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Participating in the Open as a Pregnant or Postpartum Athlete

March 29, 2022 by

Even with all of the changes the CrossFit Open has experienced through the years, the appeal of pushing yourself each season surrounded by your friends and greater CrossFit community is still there. The Open connects you with others, pushes your mental and physical limits and is filled with awesome moments. 

One change that can be especially hard to navigate is when you become a pregnant and or postpartum CrossFitter who is used to competing in the Open. The Open makes you push physical and mental boundaries. 

The environment alone has that effect, not just the workout.

If you’re looking to participate in the Open as a pregnant or postpartum athlete, you must truly understand the demands your body is currently managing (structural and hormonal changes, energy levels, core/pelvic health symptoms, long-term function and performance, etc).

Participation is great, and how you participate is key.

Five considerations for competing in the open as a pregnant or postpartum athlete

  1. Manage your athlete brain:
    Athlete brain is the intrinsic motivation to do more, push boundaries, compete and achieve. Learning to leverage these tendencies to support your evolving identity and efforts during pregnancy and postpartum is just as important as exercise modifications and approach. If you find yourself second-guessing whether you should or should not do a movement, particular load or rep scheme, then honor that. That’s your cue to modify the movement or particular stimulus. Knowing your unique “athletic readiness” is incredibly important right now. Being able to decipher between can I vs should I, and knowing when you’re leading from ego vs adaptability will help tremendously during this season.
  2. Pelvic Health Symptoms and Awareness If you experience or are currently managing any pelvic pain, feel pressure in your pelvic floor (vagina, rectum) or experience leaking of urine...that’s a cue to scale back. These symptoms are common during pregnancy and postpartum, and you’re more prone to experience them due to the changing pressure on your core system during pregnancy, as well as the physiological changes experienced during birth and recovery. Reduce or eliminate movements that are high impact, dynamic, or heavy (where you feel the need to brace, grind through the rep etc).
  3. Monitor Intra Abdominal Pressure Distribution  If your abdomen feels like it’s pulling, bulging at the midline (coning) or if you hold your breath for every movement, that’s your cue to modify the movement and approach with positional, breath, exercise selection and/or range of motion adjustments. Your abs and core system as a whole are structurally different during pregnancy and when re-building capacity postpartum, therefore, training variables need to adjust to monitor and/or improve the integrity of that system.
  4. Own Your Readiness If you are de-conditioned and haven’t trained or progressed to higher demands yet (every postpartum woman is in this place), that’s your cue to modify your output and efforts. Postpartum is a rebuilding phase, where athletic potential takes months to build upon. Sleep, nutrition, lifestyle, core system, infant feeding, hormones all impact athletic readiness, output and potential. Give yourself grace, not rigid expectations and comparisons. 
  1. Tune in.
    Check-in with yourself before participating. Do you have a training strategy for both pregnancy and postpartum that promotes awareness of your core, pelvic health function and performance? Does your participation complement that strategy?

Your vagina, abs, baby and long-term function and performance is more important than a specific place on a leaderboard right now. It can be a frustrating shift in approach, especially in the environment the Open facilitates, and it’s worth it. There will be many opportunities to keep pursuing a lifetime of athleticism, even if this season looks slightly different. 

Right now:

  • You can be an intentional athlete who’s managing a baby either in you or by you.
  • You’re managing a continually changing (pregnancy)  or changed body (postpartum). 
  • You’re managing a transitional season in life. 
  • You’re managing adjustments to your fitness, abilities and readiness.
  • You are not less than you once were, even if it’s different. 
  • You are still amazing and strong when you modify and adjust approach and training variables.

The above is encouraged and can be applauded, too. While it may be tempting to prove something to yourself or others, whether it’s maintaining ability during pregnancy, or making a comeback postpartum, there is also fulfillment from setting a quality precedent for those learning from your example and taking ownership of the season you’re in right now. You can participate with principals that will take you through and prepare you for your lifetime of athleticism. 

This is a different kind of challenge and variable for the CrossFit Open season. Enjoy the process, without attachment to any fitness outcome.

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