Fitness, Pregnancy and Extremes

As I’ve mentioned here on my blog countless times, I am all about working out during pregnancy. It’s good for the mind, the body and the soul. It’s good for baby, and it’s good for mommy – especially when a mom already has a routine in place. And being active can help with post-partum recovery.

But with everything in life, moderation is key. And although I’m no doctor, I feel that just because someone is fit and healthy and CAN run a marathon and then deliver a baby hours later … or lift uber-heavy weights at CrossFit 8.5 mths along (the latest story in the news) doesn’t mean she should.

Of course, I’m not saying women shouldn’t exercise while pregnant–I’d be a total hypocrite if I did, given my own 6-7 day a week routine!!–but there are limits and boundaries and pushing yourself to the limits consistently isn’t exactly the smartest decision when the health and well-being of your baby ought to be one’s top priority.

It might come as a surprise to some of my readers that I feel this way.

After all, I talk a lot about fitness and pregnancy.

But I don’t really admire women like Amber Miller Lea-Ann Ellison or wish to emulate them. Sure, they have proven they can push their bodies to the limits and it sure sounds impressive and news-worthy (especially in a country where obesity is such a huge issue) … but I think they’re flat-out foolish for their fitness feats.

True, women used to deliver babies in corn fields, working up til their water broke. But here’s the difference: in doing so, they weren’t pushing their bodies to utmost extremes. They weren’t out to prove anything or test themselves … just to bring home dinner for their families.

And as a recovered over-exerciser, I get why these athletes do it and the negative chatter online ruffles my feathers just a smidge because I see just a teensy bit of myself in them — the desire to compete against yourself; to push yourself to the max; to not use pregnancy as an excuse to just chill out (even though no one would argue a woman should enjoy a little R&R during her baby-baking period!). I get it. Some of us are just naturally going to push ourselves in any circumstance … but that doesn’t make it right.

No, I didn’t run up til my due date or squat/press 100 lbs like Amber or Lea-Ann, but I only just stopped working out this week — 37 weeks. Guilty as charged of pushing myself, depending on who you ask. But here’s where we diverge: all along, I’ve been making modifications to my routine and listening to my body — which was fine by my doctors and reinforced by my trainer.I didn’t run more or lift more; I dialed down the intensity, albeit gradually.

And when it got to the point where it just felt unwise to be doing what I was doing — which is nothing in comparison to a what these ladies did — I stopped. Which isn’t an easy thing to do because, though I’m not a hard-core athlete like Amber or Lea-Ann, the mindset is still the same: “I can, so I should.”

I think a lot of active moms today feel this way during their pregnancies. They don’t want to give themselves a nine-month pass from their routine, and it’s hard to cut back when you’re used to going hard and strong. But pregnancy puts so much strain on the body as it is, and any additional strain could end up working against a woman, putting themselves at risk if they get injured or — worse — harming their unborn baby.

I think what shocks me most about Lea-Ann Ellison (a former body-builder) is not what she is doing (CrossFit), but the photo she chose to post. Her form is fine for a body-builder without an 8.5 month pregnant belly, but IMO (and most doctors’) she should have stopped lifting heavy weights a long time ago and certainly not pressing that much weight from a squatting position, putting that much strain on her back and abdominal muscles.

I don’t regret the frequency with which I worked out throughout this pregnancy; I listened to my body and lessened the intensity when I needed to. I think I went about it the “smart” way … but maybe Lea-Ann and Amber feel they did, too? Who knows.

While ultimately it’s not my place to judge either of them, as someone who does believe strongly in fitness during pregnancy, I feel confident in saying extreme training — of any kind — during pregnancy isn’t wise for mom or baby.

Ultimately, a healthy baby is what matters most. And, if a woman is going to engage in extreme fitness routines and publicize it, she needs to be OK with the backlash that will come from such publicity.

How about you? Do you admire athletes like Lea-Ann and Amber, or do you think they are pushing their bodies to unnecessary limits?


One thought on “Fitness, Pregnancy and Extremes

  1. I didn’t read those articles but I’ve definitely heard of pregnant women really pushing themselves and I’d have to agree with you. Although I have not stopped exercising at 14 weeks, I have reduced the number of workouts I do throughout the week and more importantly I have reduced the intensity. Something my doctor fully agreed with. It has been a rough adjustment because I feel like I’m out of shape and will be in a hard position for getting back in shape once I have the baby. But I also know that my regular routine (focusing on HIIT and crossfit) just didn’t feel right for me. I often felt ill after HIIT class or training sessions or had bad cramping. Just didn’t feel like a positive sign so I traded that in for steady stair mill climbs and hill jogs on the treadmill and body pump class slightly modified with a bit lighter weights than I’m inclined to really push myself to use. Even my husband has expressed concern for my modified exercise – when I feel like they are way too easy! Everyone has an opinion or a story of someone who lost a baby due to exercise or someone who ran a marathon at 6 months. I guess for me I’d rather error on the side of making my routine of getting back into shape harder than risk the health of the baby. It’s been proven that if pregnant women exercise that is good for the baby but not if they exercise to an extreme. That, in my opinion, is a risk. One I am not willing to take.

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