Motherhood is something that every woman thinks about, Whether you want kids, can have kids or just imagining the possibility for the future. It is a big question mark that hangs over all our heads. For some it is the final or biggest accomplishment you as female can achieve…….. It’s something amazing, making another human being. Some days I think of it as a little alien, but always more than astonishing.

Seeing other pregnant woman I always thought, it’s so easy, I mean you’re just growing the baby, your body is doing everything for you, you just have to wait. But it’s the complete opposite when it actually happens to you.

Becoming a mother has a lot of changes that take place. What happens when your career, goals, hopes and dreams involve every aspect of your health and physical fitness, the sacrifice of becoming a mother becomes even bigger when you have to choose between your personal goals and your family. It’s so easy for outsiders to look in and make their comments without having an understanding or putting themselves in others shoes, in this case Running shoes.

Running while pregnant opens for a few debates and although there is absolutely no proof that Running while pregnant harms your baby in any way people still have a way of commenting on the subject even though they are not in the Runners shoes. I found a few inspirational South-African Athletes that have all gone through the journey of becoming Running Mamas all with their own pros and cons along the way, again emphasizing the differences for each pregnancy and each Mother.

No pregnancy is the same as these personal accounts vouch for that.

René Kalmer:

René Kalmer was born on 3 November 1980 in Roodepoort, Gauteng. René is a South African Road and track running athlete who has represented South Africa in various world class athletic events. Apart from being an accomplished South-African female athlete, Rene is also a Mother. Rene discovered that she was 6 weeks pregnant about two weeks after undergoing a hip surgery. Because of the Hip surgery Rene was not allowed to run for three months post-surgery.

She kept fit with Pilates, Indoor cycling, swimming and training on the ElliptiGo. Halfway through her pregnancy and recovery Rene started Jogging again. For Rene the pregnancy came at a time where her goals where temporarily postponed due to the hip surgery making it a mutual beneficial situation. When your pregnant your body changes dramatically and the experience is different for all. Rene found that even after altering her Training plan that running was uncomfortable. Making the mind shift that things have to change can be a big personal frustration for any athlete.

“I Think the most important thing is to realize that every person is different and not to compare your training to what other pregnant runners are training.” – Rene Kalmer

Rene stopped running at 6-Months pregnant. This was a personal decision as she did not enjoy running as she did pre-pregnancy. She Kept fit with swimming and training on the ElliptiGo. Rene gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and has this to say about running post pregnancy:

“Running has changed completely after the baby, I’m still battling to regain my fitness before I was pregnant. I’m really grateful to be running again, running was one of the things I missed most while pregnant. I enjoy the process of getting back to shape and celebrate all the small victories along the way.” –Rene Kalmer

Irvette van Zyl:

Irvette van Zyl was born on 5 July 1987 and is a South African long-distance runner. In 2012, she married South African hurdler L. J. van Zyl and together they have a Bouncing little boy named Louise. Irvette Discovered she was pregnant at 6 Weeks and quickly adapted her training. She learnt to listen to her body and adapted her program to match her current capabilities.

“Some days on an easy run I felt great, and then I’d rather do a hard session. And some days when a hard session was on the cards I felt terrible and opted for a shorter slower run. Your body is a good key of telling you your capabilities on the day.” – Irvette van Zyl

Irvette found the first Trimester to be the hardest to train through. She was struggling with shortness of breath and bad cramping in her legs whilst running. The fatigue was so severe that she had to adapt each day to how her body felt .In training some days she had to do 1000m repeats with little rest but with the pregnancy her coach would change it to slower times with longer rest. Irvette also found that she was very thirsty while training so she stuck to running on track where there was always bathroom and water facilities nearby.

Second Trimester Irvette started to feel the extra weight that came with being pregnant, but that she had a lot more energy and no fatigue, shortness of breath or cramping. At this point she started to feel strong in training again but still just trained as her body allowed her to. She found she was able to do a little speed and endurance sessions. During her pregnancy Irvette ran all the Spar Series races that consist of 10km. She also did the Two Oceans Half marathon and up until 27 weeks Irvette could still manage to run a 34:56min on a 10km. At 35 weeks she was able to run a sub 40min for a 10km. Irvette’s best time for a 10km when not pregnant is 32:20, just to put it in perspective that she didn’t exhaust herself and was still running within her limits.

