Moms and CrossFit

Photo by Lisa Nguyen.

Trina Ruhland is a mom of two, and she’s learned a lot about what it takes to CrossFit through motherhood.

“I have an almost-four-year-old named Yana and a 15-month-old named Broc. They – along with their dad – are my wolf pack,” said Ruhland, an athlete at CrossFit Sanitas in Boulder, Colorado. “We like to go to the gym together, though we all have different workouts. Yana has been getting into ring swings, burpees and creating new barbell movements. Broc is very much interested in box crawl-ups. Yana likes to help me count my reps and sometimes we’ll share a space so we can ‘workout’ together.”

In honor of Mother’s Day, Ruhland sat down with Box Pro to share her story. She’s CrossFitted through two pregnancies and has learned a lot along the way. Plus, she speaks on the impact of having her children see her in the gym, as well as advice she’d give to other CrossFitting moms:

Box Pro: What was it like training pregnant? What did you have to keep in mind?

Trina Ruhland: Let me first say I don’t recommend doing what I did during my first pregnancy. During that pregnancy, I was very much into the #fitpregnancy mentality. That meant going to the gym despite vomiting 12 times a day – until 24 weeks – doing what I had always done except if it didn’t “feel right,” and just dialing down my intensity a bit. 

My appendix actually ended up exploding at 31 weeks pregnant – probably unrelated to training, but who knows – and that gave me a whole new outlook. I had a giant five-inch scar in my abdomen while I continued to grow my daughter until I could give birth at 39 weeks. I couldn’t even walk. In fact, I will never forget the day when I woke up extremely sore in every part of my body. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me until I remembered that I had walked around the block for the first time since the appendectomy. I became a master of bedrest. Because of that extra level of complication to my pregnancy, I gained a new appreciation for my fitness. 

When I was ready to come back to CrossFit at about eight to 10 weeks postpartum, I did so very slowly, mostly because I was worried about my abs which had been literally cut in half from the appendectomy and then stretched out again from seven additional weeks of pregnancy.   

I was much more intentional about my second pregnancy. I started working with a pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach and really shifted my whole outlook. Also, I realized I wasn’t going to increase my fitness, and I wasn’t even going to be able to maintain it during pregnancy. Check out @pregnant.postpartum.athlete on Instagram – they train games athletes like Lindsay Valenzuela and Michaela North during pregnancy and postpartum. 

I realized all of my fitness from before pregnancy dictated my overall health so much more than what I was doing during pregnancy. I wasn’t going to “lose” a skill just because I wasn’t doing it during pregnancy, so I had to let go of my ego. After that, I started working with a pelvic floor physical therapist, which I highly recommend for any pregnant or postpartum athlete, and really dialed in my strategies for approaching movements and workouts. I used it as a time to get really good at quality of movement. I stopped all Olympic lifting movements because for me there was just no reason to pass a bar in front of my belly. It was a risk versus reward mentality. What was the risk of each movement? What was the reward? I found a lot of time the reward was my ego and an Instagram hashtag. Is that really how we should be approaching fitness? 

I was put on bedrest at 27 weeks during my second pregnancy, so I’ve actually never done a third trimester CrossFit workout. I delivered my son at 37 weeks. 

Photo by Lisa Nguyen.

Getting back to CrossFit was a very slow but intentional process starting with my pelvic floor physical therapist. I very slowly progressed movements, but I didn’t join an actual WOD at the gym until about four months postpartum. I started regularly going Rx again around eight to nine months postpartum. It wasn’t until about the year point that I felt I could really push myself. I started getting back into CrossFit competitions and am heading to the Granite Games at the end of May. I’d like to add that even though I stopped pretty much all dynamic movements during my pregnancy – including the Olympic lifts – I am back to and have even surpassed some old PRs. 

“Hard work pays off” is such a popular hashtag. While I definitely agree and have put in my fair share of hard work, I would also add that for pregnant and postpartum women we really need to put more emphasis on “patience pays off.” Patience with our changing bodies, especially during pregnancy and postpartum periods. I didn’t “lose” any skills – if anything my skills got much better postpartum because I took the time to rebuild them from the ground up and practice proper positioning, breathing and activation. I started handstand walking around 18 to 20 weeks postpartum, and my handstand walks have become stronger than ever because I know how to activate my transverse abdominus and have so much more core control than I even did pre-pregnancy. In fact, I even unintentionally PR’d my 5K row at just around 21 minutes just by practicing proper breathing techniques while rowing. We should never underestimate the power and effectiveness of going back to basics.  

For more information on this topic, read this blog Ruhland wrote.

BP: How has being active influenced your kids? What do you hope they learn from your lifestyle?

TR: Yana and Broc both watch us in the gym regularly. It’s one of their favorite hangout spots. My daughter sees me miss lifts, get beat out by other people at the gym and push myself. I hope she learns that failure is a necessary ingredient to success.  

BP: Why is it impactful for you to have your child with you at the gym?

TR: Gyms are about community, and kids are part of the community. I love that I can connect with other adults and my daughter can connect with other kids – and adults, too. A strong community is one that embraces people from every aspect and walk of life, from the young to the old, novice to expert, with different abilities and strengths and weaknesses. I love that my children are able to contribute to that.

BP: What would you tell other moms/mom-to-bes who CrossFit?

TR: For pregnant or postpartum athletes, go see a pelvic floor physical therapist. Incontinence, pelvic pain, abdominal weakness and backpain are all common postpartum complaints. There is help out there and it’s never too late to start.  

Also, be gentle on yourself. Not every day is your best day. Not every workout is your best workout.

This day, when you are exhausted and beaten down from work, kids and life, this workout is not a myopic reflection of who you are. You walked in the door and that is enough. You warmed up, you moved, you listened. And when you heard “3, 2, 1 go” you went. It wasn’t your best, not even close. You know you can do more. But you didn’t. And sometimes that’s OK.

It’s OK because in this moment when you are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, you were kind to your body. You showed up, you moved and you recognized sometimes less is more.

You will have a day that is your best WOD. And when you do, remember those best days are built on days like today when your best just meant showing up.

Heather Hartmann
Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.

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