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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Should Pregnant Women Be Weightlifting?

PHOTO: A 33-week pregnant California woman lifts 75 pounds for exercise.
Go for it Lea-Ann! You will have healthy children who will benefit from your example as well.

It's been all over the news the past few days. It seems that the news media is determined to make a "controversy". Of course they are, that's how they generate attention. In my opinion it's a total non-issue. It's not a new idea and it's happened thousands of times before. Pregnancy is not a disease. Women have been getting pregnant since the beginning of the human race. Doh!! Can anything be more obvious? Israelite women delivered babies while they were traveling through the desert. Pioneer women gave birth crossing the plains. Native American women had children in the "wilderness" for centuries and I am sure their lives were all much more strenuous than any 30 minute cross-fit workout a few times a week. Back the 80's Gary and Judy Glenney lived in Farmington, New Mexico and promoted weight lifting in the area. Gary was top ranked lifter in the 60's and early 70's lifting for the legendary York Barbell Club. Judy, his wife, was one of the first women to really compete in weightlifting and is remembered as a true pioneer in the field. They began their family later in life and during her first pregnancy, they came to Monument Valley High School to do a exhibition for our students at my request. I will always remember Judy easily snatching 60 kg. pulling the bar around her belly which was protruding quite a bit by then. I can't remember for sure how far along she was, I believe it was around 6 months. I have four daughters, 3 of which have are married with children. They all have exercised throughout pregnancy in various ways, including lifting weights that most people would consider heavy. I guess they are lucky that no one posted their workouts on the internet. Pregnancy is probably not the time to begin a heavy exercise program, but for those who are in the habit of working hard, there is usually no reason to become sedentary. Of course there can be complications in certain individuals whatever their habits are and late term pregnancy is not the time to break records, but Lea-Ann is a great example in my opinion. Below is one of the articles that has appeared this week........

Exercise is essential for a healthy pregnancy, but one photo of a pregnant woman weightlifting has ignited a fiery debate on how much pregnant women should sweat.
Lea-Ann Ellison, 35, a stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles, is eight months pregnant with her third child and attends regular CrossFit classes at her local gym. Last week, Ellison emailed the company touting her success on the workout and included a photo of herself lifting weights. A few days later, the company posted the photo on its Facebook page, triggering an outcry on social media. Ellison received thousands of comments — many of which were negative — on CrossFit's and her own Facebook pages, through several media outlets, and in email.
“This is why CrossFit is horrible. No one knows what they're doing. This is a good way to lose your baby,” wrote Facebook user Evan Kennedy, a physical therapist. Andrea Hatfield wrote, “I do not find this impressive at all. No one would post a picture of themselves drinking a beer while eight months pregnant. Risky behavior while pregnant is no laughing matter." And Amanda Strippel wrote, “Sorry lady, not safe. Baby first, sanity second.” 
However, Ellison had her share of supporters. “I’m six months pregnant with triplets and am still Crossfitting as much as I can,” wrote Carol Metzger Bolliger. And Melissa McCarty wrote, “I've had four kids and pregnancy isn't a handicap. It isn't an excuse to 'slow down'. You know your limits and obviously she's doing exactly what her body allows. Great job mama!”
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are long proven: increased blood flow and energy, sounder sleep, and the release of endorphins (mood-boosting hormones). And one recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercise reduces the risk of having a baby with a high birth weight and of having a cesarean section. However, many doctors point to pregnancy exertion as the cause of cervical problems and preterm labor, and public opinion is divided on whether women who continue to hit the gym during pregnancy are selfishly harming their unborn babies.
“I was really shocked by the reaction to my photos since I've always exercised during my two previous pregnancies and doctors have assured me that my routine is safe for both myself and my child," Ellison tells Yahoo Shine. “However, the minute the photo was posted online, I received an onslaught of comments from men and women telling me that pregnancy is no time to be tough and that I’m vain and selfish. It's surprising that something I've always done — and consider normal — is shocking to so many people."
Ellison’s routine of choice is CrossFit — an hourlong high-intensity exercise program that focuses on core strengthening and conditioning. It incorporates Olympic weight training, aerobic exercise, and gymnastics, using barbells, dumbbells, tire flipping, kettle bells and medicine balls. CrossFit is controversial — according to a story published in the Guardian, in addition to the already-strenuous training, the competition between participants (classes are small and intimate) lead many to overexert and collapse on the floor from exhaustion.

Despite the photo of Ellison that's caused so much uproar, she says she doesn't lift heavy weights. "I did lift weights for my maternity photo shoot but only 35 pounds," she says. "The most I've lifted while pregnant is 65." An avid exerciser, Ellison bought her first gym membership when she was only 16 years old. “I was really skinny and wanted some curves, so I started running and lifting at the gym,” she says. Soon, Ellison’s love of fitness snowballed and she began mountain biking, trail running, weight lifting and entering amateur fitness competitions. Two years ago, she discovered CrossFit and never looked back.
Ellison begins each day by cooking breakfast for her son, 8, and daughter, 12. Once the kids are off to school, she eats half a cup of oatmeal with coconut oil and cinnamon, followed by a three-egg omelet with avocado and black beans and a protein shake, before heading off to CrossFit class.  Lunch usually consists of a grilled-steak salad or chicken with pasta, and dinner is another lean protein with vegetables and rice. She satisfies her rare sugar cravings with small amounts of dark chocolate.
“I used to take CrossFit classes five days a week, but lately, I’ve scaled back to three times,” says Ellison, who has gained a healthy 23 pounds of pregnancy weight. "What bothers me most about all this backlash is that there are so many pregnant women who eat poorly and don't exercise at all during their pregnancies. There is an obesity epidemic in this country. What about that?"
According to Steve Goldstein, M.D., professor of urology and gynecology at New York University (he is not Ellison's doctor), she seems to be on the right track as long as a medical professional is monitoring her routine. "If she's resting when she's tired, in general, I don't see the harm," Goldstein tells Yahoo Shine.

"However, the body goes through so many physiological changes during pregnancy which can alter balance and center of gravity, so it's important to pay attention to your body," he says. "Also, it's not wise for women to take up an unfamiliar exercise routine. Pregnancy is a brand-new sport."

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