Athlete Profile: Julie Shepard

RedTail CrossFit in Prescott, Ariz., is home to Julie Shephard, another #crossfitandpregnant rock star. Sweet Julie delivered her second baby in October and I was remiss in writing this profile on her in a timely fashion!

View More: http://molliecostleyphotography.pass.us/babyboyshepherd

Momma to Charlotte and now, sweet Joseph, and wife to Steven, she has been CrossFitting at RedTail for three years. During that time, Julie has endured some difficult pregnancies and a knee surgery. Her CrossFit career started thanks to good old family peer pressure – and with the support of her husband – nothing better than family to get you to focus on health! Because of some of her struggles to get pregnant, Julie didn’t CrossFit during her pregnancy with Charlotte, but she and Steven are proud of her ability this go-around. So are we!

Julie’s story really is remarkable – and she’s quite open with her struggles. She is another shining example of why I continue this blog (even with a long writing hiatus!). Thank you loyal followers for continue to support me and all the #crossfitandpregnant mommas out there!

shepherd party of 4

Julie’s story:

What does your spouse/partner think of you CrossFitting during pregnancy? My husband, Steven, is a CrossFitter too and thinks it is awesome.  He actually texted me out of nowhere while he was at work to tell me how proud of me he is for still going consistently and for doing so well. {What a guy!!}

How did you find crossfitandpregnant.com?  I actually googled “CrossFit and pregnancy” because I had read an article on Facebook about a woman pregnant with twins. She posted a picture of her lifting a barbell weighing 65# and was getting TONS of criticism for it.  I was thought, “what?? I just back squatted 115# that day!” So I was curious if there was any information out there for me.  And also, at the time, my little guy had a growth spurt and I was really starting to feel ‘pregnant’.

Why I started CrossFit:  I started CrossFit, well, mainly out of peer ‘family’ pressure. Both my sisters and one of my brothers had started when our first box opened in Prescott. I had just been running A LOT…five miles a day, five days a week.  I was put off wanting to start because I had it in my mind that I just needed cardio.

I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and suffer with hypothyroidism, which is why I had a hard time getting pregnant the first time. I ended up having my thyroid removed in 2007 because I had a nodule the size of a golf ball growing on it. Up until then, I had always been super thin and always physically minded.  But once that darn thyroid was removed, weight gain came, along with other crappy symptoms.  Losing weight and having hypothyroidism is like trying to breathe under water.  So I ran.  I ran a lot.

After recovering from a breast reduction in 2012, which was a medical necessity for my spine, I finally gave in to CrossFit…and fell in love.  Shortly after starting CrossFit, I had a really bad accident climbing the military wall. My right knee snapped in half when I went to step up to the wall. I ended up with a torn meniscus, completely torn ACL and a partially torn MCL and a fractured femur. Needless to say, I was out of commission for a long while, June to November 2012.  It was during that time that my husband and I began trying for a baby.

Flash forward to March of 2013, I got pregnant! I quit CrossFit because of fear for losing the baby.  My mother and sister both struggled with infertility and I was just plain scared. After Charlotte was born in December 2013, I went back to CrossFit in March of 2014 and have not stopped since.  I have not been able to perform 100% since then, I have also suffered with a bulging disc in my lumbar vertebrae due to the terrible positioning of Charlotte in my belly (I had a c-section, her shoulder was stuck under my rib).  But that didn’t stop me.  I did what I could.  When I finally found a doctor who could help, I had an MRI and began spinal decompression. He told me that if it weren’t for my ‘huge’ para-spinal muscles (that I got from CrossFit) holding my spine in place, the disc would have ruptured.

My goal in CrossFitting while pregnant is:  This is a big one! I did not CrossFit while pregnant with Charlotte out of fear.  But this pregnancy came all by itself…well with the help of my husband…after only one month of trying.  No medication, no nothing.  So, this time I wasn’t scared.

With Charlotte, I gained 30#, most of which came in the last month and was all water.  After two weeks of having her, I was back down to my normal 150#.  So I got a little ‘cocky’ and started eating whatever I wanted during those six weeks of recovery.  Since it was winter, I wasn’t able to go on walks because it was too cold outside. I got pretty dang chubby.

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Like I said before, losing weight with hypothyroidism is like trying to breathe under water. With running, CrossFit, a clean diet, visits to my endocrinologist and a lot of bloodwork and medication adjustment, it took about a year to lose the ‘cocky’ weight I had gained. Literally to the WEEK that I found out I was pregnant again. So my goal is to be the complete opposite with this pregnancy. Healthy eating, exercise, and routine with hopes I can go right back in to it after the six weeks of recovery from my scheduled c-section.

What exercise advice did your doctor provide you? Did you follow it?  My doctor is awesome.  She is the tiniest little lady. She told me to keep doing what I was doing, but to listen to my body. I have done just that. During my second trimester, we did maxes, and although I knew that I could physically do more, I didn’t feel good about adding weight.  She thinks it’s awesome, despite the fact that I lost weight at the beginning from not lifting as much and losing muscle mass. As of today, I am back to my ‘pre-pregnancy’ weight.

CrossFit and pregnant, where do you find support?  I find support from the people that come to my class. I go to RedTails’ 3:30 p.m. class, which is after nap time…both Charlotte’s and my nap.  It’s usually the same group of ladies…yes…ladies…they call it lady hour.  Occasionally, a guy or two shows up! But the group really cheers me on. They encourage me and compliment me on the fact that I am still working at it and it makes me feel really good about myself.  Also, RedTail Coaches Tony Burris, Janine Pereira, and Brandon Rollins support me tons.  And of course, my husband Steven.

