You have probably seen super mom Nicole Aiken-Shaban around the gym at Federal Hill. She joined our family in 2017 after moving from Philly and entrenched herself in the gym and community from the start. Nicole’s story is slightly unique because the majority of the time she has been with us has been spent growing a human! She is a role model for us here in the gym as well as the picture of strength, dedication, and commitment to her new son, Zayne.
Nicole started CrossFit in Philly “as a way to get back into fitness after several years of (ineffectively) using apartment building gyms. By the time I got pregnant, I was doing local CrossFit competitions for fun every couple months and making it to the regular classes 5 times a week. About half a year before I got a pregnant, I started seeing a gymnastics coach for one-on-one work in an effort to get ring muscle ups, which I accomplished before getting pregnant. My goals were to increase proficiency at the rings, finally learn kipping ring dips and butterfly pull-ups, and to handstand walk. So, all the fun stuff! Generally, I ate pretty well and would swing between counting macros strictly and tracking only protein closely. I’m a senior associate at a large law firm, so making time for meal prep and the gym can be a challenge at times. ”
After learning she was pregnant she knew that keeping in shape and safely continuing her fitness routine was the best path for her. “I knew I had a limited time to continue to do the same movements and weights that I was used to using. I began researching working out while pregnant, including reading the CrossFit Trainer’s Guide for pregnancy to understand potential modifications. As I approached the second trimester, I began implementing those modifications and continued to add new ones as time went on. My goal became to keep moving at the intensity my body would allow, while doing so in a deliberate fashion to try to reduce the post-partum diastasis as much as I could and to increase the likelihood of having a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth process. I knew that exercise during pregnancy helped to reduce the risk of several issues, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, and it was important to me to continue to have some community and a physical outlet through the pregnancy.”
Now that Zayne is with us she has started the recovery process and is back in the gym regularly with classes and our Diapers and Dumbbells program! “Honestly, the transition from working out while pregnant to post-partum has been more challenging than I expected. I wanted to start picking up the barbell and getting back into gymnastics movements right away because I had been carefully scaling them for the past 7 months. But I was humbled to find my body needed more recovery than I expected, and that I would need to relearn some movements and retrain my core to function properly. I started back at two weeks post-partum with very simple core and pelvic floor rehab work combined with some basic cardio. It was a challenge, but I made sure to get to the gym when I had help at home in order to stick to that plan and “put in the work.” Simple can be effective. About 5 weeks post-partum, I joined a few Drive classes and at 7 to 8 weeks post-partum, I started regular CrossFit classes again. I’m still scaling where needed, especially with core work, but the little accomplishments (did my first pistols in 8 months the other day!) keep me motivated to keep coming back.”
Finally I asked her if she had any advice for any new moms or anybody considering motherhood out in our community or elsewhere. “If your health and physician allow it, keep coming to the gym. CrossFit is infinitely scalable. While your intensity may decrease over the pregnancy, and you will need to scale some movements and weights to maintain better function long-term, exercise is important for your health, your baby’s health, and your ability to stay mentally together post-partum. Remember that this is a time to be healthy and safe, and not to PR, and think long-term function over short-term gains. If you have questions about what and when to scale certain movements, especially anything with core crunches (sit ups, T2B, etc.), ask your coaches or someone at the gym who has been down that path before. And if your schedule allows, try the new Diapers and Dumbbells class at the gym – you’ll meet a great community of mothers and will learn about safe and effective core and pelvic floor exercises you can do while pregnant and afterward to retain function. If you don’t have time to make the class, there are some other programs out there – I started with Street Parking’s program before the class started – that you should explore.”
If you see her around the gym give her a high five and keep a look out for baby Zanye. There is no doubt he will be in here before we can blink starting to string together butterfly pullups and heavy snatches!