Give Yourself Some Grace

I love starting these posts with upfront confessions, because truth is, you guys keep me accountable. The act of writing and sharing is sometimes my last ditch effort to make a change and stick to it! So, thank you for being there for me : )) So here we go… Confession time.

I originally wrote this post 9 weeks ago. I know it was exactly 9 weeks because it started like this, “Yesterday, 20 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I decided… I’m going Paleo (again).” Over the past 9 weeks, my sweet Blayne has occasionally floated, “hey, so, you think you might publish that blog post?” He challenges me but never prods or makes me feel guilty or judged, which is exactly what I need in a partner, push and inspiration with some space to flake out here and there, because frankly, I judge myself harshly enough!

Over the past 9 weeks I have NOT been Paleo. I was for a solid weekend and it felt great of course, but then I fell off the wagon, and because I hadn’t published this post, I didn’t have anyone to hold me accountable but myself, and the reality of it is I did not want a Paleo pregnancy. I mean, I did want one, but my actions clearly indicated I that I didn’t want it badly enough.

So now at 29 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I am not going Paleo. I should probably apologize if I gave the impression over the past year (or however long I have been posting Paleo recipes) that I was strict Paleo, because I am certainly not. I do have a preference for Paleo recipes especially when baking and like to share them to show how simple it really can be to clean up our diets a little. But I have a few severe weaknesses that have kept me out of the Paleo club for a few years now, one of which is hummus. I know, what a lame guilty pleasure, but seriously, those little mashed legumes are irresistible to me. I have other non-paleo demons but this post is not to beat myself up about lack of discipline so let’s move on.

Dudes, this post may have you saying, “ugh, what does lack of discipline while pregnant have to do with me?” Well, this is what it has to do with you… you may be the support figure for a pregnant lady that is beating herself up for over-indulging, or you may actually relate to the struggle because changing our habits is not easy, not just for ladies growing humans, but for everyone!

Prior to becoming a pregnant lady myself, I (unknowing and full of judgment) said, “when I’m pregnant I will workout every day and eat squeaky clean!” I knew I wanted to create the best possible environment for my baby to grow and thrive. I assumed the only challenge I would have to overcome is self-control and discipline. I’m now in my third trimester and other than a few random days and that one weekend, I don’t think I’ve had a Paleo day yet and I definitely have not worked out consistently, in fact I’m pretty sure in the beginning I went a good 3 months without working out at all and even now, 2-3 times a week with a rest week in between is basically where I’m at. So once again, I unfairly judged that which I did not understand, ugh I hate it when that happens.

I thought the greatest challenge would be discipline and self-control but actually the greatest challenge has been giving myself some grace. I don’t know about anyone else but when life gets especially stressful or when my schedule is hectic, my routine workouts are the first thing that gets cut. Oh believe me I know that routine exercise actually counters stress and can help steady your schedule but its mental for me, I feel guilty like I should be working on my thesis (no longer an excuse as of last month!), or cleaning the house, or any number of things I stack on my to do list. And then on top of that I feel guilty for abandoning my fitness! So when I became pregnant and my workouts fell off I was not easy on myself.

I won’t get into the details about how the pregnancy affected my mood and appetite because its different for everyone but what I think is really relevant here and applies to everyone no matter what change they are going through is, we really need to listen to what our bodies need, not necessarily what our bodies want (potato chips and the Lazy Boy).

This distinction can be really tough to discern but for me it comes down to instant gratification vs. how am I going to feel 2 hours from now. A trick I use is when I’m hungry and reaching for the pretzel chips, I have banana or something else to quickly curb the impulse while I consider what else I can make. This trick also works for exercise, maybe my body really needs the rest or maybe I’m just shamming. Getting started with the warm-up and deciding to take it from there is usually all I need to convince my body that it wants to keep moving.

I know for a lot of ladies, myself included, continuing exercise while pregnant raises a lot of questions. There are a ton of online resources to wade through, so to make it a little easier I collated the CrossFit related advice and built out a guide by trimester. If you’re not a CrossFitter, and even if you’re not pregnant, this guide will still be useful to you, it addresses intensity, movement substitutions, and rep schemes to consider if you’re not trying to push yourself to failure.

As for me and my declarations, I’m 29 weeks pregnant, I would like to workout 3-4 times per week and continue to eat foods that make me feel good and that I know will help Baby Smith develop and grow. So be looking for my posts on the Fitsmiths Facebook Page and Instagram (@fitsmithsjb) if you’re interested in my struggle… I mean journey!


