BIRTHFIT: Before Birth, Before Pregnancy
I found BIRTHFIT back in 2015. Unlike many others in the tribe, I was not pregnant looking for guidance to continue exercising throughout pregnancy. I was a chiropractor specializing in pregnancy and postpartum with a fire inside to educate men and women that eating good, whole foods and exercising did not need to stop when a woman found out she was pregnant. To me, BIRTHFIT was a lifestyle for everyone: nourish your body with whole foods, move with intention, and take care of your body AND your mind. I was one of a few Regional Directors who had never been pregnant or have children.
So much of what it means to be BIRTHFIT is a lifestyle that can be adapted by anyone. A lot of the education that BIRTHFIT provides may seem ideal for a woman who is pregnant. BIRTHFIT also has a ton of valuable information for women who are in the pre-pregnancy state. The day you pee on a stick and see the double lines, there’s a huge mindset shift that begins to happen. You will have so many questions that you didn’t know you could possibly think of: “Is this movement safe? Can I eat this? Is this normal?” It is an incredibly exciting, yet very scary time. To top it all off, you may feel a little alone as your partner may be the only person who knows about the pregnancy for a few weeks (and I’m not sure how much he knows about being pregnant).
On April 21, 2017, I found out I was pregnant. This was unplanned so the news was a pretty big surprise to my partner and me. I had already made plans to go to the gym that afternoon. We were testing 3RM deadlifts: my favorite lift. Before walking into the gym that day, I had to give myself a little pep talk. I needed to remind myself that my training goals have officially changed. I was now training for birth. I felt pretty prepared as I had already read the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp, knew all of the BIRTHFIT recommendations for exercising through pregnancy, and knew that I couldn’t exercise myself into having a miscarriage. Yet that day, I still felt slight hesitation and uncertainty overcome me. I could not imagine how someone would feel at this time if they didn’t do some of the research I already had. I constantly repeat to my prenatal clients that “we only take lifts we know we can make.” That day, to hold back from pushing myself to attempt a lift I did not know I could make was harder than I ever thought it would be, especially when my peers were continuing to push themselves.
Over the next few weeks, workouts started to get a little harder. I was getting out of breath a lot quicker than normal and feeling much more fatigued. Instead of feeling scared because I had no idea what was going on in my body, I reminded myself that this was normal. The chambers of my heart were getting bigger to prepare for the increase in volume of blood that would soon be circulating. I was taking more breaks in workouts and moving a bit slower, listening to what my body was telling me each day.
It took some time for my pregnancy “bump” to become more prominent, but around 19 weeks it “popped” out a bit and during a clean warm-up, I noticed that I was looping the barbell around my belly. Mid warm-up, I confidently, yet sadly (I am a big fan of barbells and Olympic Lifting) switched to dumbbells. I have had multiple women and men come to me and ask why I am making the substitutions I am. There’s a lot of information on the Internet that says that knees to hips, Olympic Lifting with a “bump” in the way, and kipping “anything” are safe. Well yes, these exercises are not going to cause harm to your baby, but are they are effective for the pregnant athlete? Definitely not. These movements are going to make the postpartum recovery more challenging. Through the knowledge I have obtained through BIRTHFIT and the support from #BIRTHFITtribe (both globally and locally in Cleveland), I can say that I have felt very confident in advocating for both myself and my baby on this journey through the motherhood transition.
I cannot stress this enough: BIRTHFIT is not just for those who are pregnant, those with a baby earthside, or those in the immediate postpartum phase.
Dr. Candace GesickiBIRTHFIT Cleveland Regional Director @birthfitcleveland