"WOD-ing" for Labor
Updated: Aug 16, 2018
At my first workout with Coach Katie Estell at CrossFit Solafide this spring, she told me, “You are now training for labor and birth, not for CrossFit.” Meaning, I needed to adjust my expectations for the next five months and make all of my movements about the baby.
Maintaining overall fitness and staying in shape for a laborious birth would be my new goals (instead of worrying about the CrossFit Open in 2019). Coach Katie reminds her athletes of this frequently, ensuring they push their limits without endangering their changing bodies throughout pregnancy and postpartum up to one year. She is also a stickler for perfect form in weightlifting, so her critiques make for an added bonus when returning to regular classes.
In addition to her CrossFit coaching qualifications, Katie completed a BirthFit Seminar in Nashville at CrossFit Wilco. BirthFit is a national organization that cultivates awareness and enhances education throughout the motherhood. Katie took the time to do an interview with me below on her inspiration to coach prenatal fitness, advice for expecting mothers hitting the gym and exercises to do at home.
Katie Soltas: You teach the prenatal and postpartum class at Crossfit Solafide. What motivated you to get into this specific niche?
Katie Estell: Honestly, being pregnant is what sparked it all and I did tons of research to make sure I was doing it all right during my own pregnancy. I had so many people asking me to help them prepare for getting pregnant while continuing CrossFit so I would give my own recommendations based on my research and personal experience. Nicole Spitszack created a "mom's class" around the same time at the gym to cater to this particular stage in life and after a while, I was invited to take over coaching the program.
KS: What were several important takeaways that you learned from your BirthFit class and on-the-job experience working with prenatal and postpartum women?
Breathing is one of the most important tools you can use for proper form and even healing.
Women helping, loving and empowering other women is one of the greatest gifts you can tap into.
Just because you CAN do something while your pregnant or postpartum doesn't mean you SHOULD do it.
When you become pregnant, you must shift your focus from training for CrossFit (or whatever you train for) to training for a happy and healthy labor/delivery and recovery process.
KS: What are a few things these women need to be cautious about or keep in mind while training (especially those who are pregnant)?
KE: Box jumps, rope climbs, GHDs (an inverted ab exercise performed in CrossFit) are movements that are almost immediately stopped and things to look out for are overheating, proper hydration/nutrition and monitoring your heart rate.
KS: You are the kettlebell master. What is your background with this apparatus, and what are the benefits to using them during pregnancy?
KE: I earned my Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC) back in 2010 when I also got my (CrossFit) Level 1. The benefits of using kettlebells while pregnant and really any time, is that you are able to use the momentum of the bell that the apparatus is designed to create, to move with your body while still building and maintaining strength. It also takes the bar path out of the equation which will pay dividends when you return to normal Olympic weightlifting postpartum.
KS: Do you think there is a void in pn/pp fitness world? If so, is it due to a lack of instructors or lack of demand?
KE: I believe with BirthFit on the scene, there isn't a lack of knowledge but I do think (prenatal/postpartum fitness) is such a touchy subject for so many, especially for older generations. The information that is thrown out on social media is rarely correct. Women can be shamed for any decision they make.
When someone sees what they perceive to be "dangerous" and start throwing out accusations and fear-based statements, it makes it hard to sift through all the bullshit and figure out what’s really okay and healthy to do while pregnant. The issue isn’t a lack of information, but the method people seek out the knowledge and apply it correctly. I do believe every gym needs to have at least one coach on staff who is familiar with the PN/PP population, for the health of the athletes and the health of the community.
KS: If someone is apprehensive about doing CrossFit during pregnancy, what would you say to encourage that person to try it out?
KE: Come to my class and I'll walk you through it all! If you aren't near me, look in the BirthFit directory for a CrossFit gym near you that has a program that can make sure you are doing it all within your current limits. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions and push your coach to answer them in a way you understand and can make sense of.
KS: If someone doesn’t have access or resources to get to a gym with a program like CrossFit Solafide, what can prenatal/postpartum women do at home?
Hill walking (as long as you are paying attention to your heart rate)
Moderate interval training (30 secs of work that allows you to still be able to hold a conversation, 30 secs of rest - I don't recommend the 20 work/10rest breakdown as it doesn't give you enough time to get your heart rate back under control)
Rowing – it’s a full body movement that requires core stability, upper and lower body strength and endurance.