The early part of my pregnancy fell at the end of rock season in these parts--my true powerband of early autumn. To stop working my project (I was thisclose!) was out of the question so I pushed on up, bolt by bolt, with a new driving urgency. At the beginning of the second trimester I spent a week climbing in Joshua Tree. My body thrived climbing steep finger cracks, hiking #2s, and demonstrated a new affinity for lie-backing (pregnancy = unable to become pumped).
Rather than supply the internet with yet another shrill article on all the ways in which the pregnant body is inferior/non-functional/delicate I have chosen here to share the unique benefits to rock climbing I've experienced while pregnant. Pregnancy is a state which is naturally safe, normal, and during which women are physiologically destined to thrive as athletes.
Unpumpable: This first one is huge: I am unable to get pumped. I have no idea how this happens so if you're a physician or possess superior knowledge of the pregnant rock climber's physiology please school me here. Prior to pregnancy climbing the roof at my favorite gym in the city was a feat best reserved for peaks in my training cycle and the optimal place in my training session. These days I can hike up the roof over and over again finishing without a dose of lactic acid in my forearms. The other plus of climbing horizontal to the ground? Totally clean lead falls.
Circuit training: Since a friend introduced me to her brutal circuit workouts a couple years ago (thanks Kelsey!) I've done bodyweight and kettlebell-assisted anaerobic workouts a couple times a week which has markedly improved my power-endurance while climbing longer, technical routes. Since becoming pregnant my body has been eating these workouts up, especially heavy squats, deep abdominal work on a TRX system, kettlebell swings, and quality time with the Airdyne. Crossfit for preggos is rightfully a thing!
Flexibility: When hopping on the wall to warm up for my project last autumn it seemed my joints were trying to start a drumline popping in close succession. The result of the relaxation of my joints is that my formerly-stiff joints and taut connective tissue is allowing for more movement. This loosening is a boon for slab climbing, crack climbing, and bouldering especially since my muscles are strong enough to make up the difference..
Recovery: It seems the supercompensation response to training stimulus across the board is heightened during pregnancy. My body reacts quickly to my training for climbing inflaming worked muscles, stiffening finger joints, making me crave vension burgers for dinner, and the recovery process also subsides earlier allowing more time for my rest days and weeks to be filled with supercompensatory adaptation. Yay! I swear I'm getting physically stronger each session because I've continued to push my climbing while pregnant.
Focus: Perhaps this is just preparing me to be an even more ruthless prioritizer as a new parent but I have found a deeper level of focus and mental control while climbing. These last couple months I can easily tune out the annoying din of sprayers at the base of a crag, I can silence my thinking mind to allow my intelligent body to do its bold work, and I've been much more motivated (is that even possible?) for my daily training sessions.
It just feels good! Climbing has suited my pregnant body wonderfully so I keep doing it. It feels great to stretch the changing ligaments in my core (especially my bow-tight, overworked psoas) and to reassure myself of my own strength as I get bigger. It is motivating to note my continued progression through the grades during my pregnancy--much to my joy and surprise.
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I hope this encourages other female athletes to continue listening to their bodies and to allow their spirits to lead them to the activities they find most blissful--during pregnancy and any other time of life. Everything doctors and other women have told me about rock climbing while pregnant being detrimental or difficult is wrong!