Barbell and a Baby a Strong message from one crossfiT Mom

On a Tuesday afternoon, Emily Breeze Ross Watson can be found handstand walking across the gym floor of Rising CrossFit Ballantyne. Her four-month-old son, Bly, watches his mom train with Rising’s Elite Training Team from a stroller strategically positioned among the barbells, jump ropes, and wall balls.

Watson's fitness journey began like most: she enjoyed playing sports with her dad as a child, and continued her athletic career throughout high school and college. In fact, Watson was a tri-sport athlete throughout high school, as she played tennis, basketball, and ran track. She went on to play both basketball and run track for Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina as a freshman, until finally choosing to pursue only track throughout the remainder of her college career. Watson laughs as she reflects on her deeply ingrained competitive nature, “I was dating a basketball player at Duke at the time, one of the best basketball players in the country, and I was like, ‘well if you can do that, I’m going to go play two sports at a Division I school!’”

Soon, however, fitness would become more than staying in shape.

After graduating college with a degree in special education, Watson remained active with classes at the YMCA in Charlotte, NC. Soon, however, fitness would become more than staying in shape. In 2010, she first tried CrossFit, a fitness program of constantly varied functional movements (including gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, etc.) performed at high intensity. Shortly after, she was hooked. “I liked the competition part of it; there was a finish line and a time and that kind of intensity.”

A year later, Michelle Crawford, a YMCA CrossFit coach at the time, reached out to Watson with an invitation to train with a team at CrossFit Eternal in Charlotte. Fast-forward five years, and Michelle now owns Rising CrossFit Ballantyne where Watson and the rest of the team continues to train for international competitions.

Their first taste of competing as a team came while they were training at Eternal. The CrossFit Games, an international competition with the goal of crowning the fittest man and woman on Earth, had begun in February with The Open stage. After completing five assigned workouts and submitting their scores online with teams and individuals around the globe, their team qualified for the next stage, Regionals. However, they would not set foot on the competition floor due to disqualification. The frustration over a minor infraction that barred the team from advancing to a bigger stage only “gave us motivation and fire,” Watson recalls.

The following year, team Rising Orange got their redemption.

Team Rising Orange competes in Regionals

The following year, Michelle Crawford opened her own CrossFit gym, or “box”, and Watson followed her community of friends and training partners to the new location.

That spring, the team Rising Orange got their redemption. After qualifying for Regionals, they advanced to the Games in California and competed with the fittest athletes in the world. The following year, 2015, they repeated the feat: advancing to Regionals and the Games.

Rising Orange in Carson, CA competing at the Reebok CrossFit Games

“Truly, it’s just fun being out there. When you’re in the fitness industry, this is where you want to be; you want to be at the top.”

Watson celebrating with her team

A few months after returning from the Games in July 2015, Watson and her husband Montell announced they were expecting their first child the following May. From the beginning of her pregnancy, Watson's goal was to continue her normal routine as much as possible. For her, this meant continuing to compete in CrossFit, lead Charlotte’s largest boot camp, and train her clients as a personal trainer. Friends and strangers alike followed her journey on social media where she posted bump updates and videos from her training sessions.

In April, however, an Instagram video of Watson competing in the first week of the 2016 CrossFit Games Open at 34 weeks pregnant would change her life.

US Weekly started the outbreak. After that, from Cosmopolitan, to the Today Show, to People, it seemed there was a new article or news segment every day. Almost instantly, her followers soared as other media platforms contacted her for interviews and articles.

Then, the negativity started. For all the amazed, inspired, and encouraging comments left on her posts, there were also nasty messages attacking Watson for her commitment to fitness.

“Seems like your body is way more important to you than your baby’s health. Thank you for showing the world how selfish someone can be,” one follower wrote.

As much as Watson wanted to, she decided never to respond to the internet shamers, knowing that it wouldn’t change the person’s negative mindset on her lifestyle. “At first it was hard, just being competitive and knowing that I was doing something positive... like any human, that kind of stuff hurts your feelings,” Watson shared. Instead of countering the hateful comments, she confided in her husband and close friends. After a while, she stopped paying attention to the comment section and simply lived her life in the way she (and her doctor) knew was healthy for both her and her baby.

"simply lived her life in the way she (and her doctor) knew was healthy for both her and her baby"

Each week, Watson continued to compete, sometimes modifying the movements to accommodate her growing bump. But why would she continue to publicize her training sessions in the face of so much criticism?

"Stay healthy—whatever healthy means to you—in all stages of life"

She had an important message for women of all ages: be comfortable with your body, love your body, and stay healthy—whatever healthy means to you—in all stages of life. Her continuing social media presence was aimed at destroying the entrenched stereotypes and ideas surrounding prenatal health. From a young age, women are bombarded with messages that their bodies will never be the same after having kids and that they will have to put their fitness goals on hold while pregnant.

Now, she has found herself in the position to be that inspiration to others around the world.

However, an afternoon spent with the women who train at Rising CrossFit Ballantyne will prove those ideas false. In fact, it was these strong women who helped Watson conquer her own fears surrounding pregnancy. Now, she has found herself in the position to be that inspiration to others around the world.

On May 16th 2016, Bly Rhunar Watson came into the world. In some ways, not much has changed. Watson still plans to compete in the 2017 CrossFit Games Open and hopes to make it back to the Games with her teammates.

Watson has, however, found herself in the new role of "fit mom," a title with a responsibility she doesn't take lightly. She continues to chip away at societal misconceptions surrounding prenatal and postpartum fitness and is now taking Bly along for the ride.

Emily Breeze Ross Watson is living proof that “you don’t lose your life by having kids, it just changes.”

"You don't loose your life by having kids, it just changes"

To follow her fitness journey, find "Breeze" on Instagram @emilybreeze. If you want to get #breezyfit, head out to STAX (3722 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC) for her Monday night bootcamp with Randy Moss.

Photos courtesy of Emily Breeze Ross Watson.

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