Pregnancy and CrossFit don’t usually go together in most people’s minds. Lindsey Mathews of BirthFit in Los Angeles aims to change that mentality. “BirthFit promotes functional fitness,” she said. “Our definition of BirthFit means an empowered, educated state of readiness so that’s specific toward childbirth. We do this through a practice in fitness, nutrition, chiropractic and mindset.”
Most women want to be the healthiest version of themselves during their pregnancy, so listening to the body is key, said Mathews. With that said, the first thing Mathews has pregnant clients do is start a journal to record their feelings every morning. “We put a lot of emphasis on how women are feeling and how they want to feel and how they don’t want to feel,” she said.
For numbers-driven ladies, Mathews suggests recording pulse, temperature and baby movements at different times throughout the day. This allows them to find their norm and notice when changes occur.
As for continuing workouts, modifications are necessary. “There’s definitely modifications that happen with a growing belly,” Mathews said. “And for every woman that’s different. Some women, their bar path with the Olympic barbell will start to change earlier on as opposed to other women. We substitute [barbells] with dumbbells and kettlebells. As soon as that starts to happen, there’s no reason to develop bad habits because that only sets you up for some kind of musculoskeletal injury and we don’t have time for that as a mom.”
It’s important for mothers-to-be to rest when needed. “We make sure they are adequately taking care of their physical bodies because your body is your vehicle for birth,” said Mathews. “Even with the slightest bit of discomfort, pain, wariness, imbalance, that signifies that something is going on within the pelvis. And your uterus … is suspended within the pelvis through all these ligaments, like a little hammock in there, so if one side is off, your body’s going to compensate and put pressure on other areas that may not necessarily be prepared for that kind of pressure. So, recovery is just as important as the actual training.”
New moms always ask Mathews what exercise they should do first postpartum. Her response is posture, breathing exercises and baby wearing. “With baby wearing and walking, I want that baby facing them and I want that baby in a deep squat. Because if the baby is on their back or the baby is sagging or if the baby is in the stroller, that does not help their posture at all.”
Mathews urges moms to avoid sit ups, crunches and toes to bar for the first six to nine months postpartum as the core needs time to heal completely.
Perhaps one of the biggest things is that Mathews would love for the gym’s community to care for the new mom. “If they created a meal tree for a mom that just gave birth, that would be the biggest benefit,” she said. “Feed them, let them know that they’re cared for, maybe show up, do their dishes, whatever. The mom is going through a lot, and they need to focus on just becoming a mother.
“CrossFit women are amazing; they’re strong, they’re courageous,” Mathews said. “And it’s very hard for them to ask for help in general. I feel like in our society, it labels them with some kind of weakness. If you are an Affiliate, owner or Coach at a gym and you know a woman had a baby [recently], ask her if she needs anything. Ask her if she needs help because she may need all the help in the world, but she’s scared to ask.”