A month into motherhood, the Games veteran sits down for her first interview with the Morning Chalk Up to talk about her 54 hour labor, getting back into training and making her comeback to the CrossFit Games.
Announcing her pregnancy with a koala tucked into her weight vest, we’ve followed Kara Saunders for seven years in CrossFit but for the past nine months, ‘She Bear’ has shown us a very different side.
“My training really paid off in the end, when it came time to push .. aside from all the complications, when it came time to work, that was good to go,” Kara laughs.
I first met Kara when I joined her affiliate Crossfit Kova in Brisbane Australia. I watched her prepare for the 2018 Games balancing life as a professional athlete, business owner, coach and wife.
You can’t argue, the chick can multitask.
She also made no secret, her and her husband Matt were ready to start a family.
“Going from being a professional athlete which is completely selfish … that’s a real change … but it’s actually been nice,” she said.
“Sometimes you’re a little bit more tired and the bags under the eyes are real most of the time.”
The Saunders family — now plus one — are a tight knit bunch.
Kara’s husband Matt works as a firefighter and helps her run the affiliate just walking distance from their home. Sitting in their living room – it’s easy to forget you’re in the presence of CrossFit royalty – if not for custom made Metcons (a gift from her sponsor Nike after her 2nd place in 2017) and the Spirit of the Games award on the mantelpiece.
“I feel like everything I ever worked for now has purpose because I learnt lessons that I then pass on,” she said.
Matt and Kara are besotted with the newest addition to the family; Scotti Maddison Saunders.
“I can’t quite remember what anything was like without her and that just seems normal, but it also is kind of crazy when you stop and think about it,” she said.
Call her the poster-child for pregnancy, Kara documented her training right through to full term (and some) even competing in the 2019 CrossFit Open in her third trimester.
“Didn’t take any massive risks” she said, “The reality was there was a person inside me, I was growing it, things were going to happen out of my control.”
“I could either spend that nine months – 41 weeks it ended up being – fighting back against something that was going to just happen anyway or I could just accept it and roll with it,” she added.
She’s rolling with this post-partum business too. This week Kara (with Scotti in tow) fronted the cameras in her underwear “for everyone to see, so that my baby girl and women everywhere can learn to accept and ditch all judgement,” she wrote.
Her unrelenting attitude is partly what’s gained Kara so much respect in CrossFit. Competing in seven consecutive games, she’s finished in the top-10 every year since 2015.
“I can’t say that working out or labor or one is harder than the other, they’re so incredibly different and from person to person.”
Kara was a week overdue and certainly wasn’t planning on having a 54 hour labor.
“That’s a very long time,” she said.
“I can imagine everyone is exhausted by that stage, that’s where my training really paid off and it was like a workout. I just like got to work and got it done.”
Four weeks after giving birth, she’s also back on the bike so to speak. This week, Kara documented her first pull-up (albeit with a band), Mamma She Bear said she’s trusting her own intuition in adding a little “sweat” into her daily routine.
“Really I’m not in a rush, I don’t want to make any hasty decisions and then do something I’m going to regret .. I’ve learnt over the seven years of doing CrossFit progress is slow and steady.”
Make no mistake though, Kara is planning her comeback.
She hopes to qualify for the 2020 Crossfit Games; the only unknown is how soon and what training will look like as a first-time-mom.
“I might just excel and the baby might be awesome, she might be chill and I get training days in and I progress and my body just recovers … or I might be struggling to get a couple of days training in.”
Watch this space. The good news is Kara’s determined to compete in the Open this October.
“I will participate at the bare minimum, like I did doing the Open when I was heavily pregnant so I might do it with scaled options,” she said.
“Use that as kind of my introduction to see where I’m at and what needs to be done to move forward.”
Stay tuned for Part Two where Kara weighs in on the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games and the sponsorship issue regarding CrossFit’s elite female athletes and pregnancy.