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CrossFit and pregnant, where do you find inspiration?  My inspiration comes from two places; my daughter and myself.  My daughter because I love seeing her watching me while I work out; I really hope she understands that it is a good thing and a part of life to work hard for something.  And of course, I love seeing her imitate the things she sees me do!

Saying I find inspiration in me seems super arrogant, but it is not meant to be.  A lot of people criticize CrossFit because it is so intense.  I tell them that anything can be scaled.  I remind them that I had a bulging disk and had knee surgery, and it didn’t stop me from trying.  I say, if I can do it, anyone can.  I am even trying to talk my 64-year-old father, who just had his second knee replaced to start, once he is cleared from physical therapy.  So I figured that I should put my money where my mouth is….why should pregnant stop me from something that I love?  I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I finish something.  A lot of times, the trainers tell me to cut the reps in half if I want to, but I don’t. I just take my time and that makes me feel validated.

Since doing CrossFit while pregnant, I’ve learned:  Consistency.  Having an 18-month-old and an awful first trimester (was in the ER for a day from extreme dehydration), every day is something new. Even when I felt like complete death, I still made it a point to get up and go to CrossFit and make it part of my day. That mindset made it a routine! I think that is important in all aspects of life.

Biggest CrossFit and pregnant challenge I’ve faced:  My expanding belly, the lack of decent maternity exercise clothing, and running with sore boobs.  {Sore/nursing boobs = the worst! Am I right?!}

Do you follow a particular eating lifestyle?  Before this pregnancy, I tried gluten free to help with my hypothyroidism, but it didn’t make much of a difference.  I did my best to eliminate processed foods as well.  I am a sucker for fruit and vegetables. I stopped drinking soda, too.  But once the morning sickness hit me, I was advised to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it (which was not much and not often). Now, I am just back to normal.

Best CrossFit and pregnant tip or secret you’ve discovered:  You can sleep when you’re dead. Get up and work, make the best of the exhaustion.

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What have you found most valuable about CrossFit while pregnant?: Being aware of my body. I find it incredible to push your body to see what it is capable of, but with limits.

Modifications you’d like to share with others:  Ball slams are a fabulous replacement of burpees.  Elevated pushups. Oh, and this one isn’t just for pregnancy, but cleans from a high hang, a bit lower than the hips.  It helps you HAVE to drop under the bar in to a squat more. {Excellent tips!!}

Favorite quote:  Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.

Favorite girl WOD: Grace

Three words that describe me: I let my hubs pick:  motivated, determined, passionate

When I’m not in the box, you can find me: At home or with my mom! Weekends are with the husband.

View More: http://molliecostleyphotography.pass.us/joseph

Delivery and Post-partum. Where is Julie now?

Julie CrossFitted until 37 weeks, when she had to stop for her scheduled c-section (docs in Prescott don’t perform v-backs).  She was scheduled for the birth on October 23. She developed an umbilical hernia that was getting pretty painful and her doctor said she would fix it during the c-section. Contractions started two weeks before the c-section. “I had some other things going on, so I figured I should just try to wait it out, so another doctor wouldn’t have to do my c-section and NOT fix my hernia which would have resulted in another surgery and recovery,” Julie said. “I didn’t want that.”

She made it to October 23 and it was completely different than her first delivery. “I threw up from the spinal which didn’t happen with Charlotte,” said Julie. “I could feel and move my feet by noon, my c-section was at 7:30 a.m. I was up walking laps in the hospital by 3 p.m. that day, but that night was awful. My husband went home to stay with Charlotte, so I was on my own. I was looking forward to the alone time with my baby and to sleep some. I was hooked up to all sorts of things and couldn’t get out of bed without a nurse. There was some emergency birth that night and all the nurses were occupied – to the point where my IV beeped for more than 10 minutes before I had to call someone to fix it. AWFUL. I got zero sleep and every time Joseph woke up, I had to MacGyver a way to get him out of his bassinet.”

Thanks to the grace of a compassionate nurse, and because of Julie’s health, strength, and mobility, Julie was permitted to go home. “I’m pretty sure I can thank CrossFit for that,” said Julie.

She took the traditional six weeks to recovery, but like most of us, was anxious to return. The first week of December, she started back and took it easy, “partially because I was told to, but mostly because I felt I had zero strength.” Most recently, RedTail was working on one-rep maxes for a number of lifts. Julie PR’d on power cleans at 120#, 85# strict press, 75# snatch, and she got to do Grace again, not Rx, but still 75# at 4:57. “I’ll take that at being back from having a baby via c-section and a hernia repair in only a month and a half!”

“I am glad to be back. I love my sweet little baby more than anything. We just found out that he has problems hearing this past week. We aren’t sure how severe or why, we are going to do some more testing, and today was my first day back since finding out.  I broke down crying talking to my friends about it.  I am so thankful for the support I have at RedTail. There were times during my pregnancy that I wanted to quit (not CrossFit, but life).  The RedTail community and mentality of CrossFit truly was my lifeline, and it seems that it will continue to be that for me.”

Pic with new Char faceView More: http://molliecostleyphotography.pass.us/joseph

We are so proud of you Julie! She clearly has the strength and tenacity to face anything. Her family and the RedTail family are lucky to have YOU. xo

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