From The Straits Times    |

Getty

It was June 18. I’d just finished wrapping up a (positive) pregnancy test stick in a box to give to my husband as a Father’s Day gift, surprising him with news of the pending arrival of our third baby, when I got a text from one of my fittest friends:

“HYROX date announced in Singapore – October 7th!  Are we in?”

What is HYROX?

hyrox-pregnant
Amanda doing the rope pull on the left. Photo: Amanda Lim

For those who don’t know, HYROX is also known as the “world series of fitness racing” – a global phenomenon that started in Germany in 2017. It combines running, functional training, and endurance sports with a come-one-come-all spirit of inclusivity.  There is no minimum qualification to enter and no cut-off time to finish.  The race format is standardised around the world and includes eight 1km runs around an arena alternated with eight functional workout stations (think wall balls, rowing machines, or burpee broad jumps) where the fastest overall times in each division are deemed the winners.

When my friend’s text arrived, I knew she wanted me to join her as a teammate in the Women’s Doubles division, whereby two female athletes run side-by-side and split the work in the functional stations to complete the race as a team.  Quickly doing the math in my head, I realised that in order to join her, I’d be racing at 22 weeks pregnant – securely in my second trimester and typically, based on my previous pregnancies, when I felt my best.

I texted her back: “In.”

Prepping for peak (pregnant) performance

Over the next few months we devised a four-month progressive training plan to work around my developing pregnancy, including a relaxed approach to the first six to eight weeks of training (I was busy holding my head over the toilet and trying to make it through full days without lying horizontal, due to some pretty heinous morning sickness) followed by a gradual ramp-up through August and September as race date approached.

As an already-high-performing athlete (I’d participated in the CrossFit Open earlier that year and placed top 1.8% of scaled-division women worldwide), I wasn’t so worried about my ability to complete the race so much as my ability to complement my partner’s skill set (she was coming to HYROX at the absolute top of her game, fitness and conditioning-wise) and remain somewhat competitive in the team rankings.  I knew the running would be the biggest challenge, as running consistently raised my heart rate to its highest point in training sessions. I also couldn’t meet the movement standard for the torso-to-ground burpees for safety reasons, so my partner would have to take on that entire event on her own.

Training tips and overcoming outside opinions

hyrox-pregnant
Photo: Amanda Lim

Despite the challenges along the way, our training felt consistent and reasonable, even in a growing pregnant body.  I ran only twice per week; once as a set of 1km repeats, and once as a part of a weekly HYROX simulation that included the functional workout practice.  I did traditional strength training and CrossFit workouts once per week each, maintained my yoga practice once per week to stay mobile, and rested one to two days per week.  

As a perinatal fitness coach, it wasn’t hard for me to stay on top of my working heart rate (HR), RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and total exercise volume (sets/reps/weight lifted each week) and adjust down when necessary; though I will admit it was mentally tough to see my 1K pace get slower over the course of training while still giving the same amount of effort and input (knowing this is one of the normal, expected adaptations to pregnancy).

Perhaps the biggest challenge I had to face throughout my training was the propensity of well-meaning onlookers to question what I was doing, or why I was doing it.  A training mate within my HYROX simulation classes told me he would never “let” his pregnant wife train the way I did. And a friend of mine from university days told me she “hoped I’d stop” after “proving the point” of finishing a HYROX race while pregnant.  

Lucky for me, I was able to drown out the negative voices in favour of what I knew to be true – that pregnant athletes could train and perform safely, even at high levels. I also had the benefits of a supportive husband who joined me at each and every training session I did (yes, including that weekly yoga class) and a well-informed obstetrician who sent me her best wishes for the race after my healthy, normal 20-week prenatal appointment.

Mama in motion: race day 

When race day arrived, my partner and I were ready – we’d put countless hours of sweat, grit, and tears into refining not only our physical preparation but our race strategy, which included exactly how we were going to split up the events, pace our runs, take in adequate hydration and nutrition during the race, and in the event that I needed more rest or recovery time, moderate our approach.  

When the buzzer sent us off the start line that October afternoon, we executed every bit of the strategy perfectly, surprising even ourselves by doing better than expected on certain events (like the skierg) and staying consistent on our running pace for all 8-Ks. As a visibly pregnant athlete, I experienced a mix of admiration and shock from my fellow racers, many of whom offered a supportive “you go, girl!” or positive thumbs up as our team ran by.

As we approached the final event, the race announcer said to everyone on the floor, “This is Amanda…she’s pregnant….she’s pregnant and she’s crushing it!”  And moments after those uplifting words, my partner and I sprinted to the finish platform to see our finish time – 1:23, good enough for a top 10% division finish and 14th in our age group.  We felt everything at once – exhausted, proud, awed, and inspired.  We’d done it.

Parting thoughts for all parents

hyrox-pregnant
Finishing flex. Photo: Amanda Lim

I don’t exercise or work out or compete while pregnant to “make a point” or show off; I do it because I want other mamas-to-be to know that our pregnant bodies are strong and capable, not weaker; just different. I want to set an example of what an active pregnancy can look like, and directly address the myth that continuing even a high level of exercise while pregnant is dangerous or damaging. I want women to see that they don’t have to “trade off” a strong body for a pregnant one – those two things can coexist – and feel empowered to maintain healthy fitness levels throughout this beautiful season.  

And most of all, I want my kids and the other kids present at HYROX races, to see their own healthy, active, role models out there “walking the talk” and building fit families.  That victory belongs to every single mama, pregnant or not, who crossed the HYROX finish line that day.

Amanda Lim is a certified fitness & nutrition coach, perinatal specialist, and mother of two (with a third on the way!).  American by birth but Singaporean at heart, she enjoys hot yoga & CrossFit – followed by a big bowl of laksa. You can find her at @coachamandalim and coachamandalim.com.

This article was originally published in Singapore Women’s Weekly.