Athletic mama in the morning and Chief Operations Officer by day.
Cristen has been at Maia CrossFit for 9 months and is currently 37 weeks pregnant. She approached her fitness during pregnancy kind of like how she handles any project. She began with a goal, did research and started wrapping her head around understanding the ‘rules’ of pregnancy exercise. There were a few questions to answer like “what are considered safe movements and how long can I do them?”. The amount of information out there can be overwhelming and a lot of it is outdated and incorrect. So, Cristen decided to discuss her fitness goals with her midwife and for the first 10-12 weeks of her pregnancy she slowed down with her high-intensity training.
Once the 12 weeks had passed, Cristen signed up for a course with Everyday Battles, a programme designed for pregnant and postpartum athletes. This helped her gain confidence around understanding pelvic floor health, breathing and mindful movement. At 30 weeks, she could still do about 60-70% of the exercise she did pre pregnancy as long as she alters the movements to suit her current body. “I can deadlift as long as I don’t push my hips all the way through, since that is when I lose pelvic floor support.”.
The Maia coaches have been very supportive during Cristen’s pregnancy exercise journey. Sharing her list of exercises with Coach Hannah McIntyre-Hill to review and offer feedback was really helpful, “snatches were one of the first things to go as the barbell is just so close to the body. Core work, running, jumping - any ongoing pelvic pressure is out”. Coach Dustin recommended that Cristen swap out kettlebells instead of holding a barbell for single leg reverse lunges - that way she could drop them if she needed to; “it keeps me safe and still feeling challenged”. Overall, she has taken more initiative with planning when it comes to her fitness.
The hardest part for Cristen has been the mental shift, “I have two speeds, on and off, I am not very good at moderating”. She has the awareness that when it comes to the grand scheme of things, pregnancy is a short period on a long timeline. In terms of her athletic trajectory, Cristen found it a bit challenging to slow down, “it sucks sometimes because I was at a place in my fitness where I was ready to step it up”.
Cristen is pretty competitive and really thankful to have Noah as a patient partner who often reminds her, ”it’s ok to not PR (personal record) this today”. Recently there was a workout with 150 wall balls and she used a 4.5 kg ball. Cristen thought the workout was gonna be great (easy) but she couldn’t walk for the next two days! Later, she realized something, “I am wearing a 14 kilo weighted vest! I am squatting with the weighted ball, plus all my body weight”.
Another interesting experience of exercising while pregnant is that the abdominal muscles start to separate. Most people who lift weights create pressure by either pressing down against the pelvic floor or by pressing out against their abdominals. Cristen knows some abdominal separation throughout pregnancy is natural, but she really wants to give her abdominals the best chance to come back together post baby and avoid diastasis recti. So, if and when Cristen tries to hold hollow-body positions on the pull up bar, she routinely looks down and checks for a pyramid (coning) shape forming on her belly, if she sees it, she stops.
Post baby, Cristen plans on giving herself proper time to heal and gradually build up her fitness again. She also wants to see a pelvic floor therapist to make sure everything is healthy and ready for her long term athleticism. Cristen would love to try out for the Nationals team this year but she is realistic about the fact that her priorities are about to change drastically. “My father is a physician so I often use him as a soundboard for questions and if I am ever in a class with Joy (who is a midwife), I ask her for advice”.
Overall, Cristen says “Finding the balance between being nice to myself while staying moving is probably one of the most important things that I can do for myself during pregnancy.”