Women are not weak. Pregnancy is not a disability.

Last week, CrossFit posted a picture of a pregnant woman performing an overhead squat on its Facebook page and apparently it got many people’s panties in a bunch.

CF Mom

(Picture from CrossFit’s Facebook page. Photographer: Nick Stern)

I saw the picture and “Liked” it because I thought it was empowering and inspiring. I hope that when I become pregnant I am still able to continue with my CrossFit workouts. Unfortunately, many people disapproved of what this picture depicted (a strong woman) and the ignorance came pouring out. It led to many news outlets posting articles online where more ignorant comments emerged:

Yahoo: Should Pregnant Women Be Weightlifting?

Metro: Pregnant weightlifter just two weeks away from giving birth provokes online storm

CNN: How much is too much exercise when you’re pregnant?

What upset me about these comments is that people view pregnancy as a disability. Apparently, pregnant women aren’t supposed to be active. They’re supposed to sit at home and do nothing, except perhaps to cook, clean and tend to other children.

Women are not weak. Pregnancy is not a disability.

To me, this picture depicted strength and dedication. This woman made the decision to focus on her health and that of her unborn child. She is not going to succumb to a sedentary life just because she is pregnant.

What these commenters fail to recognize is that this woman discussed her exercise regimen with her physician (a regimen that she has been doing for 2.5 years). They fail to recognize that she exercised during her two previous pregnancies and her children turned out just fine. They fail to recognize that what she does with her body is none of their goddamn business. Now, if her lifting weights while pregnant directly affected their life, then perhaps they could argue that she should stop. But it doesn’t. Now, if this woman decides not to vaccinate her children, then yes, I would have something to say about that because it directly affects our society. But that is a whole other conversation.

What people also don’t realize is that CrossFit is based on functional movements – movements that we do in everyday life. For example, picking up a basket of laundry = deadlift; picking up your child into your arms = clean; putting a box on a shelf above your head = shoulder press. How is training these types of functional movements detrimental to our health? There is another picture of this woman lifting a 35-pound kettlebell. She also states, “The most I lifted while pregnant is 65″ (Yahoo). So you are telling me that she is not supposed to lift her existing children? I see pregnant moms toting their children all the time and no one says anything about that. But put the name “CrossFit” on something and “Watch out! Irresponsible fitness is happening!”

CF Mom2(Picture from Metro. Photographer: Nick Stern)

One of my friends and current athlete with whom I coach is about 7 months pregnant. Prior to her pregnancy, she worked out 4-5 times per week and was capable of lifting a lot of weight with high intensity. As soon as she became pregnant, she scaled back her workouts – frequency, weight, and intensity. She modifies all of the movements that would put her baby in harms way: instead of doing sit-ups, she hangs from the pull-up bar and does knee lifts; running has become difficult so she uses the rower; instead of doing the traditional stance in a deadlift, she stands in the sumo position, which is a wider stance allowing room for her growing belly.

I had a visitor at our gym a few months ago who was 6 months pregnant and has been doing CrossFit for 6 years. The workout consisted of “goblet” squats (air squats with while holding a kettlebell against your chest) and burpees. She could have easily used a 53 pound+ kettlebell but she opted for 35 pounds and didn’t squat below her knees. Instead of doing the push-up in her burpee she just went into a plank hold.

These women are highly aware of their bodies and their abilities. How dare people say they are putting their unborn child in danger when that is their number one priority? What would be detrimental is if these women stopped doing CrossFit and became sedentary. CrossFit is what they do; it is who they are. This is what their body is used to doing.

I have another friend who is about 4 or 5 months pregnant and recently started CrossFit because she wants to feel and be strong for her growing baby. Will she be going all out with intensity and weights or doing as much as the more experienced CrossFitters? No. She just wants to gain some muscle so that she won’t have to struggle when her baby gets bigger. Her husband is also an avid CrossFitter of many years and a CF Level 1 trainer. She is in good hands.

Now, I’m not saying that all who do CrossFit are responsible and that all who have taken the CF Level 1 certification course should be coaching. There are many people who have no business coaching. This goes for ALL sports and activities as well. But this woman obviously knows what she is doing – she is healthy, and is taking the proper precautions. She was excited about her fitness, her abilities, and her pregnancy, and wanted to share that with the CrossFit community. Let’s not scorn a woman who wants to share happiness with others.

Our bodies are meant to be active; we are not built for a sedentary lifestyle. It’s obvious that obesity is an epidemic that needs to be resolved. Rather than attacking those who are proactive with their health, let’s celebrate them in hopes that we will encourage those who aren’t.

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