When I first came across Kelsea's Instagram, I was so impressed by her strength... especially because she was pregnant! I am a firm believer in continuing to train, even while pregnant. But Kelsea got just as many judgmental trolling comments as she did positive and I realized that there is little information about what to do if you're a pregnant powerlifter. So since I'm not yet a mom, I asked Kelsea to share her experience. Please remember that your choices are yours and you should aways consult your doctor if you are pregnant.
Introduce yourself to the GWPL Community.
My name is Kelsea Koenreich, I own Team Proscience and Sarasota Barbell with my husband Eric. I am an NGA Figure pro as well as a USAPL powerlifter but most importantly a new mom to my little boy, Cameron, who was born in June! I live in Sarasota, Florida but I am originally from Texas.
How long have you been powerlifting?
I have been competing in powerlifting since 2012 and in natural figure since 2013, I won my pro card in my first season and it’s always been a mission of mine to spread my love of powerlifting to the bodybuilding world. It sounds funny to say but back in 2012 there weren’t many females who were doing both, it’s come a long way! My journey began in a gym bouncing from machine to machine and always ending up on the treadmill, until I met Eric, he introduced me to powerlifting and I fell in love instantly. I never played any sports and I am VERY uncoordinated so the lifts were a big challenge for me to learn but the progress of getting stronger really sucked me in. I actually started my journey in 2011, I decided it was time to go to the gym after becoming very overweight and going through a big mental and emotional change in my life. I lost 50lbs and was being asked by many people around me what I was doing and that is when I decided I wanted to become a personal trainer. I paid my dues training people at a commercial gym before I started my online coaching business, Team ProScience, in 2012. I started coaching because I truly believe it’s what I was meant to do, as the years have gone on I have found myself learning and growing along with my girls and it’s just incredible. The more women I work with the more thankful I am for the opportunity to do what I do, it’s not about just assigning macros and workouts to me, it’s about building a relationship.
When you found out you were pregnant, what was the conversation like with your physician, regarding training?
When I went to my first appointment I was 9 weeks pregnant and had continued lifting since I found out that I was pregnant (at 5 weeks) I simply told my Doctor that I own a powerlifting gym and would continue lifting, her response was “That’s great! Just don’t hurt your back.” My doctor is a younger (30’s) female who was actually pregnant at the time with her first baby, she is also very in shape! Every appointment that I went in my weight gain was on track, all of my tests were normal and I felt great throughout my pregnancy so there was nothing that needed to be changed! I was complimented by her and the nurses multiple times on my efforts to stay in good health for myself and my baby. She understood that it was something that I had been doing for a long time prior to pregnancy, so there wasn’t an issue.
What was the main difference in your training, while you were pregnant?
The main difference in my training was training for overall health for myself and baby instead of training to get stronger. I have always trained to compete or for strength so just showing up to move my body was tough some days and there were a lot of days I didn’t feel like going but I trained 4-6x/week while I was pregnant. There was always that feeling of “what’s the point” because I knew I wasn’t going to progress in my lifts but I would easily snap out of that when I remembered that I needed to be a good example for my boy, my clients, and myself!
You did not hide the fact you were training while pregnant, despite some pretty cruel and ugly judgment. Why did you keep posting your videos, pics, etc?
Ah, this is a great question. Before I got pregnant I was doing my research on training and pregnancy and to be honest there just wasn’t much out there. Instagram is great because you can easily search a hashtag and see a bunch of posts so I searched a bunch having to do with pregnancy and powerlifting and found a few girls (in other countries) to follow. I also followed Vanessa Gale from Pretty Strong Powerlifting who is a friend of mine that trained throughout her pregnancy and had a healthy, beautiful baby girl! Basically, there just wasn’t any solid information, so I decided that I would share my journey - good and bad. I didn’t expect people to be so mean and hateful, but they were and it never made me want to stop because I got such an amazing amount of positive responses that it made it worth it. I think that people make mean and hateful comments about something like this out of ignorance, they simply don’t know any better - or that’s what I am telling myself since I don’t want to believe there are that many assholes in this world. Ha! I knew that this was my opportunity to help people, to put something out there publicly to show women that it’s okay, that you should continue lifting for your physical and mental health if that’s what you’ve been doing. Like I said, the positives outweighed the negatives for me when I would see people commenting that they didn’t even know you could keep lifting! I kept posting simply because I knew it was my chance to make a difference, to introduce a change.
How did it change, once you had baby Cameron? Does powerlifting affect breast feeding?
Your whole world changes when you have a baby, your priorities completely shift. I think training during my pregnancy was part of the reason I recovered so quickly, that and I was active postpartum. I was walking on a treadmill 3 days after he was born and back in the gym a week later. I am not suggesting this for anyone, though, it’s really dependent on your labor and delivery. I returned to upper body training 1 week postpartum and lower body almost 4 weeks postpartum. Powerlifting doesn’t affect breastfeeding, Cameron is still breastfed. Activity will not affect milk production in most cases, you just need to make sure you are eating enough calories!
What advice do you have for women who have are newly pregnant and are unsure how to proceed with their training?
My advice for newly pregnant women is to keep doing what you are doing! I would suggest switching to RPE-based training because every day will be a bit different, some days you might feel great and some days you might just need to get in and get out. There were days I was squatting two plates at 25+ weeks pregnant, and days where I was just squatting the bar for sets of 10. The biggest thing I suggest is really working on your mindset, it can be really hard to make a shift from training to get stronger to training to maintain and continuing to go knowing that you are going to lose some strength. Remember that little human is your priority now!
How old is Cameron now, and how is he developing?
Oh Cameron, my favorite thing to talk about! He was 7 months on January 3rd and he is absolutely incredible. He is very smart and very strong! He crawls, pulls himself up, stands, claps, sings, giggles, and seems to be ahead of the curve in all areas! He is my favorite little human and I feel blessed every day to be his mom.
Do you have plans to continue powerlifting competitively?
I most definitely will be on the platform again! I’ve been dealing with some nagging issues so powerlifting took a back seat and I’ve been focused more on the bodybuilding side of things but I will transition back into training for strength as time goes on, to be honest, I am not in a rush - I am just enjoying being a mom. I am still training 5x/week though, benching 4x and just now starting to squat and deadlift again.
Do you think Cameron will be a powerlifter when he gets a older?
I’m not sure what Cameron will be, it sounds cheesy but as long as he is happy and he loves himself I don’t care what he is. I want him to be strong, mentally and physically but more than anything I want him to be a good human. I imagine with him growing up at our gym he will be lifting weights early though, and I am sure everyone on IG will have something to say about that too. We do call him the future sub-junior world champ though, no pressure Cam.