Athlete Profile: Sara Hillman

Sara and I met through our Phoenix affiliate. She has been a member of Back Alley CrossFit since it’s garage days and watched it evolve into the mid-size affiliate it is today. She was one of the first people to make me feel welcome and at home. Since then our friendship has forged and she’s become my CrossFit preggers partner in crime!

Due August 2014, Sara experience a rocky start to her first pregnancy. Luckily, the bleeding stopped after close monitoring and lots of rest. Once she was given the go-ahead, this momma-to-be has been all CrossFit focused!

Her story:

It was August 2012. Belleville, Ill. native Sara HIllman was three months from her wedding in Phoenix, Ariz., and needed something that was going to take her workout routine to the next level. That summer, she had been observing “these CRAZY people running by her house in the Arizona heat, pulling fire hoses and flipping tires.” Needless to say, curiosity got the best of her. She worked up the courage to ask how to join. “Well, technically, I made Aaron (my fiancé at the time) stick a very professional letter with my resume attached in the mailbox politely asking if I could start working out with them.” Classic Sara move.

She was addicted from the beginning. “I have never had workout routine that has been so consistent and natural for me. I grew up a competitive gymnast so some components of CrossFit come easy,” Sara said. “The parts that do not come easy I like the challenge and I like seeing the progress in ability. I know that I perform better with others around me and a coach to hold me accountable.”

Naturally, she looked fab for her wedding:

Sara's wedding day

Sara’s wedding day
©2012 Chadwick Fowler

Fast forward a few years and Sara and Aaron are excited to welcome their first baby. CrossFitting during her pregnancy has helped her maintain her sanity. Almost 20 weeks in and finally in her second trimester, she meets monthly with a nutritionist, thanks to a program at work. During the last year, Sara was able to establish a pre-pregnancy baseline for her body composition. At this point in her pregnancy she has gained 9 lbs and five of those are lean muscle mass.

Hillmans announce their expected babe in Key West

Hillmans announce their expected babe in Key West

In addition to proven results on the scale, Sara has continued to pr, she’s participating in The Open, and she receives tremendous support from Aaron, her coworkers and fellow CrossFitters. When she feels discouraged or overwhelmed, “…all I have to do is look around me for inspiration and reminders of how blessed and privileged I am.”

Hubby Aaron watches as Sara competes in 14.1.

Hubby Aaron watches as Sara competes in 14.1.

She chuckles when she thinks of some older women coworkers who insist she shouldn’t lift a box recommend she lighten her purse + work bag. “I think in the back of my mind…. If you only knew what I do at CrossFit.”

“NEWS FLASH: I am not the first person to have a baby. Our grandparents and parents did this before the Internet and self-help books,” said Sara. “A woman I work with was one of 15 kids raised on a farm in rural Minnesota. I  think about what her mother went through raising children without all of today’s conveniences and I am truly inspired by her heartiness. Every person here on earth had a pregnant mother and I think if they can do it, I can do it.”

Right on, Sara. Right on!



More on Sara:

Other exercise practices: Yoga, Pilates, running

My goal in CrossFitting while pregnant is: My goal is to keep my sanity, keep my muscles, and not become as big as a house! Most importantly I hope that I am creating an environment for me and my baby that will results in a healthier pregnancy, an easier delivery, a speedy postpartum recovery, and a baby that loves to exercise. There are numerous benefits to early motor development for children and active lifestyles, my goal is to create that for my baby. I used to teach a mommy and me gymnastic class for babies ranging from six weeks to three months.

Finding CrossFit and Back Alley has allowed me to stay committed to my goals and to an exercise routine while thoroughly enjoying the people and the shenanigans that go on at the gym. I have gone through phases when I lived more of a sedentary lifestyle. I hope to never go back to that. When my alarm goes off in the morning I have that internal battle … ‘you are pregnant you need to sleep but then I remind myself that I don’t know what the future will bring, how I will feel, how my baby will be doing so I drag myself out of bed.’