Third Trimester Irvette was showing quite a bit and her busy Baby Boy was kicking her regularly on runs. She found this to be very uncomfortable and only opted to run her afternoon runs with her coach and sometimes with a friend. At this stage it was important for Irvette to run when she could, and when her body allowed her. Sometimes it was once a day and sometimes her body allowed her to have a second run. Irvette also found that her Baby bump made it difficult for her to lift her legs so she just stayed on flat quite roads that ensured that she wouldn’t fall and injure herself or the Baby.

Irvette ran a few days short of 38 weeks and then her doctor put her on bed rest after which she had c section. Irvette and her doctor had a mutual understanding that she could continue running but when the doctor told her to stop there would be no negotiations. Irvette did everything correct in her pregnancy, she stayed healthy and ensured that the health of her baby came first.

Doctors recommend a healthy 30 min exercise per day by expectant mothers. For some this sound like allot and others this might sound like a little. Either way it is dependent on the mother and how active she was prior to the pregnancy. You find that once your pregnant everyone finds themselves in the position of being an expert. Everyone will have something to say, some good some bad and others just plain ignorant.

“The saying that goes – ‘when your pregnant then everyone around is a doctor’, is so true. Sometimes when I pitched at races I would get remarks you are killing your baby. How can you do this…you shouldn’t run while pregnant… And I would only reply I have a Doctor thank you. Because you can’t argue with people that don’t understand that your body is use to it and there is nothing wrong with running while being pregnant.” – Irvette van Zyl

Post pregnancy Irvette started running at 4 weeks and at 5weeks she ran her first race after the c section in a time of 38min on a 10km. Staying healthy and running while pregnant definitely helped Irvette recover faster after her pregnancy, and 4 months after the birth of her son she feels she is fitter and more in shape than she has been before the birth of Louise.

Caroline Wöstmann:

Caroline Wöstmann was born on 18 January 1983 in Johannesburg. She is a South African marathon and ultra-marathon athlete. She is well known for making history by winning both the Two Oceans- and 90th Comrades marathon in the same year. Caroline began her running career in 2009, after the birth of her first child. She required a workout that could fit into her family life and busy professional career. Professionals took note of her when she positioned 15th place in only her third Comrades with a silver medal at the 2012 Comrades Marathon.

Caroline only started running after her first pregnancy but did continue to run during her second pregnancy. Caroline was for the largest part only running recreationally so her training didn’t change much apart from her reducing her mileage. Caroline found as her pregnancy progressed she started to feel more and more uncomfortable. To help with this she would take breaks mid run as she needed. Caroline also invested in getting herself a support belt to help with her growing baby bump as she ran. Caroline continued running up until the day that she gave birth. When she was heavily pregnant Caroline received some criticism from people, saying that her running was harming her baby. Their comments were not grounded on any sort of knowledge or fact that was previously proven.

“My doctor assured me that my baby was happy and healthy and that I could continue as long as I felt comfortable. I therefore choose to ignore the critics.” – Caroline Wöstmann

Caroline took 6 weeks rest after birth on her doctor’s recommendation and then started to run again. Apart from being unfit and rebuilding back to comfortable running she found that little had changed. But she did have this to say in comparison to her first ‘Non-Running pregnancy’ compared to her second ‘Running pregnancy’;

“As I was not active during my first pregnancy I can definitely say that my recovery after my second birth was far quicker and I had significantly more energy.” – Caroline Wöstmann

Each pregnancy is different and happens in different seasons of our lives, this also contributes to how we react, grow and experience the pregnancy. But one thing stays the same – It’s always a blessing and Life changing experience.

Whatever your season or situation is, I hope these ladies Inspire you as much as they did me to have a healthy Pregnancy that suits you and your bump.

Happy Running!

Author: Jani Du Toit
First appeared on JBRobinBlog