What is it like to be a pregnant climber? It’s often thought that pregnancy and climbing are incompatible, but a new wave of climbers are showing us otherwise. Climbers like Beth Rodden, Paige Claassen and Shauna Coxsey have chosen to share their experiences as professional pregnant athletes and new parents. Each of their stories is unique, but all of them show us that being pregnant doesn’t have to come at the cost of being an athlete.
This interview with Flashed athlete and new mom, Vikki Weldon, adds another voice to the conversation. In it, Weldon shares a bit about her journey through pregnancy as a climber. Weldon is an ER nurse based out of Squamish, B.C, and an accomplished all-around climber.
Please note that the following interview represents one experience with climbing and pregnancy. It is not intended to replace medical advice. Each person and each pregnancy is different. In order to make safe choices for yourself as a pregnant athlete, you should consult your healthcare professional.
1. As a long-time climber, what were your pre-pregnancy views about being an athlete and becoming pregnant? Did these change after your own pregnancy?
Before getting pregnant, I really had no idea what to expect. Old school views have been that if you have a baby, your athletic career is either over or never be the same again. In the past few years, there have been quite a few professional rock climbers who have gone through their own pregnancy journeys and shared them through social media. That has been really inspiring to see what’s possible, and often these moms have come back just as strong if not stronger than ever. After my own pregnancy, I now know that those views of saying goodbye to your athletic career when you get pregnant are archaic and outdated. I am a mom and I am an athlete, and while these two identities aren’t always compatible in the moment, they are a part of my identity and I will work hard to be excellent at both.
2. What kind of climbing, or other activity, did you pursue through your pregnancy? How did you settle on these activities?
I was really active throughout my whole pregnancy. I went on a surfing trip, and a few climbing trips. I hiked a ton, swam in the ocean and went to perinatal strength classes at my local gym.
The types of climbing I pursued evolved as I progressed through pregnancy. I felt safe and strong enough to boulder through my first trimester and in to my second. Once I started to show, I felt more hesitant to experience the high impact falling of bouldering, so I switched to sport climbing. At around 20 weeks I stopped leading and got into top rope hero mode. As I entered my third trimester, it was summer time in Squamish and I switched solely to following friends and my husband up multi pitches. It always felt like a natural transition when this happened. I went with the flow of how my body felt, and what I was psyched on. Paddling up mellow multi pitches felt so great, and allowed me to climb to 39 weeks. My last multipitch was 1 week before my daughter was born.
3. What does it feel like to climb pre- and post-partum? What differences did you, or have you noticed?
Climbing during pregnancy was a continuously changing journey. I really dialed back on the difficulty of all my climbing and didn’t set any expectations of myself, as I knew this would lead to frustration, and I wanted to enjoy my pregnancy to the fullest while still maintaining my identity as a climber. The biggest thing I noticed was how my core strength completely disappeared as I became more pregnant, and turns out that is pretty important! My center of gravity felt really off especially on steeper climbs.
I have tried to treat my postpartum journey as a healing journey. While I don’t think of giving birth as an injury, it essentially is, and my body has to heal and strengthen over time. I am 4 months postpartum now, and my return to climbing has been really interesting. I got back on rock when my daughter was 4 weeks old. Route climbing felt gentle and kind, bouldering felt harsh and unforgiving. I felt like I moved as a new climber would, without much grace or strength. However now I feel like I have my old flow back, while I am still lacking in a lot of strength. In a way it is refreshing to feel like a beginner again, as each time I climb I see constant improvement in my ability which is a real treat!
3. What was the biggest challenge that you faced as a pregnant climber?
I think the biggest challenge for me was my ego. I had to let a lot go in order to embrace my pregnancy as a climber. I knew that I wouldn’t be sending hard or accomplishing much in terms of grades for quite a while, and that felt like a lot to let go of. Switching from leading to top rope climbing for example was hard for me mentally, as I’m not a huge fan of top roping. However as my daughter grew, I became really comfortable viewing and utilizing climbing as a way to find flow and be active outside. I also felt really lucky that I had a healthy pregnancy and I was still able to be really active.
4. What are you most proud of about your pregnancy as a climber?
I am proud that I was able to maintain a healthy relationship with climbing, my body and my mind. I listened to my body, and did what felt good. I listened to my heart, and did what felt good. I’m proud that I was able to climb right up until 39 weeks, and enjoyed soaking in every moment I was able to be active and moving on rock.
5. Is there anything else you’d like to share with other climbers considering pregnancy and parenthood, or with the climbing community in general about these topics?
My biggest lesson and view that I try to take is that there is no cookie cutter recipe to pregnancy and to being a mom. Do what feels good and what you feel you can do. Not what others seem to think you can do. Now that I’m a mom, life isn’t just about me anymore. There is a beautiful little creature that is entirely dependent on me now, and I can’t just drop everything and climb like I used to. However, this makes the times that I do get out feel really special and sweet. I cherish my climbing time so much more now, and I am so excited for the future.
More Resources & Stories about Pregnant Outdoor Athletes:
Beth Rodden on Pregnancy as a Climber:
Interview w Paige Claassen on Climbing and Pregnancy:
“LOVE”, Paige Claassen documentary on Climbing and Motherhood:
Interview with Carolina Fullerton on Pregnancy and Professional Route-Setting:
Outside article on Pregnancy & Exercise, including links to scholarly research:
Interview with Caroline Washam, Pro Mountain Biker and Mom: