The former Utah State basketball player’s quick return to training worked. Six months after giving birth, Richards-Lindsay finished the Open tied for 2nd in the South West and 34th in the worldwide standings. Six weeks later, Richards-Lindsay won the South West Regional. Six weeks after that—at nine months post-birth and still breastfeeding—Taylor took 27th place at the Games.
Training During Pregnancy
By remaining active throughout her pregnancy, Richards-Lindsay didn’t have to go from zero to 60 in the few months between birth and the Open.
“I actually loved to workout during my pregnancy and even hit a few PRs in the first five to six months,” Richards-Lindsay says.
She placed 3rd in the 2010 Utah Sectional—finishing one point behind Miranda Oldroyd—at three months pregnant, set a 3:39 “Fran” at four and a half months pregnant, made a 39-inch box jump at six-and-a-half months pregnant, and even ran a few 5Ks.
“I kept it pretty simple,” Richards-Lindsay says about her training during pregnancy, “If I felt good I worked out, if I felt strong I lifted prescribed weight, and if it felt uncomfortable I backed off.”
Training After Birth
Finding the right boundaries for postpartum training was more difficult. “I probably returned to CrossFit a little too quickly after giving birth,” Richards-Lindsay admits about her return to training two-and-a-half weeks after giving birth.
“I tried a few push-ups, squats, and plank holds the week I returned from the hospital. I decided that it felt pretty good and knew that my ultimate goal of making it to the Games was only possible if I got started right away,” Richards-Lindsay says.
Finding the Limits
Although her workouts were “scaled and modified” to her comfort level, Richards-Lindsay explains that even those light workouts may have demanded too much from her still-healing body.
“I simply underestimated how much healing really needed to take place … I had diastasis recti [during pregnancy] and it still isn’t healed to this day because I didn’t give my abdominals a chance to heal and come back together,” Richards-Lindsay says.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominus muscle, which covers the front surface of the belly area.” It is common in newborns and pregnant women, and usually heals in the months following birth.
“I needed to give my pelvis, hips, abdominals, and back some time to strengthen and adjust after something as taxing as nine months of carrying a child and 24 hours of labor,” Richards-Lindsay reflects. “I had lied to my doctor on my six week check up, saying that I hadn’t been exercising yet. Obviously if there’s a timeframe set, there’s a reason.”
Throughout her post-birth training, being a “good mommy” was always her priority. “Sometimes I just didn’t want to leave her, so if I got three workouts a week, oh well,” Richards-Lindsay says.
Testing Her Body
In January, she decided to see how far she’d come in a little over a month of training. To test out her body, she signed up for a local team competition at Wasatch CrossFit.
There, she found that while she was, “a little slow, lacked explosiveness and endurance” her “strength was really starting to come back.”
From then on she was focused on the Open. “I was finally starting to really see the potential in my training program,” says Richards-Lindsay.
Two weeks into the Open, she tried adding a second component to her training: diet.
“I entered my first 30-day Paleo Challenge on April 3 and didn’t cheat once! I felt great,” Richards-Lindsay says.
Although she was “very motivated to keep up the lifestyle” she was “unable to balance preparing Paleo meals and take care of my very active baby for very long,” Richards-Lindsay says.
Her staple meal at the 2011 South West Regional? A Smashburger sans bun and sweet potato fries. Think what you may, it worked. She won.
Richards-Lindsay returned to Paleo for the weeks leading up to the Games, and stayed clean throughout the Games weekend.
“I knew that if I wanted to maximize energy, performance and recovery, Paleo was the only option,” Richards-Lindsay says, “Eating Paleo is the best for a breastfeeding mother—who is also competing—because you give great nutrition to your child and may still even have enough fuel left over for yourself.”
Although she says dialysis recti hasn’t hurt her physically, it did affect her self-confidence at the Games. As many of the athletes took off their jerseys, Richards-Lindsay kept hers on.
“I still have an outie belly button and pot belly. This actually made me very shy about revealing my stomach during workouts in the hot L.A. sun,” Richards-Lindsay says. “It was so weird to think that I was on the world’s stage performing amongst the greats in CrossFit and sometimes exposing my not-so-ripped abs made me second-guess myself.”
