SPOTLIGHT ATHLETES: Mum’s the word.
By Sarah Gonsiorowski
There’s no shortage of strong women at Defined. And among them are a legion of moms, setting the standard for consistency, effort, and downright grit.
A less obvious display of their strength presents itself in the form of relentless patience: a simultaneous awareness of what’s possible but unnecessary. Most of us work a lifetime to achieve balance; but moms have an acute awareness that supersedes our own earnest perspective.
Chantal Lindsay, Amanda Goble, Jenna Haupt, and Allison Schaffer Gonzalez all joined us before they became moms—so we’ve been lucky enough to support them through the change of a lifetime. Athletes at heart, they all know what it means to push boundaries and experience discomfort in training. But once they got pregnant, they all agreed: training came with a new set of challenges.
For Amanda, cutting back on intensity while pregnant was the hardest part. And for Chantal, the slow return felt frustrating : “One day in particular, I remember trying to do a push up again and couldn’t.”
Miriam Guilano joined us well after her kiddos were born, but her PRs are that of a single mom who navigates a busy schedule. She’s been on the receiving end of training stereotypes and been warned that “CrossFit negatively impacts a woman’s figure.” Despite that, she trains to feel capable and empowered. And teaches her kids to follow her lead: “I want them to be curious in life and to follow their dreams even if others might think it’s not something they should pursue.”
Their interview reveals insight and reminds us to train with intention. Mom or not, we’ve all got something to learn from their stories.
SG: For a lot of us, training supports both our physical and mental needs. What were some of the physical benefits and challenges of training while pregnant? What were some of the mental benefits and challenges of training while pregnant?
AMANDA: Training has and always will be an outlet for me, both physically and mentally. I crave it.
Training while pregnant was second nature because I had already been doing it for years at Defined. Trying to maintain some level of consistency when pregnant was important, even if I had to make modifications. Cutting back on intensity and resting more was admittedly the hardest part for me. Movement helped me feel better—and having a strong group of 6:30am buddies cheering me on was a huge motivator.
I will forever be a believer in functional fitness and lifting for women at all stages, but especially when pregnant. Looking back, I’m thankful I had a practitioner who agreed. I can’t imagine going to an OBGYN who is against lifting and requests that you stop while pregnant! Call me crazy, but I’m 99% sure my labor and delivery were what they were because of my regular strength and conditioning.
SG: What was your approach to training while you were pregnant? And what’s your approach now?
ALLISON: While pregnant, my goals were to stay active and maintain my strength. Now, it’s a balancing act between working full time, training, getting enough sleep, and caring for the baby. Most days, just getting to the gym is a huge win; but hopefully I’ll get back to hitting PRs soon. Through my training, I hope that as Dahlia grows up, she sees the importance of training and having an active lifestyle.
CHANTAL: My first goal during pregnancy was just to keep moving! With it being my first pregnancy, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I took it day by day. I knew I wanted to maintain a similar training program throughout my pregnancy, but as I got further along, I understood I would have to scale movements as needed to keep myself and baby safe. I was also cognizant of trying to avoid long term side effects for diastasis recti. Coaches Cara, Sarah and Kevin were so helpful throughout my pregnancy, instructing me to optimize movements and workouts as needed. (Thanks, guys!)
Postpartum training was much more difficult for me. I spent a lot of my time thinking about training during pregnancy, but not much about the slow retraining process after baby.
The return has been frustrating at times. I started to look like my old self, but I could tell my body was completely different. The first few months of my training consisted of a lot of core rehab and retraining my body to move without my bump. I remember one day in particular, trying to do a push up again—and couldn’t. It was definitely humbling to return.
Now that I’m feeling more comfortable, it’s all about re-building my previous strength. I try to show up as consistently as I can and weight train with goals of continuing this throughout my life with Grant. I want to be able to move easily and be active with him as I get older. And I want to be a role model for him: showing him how to live a healthy, active life.
SG: How close was your last day of training to your due date?
CHANTAL: I had a scheduled induction during my 38th week of pregnancy, so my last day at the gym was the morning of my induction date. I was very lucky that I felt great the majority of my pregnancy—and because of that I was able to keep up a consistent workout schedule my entire pregnancy, up until the very end. My 5:30am crew kept me motivated.
ALLISON: I was lucky that I was able to train all the way up to the day I went into labor when my water broke… at the gym.
SG: What effects did training while pregnant have on your return to training after giving birth?
JENNA: A consistent thread throughout my decade at Defined is a feeling that I never have to “start over” or “create a resolution”. Maintaining a routine and healthy lifestyle is just a part of who I am now and this was no different during the entirety of my pregnancy.
I was lucky enough to be in the gym up until the day I went into labor—kick started, likely, by the many squats and lunges in that day’s workout. Six weeks later—after being cleared by my doctor—I was back.
Of course, I had to acknowledge the changes my body experienced and not rush the process; however, maintaining a certain level of activity and fitness while pregnant without a doubt made for a relatively seamless return to exercise during the postpartum period.
SG: Can you tell us why you leaned into strength training during your pregnancy?
ALLISON: Strength training has always made me feel grounded. And I wanted to continue to feel this way throughout my pregnancy—and as I became a mother. If you Google anything about strength training and lifting heavy while pregnant, you’ll find a lot of different opinions.
My midwife told me I could continue my previous workout regimen as long as I felt good. And I definitely surprised myself at how strong I was—and how much I was able to do throughout my pregnancy.
SG: What’s something you’d tell other moms who are hesitant about strength training during pregnancy?
JENNA: It’s important to surround yourself with a care team that supports your lifestyle and fitness choices. Assuming you have a low-risk pregnancy, your doctor and trainers should support and encourage you to continue with an already established strength training and exercise routine.
That being said, you are responsible for keeping your ego in check and listening more closely to your body than ever before. Pregnancy is not the time to focus on all-time PRs, it’s a time to support your body and health during a profoundly transitional time.
I found working out during pregnancy to be more enjoyable and fulfilling than any other time in my life. Taking the focus off of intensity and shifting it to sustainable training and functional movement was a welcomed mental shift that I continue to carry with me.
SG: How often do you train?
AMANDA: Pre-baby, I was a regular at 6:30am and loved it; roughly 4x a week. It was the best way to start my day and get moving, especially when pregnant.
With life, work and a toddler, my goal now is a couple times a week. If I can make it more, GREAT. If not, that’s okay too. Since baby, I’ve learned the importance of balance and to give myself a little more grace when life happens—or when I’m stuck home with a sick toddler.
SG: Can you tell us what your schedule looks like? Moms are some of the busiest people we know!
MIRIAM: I’m a single mum and working as a nurse, which makes it especially difficult to find time to train. But working 12-hour shifts has its perks, as I usually work 2 days on and 2-3 off. I train on my days off, usually at 10:45am when the kids are in school. On weekends, I bring my younger one with me to Defined.
SG to MIRIAM: I know you track your progress and PRs (because we’ve talked about it). Does this have any effect on your parenting? Or is it just something you do for you?
MIRIAM: Tracking PRs for me is a 2-way street. On one hand, I do it for myself. Training helps me to forget about stress—and it allows me to work through some difficult days and let off steam. On the other hand, tracking PRs shows me that I can push hard—that I can continue to grow mentally and physically. And in that way it influences my parenting. Trying to be a strong mother, emotionally and physically, is important to me.
I’ve received some negative feedback from my family about my CrossFit training—and how it “ruins a women’s physique”. So I want to raise my children to become independent and to try whatever they set their mind to. I want them to be curious in life and to follow their dreams even if others might think it’s not something they should pursue.