By Mikilah Speer
“Childbirth is perhaps the most physical, mental, and spiritual experience of a woman’s life” – BIRTHFIT
Coach Crista and I had the opportunity to attend the BIRTHFIT seminar in San Francisco, hosted by United Barbell. Yes, we were able to learn the logistics of training women who are pregnant and postpartum but in the end, we both found ourselves to be impacted on a much deeper and emotional level than we expected. We learned about fitness and nutrition in conjunction with pregnancy while also connecting, sharing experiences and an array of emotions with women who came from all over the world to attend the seminar.
The CEO and founder of BIRTHFIT, Lindsey Mathews, explained that she chooses to correlate the principles of BIRTHFIT to those used in Crossfit because Crossfit is the first fitness movement to truly define fitness through functional movement. This makes sense because during pregnancy, postpartum and overall motherhood, functional movement is essential to the female body. The program defines itself as the following:
“BIRTHFIT is a movement. It’s about expecting and postpartum moms taking charge of their bodies and their decisions, and supporting one another’s journeys—together and apart.”
BIRTHFIT defines itself through the following four pillars:
Fitness: Over centuries, women’s brains have been trained to deeply and innately fear childbirth. Society has conditioned us to lay on the couch for nine months and not lift a finger while human life cultivates inside of us. The idea that women should essentially be inactive during pregnancy is incredibly inaccurate. The arduous event of childbirth can be compared to running a full marathon and the last time I checked – nobody attempts to run a marathon untrained! BIRTHFIT promotes the principles of functional movement patterns and extensive breath work, in addition to strength and conditioning training, leading up to labor and delivery. The idea is ‘quality over quality’ when it comes to training during pregnancy and postpartum. Moreover, the healing process from childbirth is an incredibly important physical (and emotional) process; one that can haunt a women for many years if it is not dealt with properly.
Nutrition: Once again, society has painted the picture of women being able to indulge in all of the unhealthy cravings their hearts desire during pregnancy. Then, society tells us to continue this unhealthy eating pattern throughout postpartum because as long as you breastfeed, the ‘the weight just falls off’, right? Once again, so wrong! Sure, every pregnant woman deserves to indulge in a milkshake and a slice of pizza every once in a while – just as much as the average human being. However, during the stages of pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding it is more important than ever to nourish your body with rich, healthy foods that are fresh and full of color!
Chiropractic: BIRTHFIT defines this pillar as, “To be structurally balanced, free of subluxation, so that the nervous system can function ideally and communicate with all systems of the body.” Studies show that women who receive regular chiropractic care during pregnancy report shorter labors and delivery times. In addition, chiropractic care has a very high success rate (84%-91%) for turning breech babies. During my second pregnancy, I was a direct product of both of these statistics due to regular chiropractic care.
Mindset: Surprisingly, this pillar was the heaviest of all the BIRTHFIT philosophies discussed at the seminar. If you have ever been pregnant, you understand that there is a whole new level of emotion tied to the new state of your body and the incredible miracle you are developing inside.
I started following the BIRTHFIT movement shortly after I had my first baby. I fell in love with their philosophies because I often found myself wondering why society puts so much pressure on women to ‘bounce back’ and act like the nine months of changes and growing a human inside of you never happened. I observed the world of social media to glorify the women who had six pack abs again very shortly after giving birth and I would think to myself “This is not reality!”
After having two full-term pregnancies, I have watched my body change tremendously. Do I miss my pre-baby toned abs and the ability to bust out a few muscle ups here and there? Of course I do. But then I glance over at the two beautiful babies that grew just underneath those once cosmetically-pleasing abs and I am reminded that my new body is so much more beautiful and valuable than the one I had before.
Let’s be real though – the acceptance of my ‘new body’ did not happen overnight!
The societal pressures of postpartum expectations combined with over exaggerated social media made me begin to hate my new, postpartum body. I felt ashamed of the baby weight that I was struggling to lose. I couldn’t find the balance between breastfeeding and cutting weight and a yearned to fit back into my pre-baby LuluLemon shorts. When I began to follow the BIRTHFIT movement, I felt like I had found my people. Finally, a group of women who embodied the principles of Crossfit and fitness but were preaching a new type of change. One that celebrated the postpartum body, one that embraced a slower and more mindful approach to the return of fitness, and one that spoke to me with the idea of support.
BIRTHFIT helped reassure me of the idea that we need to be celebrating the incredible journey that our bodies have encountered for nine long months. I began to understand that it’s OK to embrace the new body that you have, one that will never be the same – even if you do make it back to your old jean size in a timely manner. More importantly, BIRTHFIT helped me begin to facilitate respect for my new body and embrace the beautiful gift it had given me – my kids!
After pregnancy, the female body needs time to heal not only physically but emotionally. The idea that we should be running back into the gym six weeks later and stringing toe-to-bars together is completely warped. This mindset, most often results in a lifetime of incontinence during double unders and sneezing. Although we find incontinence to be a common problem among women, especially in the gym setting…its not normal! BIRTHFIT practices incorporate functional progressions that allow the diastasis recti and pelvic floor to heal. This is something that just cannot be achieved by PR’ing your back squat during the early postpartum stages.
As a former teacher and mother of two, I am a strong believer in the saying ‘It takes a village.” BIRTHFIT embodies this idea using the analogy of your tribe. Each woman’s tribe consists of the people that you decide to include on your journey. These are the people who build you up, support you, and empower you through the process of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. These people can include anyone from your doctor, to your grandma, to your Crossfit Coach or even your favorite Starbucks barista.
Looking back, I think the development of MommyFit must have been my subconscious effort to create a powerful tribe of my own to walk through motherhood with. Although my intention was to help other women who were struggling with postpartum fitness, I found that the women I worked with helped me heal on a much more emotional level, which is where I needed it the most. I then began to realize that being a mom is all about support. Wether your getting the support or giving it, the cycle is imperative to motherhood.
At Northstate Crossfit we want to offer and incorporate BIRTHFIT philosophies in order to create an environment where women feel empowered, supported, and connected through fitness, while leading up to and after their birth experience.
As mothers, let’s take a step back from celebrating early postpartum PR’s and take a step toward changing the mindset into ‘slow is fast’. Work on enjoying the journey of motherhood within fitness, instead of sprinting to a destination that involves a number on a scale. Allow the body to heal, both physically and mentally before adding the pressures of whiteboard RX’s. Take time to think about your goals and how they will embody the healing process, sleep, nutrition, babies, fitness, and a peaceful mind. Go on walks with friends, eat colorful food that comes from the earth, modify your WOD, visit a chiropractor, and snuggle your babies. Find grace and forgiveness for yourself. Find people that support you and build you up. We know they will not be babies forever, but postpartum is forever! Embrace it.