Physically Here, Mentally Elsewhere
She had to deal with many less-than-typical concerns during the Games. Her mother and husband traveled out to Carson, Calif., to watch Aleeyah as she competed, but her daughter stayed constantly in her thoughts.
“I was worried about Aleeyah being out in the hot sun all day, how was she going to nap? Does she have enough sunblock? Did I pack all her favorite toys, blankets, and treats? How was I going to get any rest with her in my bed? Is she gonna miss me? What if my milk supply gets too full? What if she cries for me in the middle of an event?”
Finding times to breastfeed her daughter between events was a challenge. On the first day of the Games, Richards-Lindsay woke up at 4:30 in the morning, packed her bags in the dark, and left her family behind in the hotel. She didn’t know that her next real break from the competition wouldn’t come until 9:30 that night.
“The longest I had ever been away from her was five hours, long enough to coach my classes at Ute CrossFit. I am her food source, she still nurses every few hours …” Richards-Lindsay says.
By midway through the day, Richards-Lindsay was having “major anxiety” about being away from her daughter. She decided she couldn’t wait to see her until after the last event of the day, so she left the Home Depot Center during rush-hour traffic to meet Aleeyah at the hotel.
“We were supposed to hang around, but I had to go. It took nearly 30 minutes to get to the hotel; I stayed a measly 30 minutes, and then headed back to the venue. Luckily all Aleeyah needed and wanted was a little mamma TLC.”
On her way back, she got an urgent text from Tommy Hackenbruck saying that she had to be there in 20 minutes. He gave her the details of the day's final event, and she made it back in just enough time to compete. She took 29th place in the Rope/Clean, tying Jasmine Dever.
Finding Peace in Distraction
Throughout the weekend, Richards-Lindsay managed to balance her responsibilities as a mom and competitor with a calm grace. Her secret?
“When I played basketball at Utah State University I always got nervous before each game, even when I was a senior,” Richards-Lindsay says, “I learned the best way to handle it was to actually ‘fake it to make it.’ I would act pretty calm and almost nonchalant about the competition that was about to take place. I always did better when I stayed loose.”
She took the same approach to the Games. Yet this time, rather than listening to music or goofing around with her friends to get loose before competing, Richards-Lindsay nursed or took care of her daughter.
“She pretty much works as a distraction from the seriousness,” Richards-Lindsay says.
Like that, Richards-Lindsay changed her reality into a competition strategy.
Over the course of the weekend, Richards-Lindsay took 26th in the Beach Event, and tied for 18th in Skills 1, 29th in the Rope/Clean, 21st in the Triplet Sprint, 15th in Skills 2, and 29th in the Killer Kage. Her best finish: 12th place on the snatch with a successful 125-pound lift, and the softball throw with a distance of 127’2”. She took 27th place overall.
She believes she can climb the rankings in 2012.
“I am very excited to say that although I was able to get into pretty great shape in a short amount of time and place smack dab in the middle of the pack, I am 100 percent positive there is more of me to see in 2012!”
I really just wanted to add that I am so thankful for the great support I got through this whole experience. Mainly from my husband and mother who "tag teamed" lil' Aleeyah and made it possible for me to give this competition a shot. I knew that it was sometimes hard for them because they didn't always get to watch me, but they knew that if I had piece of mind about how she was doing, I would compete that much better. My husband would come down as my coach and try and calm my nerves as I would warm up and prepare for the next WOD. Then my mom would bring my baby down to visit, nurse, and support me while Joe Lindsay, my husband, would take Aleeyah to some much-needed shade and await my event.
It was so inspirational to see all of the support that I got from the CrossFit community and even competitors during the challenging weekend as well. I was so glad to see pregnant and/or mothers that were still submerged into CrossFit. Having a child just months before beginning my ever so optimistic journey to the Games made me realize that anything is possible! Aleeyah was truly my main priority and inspiration through the whole thing, plus I knew I had to represent for all those other mothers who were trying to balance motherhood and CrossFit.
Last thing ... I really want to thank my box Ute CrossFit! I feel like I have had a home team cheering squad since they day I started training. Also to my fellow trainers and owners Bobbie and Tommy Hackenbruck, without them I wouldn't have believed it possible, made it through tough workouts, or competed like I did to get back, so thank you guys. Thanks for great programming and coaching! To Tommy, thanks for letting me tag along with you, right at your heels, at the Games. I got to learn from a true CrossFit vet.