Guide: CrossFit and Exercising While Pregnant

This training guide is compilation of online resources organized by trimester. Please note that if you are not pregnant this could also be very useful to you if you are just starting to exercise regularly. The principles are based around easing into it and letting your body provide feedback. Happy sweating! Please let us know if you have questions or would like some specific advice, we’d be happy to help out : ))


First Trimester

  • Listen to your body
    • It changes day-to-day, continue as normal if comfortable however don’t push it if you’re not feeling it
    • Take rest days as desired, its ok to workout only 2-3 times per week if that’s all you feel like doing
    • Consider working out more frequently with lower intensity and volume
  • Take breaks for water
    • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day
  • Focus on maintaining fitness
    • Do not try to make gains
    • Stop doing a movement or modify when form starts to fail
  • Take responsibility and control of your workouts
    • Adjust weights, reps, and rounds, modify or substitute movements, a coach may help but do not rely on a coach to have it all figured out for you
  • Decrease weight
    • Do not perform 1-3 or 5 rep max lifts
    • Do not attempt PRs
    • Decrease lifting loads by 20-35%
  • Lower intensity
    • Take breaks to reduce heart-rate
    • Do not perform workouts for time
    • Use talk test, you should be able to hold a conversation
  • Decrease volume
    • Cap your conditioning workouts to 20-30 minutes
    • Reduce number of repetitions as desired
    • Reduce number of rounds as desired
    • If WOD calls for high number of reps for one exercise, consider splitting reps and performing two different exercises
  • Substitute GHD and inverted exercises
  • Stop doing any movement that feels uncomfortable as soon as it feels uncomfortable
    • Consult your coach on alternative movements
    • Use the table of substitutes below
    • Stop doing the workout if you begin to feel dizzy
  • Pay attention to balance
    • Balance is affected even before belly starts to grow
    • Consider modifying or substituting movements with increased risk of falling as early as you want to i.e. rope climbs, toes to bar, kipping pull ups, and box jump
  • Consider converting the WOD to one of the following schemes
    • AMRAP (as many reps as possible) – these are great because you can go at your own pace
    • Tabata anything (8 mins total alternating between 20 secs work and 10 secs rest): push ups, pull ups, lunges, or mix and match
    • EMOM (every minute on the minute) – you should choose a number of reps each minute that allows you to rest 15-30 seconds each minute before starting the next round


Second Trimester

  • Lying on back – Avoid exercises that involve lying on your back for a prolonged period as the size of the uterus can be large enough to impede blood supply to you and the baby.
  • Sit ups – Substitute once you “start to show” to avoid risk of diastasis recti.
  • Barbells – Replace with dumbbells and kettlebells as growing belly impedes bar path or causes discomfort while performing certain movements.
  • Risk of falling – Modify or substitute exercises that involve the unnecessary risk of falling such as rope climbs, toes to bar, kipping pull ups, and box jumps.
  • Dynamic movements – Due to the release of the hormone relaxin from the end of your first trimester, you should begin to modify dynamic movements such as olympic lifts, particularly those involving squatting-type motions to more controlled movements.
  • Center of gravity – In addition to early balance issues induced by hormonal changes, your growing belly and widening hips may require you to alter your body position and stance from what you’re used to. You may need to widen heels for squats and deadlifts.


Third Trimester Guidelines

Continue to pay attention to balance, avoid exercises that involve the risk of falling, further reduce intensity, and modify or substitute exercises. Just focus on moving several times per week.


Movement Notes Modifications
Air Squat Continue through pregnancy, studies have shown that the air squat may be more beneficial to the pelvic muscles than kegels alone. Pay attention to balance, hold onto something if needed i.e. box, wall, rig ·      Reduce depth to parallel in 3rd trimester

·      Controlled movement

Back Extensions Avoid roman chair or GHD apparatus and inversion as then can induce lightheadedness ·      Good Mornings with barbell or PVC (activate hamstrings)
Back Squat There is already increased pressure on your spine and lower back during pregnancy and back squats can put too much pressure on your lower back. Reduce weight and substitute as desired. Squat to parallel and control movement to avoid dizziness and loss of balance ·      Reduce weight

·      Widen stance

·      Air squats

Bench Press As baby grows, laying flat can put pressure on the vena cava and cause lightheadedness. Most can continue this exercise till week 20 but substitute as early as desired ·      Push ups

·      Inclined press

·      Overhead press

Box Jumps Balance is affected early on, before belly starts to grow. You can eliminate this movement altogether ·      Step ups

·      Lower box height

·      Substitute with air squats

Burpees Be sure to keep bending your knees – do not just bend over at the hip ·      Burpee to plank without the push up

·      Place hands on parallettes, box or elevated surface for push-up

·      Air squat then wall push-up

Deadlift OK until your belly impedes the bar path, reduce weight and increase reps ·      Sumo position- widen stance, narrow grip to inside the knees

·      Use a kettlebell or dumbbells to maintain form

·      Elevate bar from floor using boxes or bumper plates

Front Squat & Overhead Squat There is already increased pressure on your spine and lower back during pregnancy, and balance is affected even before belly grows, reduce weight and substitute as desired. Squat to parallel and control movement to avoid dizziness and loss of balance ·      Reduce weight

·      Widen stance

·      Air squats

GHD Not recommended during pregnancy, substitute as soon as you find out you’re pregnant ·      See “Sit ups”
Handstands and Handstand Push ups Typically not recommended during pregnancy, check with doctor if you are an advanced athlete ·      Strict or push press with barbell or dumbbells
Jump Rope Continue if comfortable, substitute as soon as desired and especially if you begin to pee a little when you jump ·      Run

