Guide to Climbing Pregnant

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Climbing at 6 months pregnant, sporting the Mountain Mama harness and maternity wear.

Climbing has become such an integral part of my life that it is difficult to imagine life without it. It is my main form of exercise and stress relief, a measurement of progress, a vehicle for pushing through challenges, as well as the outlet through which I’ve made some of my closest friends and continue to test and strengthen my relationship with my husband (and belay partner). For me, the thought of giving up climbing for the duration of my pregnancy was unfathomable*. Sure, I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows and comments while climbing pregnant; I’ve been thankful for the support and shrugged off the judgment (which strangely came mostly from men). But here’s my philosophy on climbing while pregnant: at the end of nine months, I will ask my body to do one of the most physically demanding actions I will ever ask it to do. So why would I spend the months leading up to that moment letting my fitness and strength decline? Admittedly, I have not tested this philosophy, am not a doctor, and am no pro (this will be my first baby), but today I offer a few things I’ve learned climbing pregnant, as well as some awesome climbing gear from Mad Rock and Mountain Mama that makes it possible.

Aimee of mamaclimbs.com, sending “Flat Earth” (5.12a), at 8 months pregnant

1) Talk with your doctor. You’ll find that doctors’ views can differ greatly, so find a doctor who also lives and values an active lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and build stamina for the challenges ahead.” The further I get into my pregnancy, the more limiting my body becomes. Even light jogging has started to feel quite cumbersome. Climbing is one of the few sports that I can moderate to meet my body’s current ability, and pursue in a controlled and safe way.

2) Listen to your body. Just as my body tells me if it’s in pain, during pregnancy it lets me know when I need to chill out for a while. (The whole “I’m making a baby” thing is a pretty legit excuse for not being able to send a climb). I have become very aware of my breathing, and that my body requires more oxygen. If I find my breathing getting heavy, I take a break or accept that this climb might need to wait for spring time. On the flip side, I find that although I get worn out quicker, I feel a lot happier and sleep better when I’ve climbed.

3) Invest in a Mountain Mama maternity harness. The heavier and fuller my body gets, the more limited the options for staying somewhat active become. Honestly, if it weren’t for the ability to keep climbing, I’d be going a little crazy at this point. Luckily, Mad Rock and Mountain Mama partnered up to design a full body climbing harness with extra leg and back padding specifically for prego women. As my belly got bigger and my regular harness stopped feeling comfortable or safe, I was grateful to have a way to keep me and “lil’ Sharma” climbing, as well as to be able to still remain active in our climbing group by being able to belay others. When I tighten the harness up, I feel super safe and supported climbing or belaying. (Note: if the harness seems to be causing strain on your back or chest, it probably just needs to be tightened). It also conveniently slips on and off without having to undo the automatically doubled-back buckles (convenient when you have to pee every 30 minutes). If you can’t afford a new harness on top of all the other baby gear you’re about to buy, talk to your local gym about investing in maternity harnesses. For example, our local gym, MetroRock, recently started carrying a few maternity harnesses for pregnant climbers to rent.

Tying in at MetroRock Climbing Gym that offers Mountain Mama harnesses to rent

Talk to your gym about stocking the Mountain Mama maternity harness to rent.

4) Use this time to focus on technique. I lead climbed and bouldered until about 5 months but was also very conscientious of the types of climbs I was willing to lead and boulder (and potential falls I could take). I wasn’t willing to climb some routes or attempt some boulder problems. Instead of focusing on sending a route or problem, I’ve focused on technique such as good footwork or climbing open-handed.

5) Think of the extra weight as “training weight”. You know those hard-core dudes at the gym who climb with a weight vest? Well I’ve just joined their training club! Instead of getting down about the weight gain I’m experiencing, I’ve shifted my mindset to think of every pound  (in addition to making my beautiful baby) as my “weight vest” training for the next climbing season. As I’m unable to climb as hard as I was pre-prego, I’ve started training my grip strength on a hang board (always listening to my body of course). Although I will undoubtedly lose some core and endurance, hopefully I can keep my finger strength up!

