Wondering whether to keep climbing while pregnant? One woman shares her experience

There’s conflicting advice on what activities to do when pregnant, we wanted to share a unique insight into climbing enthusiast Claire Grossmith‘s recent pregnancy.

This is being written for fellow women climbers who are either pregnant or are thinking ahead.

I’m mum to three beautiful daughters (Sophia age 6, Rachael age 7 and Holly age 11) and run my own business. The girls and I enjoy being active and all take part in a variety of hobbies and sports. A few of mine include running, softball, climbing, motorbikes, working out etc. Luckily my girls are keen climbers, enjoy running and are also only too happy to tag along at softball. Being able to do these activities together is invaluable.

Concern arose about how much time I would need to take off before and after the birth and my ability to maintain an active lifestyle with the girls throughout the pregnancy. I figured maintaining a good base level of fitness would help me cope with the pregnancy better and make for a quicker recovery.

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I decided not to continue running due to the added impact of extra weight and the gravity shift on previous ankle injuries. Softball and motorbikes were a no-go due to risks beyond my control. I therefore started looking on-line for information about what level of activity I could/should maintain regarding working out and climbing. There was quite a lot of advice and personal experiences available from women who had continued to work-out.  A lot of the information was fairly common sense, but I did manage to glean a few useful pieces of information from the experiences I read.

With regards to climbing it was soon apparent that although there were various conflicting  pieces of advice and views with regards to climbing, there was actually very little by way of documented experiences of women who had actually climbed during their pregnancy (something which would have been useful at this point).

There were many occasions where I felt tired and rough, and I considered missing a session, however my enthusiasm to maintain a level of fitness succeeded the desire to give in and skip a session

After careful consideration I decided to continue with workouts at home and climb for as long as I was comfortable to do so. I figured that so long as I stayed below my limits, stuck to seconding/top-roping, reined in on overhangs as the pregnancy progressed, and if i got to a move which would involve putting strain on my abdominal muscles then to either climb past the move or to withdraw entirely.

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As my bump grew, the variety of climbing styles/moves and options naturally became more and more limited. The incline of the routes soon became slabs or vertical exclusively, and trad climbs (seconding) stopped completely around month 7 with my last outdoor sports climb being month 8 (this was well below my pre-pregnancy ability…still it was nice to get out).

There were days where I felt tired and not remotely in the mood for doing any sort of unnecessary physical exertion. Initially I considered missing a session, however my determination to maintain an on-going good level of fitness over-rode the desire to give in and go home. I soon realised that by persevering, I’d feel better as my climbing session progressed. After each session where id been feeling “rubbish and somewhat immobile” pre-climb, I felt energised, flexible and in good spirits post-climb; there was never an occasion where I had regretted my decision to climb.

I probably am a little mad, and I’ve never been great at taking it easy. I can’t imagine I’m going to start breaking a habit of a lifetime now

I had lots of comments from friends, family and on-lookers regarding my decision to continue climbing. There were two in particular which I heard frequently “you’re mad”, “I can’t believe you’re still climbing”, “you should be taking it easy” and “how much longer do you intend climbing for?”. To be honest, the first comment may have some truth in it, I probably am a little mad, and I’ve never been great at taking it easy.

I can’t imagine I’m going to start breaking a habit of a lifetime now. The second comment was easy to respond to, “I’ll climb for as long as I feel I can”. It turns out I was able to climb for the duration (1-2 times a week), up until a week before my adorable little Isabella decided to make an appearance (I would have been down at the wall that day otherwise).

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Isabella was born at term, and was a healthy 7.11lb. There were no complications, and no additional assistance/pain relief was used (gas & air aside).

6 days after my little Izzy joined the world, I felt pretty good (sleep aside), and was looking forward to heading down to my local wall the following day for a light session.

Day 7 was my first day back climbing. The session went well and my new lighter self found climbing far easier than I had a fortnight ago. I felt strong and ready to resume an active and healthy regime (I am pretty happy with my post-birth figure too all things considered). Climbing will continue as normal, twice a week.

Day 12, Sophia and I went for our first run in months, this went surprisingly well!

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I feel lucky to have the benefit of being able to compare this pregnancy and fitness regime with my previous pregnancies and fitness regimes (I wasn’t climbing back then and my workouts were fairly low-key). Although I didn’t put extra weight on with any of my pregnancies (the additional weight I was carrying was purely baby), this time around I was far more mobile, both late in pregnancy and within a few days after the birth. Although I am of course lacking in the sleep department, I feel far stronger physically than with previous pregnancies.

My abdominal muscles were almost non-existent post pregnancy with my other girls and it took me a year to get back to where I had been pre-pregnancy. This time, somewhere beneath the bit of swelling that is left, I can definitely feel some muscle (plus my thighs have retained (and i suspect increased in) strength and tone from hauling my expanding and increasingly heavier self up a wall twice a week. All in all keeping active and continuing to climb has been a great decision for me and as a result great for my family as it has allowed me to maintain pretty much the same levels of activity with both my girls and my business throughout.


I would like to say a special thank you to my climbing partner. He has been a master of patience throughout and has not grumbled about my increasing inability at the wall and my reliance on him to lead every route, which although is great fun, can be quite taxing. There were also off days of gigantic proportions, however having an enthusiastic climbing partner to cheer me on and keep spirits up has been invaluable. I of course wouldn’t have been able to climb regularly and consistently without him.

I am still wearing ZAAZEE now post pregnancy and they look as good as they did 9 months ago

Lastly, I would like to make a special mention to Deborah Todd, founder of ZAAZEE clothing. I am very particular with the contents of my wardrobe, and when it comes to sports clothing I require it to be fit for the job, durable, comfortable and to look bloody good. My ZAAZEE capris, (I own both the ZARA and the ESZTER) were comfortable throughout the duration of my pregnancy, lasting the course and beyond. I am still wearing them now post pregnancy and they look as good as they did 9 months ago (these were the only capris out of a considerable number which I own where I was able to continue wearing them throughout).

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