My response to Shauna Coxsey climbing her way through pregnancy.
I read Shauna's article on the BBC, and it’s so great to see such an incredible athlete challenging the taboo of exercising during pregnancy. Shauna has a wealth of experience and knowledge in her sport. By definition, an expert. She is well positioned to understand the risks of the sport of climbing during pregnancy.
Photo credit @shaunacoxsey
So why is there so much backlash for Shauna continuing the sport that she loves? People see the sport as high-risk. Perhaps it is - to the unpracticed general population! I know it would certainly be risky if I decided to climb with no experience in the sport!
To understand more, let’s take a look at the term ‘risk’. A risk is a situation where there is uncertainty surrounding the outcome to the action. Uncertainty comes with lack of experience or familiarity - a lack of expertise.
Now let’s look into the term ‘expert’. An expert is a person who ….”is very knowledgable about or skilful in a particular area”. Utilising the theory presented by Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book, Outliers: “... the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours”.
So, looking at Shauna’s success in her sport, it is clear (to me at least), that she has a high level of expertise, therefore familiarity, with climbing. She can easily analyse the effect her actions and decisions have on the outcomes. Shauna will have a high awareness of the level of difficulty, therefore risk, that can occur in climbing, and her perception of risk will be relevant to her expertise.
Therefore the risk is perceptually lower to an expert.
I applaud Shauna for keeping exercising in the ways that she wishes, even though to the general public this may be seen as 'risky’. There are several factors as to why women should continue to exercise in the ways they know and love throughout pregnancy.
- To keep doing what you love, you are supporting your mental health & wellness through pregnancy. Doing what you love and what keeps you feeling like yourself in a changing time is infinitely important to a healthy pregnancy.
- Get the all-clear from your HCP and discuss the risks vs. benefits before continuing. It is clear Shauna has had several in-depth conversations with her Women Health Physio to weigh up the risks and benefits.
- Being intuitive and listening to your body you can keep healthy and mobile - reducing the risk of pregnancy related aches and pains. Reducing movement dysfunction and possible pain and stiffness will allow a more comfortable, happier pregnancy. Shauna said herself, pre-pregnancy without climbing she felt stiffness - let alone in pregnancy!
- Consider natural adaptations with the growing bump - adapt what you’re doing to suit your changing body! Your centre of gravity will shift, making stability more difficult and the obvious challenge with seeing your toes will bring obstacles as pregnancy progresses!
- Being happy & healthy through pregnancy is paramount. Shauna cannot be lumped into the same ‘pregnancy’ bracket as every woman, because everyone’s background and pregnancy is different. Your pregnancy is unique to you, as is the amount of exercise you want (or are able) to do.
- The general medical advice in pregnancy is to avoid high risk sports - of which climbing is one. The risk is mainly towards damage to the placenta; which is very much related to the position of the placenta during pregnancy. Another risk of exercise in pregnancy is to avoid is overheating. This is due to the lack of thermoregulation of the baby. This is why jacuzzis are also a big no-no!
Why does Shauna want to continue to do her sport? She is an expert with a greater experience of climbing and lower risk than most of you and I. Along with her HCP, the decision has been carefully considered and verified. It makes her feel happy and keeps her healthy both in body and mind. Happy Mama, happy Baby and that’s all that matters.
Want to read more from Helen? Read: Fitness for Pregnancy, Birth and Postnatal - Mother, Athlete, Personal Trainer.