We used to tell all pregnant moms to not lift weights. We then told postpartum moms that their organs were going to fall out if they lifted heavy. Thankfully, those days are mostly behind us. Now we are encouraging women to feel strong, healthy and confident in their own skin and in their own strength.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I believe that lifting weights through pregnancy and into my postpartum journey (twice!) has made me a better mom. These are my personal thoughts. But I would love to know if you agree with me!
12 Reasons why you should lift weights during pregnancy
1. Being a mom requires some heavy lifting!
There is some fitness required to be a mom. You need core strength to sit up when you’ve rocked your baby to bed. Your back needs to be strong when they refuse to be put down. Cardio is necessary to push that stroller up a hill. Moms literally have the strongest biceps ever. Ever had your toddler to completely refuse to walk when you’re at the furthest point away from your house? Yeah we have too. Getting home in that situation requires some fitness!
This is why we need moms to value and embrace their fitness. Being strong is an important part of being a mom. The more strength you have the better able you are to enjoy the moment when your tired toddler wants to hug you while you walk her home. Your biceps might be screaming but you’re never thinking that you couldn’t possibly do this.
2. Exercise keeps me healthy and showing up for my kids
Not just that you NEED to be strong to be a parent, but you want to be strong and healthy for your kids 20 years from now. Lifting weights and being active is the necessary ingredients for a long healthy life. You want to enjoy all of the fun activities with your babies but also be able to get on the floor with your grandbabies and then your great-grandbabies. Being strong is the magical pill people are looking to buy at a pharmacy that will let you enjoy all of the years of your life without feeling limited.
3. You get to role model prioritizing health to your kids
Monkey see, monkey do right? We are getting some really cool research that is showing the kids role model after their parents. I know this isn’t that surprising! But women with a normal BMI (body mass index) during their pregnancy are less likely to have kids that are overweight up until age 5! Your exercise during your pregnancy helped your babies for five years! There are a lot of complicating factors to this of course. This is not to cast shade if it wasn’t possible for you. But when you get show you strength training to your kids and especially your daughters. She begins to see that as normal.
4 My kids see me working hard for a goal I want to achieve. It teaches them to do the same.
Lifting weights is really hard work! You will struggle. You will need to put in the work. Your muscles will scream at you. There will be times you want to quit and give up. All of these things are normal feelings of being an athlete
When you’re an athlete AND a mom, your kids get to see ALL of this. That is freaking awesome! Some of you might think it’s a bit of a stretch, it’s GOOD to show your kids you’re struggling too to reach goals. That it’s okay for things to be hard. It means it’s worth it!
5. It’s self-care
The saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Moms give everything they have to their families. But sometimes they can do it at the expense of themselves.
This can creep up in your professional life too. Workload piles up and so does stress. When everything is demanding so much of you, what takes the hit is your fitness. This is not a bad thing sometimes. Life happens. You can’t be 100% rigid. Being imperfectly consistent is the name of the game. Not moving your body can make you feel more agitated at little things.
Remember: You Can't pour from an empty cup. Exercise is health
6. Being an athlete is part of your identity (and that’s okay!)
Don’t accept that you have to choose between being a mom and being an athlete. It isn’t an ‘OR’ statement. It’s an ‘AND’ statement. Be a mom AND an athlete. Your level of competition might change. But you can compete with myself and your numbers every day to be the best postpartum athlete you can. That doesn’t make you less of an athlete.
You can still have goals. You can get back on the competition floor, do the CrossFit Open, or try to run that race after baby!
You are allowed to love identifying as an athlete. It is such an important part of who you are.
7. Helps me manage stress
Ever have a really bad day? Ever have a doozy of a day that makes your head want to explode? Those are the days you need to lean on your fitness. Exercise is a coping mechanism. It’s science. It’s magic and you should use it as often as necessary.
When you hold all of that stress inside you, it festers and grows. It can lead to burn out. So many women are struggling with professional and parental burnout. Moving your body for at least 20 minutes is one of the best things you can do. Also go read Emily and Amelia Nagowski’s book called Burn Out.
8. It makes you feel strong, confident and empowered in your own body (and you can show that body confidence to your children)
When you start lifting weights, your perception of your body can change. You don’t need your body to be the thinnest version of itself anymore. You start to fuel for performance and the body composition changes come with that.
Lifting weights can make you stop thinking about what your body LOOKs like and instead focus on what it can do! That is unbelievably powerful! Children, especially girls, are dieting earlier than ever before. They focus on their appearance. We want them to see me fuelling because it makes their bodies FEEL good, not look a certain way.
9. It’s okay to like how you feel in your own skin when you’re active
Being a woman can be hard. We feel judged and expected to look like we’ve never aged or had babies. These ridiculous expectations that society (and unfortunately sometimes the pressure of other women) place on us can be awful. We can feel like we’ll never measure up.
Lifting can change that. We see our butt get a little bigger (in a good way) and our bicep veins pop out and it can give you a little boost in the body image department.
10. Lifting prevents aches and pains
Lifting weights makes you less likely to get hurt. It keeps your bones, muscles and tendons strong. Stronger bones don’t break as easily. Stronger muscles don’t’ get overuse injuries as easily. Active people have less inflammation going through their body. Inflammation is involved in all kinds of things like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis. Keeping up with your strength training makes you resilient.
11. It helps relieve some resentment or frustration.
Sometimes we think we need a REASON for exercise or lifting weights. Can’t my reason just be because you love it?
Lift weights because you love lifting weights.
It can be an outlet and a happy place. Doing things you love makes you better able to handle the things you don’t love as much… like house cleaning or some work projects. You need to sprinkle in some “love to do” activities into your day. Makes life worth living!
12. Sometimes it’s family time too (did you know kids make a great goblet squat weight?!)
You can use the gym as time away from the kiddos. But life happens. Sometimes the only way you get into the gym is if your daughter or son (or both) is with you.
Make the most of it and show her what mama can do. Let him be a barbell loader. Watch her try to do what you do. It’s beautiful. These moments are made especially wonderful if my husband is around to switch off with so no fingers get squished in the process. Having your kids grow up in a gym or having a garage gym is a wonderful gift. Working out as a family is such special time too (though maybe not all the time).
Everyone’s pregnancy and postpartum journey is different. There are situations that come up that prevent us from hitting the gym even with the best intentions. That is 100% okay. Life happens and the barbell is always there waiting for you. Just like moms felt shame for wanting to lift weights during their pregnancy, we need to be careful to not do the opposite. So, I don’t want you to feel upset or uncomfortable if this isn’t your reality right now. Life will shake out. You’ll get there when you’re ready. Or you won’t. That is okay too.