"The first few weeks back to working out suck. You feel weak and winded - well you should. You just delivered a freaking baby. However, you have that muscle memory and it will come back, but the key is to stay with it."
Jessica Core, 27, of Vancouver, Wash., has a message for female CrossFitters who want to get to the gym post-pregnancy.
“The first few weeks back to working out suck,” says Core, who has been killing workouts since 2009. “You feel weak and winded – well, you should. You just delivered a freaking baby. However, you have that muscle memory and it will come back, but the key is to stay with it.”
Core is doing just that following the birth of her boy Vedder on July 12, 2011. Despite having a C-section that forced her to take a six-week break from the gym, the CrossFit Fort Vancouver trainer and 2010 Affiliate Cup Championship winner is back to help propel her team into the Games spotlight again.
But whipping herself back to her pre-pregnancy fitness level hasn’t been easy.
“My goal all along was to get back into the shape that I needed to earn a spot on the 2012 team,” says Core, who also graduated from nursing school with honors and earned her registered nurse license in 2011. “The other team members had been training and making gains while I was pregnant, so I had some major ground to cover.”
She had her moments of doubt.
“When I first came back, it was tough, emotionally, working out with the other women who were crushing WODs,” she says. “It was like my brain was there but my body wasn’t. I had moments in the beginning when I went home and felt sorry for myself and wondered if it was really going to happen.”
But her workout partner and husband of six years, Chad, snapped her out of it.
“He told me to change my attitude,” she says. “So I thought, OK, it’s time to change to the Charles Barkley mentality: You have to think you are better than everybody else (even if you are not) because everybody has trained hard physically and we all get tired at some point and I’ve got to tap into that mental toughness that says, ‘I got something left and they don't.’”
That’s when her hardcore, competitive drive kicked in – and Vedder’s Pack and Play setup came in handy.
“At the beginning, I had to throw myself in with the sharks,” she says, recalling the first workout after her six-week post-partum break – burpees and sprints – left her with what felt like the “world’s worst hangover. But I worked hard, brought my baby with me to the gym, and stayed determined. Now I am back up there with the rest of the team and giving them the push right back.”
“Push,” indeed. To get herself back into competitive shape, Core jumped right in and retested her new max back squat and front squat to begin the 12-week Hatch Squat Program. Knowing there was no time to workout casually if she was to be ready for the Open, she hit the gym five days a week.
“I reassured my coach Adam Neiffer that I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be to be competitive, but I would get there,” Core says. “He wasn’t worried and had strong belief in me.”
Three weeks later, Core was starting to feel like her herself again – and her journey toward earning a spot on the affiliate team got easier and easier.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I felt my skill and strength would come back quick,” she says, adding that she’s paying more attention to technique and skill work and being smarter about training instead of muscling through everything.
“At four months post-partum, I was back to my all-time clean PR of 165 and ‘Fran’ 3:39,” Core says. “And now at seven-and-a-half months post-partum, I have PR’d all my lifts except the deadlift. Pregnancy really does something to a woman’s deadlift.”
To prepare for the Affiliate Cup, the CrossFit Fort Vancouver team has divided their training focus into sections, Core says. The first few months, they worked the Hatch Squat program; the second few months, they drilled Olympic lifts; and in the spring, they’re tackling metabolic endurance.
“Our strategy is to stay on weaknesses, train variety, get stronger and be more proficient,” Core says. “A common question with our team is, ‘How many missed reps did you have in that WOD?’ A movement such as wall balls should not have missed reps. It can make a huge difference in your finish if you have no missed reps, but someone else has five.”
Core’s driving force for herself and her team is to reject mediocrity and strive – again – for the top spot in the Affiliate Cup race.
“It is challenging, rewarding, and has fulfilled my life with great friends, memories and nonstop goals,” she says. “And training with a team that is all on the same page to win is inspiring.”
Here are some of Jessica Core’s post-pregnancy achievements to date:
OH Squat: 170 pounds
Snatch: 130 pounds
Back squat: 225 pounds
Front squat: 200 pounds
Clean: 175 pounds
Shoulder Press: 125 pounds
Fran 3:39 (4 months post partum)
Open Workout 12.1: 120 burpees
Open Workout 12.2: 88 reps