The Six-time Fittest Woman on Earth said giving birth was like her first CrossFit Games. It was the best day of his life, but not easy.

  • CrossFit champion Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr gave birth to her daughter Willow in May.
  • The birth did not go as planned and she ended up having a cesarean section.
  • Incredibly, Toomey-Orr competed again in October, and is now preparing for the 2024 CrossFit Games.

Like many expectant mothers, CrossFit legend Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr was told countless stories during her pregnancy about what labor and delivery were like. But nothing really prepared him for this.

It reminded her of training to compete in her first CrossFit Games in 2013, she told Business Insider almost exactly a year after she shared the news of her pregnancy with this publication on Christmas Eve 2022, sending shockwaves through the sport.

“I didn’t know what to expect, I just ran to the punches and then I changed things to see if I could do better,” Toomey-Orr said of her first CrossFit games. She has been the “Fittest Woman on Earth” six times in a row since 2015.

That incredible legacy left fans with many questions. Of course, they are happy for the famous Australian athlete and her husband and coach, Shane Orr, who is with her in Nashville.

But what does this mean for CrossFit? Who will take the crown at the 2023 Games with Toomey-Orr out of action? Will he return to the sport?

They don’t have to wait long for answers.

The 30-year-old took the same pragmatic approach that saw her become a CrossFit champion heading into competing again just five months after becoming a mother.

She gave birth to a baby girl, Willow, in May, and so was actually watching from the sidelines CrossFit Games in August. But he surprised followers of the sport when he announced in September that he would compete in the Rogue Invitational, a major CrossFit competition, in October.

“When I was pregnant, I told Shane, ‘If everything goes well, I would really like to see myself back out on the competition floor at Rogue.’ And a lot of people thought that was a little ambitious,” Toomey-Orr said.

Her self-belief was fully warranted, and Toomey-Orr impressed fans by placing second. Neither the training to get there while keeping her new baby as her top priority nor the criticism she received was easy. But it was all worth it.

“Being a mother is a thousand times more incredible and more impactful than I ever imagined,” Toomey-Orr said. “We’re just learning as we’re going. It’s just been such a breath of fresh air and something that Shane and I have wanted for a very long time. She is just absolutely everything that we could imagine plus more.”

Toomey-Orr spoke with BI this December to talk about her birth, which didn’t go as planned, rebuilding her strength as a mother, and dealing with criticism for training during pregnancy and post-partum.

Staying active while pregnant

Toomey-Orr enjoyed being pregnant and was comfortable the whole time, despite many people telling her to expect the opposite, she said.

He remained active throughout her pregnancywhich people are advised to do, while modifying movements and exercises as needed to keep her baby safe.

Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr is pregnant.

Toomey-Orr, pictured with her husband Shane Orr, is enjoying being pregnant.

Nobull



“It was just so much fun to actually exercise during my pregnancy,” Toomey-Orr said, knowing she was lucky enough to feel well enough to do so.

“It was really a very interesting experience trying to move around a bigger belly as it got bigger and bigger throughout the week,” she said. “But I absolutely loved every minute of it.”

Toomey-Orr had an emergency c-section

After a relatively stress-free pregnancy, however, Willow’s birth did not go as Toomey-Orr had hoped.

“Essentially everything I didn’t want to happen happened,” she said.

“Despite what my ideal birth looked like, I was very open-minded about making only the necessary changes to deliver Willow healthy and happy,” she says, which meant having a cesarean section.

“That was the best day of my life, but it certainly wasn’t easy,” he said.

Toomey-Orr “definitely” wanted more children but she approached the second birth differently, which is exactly how she felt after her first CrossFit Games.

Return to fitness after giving birth

After a c-section, a type of major surgery, Toomey-Orr was shocked that it took several weeks before she could walk around normally.

I asked Toomey-Orr if he was desperate to get back into the gym and was surprised by his answer.

“I’m not itching to go back, to be honest,” he said. “I loved having her at home, no one else. We didn’t have family in Nashville at the time, so, personally, Shane and I experienced Willow by ourselves, and it was amazing for me. That was really, really special.”