Early morn split jerks are good for the soul

Early morn split jerks are good for the soul

What exercise advice did your doctor provide you? Did you follow it?: I had an inconvenient first trimester. Nothing crazy or scary just a reminder that I cannot control everything. I was not getting to the box and my diet was anything that had carbs and cheese. My doctor has said a few things that has helped keep things in perspective: “Honey, you are pregnant during flu season there will be vomit.,” and “Sometimes it does not matter how much we are working out it’s our diet that will determine our results.” These tips have stuck with me.

I work with three Family Medicine Doctors at the University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix. They know more about me and my CrossFit lifestyle than my OB would ever know. They have truly supported me and encouraged me to continue CrossFitting while pregnant. They are constantly asking me for updates and checking in on my progress in pregnancy and at CrossFit. The best part is they have all worked very closely with my OB office through residency or their own pregnancies. The attention and advice they have given me is priceless.

Don't drink the water at Back Alley CrossFit!

Don’t drink the water at Back Alley CrossFit!

CrossFit and pregnant, where do you find inspiration?: YOU [CrossFit and Pregnant’s Meghan Leatherman].I cannot imagine trying to navigate through all of this without you forging the path before me in the box.

I also really don’t know what CrossFitting while pregnant would be like without Coach Melissa. She helps me modify as need be and at the same time she does not let me off the hook easy. She has a true talent for coaching with compassion and heart. Sometimes I think she knows my limits more than I do.

Setting 14.1 strategy with Coach Melissa

Setting 14.1 strategy with Coach Melissa

14.1 in action with Melissa and Aaron cheering and coaching her on.

14.1 in action with Melissa and Aaron cheering and coaching her on.

Since doing CrossFit while pregnant, I’ve learned I am learning: The human body is truly amazing. It is such a blessing to be pregnant, healthy, and able to continue working out in a way that brings me such emotional and physically satisfaction. I am learning that my body is going to change and my never be the same but that will be OK because I will be a mother and I will continue to CrossFit when I feel good.

Nice deadlift!

Nice deadlift!

Biggest CrossFit and pregnant challenge I’ve faced: To quit comparing myself to others. Every person is different, every pregnancy is different, and every workout is different. I am currently in last place in amongst Back Alley for The Open. It is hard to be OK with that.

Sara working hard early in her preg

Sara working hard early in her pregnancy

Do you follow a particular eating lifestyle?: Clean with a side of carbs and cheese. I have always preferred a more natural/ organic approach to eating. I grew up in the Midwest with a huge garden and a father that killed most of our dinner options. We had elk for dinner the other night and I have been searching for a butcher that sells game ever since. You can taste the difference in real food especially when you can pronounce all of the ingredients.

Best CrossFit and pregnant tip or secret you’ve discovered: My boss told me, “If you feel good, your baby feels good.” It seems so simple, but so perfect. There are so many warnings; don’t let your heart rate go over 140, don’t squat below 90 degrees, lifting your arms above your head will cause a miscarriage, don’t eat turkey, etc., but all that matters is that I am listening to my body and I (we) feel good.

Favorite quote: This one is from my wonderful Aunt Debbie…


No child of mine, I used to cry

Before the stork had fluttered by,

Will ever throw a temper fit,

Or bite or scratch or whine or hit.

Or wear a diaper ‘til he’s three,

Or sit for hours and watch TV.

Or dawdle so he makes me late,

Or leave his spinach on the plate.

Or act, in short, like other kids,

Who’ve made their parents flip their lids.

But, with the patter of baby feet

Are forty million words to eat.

-Betty Billup

 Favorite girl WOD: Fran

Three words that describe me: Animated, Loyal, Devoted

When I’m not in the box, you can find me: Probably doing a home renovation project.

Don't get in this momma-to-be's way!

Don’t get in this momma-to-be’s way!

One thought on “Athlete Profile: Sara Hillman

  1. Post Partum: Weeks 12 and 13 – CrossFit & Pregnant

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