When Anna-Lee Markstedt, a competitive obstacle course racing champ from Sweden, got involved in competitive extreme sports five years ago, she discovered she loved the adrenaline that comes from overcoming physical obstacles, calling it “the closest you’ll come to an Indiana Jones experience.” So when Markstedt became pregnant with her second child last fall, she decided to dispel the myth that pregnant women can’t be physically active—by rock climbing, kickboxing and strength training her way through all three trimesters.
“My extreme sports pregnancy split people into two camps,” she tells Media Drum World of the reactions her photos have prompted. “The first are the ‘You go girl’ with the #PregnantNotDying mindset. The second are ‘That is irresponsible’ and must be harmful for the baby.”
In fact, in addition to helping maintain healthy weight gain, working out during pregnancy can increase heart health, boost energy levels, lead to better sleep and, as research has shown, even lower your odds of needing an intervention, such as a c-section or use of forceps, during childbirth.
Of course, safety should always come first, and Markstedt took the necessary precautions to protect her and her baby.
“There is a difference between staying active and being foolish. I assess the situation before I approach it. I wouldn't recommend climbing and bootcamp, etc., to all pregnant women, but I have years of experience,” she says in a Facebook post. On top of seeking the go-ahead from her doctors, “I didn’t do jumps, walking lunges or ab exercises, or anything in plank position since my stomach muscles separated.” Instead of working out twice a day, five times per week like she did pre-pregnancy, she stuck to doing bootcamps five days a week and then low-intensity exercises and rollerblading during her third trimester.
“I listen to my body,” she explains—which experts say is the most important thing when engaging in any extreme exercise during pregnancy.
If extreme sports aren’t your thing, we get that. There are now lots of gyms and fitness studios that offer more gentle prenatal exercise classes designed specifically for moms-to-be. You can also practice some prenatal yoga positions at home—just don’t be discouraged if you don’t master Markstedts’s moves.
Those intense workouts seem to have paid off for Markstedt: She gave birth to a healthy baby girl just three hours after contractions first set in. “All that active lifestyle made for quick pushing,” she says.