New parents want to wait at least a month before exposing their newborn to a gym environment, he said, and for the first few weeks after birth He just walked, sometimes just 100 meters.

When he returned to the gym, it took longer than expected regain his strength.

Tia-Clair with Willow

Baby Willow holds the resistance bands.

Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr



“Breastfeeding is definitely not one of the things that contributes to building strength,” he said.

Toomey-Orr’s initial focus was on keeping breathing and following his blood. He switched to really light weights and, once he got the green light from his doctor, he started increasing the intensity and load.

She didn’t experience too much ab-separation, which affects about 60% of women, but she still had to be careful not to rush into intense core exercises like snatches, GHD sit-ups, and toes-to-bars, which could put pressure on c-section scars and strain muscles, risking damage.

Toomey-Orr was unable to return to full strength in the Rogue and still finished second

During this time, not being able to defend her title at the CrossFit Games and watching other athletes compete is a “huge motivator” to work as hard as she can, Toomey-Orr said she knows that the some people are surprised that he is even trying. to return to competition, or doubted he could.

“Some people might think I’m too egotistical, but it’s a very good motivator and a very good way for me to lock in and set my sights, but I also think it’s an important part of setting up of myself for next season,” he said.

That laser-sharp focus saw her finish second on the podium, and not far behind winner Laura Horvath, despite knowing she hadn’t returned to her pre-pregnancy fitness.

But she felt herself mentally, though not physically, Toomey-Orr said.

“I really believed in my abilities and I think that’s what really kept me going,” she said. “Of course, my body held up and I was really proud of how my body did hold up when I was five months out. It was really about being smart, but also being eager and pushing the envelope to what was safe.”

Rogue is a strength-dominated competition and that’s one area Toomey-Orr has to accept isn’t coming back as quickly as she’d like.

“That was the first time in my career that I had to be OK with that,” he said. “That’s probably one of the most challenging things, just being OK going into a competition, half done, if you do.”

Six months into motherhood, Toomey-Orr is still seeing improvements in her performance and how her body feels every day, she said. He is confident that he will be in peak condition again for the 2024 CrossFit season, with hopes of regaining his title.

Criticized for competing as a mother

As many female athletes can attest, she had some unpleasant distractions from rebuilding her strength. Throughout her pregnancy, Toomey-Orr received a flurry of comments on her social media when she posted videos of her training, and that hasn’t changed much now that she’s a mother.

For every person who hails her as an inspiration or calls her a “GOAT,” someone tells her that what she’s doing isn’t safe for her or her baby.

“It’s hard not to see these comments,” Toomey-Orr said. “It’s really heartbreaking, especially when people are working on you for potentially putting your whole world, your baby, in harm’s way.”

He tried to take a step back and remind himself that he just did what his doctor said was OK.

“I’m not an irresponsible person, I listen to my body and just have a constant check-in,” Toomey-Orr said. “Well, if I have haters, I must be doing the right thing.”

Toomey-Orr won’t compete forever

Toomey-Orr loves that her daughter watches her train and compete it’s a “dream come true,” she said but she asks herself how long she wants to do it.

“Do I want to put the stress and the hassle on Willow, on Shane, on my family?” Toomey-Orr said. “Because while I’m training, someone has to take care of Willow, and while I’m training, Willow has to sit and watch me, she’s not going to the beach or doing something she wants to do.”

In the meantime, Toomey-Orr is showing her son what it’s like to be one of the fittest people on the planet even though he may not realize it while wearing many hats.

Toomey-Orr’s second book, “The Heart is the Strongest Muscle,” a memoir and manual detailing how she built her mental strength over the course of her life, will be released in February, and she and her husband will open of a new HQ gym for their fitness brand PRVN in Nashville in early 2024.

But for now, he’s working hard to prepare for the next CrossFit Games, with Willow watching.

“This afternoon I did this workout and I was puffing and puffing, and I felt like he was cheering me on,” Toomey-Orr said. “It’s a constant reminder of why I’m doing this, and it’s very special.”

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