I posted the following controversial picture on my page a few weeks ago and got a little flack for it. The comments that followed the posting on CrossFit’s page were crazy. Some people loving it, some people hating it. I actually had a whole prego rant typed up about people giving prego girls a hard time for working out. But instead, not trying to offend anyone I deleted it. So even better I found this follow up article from CrossFit about the picture. Knowledge is power people!! – Danielle
When a picture of Rachel Steadman swinging a 36-lb. kettlebell at seven months pregnant appeared on CrossFit.com, it attracted hundreds of comments — both positive and negative.
Steadman — co-owner of CrossFit 3D in Manchester, England, with husband, Karl — posed for the photograph when she was expecting her second child. Freddie was born in September.
“I wanted an image to remember this special time in my life and to celebrate the joy of being pregnant and healthy,” she says.
The photographer also took a shot of Steadman holding her 2-year-old daughter, Ellie, aloft.
“This is my favorite photograph. It was so wonderful to be able to pick up Ellie so easily at that stage of my pregnancy, and it is a testament to how fit and healthy CrossFit keeps me,” she says. “Ellie probably weighed about the same as the kettlebell and I haven’t received any detrimental comment(s) about that one.”
While Steadman says she understands there are mixed feelings about women training during and after pregnancy, she adds that she doesn’t believe in treating pregnant women with kid gloves.
“Every woman and every pregnancy (is) different and I would not suggest that everyone trains as much or in the same way I did,” she explains. “It depends totally on the fitness, abilities and health of the individual.”
Steadman’s picture received more than 550 comments on CrossFit.com and Facebook combined. Although some said it was beautiful and inspiring, others argued a pregnant Steadman swinging a kettlebell was detrimental to her unborn child.
“I understand that people have strong views on the pros and cons of exercising when pregnant and I accept these. However, I was quite upset and offended by the suggestion of one commenter that I should be ‘brought up on child abuse charges,’” Steadman says. “I believe that by remaining fit and healthy, I will be able to be a better mother to my children.”
When Steadman was expecting her first child, she and Karl were in the process of establishing their affiliate. Likewise, she was unable to train for nearly three months.
“Although unloading all the equipment and painting the place probably counted as exercise,” she adds.
When 3D opened in February 2010, Steadman was six months pregnant and able to do some scaled training right up until a week before Ellie was born.
“I found that pull-ups stretched my bump, so (I) gave those up after eight months and squats started to feel uncomfortable (at) about the same time,” she explains. “I had to stop Olympic lifting quite early due to (the) shape of (my) bump.”
After Ellie arrived, it took Steadman more than a year to get back to full training.
“I was breastfeeding Ellie and that ruled out running and heavy met-cons for me as I was quite sore,” she says. “That, along with the sleep deprivation you experience with a baby, I felt my confidence take a real knock.”
But when Steadman stopped breastfeeding Ellie, she got back to a full training schedule, programmed by Karl, and saw her confidence and performance improve. She qualified for a U.K. competition and repeatedly recorded PRs in met-cons and strength training.
“When I found out I was pregnant with Freddie, I was probably the fittest I had ever been in life,” Steadman says.
Regular visits to her doctor confirmed this as the physician gave her the OK to continue training.
But as time went on, Steadman found some skills and exercises either more difficult or downright impossible.
“I could do strict muscle-ups before pregnancy, but during it I couldn’t manage them,” she explains. “And unassisted pull-ups and dips became harder. Scaling became necessary and for the last few weeks I stuck to band-assisted strict pull-ups, for example. I felt happy doing cleans and snatches and even overhead squats, but I stopped running and jumping quite early on.”
Her husband, she notes, made sure her technique didn’t deteriorate.
“He trusted me to make my own choices about how things felt,” Steadman says. “He knows I wouldn’t do anything that didn’t feel right.”
Still, the approach would be different with clients, she emphasizes.
“Every woman is different,” Steadman says. “We would insist that they have the approval of their doctor and recommend scaling from the outset as we would not want to open ourselves up to litigation if they have an accident or injury.”
CrossFitting during at least part of both pregnancies kept her in the best possible shape and in no way was unsafe, she stresses. Steadman points to Heather Bergeron, Annie Sakamoto and Tanya Wagner as inspiring CrossFitters who trained while pregnant.
Her advice to pregnant CrossFitters is simple.
“I tell them three things,” she says. “Don’t do anything you haven’t done before, always train within your capabilities and, in summary, if it doesn’t feel right, stop.”