Sporting the Mountain Mama Leah Yoga pants (cinched up) and the Whitney Long Sleeve Eco tee!

Sporting the Mountain Mama Leah pants (cinched up) and the Whitney Eco tee!

6) Climbing + Pregnancy + Fashion does exist. Just because your Lulu gear isn’t going to cut it for maternity wear, doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel on your climbing fashion 😉 In addition to Mountain Mama’s harness, I’m stoked on their outdoor maternity clothes. They get that girls like us are going to keep getting down and dirty, hiking and climbing even when we’re growing a baby. Somehow they managed to design gear that’s cute like the criss-crossed back Marni Movement Maternity Tank, won’t flash your belly or butt, stretches enough but not too much, wicks sweat, is super soft, and also works to keep you warm when layered. My favorite is their Leah Rolldown Yoga Maternity Pant that allows you to wear the pants three different ways depending on how you cinch the bottom tie, awesome for climbing in all types of weather or just wanting to cinch your pants up while climbing. On top of that, the top flap of the pant can be folded as a half panel for early in your pregnancy or unfolded for full panel support later. (They also designed their gear to fit throughout your pregnancy, so I will most likely still be wearing their stuff even after I’ve popped out “Lil’ Sharma.”) The best part of their gear? Thumb holes, like in their Whitney Long Sleeve Eco Tee and in their San Juan Eco Hoodie! Just to note, their clothing does run big, so size down one size (the one time in your pregnancy when you’ll be able to do that).

Did you climb during your pregnancy? Share your stories or tips with us!

Climb on! ~Cate

*The decision to climb through your pregnancy is obviously a personal and individual decision and should be done with approval from your doctor. By no means do I intend for my words to come across as criticizing any woman who decided not to climb during her pregnancy.

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16 thoughts on “Guide to Climbing Pregnant

  1. Jess says:

    The top photo is gorgeous! I think it’s time for you to join the husband in Rock and Ice!

  2. Katie Shephard says:

    I wish I had thought of asking my gym to invest in a pregnancy harness. It wasn’t an investment we were going to make at the time. I also wish I had known about the pregnancy athletic wear. I had to either wear my husband’s T-shirts or my regular maternity T-shirts. I climbed until it was unsafe to wear my harness. Now as I am getting back to it and I wish I could have climbed longer.

    Keeping active was also my goal during pregnancy for the same reasons: to hopefully improve my birthing experience and recovery. I did Pilates on the reformer until week 38 and took as long of walks as i could until i gave birth 10 days overdue. I certainly think it helped. (And perception is reality).

    So good on you! I’m proud of you and inspired by you for the next time around. I hope you find residual benefits to your efforts when your little one arrives.

  3. Rachael says:

    Good for you. I am not currently (nor have I been) pregnant, but I just took 6 months off of climbing and don’t ever want to do that again. It’s nice to know there are options for when I do decide to have children.

  4. bieber4lyfe!!!!! says:

    So amayZing. i’m too young to get pregnant (well i guess i could but then i would be in a lot of trouble) so i wear a weight vest sometimes to get stronger which is kind of the same thing.

  5. Tamar says:

    Hi,

    I was climbing pregnant and I’m happy to share my experience. I am now 7 weeks after the delivery.

    Climbing pregnant:
    I started climbing in a gym just 3 month before becoming pregnant. It was my second pregnancy. When I become pregnant, I was just starting to climb 5.10s, and started bouldering, practicing V2s. So I was still building my climbing skill while pregnant. At 3 month pregnant, I climbed 5.11s and worked on V3s. That’s when I decided to stop bouldering, since it felt unsafe for my skill level, and also bad for my back.
    By the way, on a second pregnancy the uterus expands and goes up out of the pelvis pretty much at the beginning, unlike in the first pregnancy, when it takes about 4 months. So the effect on my back was discernible at that point.
    I continued climbing until the rest of the pregnancy, with my last day at the gym 2 days before my due date. My daughter was born on her due date. I climbed a couple of 5.12 during the pregnancy, and though at times I felt like I’m starting to go backwards on my skills, only during the last couple of months my belly was a significant limitation. While having a big belly overhangs are very hard, and frankly, unhealthy (back breakers!), and sometimes big holds stand between the climber and the wall. However, I could handle well some types of routes. Mostly, ones that are inside a corner, between two walls, when my belly could fit in. Also, routes that require challenging balancing, rather than being very close to the wall (crimps on overhangs- no!). Sometime I added a hold or a few to a route so I can still have fun climbing different routes. I don’t think it is “cheating” if the other alternative is not-to-climb the route.

