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The CrossFit Open 23.1 for the Pregnant & Postpartum Athlete

Here we go! The 2023 CrossFit Open has officially begun.

Even though there are scaled options for each of the workouts, pregnancy and postpartum are very different seasons that deserve different considerations than random lists of exercises that are okay or exercises that should be avoided.

Before diving into strategies for 23.1, I want to remind you of a few important things during this chapter:

  • Athlete brain is real, especially during a competitive time like the Open. The Open puts most athletes in a different mindset to allow them to push harder and faster than they normally would. Before going there, think about your current AND long term goals, way beyond pregnancy or trying to prove something early on postpartum.

  • Pregnancy is not forever, but postpartum is. Just because you can do something right now, it doesn't necessarily mean you should.

  • Pregnancy and postpartum is a really great time to hone in on your movement strategies, as well as to build and maintain a solid foundation for your core and pelvic floor. This is to help set you up as best as you can for long term health, strength, function, and performance.

  • This is not the most appropriate time to PR a workout or hit a new max.

  • Think about the risk vs. the reward of doing each movement and whether or not it will serve your long term goals.

  • If you are newly postpartum, the Open workouts should NOT be your first workouts back in the gym. Regardless of how you modify them, there are a lot of factors that make them unlikely to be appropriate right away.

23.1 Open Workout

14 min. AMRAP

60-calorie row

50 toes-to-bars

40 wall-ball shots

30 cleans

20 muscle-ups

Here is one way (there are SO many options here!) you can make this work for where you are at:

14 min. AMRAP (moving for quality)

20 calorie row

18 ball slams

16 wallballs

14 db cleans

12 ring rows

I chose this "breakdown" of reps because the numbers allow for quality reps to be more manageable. If this volume feels like too much, you can reduce the amount of time you are working, or reduce the number of reps of each exercise and give yourself time to catch your breath between as needed.

Rowing: Try to find a breathing pattern that allows you to maintain steady breathing and not lose your breath.

*If you notice you are coning or feeling pressure quite a bit with each pull, try exhaling (or inhaling-the "right" way is what works for you) as you pull, slowing down the pace, and/or finishing sooner (stopping with your torso upright at the end of your pull instead of leaning back). To make room for your belly, try taking your knees out to the sides as you return forward.

Ball slams: Breathe! Try to use your breath to assist you picking the ball up. Kettlebell swings are another good option here.

*Due to the high demand of toes-to-bar, they put more pressure and stress on the linea alba and the pelvic floor (e.g. coning of the abdomen, leaking, and/or heaviness in the pelvic region). Check out THIS BLOG for more on core exercises in pregnancy.

Wallballs: Try exhaling as you come up out of the bottom of the squat and press the ball. Choose a weight that you can move for large sets.

*If wallballs are not comfortable, you can try adjusting a few different ways. You can make the squat shallower, you can take the press away (just perform a squat) or do a chest pass to the wall, you can omit the weight, or if you pregnant and have a hard time catching the ball, you can switch to dumbbells and perform thrusters. If you are having a hard time catching your breath on these, slow down a bit or do smaller sets of them.

Dumbbell cleans: Breathe! Try exhaling as you pull the dumbbells to the shoulders. Keep the ribs stacked over the hips and try not to flare the ribs up while overhead. If starting lower bothers your belly or hips, begin in a hang position. Choose weights that you can move well without losing good techniques.

*Although using a barbell may feel okay while pregnant, you have to move the bar around your growing belly resulting in a change to your bar path. This is difficult to relearn and correct later! Read THIS BLOG for more on barbell use in pregnancy.

Ring row: Try to breathe as you row (vs. holding your breath).

*Even though you may still feel okay doing pull-ups or even muscle ups, the kipping movement and hanging from the bar puts quite a bit of stress on already vulnerable tissue in pregnancy and postpartum. For more on pull-ups, read THIS BLOG.

If you experience any of the following symptoms (even if just a little bit), it may be time to make an adjustment, switch to another exercise, or consult with your OB, pelvic floor physical therapist or coach:

  • Coning or doming along the midline of the abdomen

  • Sharp pulling sensations in the abdomen

  • ANY amount of unintentional leaking (urine or feces)

  • Pelvic pain or pressure

  • Heaviness or a bulge feeling in the vagina

  • Pain during or after exercise (back, hips, pelvic, belly)

  • Fatigue, exhaustion, or excessive soreness-this is likely a sign you need to back off a bit

  • Spotting or bleeding

Other things to be mindful of (as they may not be the most appropriate during pregnancy and postpartum):

  • Holding your breath

  • Working to complete failure/exhaustion

These are ways you can learn to “listen to your body”.

Remember that this won’t be forever, just for now and it can really help set you up long term!

As far as guidance around whether or not specific exercises are okay or how to adjust them, it will really be very individual and that is one way I help my clients navigate exercise during this chapter.

Making informed decisions about what is most appropriate for you and your body can help you maintain activity, without pain or symptoms, and help with recovery postpartum.

Want more info on how you can navigate symptoms, exercise, and your journey? Fill out this form to schedule a FREE call with me to discuss how you can get better guidance with exercise and managing symptoms in pregnancy!

P.S. If you are local and looking for support in navigating exercise in pregnancy and postpartum, my 8 week in-person session of Core Foundations starts at the end of March with limited spots available!

Lastly, make it fun!! Enjoy the community atmosphere and if you don't feel like participating, don't!


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