In the fall of 2012, I wobbled into my local Florida climbing gym. I was 30 pounds heavier than I had ever been. My center of gravity was thrown off. And I hadn’t worn pants with a belt in months. I was seven months pregnant and I was climbing in my third trimester.
One evening I was traversing across the gym wall, something I did often to condition with no trouble at all. On this particular visit, I was embarrassingly out of breath. Someone asked how I was doing and I answered with, “Exhausted!”
For a hobby that I was just getting the hang of, I felt like I was taking major steps backward. But as I continued climbing, I learned that it was equal parts challenging and rewarding. Climbing throughout my pregnancy conditioned me for healthier labor and smarter climbing.
My husband and I climbed for two years before we got the exciting news that I was pregnant with our first child. I wanted to remain active during my pregnancy. I believed staying fit while pregnant would help me return to my pre-pregnancy weight and health after my daughter was born. I also didn’t want to give up something I enjoyed. With my body being taken over by another human, I felt the need to keep something that made me feel like me.
So I adjusted my gym routine a bit to be cautious of my growing passenger. I switched from small, challenging holds to larger jugs. I avoided moves that stretched and twisted my torso. I stayed lower to the ground during bouldering. I learned what I needed to avoid, I climbed smarter, and I listened to my changing body.
Climbing wasn’t the only thing that got harder. My everyday routine became challenging. My arm’s reach became limited as my belly got in the way and my center of gravity shifted. I was forced to rethink simple things. Getting into my car, tying my shoes, and putting dishes away needed different beta. Climbing gave me a way to navigate and problem solve through the challenges of my changing body.
There’s no way to tell what my labor would have been like if I hadn’t climbed for three years leading up to my daughter’s birth. But here’s what I do know: I didn’t experience back pain during pregnancy or labor and I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. I was engaging my core muscles each week and I can only assume there’s a link between them.
For those newly pregnant ladies out there, keep doing what you are doing. Keep dancing, keep running, keep fishing. But, do your research. Talk to your doctor. Listen to your body.
Now, as a mom of two young children, I’m putting climbing back into my routine. I’m ready to see what this hobby has to teach me as a parent and I’m excited to introduce climbing to my children someday.
Andrea Wolloff is a writer and mom from Tampa, FL. She’s a novice rock climber who spends her creative energy exploring her city, chasing around her two kids, and writing about women’s issues on her blog: www.andreawolloff.com.