    Climbing after delivery:
    I came back to the gym 5 days after my daughter was born. I didn’t think I’ll be back that early, but I did. Because I love it! and I started bouldering, cause that what I was waiting for. I don’t think I lost any of my skills (top rope or bouldering). Very quickly I climbed V3 and V4. (Not all of the ones in the gym, but a few, and that’s enough to make me happy!).

    Now I will refer to some of the points raised in this post.
    1. Talk with your doctor: I didn’t. In my first appointment, just after seeing the two lines on the stick, the doctor asked me about physical activity. I told him I climb and he said nothing. Then a few weeks later I saw the nurse practitioner, who also asked. When I told her I climb, she said that I have to stop. – “why?” – “the harness pressed on the uterus” – “but I have a full body harness” – “also the falls are dangerous” – “you don’t really fall on top rope” – “but it is dangerous. Buy a prenatal DVD”. you get the idea. So I told her “okay”, and continued climbing. She obviously doesn’t understand in climbing, so why listen to her? A couple of weeks before my due date, I decided to be honest with my doctor, and told him “I’m still rock climbing”. – “what?” – “I’m still rock climbing” – “what?” -” I’m still rock climbing” – “okay then I heard you the first time, I just wasn’t sure”. Haha 🙂 and then he said “okay”.
    Finally, after delivery, the (different) doctor who saw me in the hospital was actually a rock climber, so he told me I can be ready to climb very quickly, just watch the stitches. He recommended that at home I lift my legs imitating movements I do while rock climbing and see if it hurts or not, and then decided. He said it will probably be three weeks.

    2. Listen to your body. I could not agree more. I would also like to add that climbing really helped my body feel better 🙂 especially in the first trimester, the one with the nausea, feeling extremely tired, etc, climbing made me forget all of that and just feel good!

    3. I had a full body harness, that is not “mountain mama” harness. I got it from another women that climbed pregnant in the gym before I did. It was fine, though a harness designed specifically for pregnant women may have been more comfy.

    Outfit: I wore non-pregnancy pants throughout my pregnancy, just pushed them below my belly. It worked for me. I bought active shirts from old navy (not made specifically for pregnancy, but surprisingly, fitting) and gap.

    Last tip: I don’t know if climbing has the same effect on all women, probably not, but for me it was wonderful in terms of minimizing the effect of pregnancy on my body. My body remained essentially unchanged, other than my belly and breast. During my first pregnancy I swam until week 39, and although I gained the same 25lb, it was somehow different, and it took me longer to feel comfortable with my post-natal looks.

    Cheers!
    Tamar

  6. Michelle says:

    I climbed until I was about 8 months pregnant. A move, work, and preparing for baby were really my only obstacles to climbing the last month or so, nothing physical. I felt great climbing and used my regular harness. We live on a budget and I found that my non-maternity yoga pants and longer tanks worked fine, so I didn’t have to invest in new maternity climbing clothes. Climbing is a part of my life and I found no reason to stop. When my friends called to ask if I wanted to climb, I just kept on saying yes. I think it’s so important to maintain those relationships and to continue to do the things you love with the people you love while pregant, and after. It was nice to feel a different type of accomplishment — just getting out and on the rock. I stopped lead climbing. I definitely took my time and enjoyed the views more than ever before. That is an everlasting gift of motherhood! My only regret is not taking more pictures!! Climb on. ~Michelle

