Irvette Van Zyl – The Athlete Behind the Baby Bump

“If you go halfhearted into anything, you can’t be the best that you can be.”, this was Irvette’s rousing response when asked about her decision to take up athletics as a career. This is not a career option frequently discussed at career day, so she set a momentous task to help her step into fate’s path. She decided that if she could qualify for the Olympics, then she would quit her job and pursue her passion by becoming a full-time professional athlete. This decision paid off generously in the long run and, luckily, she didn’t burn any bridges at her old job because she worked for her supportive mother at the time.

Today, Irvette normally runs two full marathons a year, punctuated by dozens of races and half marathons to keep her physically conditioned and mentally sharp, without putting too much strain on her body. She says that she was inspired to run by her godmother who went on to win the 1992 Comrades Marathon, and that’s when she decided that she wanted a medal of her own. With stars in her eyes, young Irvette started running cross country and track and field during her school years. it wasn’t until later in life that she took the leap to make race running her main source of income. Irvette explains that, “Athletics can be a risky career choice but with hard work and dedication -any job takes hard work and dedication- you can make a success of it.”

After starting athletics, the age of 9, running became a natural part of Irvette’s life, and when she fell pregnant, she decided to keep it that way. She wanted to keep up with her running and remain physically active throughout her pregnancy. After consulting her gynae about her idea to do a 5km race while pregnant, the healthcare professional was such a sport that she decided to run the race with Irvette to make sure that she didn’t overdo it. Irvette had to wait for her out of breath gynae to finally get to the finish line where she had been waiting for 20 minutes. Needless to say, she got the green light to keep running in her condition and continued to do so for both her pregnancies.

Irvette explains that, although the benefits of remaining physically fit are extraordinary, you don’t have to run races and marathons to remain active, healthy and feeling good during your pregnancy. She advises that you should “Keep doing what you are used to doing but, turn it down a notch”. Irvette was able to run for long distances and remain fit because that is what her body was accustomed to. She shares that ladies that are not extremely active can still remain fit while expecting, by going on walks and joining aerobics, yoga and preggy classes at your local fitness center. Just make sure to consult your healthcare professional beforehand, as pregnancies differ from woman to woman and baby to baby.

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