‘Continue training as a mom-to-be, but be realistic’ – a PhD student in Paediatrics and health intelligence analyst, the lady who ran the TOM 2019 Half at 7 months’ pregnant gives us her tips
8 August 2019
Women’s Day wonder: Zulfah Albertyn-Blanchard
Meet the health intelligence analyst and PhD student in Paediatrics who ran the 2019 Half Marathon at seven months’ pregnant
Pics: Jetline Action Photo/supplied
Zulfah with baby Archibald, pictured here at 12 days oldWhether you’re a man or woman, life today can be busy, frenetic and even downright overwhelming. If you’re a woman with a very young baby, life as you know it may be infinitely more challenging (and rewarding). Throw a full-time job into the mix as a Health Intelligence Analyst for a global global integrated risk management company into the mix, add to that maintaining a fitness routine throughout your pregnancy, then top that with studies at UCT towards a PhD in paediatrics, and it’s hard to think of anything else that Zulfah Albertyn-Blanchard (31) could have done to up the awe factor. Yet remarkably, Zulfah not only maintained her running routine throughout her pregnancy, but successfully completed the Two Oceans Half Marathon 2019 at 25 weeks pregnant.
Be realistic about your expectations and stop training if need be
When we catch up with Zulfah, baby Archibald is a 12-day-old baby, and is three weeks old at the time of publishing this story. ‘I was lucky to continue training as far into my pregnancy as I could, up to 37 weeks,’ says Zulfah. ‘Everyone is different. I’m honest about my experience as I want to encourage new moms or moms-to-be. You must be realistic with your expectations. My pace, for example, declined steadily from 10 weeks into my pregnancy’.
‘Also, if my doctor had at any point during expecting baby Archibald put an end to my training, I would have listened immediately. I made a point of incorporating consultations with my doctor as part of my training, and advise all expecting runner moms to do so and take any recommended precautions, even if that means no activity at all. Put your baby first, know that your experience may be different to the next person’s, and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can for both you and your baby,’ adds Zulfah.
Zulfah’s Two Oceans Half Marathon at 7 months’ pregnant – in her own words
So, how exactly did her Half Marathon go? Zulfah, who finished the race in 2:50 concedes that it was mentally tough. ‘I was pretty anxious at the start, even though I’d completed the Half three times before. I was concerned that something might happen during the race, especially when it was dark and also wet later on, but I just took it one step at a time. I drew heavily on my training runs,’ she tells us.
Post-birth training – where she’s at
Zulfah says that having been given the green light by her doctor to train throughout her pregnancy and consequently doing so until 37 weeks, when little Archie was born, helped her realise her dream of giving birth naturally, without complications. That said, this is a woman who has taken the advice to ‘have realistic expectations’ to heart, as is clear from her measured approach to resuming training.
Zulfah has not yet resumed any form of exercise other than short walks, as her body is still healing. ‘Since there were no complications during the birth, my doctor didn’t give me specific instructions regarding how or when to pick up my training again. But, in the next few weeks, I’m hoping to possibly start some light strength-training exercises,’ she says. ‘What’s really helping at this point, is the fact I happen to be breastfeeding exclusively. My pre-pregnancy body is coming back faster than I expected – I’m not chasing a deadline for this; it’s just an added bonus’.
Zulfah’s top tips for being a new mom and a runner
- Listen to those who are honest with their own running-while-pregnant or new-mom-and-runner stories, not those who may be softening or skewing the truth here and there. Read as widely as possible and don’t be disheartened or think you need to stop running when you’re expecting. ‘I encourage all moms-to-be to continue training and to document their journeys. I would have been much more enthused had I been able to read articles from more women who had done the same thing’.
- Listen to what your body is telling you, and respect your medical practitioner’s advice.
- After your baby is born, know that you are doing an amazing job, even if you may not think so. Be patient with yourself.
- Be patient with your newborn, too. You are both getting used to each other and learning from one another.
- Involve your partner from the day of delivery as much as possible. Ask him or her to assist with kangaroo care, nappy changes and burping your little one, for example.
- Set boundaries: other people’s opinions are just that – their opinions. Only you and your new family know what’s required for you all to adapt to your new life.
- Your happiness is important. Again, only you know how to achieve this – when you have to give, and when you have to hold back. Happy mom, happy baby.
- You’ll probably be tempted to go for a run soon after giving birth. Hold off; your body is still recovering not only from being pregnant, but also from the delivery.
Finally, when we ask Zulfah how she does it all, this humble dynamo responds with: ‘How does any woman do it all? I don’t make a big deal about anything because I believe anyone can do what I’m doing or did, and there are so many women out there doing stellar things with their lives in myriads of ways’. Ladies and gentlemen, as far as ordinary women doing and championing great things, we have, as they say, a winner. We can’t wait to see baby Archibald at next year’s Nappy Dash!