Exercising Through Pregnancy Became My Sanity Saver

Staying active not only supported this mom's physical well-being but also became a vital source of mental and emotional resilience through pregnancy.
weight training

I love a barbell. I love the knurled steel in my hands. I love picking up something heavy and putting it back down. I love weightlifting and the natural high it gives me. I love functional fitness and being strong. 

None of that changed when I became pregnant.

My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant during the summer of 2020. I’d been a member of a CrossFit gym for four-and-a-half years at that point. In the years I was a member, I’d watched in awe as several other women continued working out their entire pregnancy, some of them up until the night before they delivered. 

When I learned I was pregnant in August, the trainers were some of the first people I told.

I was 35, and other than being “advanced maternal age,” I didn’t have any complications and I wasn’t considered high risk. My doctor gave me the green light to continue doing everything I’d done before getting pregnant, within reason.

“Just be smart,” she told me. 

The problem was, sometimes I pushed myself a little too hard and wasn’t “smart,” so I wanted the trainers to know they could pull me back when needed.

I vividly remember telling one of the coaches when I was a few weeks pregnant that she’d be able to tell me what not to do. She was so excited for us and had no hesitation to let me continue with classes. As it turned out, there wasn’t much I wasn’t allowed to do — just keep my heart rate reasonable, do burpees to a box instead of the floor and try not to max out on any lifts.

In previous years I saw the other women who got pregnant were never treated as weak or like they were going to hurt themselves or their babies. They were simply given a modification or “scale” to the workout. 

So, when I became pregnant, I assumed the same would happen to me. And it did…until the moment I walked out of the gym.

I distinctly remember carrying a box of books—not even a big box—down a hallway at work and two people stopping me, taking the box from me because I was pregnant and saying, “You shouldn’t be carrying that.”

Or setting up for a meeting, I carried a light chair over to another part of the room and someone swooped in to take it from me because I was pregnant. Did they know I could deadlift nearly 200 pounds at this point? This small conference room chair wasn’t going to hurt me. The night before I’d lifted 95 pounds above my head in a push press. But today I was told I shouldn’t lift a ten-pound box by someone that didn’t know any better. 

Andrea Cronin-Morrow

I never wanted to be considered weak and I didn’t feel weak. In fact, here I was, pregnant, creating a new human—pregnancy itself is an act of endured. And yet, I was being treated as if I might break carrying out a simple daily task. 

It was mind-bending. Why did people think the moment I got pregnant I was no longer able to do anything for myself? Some of it was old-fashioned chivalry, but I’d never been a fan of that either.

My body was building a new person, and, other than being really, really tired, I was fine. Exercise was what gave me energy and it was disheartening to hear people tell me to stop. But no one who knew me or understood functional fitness told me to stop, and that’s what I needed to keep going.

My mother was horrified I was continuing to attend CrossFit workouts. In the 80s, the thought process around exercise and pregnancy was quite different, and she was terrified I’d do something to hurt myself or my daughter doing functional fitness.

It was already mind-bending not feeling like myself and knowing I had other restrictions I had to deal with while pregnant. As long as I was willing and able, I wanted to keep doing something that made me feel like Andrea during a time when I really didn’t feel like myself.

But there was just one thing I had no control over—arthritis.

When I was 34, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my back and knees. I was prescribed Voltaren and it helped tremendously, however, you can’t take it when you’re pregnant. 

At first, it was not a problem. In my first and second trimesters, my joints were flexible and felt great because of the relaxin hormone that was preparing my body for delivery. I was able to drop my body deeper into a snatch squat than I could before getting pregnant. I felt super mobile and able to stretch better than I had before. 

That third trimester, though? She was a bit trickier.

At 27 weeks, my knees just couldn’t do it anymore. Walking up or down a flight of stairs made me feel like my knees were going to explode. The added pregnancy weight and unmedicated arthritis made heavy weightlifting a no-go for me. 

On the advice of my doctor, I had to bow out and start doing light duty including swimming and walking. I’d tried so hard during my pregnancy not to be broken or delicate, but I had to listen to my body and do what it dictated was necessary.

Six weeks later my water broke at 33 weeks. I spent 48 hours in the hospital trying not to have a baby—and then another 42 hours letting nature take its course. I thought labor would never end. As we entered the 60+ hours of labor I’d been in, I knew this would be more about mental strength rather than physical strength.

Each Memorial Day, CrossFitters worldwide participate in a hero-honoring workout called “Murph.” It consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats, followed by another mile run. I’d done this workout four times previously, scaled to my abilities, and I remember having to dig deep into my mental reserves to not quit or give up. I reached a point where the pain I felt physically had to be pushed away mentally in order to finish. 

As I laid in that labor bed, I remember telling myself,  if you can Murph, you can do this. And I did. My underlying fitness helped me push out that baby in about 20 minutes and my postpartum recovery went far better than I imagined it would. It still sucked, but it was better than I anticipated.

Looking back I’m glad I didn’t listen to the people that just didn’t know any better. I listened to my doctor, my body and the women who had done it before me, safely.

Andrea Cronin-Morrow

I returned to the gym a few months after having my daughter, bringing her with me for a handful of workouts with the support of our gym owners and the many gym babysitters who fought over watching her while I worked out. My daughter and I watched together as Annie Thorisdottir, an elite CrossFit games athlete, came in third at the 2021 CrossFit Games—just one year after giving birth to her daughter.

Women are strong. Period. Motherhood doesn’t break us, if anything, it makes us even stronger.

For more stories like this and help navigating your new chapter of motherhood, check out The Mother Chapter.


  • Andrea Morrow-Cronin

    Andrea Morrow-Cronin is a wife to Matt and mom to Caroline who has spent the last 16 years writing for herself and her employers, both online and in print. With a career background in government relations, environmental services, lobbying and heavy construction equipment rental—she knows a little about a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. She loves functional fitness, a glass (or two) of wine, baking experiments and brightly colored athletic shoes.

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