Pregnant women are dispelling myths about slowing down at the gym

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — CrossFit, obstacle course races, Olympic lifting are just some of the intense workouts that take serious strength from both women and men. When women become pregnant, though, some face scrutiny for continuing to compete.

Some women FOX 17 talked to said they are asked why they are lifting heavy weights on barbells, or doing a large amount of push-ups and pull-ups. However, the idea that high intensity workouts are harmful to a baby during pregnancy is false, according to most doctors. The biggest restrictions rely on women listening to their bodies, and weighing the risk versus reward.

At Grit Life or CrossFit 616 in Grand Rapids you can find RaeAnne Porte, who’s 30 weeks pregnant, still doing pull-ups in her workouts consistently. Likewise, Melissa Burke, 39 weeks pregnant, can be seen still practicing her Olympic lifts, putting up some serious weight throughout her pregnancy.

“My workout regimen was actually pretty intense,” said Porte about her workout tendencies before pregnancy.

RaeAnne is a serious athlete, placing 25th out of 160 in the World Championship Spartan Race last year. Melissa is a fierce competitor in the lifting world. Both hoped to keep up their fitness even after getting pregnant.

“I have no idea. I was terrified. I had questions like what can I keep doing? What do I have to stop doing?”

Burke and Porte have felt great throughout their pregnancy, but they would be lying if they said they didn’t think twice when faced with questions and concern from family and friends.

“Some friends and family have shown a little bit of concern. It is hard when people haven’t been at this level of fitness before and then to see a pregnant lady doing it is shocking,” said Porte.

The medical science is on their side.

“I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about people saying it’s unsafe during pregnancy. The biggest thing is just to keep your fitness up because labor and delivery is the biggest athletic event of your life,” said Dr. Theresa Osmer of Doctor Flow Chiropractic in the Renew Mama Studio.

Dr. Osmer said one of the most common moves in high intensity workouts that women often are told not to do is squats, but she said that’s a myth.

“One of the biggest ones is don’t squat. And don’t squat below parallel is a big one. I just think historically we had to squat for a variety of different reasons, and unless you have a baby that is in breech presentation, squatting is perfectly safe throughout your pregnancy,” said Osmer.

Women can do most physical activity that they would do before being pregnant, but doctors said there are still some limits.

“They can continue lifting if they were lifting before. Things that we generally don’t recommend are things that are high trauma like horseback riding, where a mother out of the first trimester could fall. Sky-diving, scuba diving are also risky, but most sports and recreational activities are absolutely ok,” said Dr. Danielle Schirm of Metro Health.

Dr. Shirms says it’s especially important for pregnant women to stay hydrated, consult your physician or OBGYN, and listen to their bodies, but as for intense workout activity affecting your pregnancy, that’s almost unheard of.

If you don’t believe Doctor Schirm you can just ask Meghan Pynnonen, Amber Hendrickson, and Andrea Andersen, who all continued intense CrossFit activity throughout their pregnancies. They said they didn’t expect for one moment that the high intensity workouts affected them or their baby in a negative way, rather they think it made for a much more comfortable pregnancy.

“I feel like I wasn’t nearly as fatigued as I would have been. I feel like I had a really easy delivery, just a few pushes and there he was,” said Andrea Andersen.

Amber Hendrickson’s son came two weeks later than their expected due date, but she said it didn’t phase her.

“I didn’t have a lot of the swelling and discomfort and lack of mobility that I kind of expected just came naturally with pregnancy. Because I was working out, I was able to be pretty comfortable until the very end,” said Hendrickson.

Despite some awkward looks from friends and tense family members wondering if their workouts were safe for their babies, they forged on.

“No I kind of felt proud. I felt proud because I was like here I am. Look at me. And maybe it’s not to the level that I used to do, but I am still doing something and I am still moving. So I was never ashamed,” said Pynnonen.

Good news for Burke and Porte, who plan to push-up and pull-up until the end.

It is always important to consult with your physician or OBGYN about your physical activity when you become pregnant, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition like heart issues. While doctors say it’s safe to continue exercise, you should always listen to your body and make sure you’re supervised and safe in any movements you perform.

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1 Comment

  • Ryan Keygier

    I posted this to a Face Book Page that I run / am the founder of: Everyone Being Aware of Spina Bifida. I did this because I have expecting moms on my page and I there will be more in the future. If anyone is interested in being on my page, please see on Face Book,