The baby boy that weighs 8 pounds and is floating around inside her belly? A really big deal to Emily Breeze Watson of Charlotte.
But the loaded barbell that weighs 205 and is lying at her feet after she picked it up 10 times in a row? No big deal, she shrugs.
“It feels easy to me,” said the 31-year-old personal trainer and CrossFit athlete. “That’s 120-some pounds lighter than what I can deadlift as a one-rep max, so ... it’s, like, whatever.”
And so Watson doesn’t have any qualms about continuing to engage in pretty much the same fitness regimen she’s stuck with for years now: two hours a day, six days a week in the gym – despite being several days overdue with her first child, and despite put-downs from critics.
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Watson is one of Charlotte’s better-known fitness personalities; in addition to her personal training business, she’s made a name for herself by way of a popular free boot camp she leads in South End (with help from former All-Pro NFL wide receiver Randy Moss).
She and husband, Montell Watson, timed her pregnancy strategically, conceiving right after last July’s Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif. – the idea being that she could train through her pregnancy and give birth in the spring, in time to recover from the delivery and compete in the regional qualifier for this year’s games.
Problem is, the newest Watson isn’t fully cooperating. The original due date was May 5. A midterm ultrasound suggested it would be more like April 29. As of Tuesday night? Still no baby.
If he hasn’t arrived by Sunday, Emily Breeze Watson will head to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, where her doctor will induce labor.
Until then, she plans to keep doing her thing: rowing, kettlebell swings, push-ups, barbell thrusters, snatches, overhead squats, etc., etc., for 90 minutes with her team at Rising Crossfit Ballantyne, for example, as she did on Tuesday.
And she’ll keep posting photos and video of her big-belly-baring workouts to her 32,000-plus followers on Instagram – whether the peanut gallery likes it or not.
“You do realize that you are putting the life of your un-born child at risk right?” one user commented recently. Said another: “Seems like your body is way more important to you than your babys (sic) health ... Thank you for showing the world how selfish someone can be.”
“I guess I just don’t understand why people who don’t know me feel the need to say those things, because they don’t know me at all,” said Watson, who ran track and played basketball at Winthrop University in Rock Hill. “They don’t know what I was doing before, they don’t know my athletic ability, they don’t know that I’m going to the doctor. They truly know nothing about me.”
At this point, though, Watson said she doesn’t read the comments anymore – partly because there are just too many. A video she posted on Instagram of her working out three weeks ago generated more than 1,500 responses.
Meanwhile, Watson said her doctor, Christopher Danner, has been fully supportive of her pregnancy fitness regimen.
The 5-foot-5-inch Watson – pre-pregnancy, in peak condition – was deadlifting 325 pounds. So when you think of her doing 205 now, it’s roughly like a woman whose most strenuous exercise was walking 3 mph pre-pregnancy scaling back to walk 2 mph at nine months.
“All things are relative,” said Abbie Smith-Ryan, an exercise physiologist and assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, who doesn’t know Watson but who worked out for all nine months of her own pregnancy last year.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, stop exercising and eat whatever you want,’ but then you go into this event which can sometimes be very long, like 24 hours. So it really should be thought of as an athletic event, where you’re training up to a delivery.”
Lots of the feedback Watson has received has been positive. But while she’s happy to inspire and motivate others, that’s not the primary objective.
“The ultimate goal is to have a healthy baby,” Watson said. “I just am trying to be as healthy as I can be for the baby, and him getting here is the most important thing. ... But this is the only lifestyle I know. I’m just trying to be me.”
As for her husband? Montell Watson said he long ago got past his initial concerns – with Dr. Danner’s reassurance – and added that he shudders to think what would have happened if his wife had been ordered to stop CrossFitting.
“I would have seen a whole ’nother side of her, man, that is for sure,” he said, laughing. “I’m so glad that she’s been able to work out, because she would have been one unhappy person. What’s the saying? Happy wife, happy life.”
Meet Emily Breeze Watson ... maybe ...
Provided she hasn’t yet delivered her baby, Watson will be at Stax CrossFit gym (3722 S. Tryon St.) at 11 a.m. Saturday, when a group of perhaps more than 2,500 people will attempt to break the world record for biggest fitness boot camp. Details: staxgwr.eventbrite.com.