant woman knows that a healthy pregnancy, that includes exercise, results in both physical and emotional benefits.
A well-designed program requires a solid understanding of physiological and anatomical changes that occur during pregnancy.
The most trusted source aside from your own doctor is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
In this era of prenatal Pilates videos and Oh Baby! toning classes, most women know that exercise during pregnancy is safe. Yet when it comes to the particulars—Is it OK to work my abs? Do I have to quit running? Should I keep my heart rate low?—myths and misconceptions that hold women back persist. “There’s still a lot of fear out there that stops pregnant women from exercising,” says Sara Haley, a prenatal fitness trainer.
To put your mind at ease, here’s a reality check on prenatal fitness myths that just won’t die.
1. Exercising when pregnant pull nutrients from your baby. MYTH. Your baby takes what it needs from your body, regardless of whether you’re burning calories while exercising. You should be eating enough to cover your own calorie needs as well as your baby’s (estimated at an extra 300 calories a day in your second and third trimester).
2. Running while pregnant is unsafe for the baby. MYTH. If you were a runner prior to discovering you were pregnant, it’s fine to continue running, as long as it is at a moderate exertion, and you feel comfortable. I kept running until about 36 weeks – albeit at a slower pace!
3. If you didn’t exercise before you were pregnant, it’s not safe to start now. MYTH. Here’s what’s not safe: going from a sedentary pre-pregnancy workout to exercising at a high intensity for an hour a day. If you haven’t been working out before, start slow. Aim for five minutes of exercise to start, then add five minutes every day, until you can comfortably get through 30 minutes a day (that’s the recommended exercise prescription from ACOG!).
4. You must keep your heart rate at or below 140 beats per minute. MYTH. This actually was an ACOG recommendation once, but based on further studies, it was modified in 1982 to keeping exertion at a moderate level. Yup, 31 years later, and the same outdated advice is still being doled out! What’s ‘moderate’? You should be able to carry on a conversation, but not be able to sing. What’s moderate for you might seem easy, or impossibly hard for someone else, so listen to your own body!
5. Lifting weights while pregnant is too stressful on your joints. MYTH. It’s totally safe to lift weights while pregnant, with a couple of modifications. Make sure you’re not holding your breath, don’t exert yourself to fatigue, and avoid anything where you feel like you’re bearing down. After the first trimester, you should avoid laying flat on your back, so switch to an incline bench.
Doing yoga for strength training instead? You should keep in mind that relaxin, a hormone produced during pregnancy, loosens your joints and ligaments to ready your body for childbirth. So, if you’re doing a pose, and you notice your flexibility is way better, you may want to ease up a little bit. It’s definitely worth looking for a specialized pre-natal yoga class, so you know your instructor is aware and informed about teaching pregnant women.
6. Doing sit ups while pregnant will squish the baby. MYTH. Your baby is pretty secure in there, you don’t have to worry about bending at the waist. For the first trimester, sit ups are no problem, but by the second and third, you should avoid laying flat on your back, so it’s easier to skip them altogether. It is a great idea to do exercises that strengthen your stabilization muscles in your abdomen throughout your pregnancy — examples for you to try are planks, push ups, using cables or bands for chops, and pelvic tilts. Don’t forget the kegels!
There is an irreverent attitude that pervades CrossFit. Limits are pushed because people in CrossFit challenge the status quo. They workout in boxes, yet think outside the box.
I think people are just jumping on the judgemental band wagon because Lea-Ann is pursuing a rather strenuous pastime. If the mom-to-be was doing pilates we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but with weights we all have a fear that they’re dangerous.
Maybe it’s because most women are scared of weights!
But, weight training doesn’t have to be scary. When approached in a safe, sensible way, lifting weights can act as the boost you need to jump-start your weight loss and body composition goals—not to mention that it’s a practical way to help make day-to-day activities easier to accomplish. From carrying groceries to shoveling the driveway, every activity including pregnancy and delivery becomes much easier when you have more muscle to work with. This type of ”functional fitness” is more than just trying to get a six pack; it’s about helping your body work more efficiently as a complete unit now and in the years to come.
Remember every single leader, movement, and organization that has ever wanted to create greatness has had to challenge the status quo. Pioneer CrossFit moms are opening a new scientific frontier.
You Go Lea-Anne!
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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