  7. Lenka says:

    Hi all, lots of admiration and support for those who don’t give up! I didn’t and I feel great! I am 31 weeks now, still working as a ski patroller, luckily my belly is pretty small so it is not visible under the jacket, that way I can avoid weird looks from public. I think once you keep doing something you were doing before on regular basis, the pregnant body is ok with that. Obviously, listen to it, it tells you. I am still rock climbing, cross country skiing and ski mountaineering. I figured if I don’t give up and keep doing it, even if my body is changing a lot and becoming heavier, my muscles just keep adjusting with the regular excercise to the extra weight and stretching and handle the growing belly quite well. I hear often from other mamas that this and this hurts and lower back and neck and shoulders etc… but most of these women don’t do much, just complain and think they have to sit at home and wait for the baby to come. There are some days when I am exhausted and don’t feel like doing much, I either take the rest day or I do a little bit and try, if it feels good, ok, if it doesn’t, I just stop and go hang out with a friend’s dog. So, again, if you are used to skiing, climbing, anything, keep doing it. But don’t start climbing or ski touring half-way throught your pregnancy, that’t when it might become a problem. I am on my skis every day because of work, so I feel very confident skiing, sometimes even safer than walking 🙂 Ignore other people who like to judge you. If you wanna explain, go for it but some stubborn folks I don’t waste my time on. I know my body the best and I will never sacrifice safety of myself or my baby, that is for sure. Everything should be within reasonable limits. I hope this all makes sense. For those, whom excercise is a drug for, don’t give up, ignore weird looks and comments, there is lots of admiration out there too and most importantly, it is your mental health maintenance!!! Enjoy the time you still have for yourself now, it is gonna change soon.

    • Cate says:

      To everyone who wrote in on this post – you go mamas! In the end, it’s a decision that each woman has to make for themselves and is going to be different for everyone. Beth Rodden has done some great posts on climbing pregnant – check them out at her blog: http://blog.bethrodden.com/

  8. […] results. As I continued searching, I came across Beth Rodden’s beautiful blog, great tips from Crux Crush, some awesome advice from Crag Mama, and some incredible products from Mountain Mama. This whole […]

  9. Jesse says:

    Any advice on finding used maternity harness? Thanks!

    Jesse

    • Cate says:

      I would post something at your local gym? I know that our gym rents harnesses. Where are you located? If your local, I might be able to help.

  10. […] useful and yet so hard to come by! At this stage climbing in a normal harness is probably fine and other people do it but I just feel a bit bloated, uncomfortable with tight stuff on and over protective of my […]

  11. […] tratto e tradotto da: cruxcrush.com, […]

  12. Renee says:

    Hi Cate,

    I am just wondering if it is ok to take a small fall on a top rope in the gym? I am climbing below my limit, I am 11 weeks pregnant and still wearing a regular harness and took a small fall. I am a little worried but as my husband and partner said, it is like sitting back into a chair. Did you take any falls during your pregnancy?
    Thanks 🙂

  13. Some great stuff in here! I’d add few plus: during pregnancy I and many of my friends have experience the inability to get pumped.

    Also, too often we look at pregnancy as a set of symptoms rather than a physiologic phenomenon to which we can acclimate. I wrote more about that over on my blog in hopes we can move away from over-cautionary, woman-negative notions of needing to wear a full-body harness (not necessary for many women) or the idea that one must spend months ‘bouncing back’ postpartum.

    Stay strong and I’m stoked on this conversation!

  14. brogan says:

    I am 5 month pregnant now. Before I became pregnant I wouldn’t say I was amazingly confident, especially when it came to lead climbing, but I was certainly comfortable with hanging on the rope at a height etc and never felt unsafe. I dunno if its a hormone change or what but I cant even do the easiest, smallest climbs anymore without crying in fear that something is going to go wrong and I will end up falling. I check my knots and harness a thousand times before i climb and I still get doubts that I’ve secured myself properly.

    I really want to carry on climbing for as long as possible. I have always been better at bouldering but its beggining to feel a bit cumbersome now so I feel il have to start top roping now if I dont want to stop altogether. The fear is so debilitating though and very unlike me. Did anyone else experience this and if so any pointers for overcoming irrational mama hormones?!

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