·      Row

·      KB swing

·      Ball slam

Kettlebell Swing Likely fine to continue this movement, modify if belly is in the way and reduce height of swing as desired ·      One arm swing

·      Swing to eye level

·      Reduce weight

Sit ups As belly grows, abdominal focused exercises increase the risk of diastasis recti, substitute as soon as you want and discontinue at 16 weeks ·      Hollow Rocks

·      Planks (regular & side)

·      Ball slams

·      Hanging knee raises

Olympic Lifts Reduce weight, avoid max efforts, instead increase number of reps and keep weight under 80% 1RM. Switch to hang power movements in second trimester and substitute dumbbells for bar as belly grows. Avoid squat snatch/clean, instead perform power movement then squat under control ·      Reduce weight

·      Hang power snatch/clean then squat under control

·      Dumbbells for barbell

·      Deadlifts

·      Squats

·      Strict or push press

Pull ups Increased flexibility as muscles relax to make room for baby can cause a strange sensation when kipping, stop kipping when it starts to feel uncomfortable ·      Strict

·      Banded pull ups

·      Ring Rows

Push ups Continue throughout pregnancy, modify movement to accommodate belly and drop to knees when form starts to fail ·      Elevate hands using bumper plates under shoulders

·      Place hands on box, wall, or parallettes

·      Front and side planks

Rope climbs Advanced athletes can continue till second trimester. Substitute to reduce unnecessary risk of slipping and falling ·      Rope pulls from floor to standing, 1-3 per rope climb
Running Continue if comfortable, shorten distance or substitute as early as desired ·      Brisk walk

·      Row

·      Jump rope

·      Farmer carry with a Kettlebell or Dumbell

·      KB swing

·      Slam ball

Thruster Reduce weight at first then eliminate dynamic element splitting the exercise into two movements ·      Front squat and strict press with unloaded bar only or dumbbells
Toes to Bar Consider modifying early, the kipping movement may become uncomfortable as early as the first trimester as abdominal muscles relax to allow room for the baby and your growing belly will eventually get in the way. Also, you may experience dizziness and unnecessary risk of falling ·      Knees to Elbows

·      Knee raises

·      Plank on ground and cross knee to opposite elbow

·      Bird Dog (on all fours) cross opposite knee to elbow

Wallball Likely fine to continue, reduce depth of squat to accommodate belly and use lighter ball. If balance is an issue split dynamic exercise into two controlled movements ·      Reduce weight of ball

·      Air squats

·      Controlled squat to parallel then strict press with unloaded bar or light dumbbells




When Less is More

I’ll be completely up front and start by acknowledging that this whole post might just be an elaborate excuse for skipping a tough, Saturday morning workout.  However, I’d like to think that it represents an important step that I’ve never been mature enough to take before.

I got up on Saturday morning as was excited to meet some friends for a CrossFit Hero WOD.  As I made my way through breakfast and getting dressed, I became increasingly aware of the tightness in my hamstrings and the soreness in my back and shoulders.  I’d already put in a solid week of training and my body was letting me know.  

Over the past month, I’ve worked hard at repairing a body that I’ve abused for most of my adult life.  Jeni totally nailed my Father’s Day gift and set me up with a four-week course through Gymnastic Bodies .  This endeavor is important to me for reasons that I discuss in a previous post about deliberate practice.  As a life-long athlete and former Special Forces soldier, my training has mostly consisted of crushing myself with long runs, heavy weights, and grueling endurance workouts.  From a physical standpoint, this regimen has its benefits.  I’ve built a big aerobic base, a high anaerobic threshold, and reasonably good strength.  But, it has all come at a cost.  My flexibility is a joke, and my poor range of motion is not only holding me back from peak performance, but probably setting me up for an injury.  Essentially, I’ve got a Camaro engine in a Cavalier chassis.

Back to Saturday morning.  I had my bag packed and was ready to head out the door, when I caught myself.  It occurred to me that while I was excited to spend time with my buddies and blow off some steam, I had no business doing the workout.  It just wasn’t what I needed.  The workout might have been good for my mental health, but my body absolutely wanted the rest.  So, I made the oddly uncomfortable decision to pass on the workout and take the day off.  I did get roped in to a very intense match of “slip cup” (an awesome combination of slip-n-slide and flip cup)…but that is a whole different story.  The competitive juices will always find their outlet somewhere.

When it comes to training for real results, sometimes less is more.  I know that I’m not the only weirdo that struggles with this concept.  Here are a few tactics that seem to help:

  • Remember that flexibility and mobility are serious factors.  If you really feel like you need to go train, spend an hour on this.
  • Have fun with other hobbies or sports.  Days off are the perfect opportunity to ride your bike, paddle your kayak, or go for a leisurely hike.
  • Make plans with friends to do something other than workout.  This will provide the social benefits of the gym without feeling tempted to grab a barbell.

I’d love to hear about your struggles and successes with this concept.  If you have any tips on overcoming the stress that is rest…send them my way.  Good luck and have fun!