For female athletes, there is not enough time to snuggle and nurse a baby for too long during motherhood like other mothers do, as the desire to conquer the world, for several years, has proven irresistible.
Several athletes have taken a few months off from active athletics to give birth, and when they return, they have achieved historic victories in global showpieces such as the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the United States and the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. UK.
Yet amid the joy that motherhood brings, athletes have quietly but resiliently struggled to get back into shape.
Other athletes have been out of competition for such short periods of time that fans and some observers barely noticed their disappearance from active athletics.
But behind their dazzling shows at track and field competitions, the female athletes face another epic weight-loss battle on the heels of maternity leave.
Fitness experts say that eating fatty foods during time off from active sports is the main cause of weight gain among female athletes and most of them return to the rigorous and painful work of the gym between normal training.
Just two days after finishing third in the inaugural Uhuru Classic Nairobi Marathon in May this year, former Boston Marathon winner Sharon Cherop received a heroic welcome in the town of Eldoret.
A larger number of her enthusiastic fans turned out to greet the marathon star at her cosmetics shop ‘Beauty Smiles’ downtown, most of them women praising her for a stunning show in Nairobi just four months after her return from maternity.
People who didn’t know Cherop might be wrong to think she took a break from running, but the marathoner, in three months, shed the 20kg of extra weight she gained before and after giving birth to her twins. end of last year. .
The 2020 Lagos Marathon champion weighed 68kg during maternity and, when competing in the Uhuru Classic Nairobi Marathon, weighed 48kg.
After giving birth to their babies, they return brilliantly to the tracks and roads, having recovered their athletic figure, after months out of competition.
A large number of them keep a low profile during, before and after childbirth, perhaps due to cultural beliefs and taboos that make pregnancy a secret matter. It remains puzzling how female athletes struggle to lose the superfluous weight they gained during childbearing. Athletes attribute it to a strong will, rigorous training, and sacrifices like spending time on the tracks and roads.
“I gained a lot of weight and worked very hard at it. I started with 66 kg and now I weigh 44 kg. I had to eat right (during motherhood), not think about my weight in order to gain as much energy as possible to train harder to reduce my weight.
“I had to prepare myself for the fight to lose weight by eating like I wasn’t an athlete,” Cherop explains.
She continues: “First, you live as if you are no longer an athlete and you focus on your children first.”
On food and diet during motherhood, Cherop says some athletes become cautious because they don’t want to gain weight. “They fear that it will take them longer to lose weight after motherhood.”
The country’s 1,500m queen, Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, who gave birth to her daughter in 2018, said at the time that returning to athletics after months of motherhood was the hardest part of the sport for women.
Before motherhood, Kipyegon’s weight averaged 45kg and when she returned to training a year after giving birth, her weight had ballooned to 63kg.
The two-time Olympic champion said she was nervous about gaining weight, but after advice from her coach and management, she decided to return to athletics one step at a time, and not under pressure. When she started training, Kipyegon said that she ate chapati and chips and still managed to shed the extra weight.
“It wasn’t easy. I thank my coach (Patrick Sang) who just asked me to take my time on the journey to get back in shape,” he said ahead of the 2019 Doha World Championships.
It was an uphill task for Helen Obiri, who had to lose 22kg ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia. Obiri’s weight had increased from an average of 48kg to 71kg and she had to burn off a lot of body fat to represent Kenya at the Commonwealth Games. She won the title, but noted that she worked rigorously to get her form back.
“It was a difficult task for me because I had gained 22 extra kilos during maternity leave and I worked hard to lose all those extra kilos,” he told the media during the games.
Former Paris marathon winner Betsy Saina, who returned from maternity in May this year, describes getting back in shape after giving birth as a difficult journey. Like Cherop, she lost several kilograms of body weight gained in a year; during her maternity leave. She is approaching a loss of more than 15 kg in just two months.
According to Saina, female athletes receive criticism and discouragement from people who should be supporting them in the weight loss process.
Saina says that she got the support of her management, Mezzo Management Group and Asics, and sponsors in the battle for weight loss and the journey back to sports.
“Coming back after motherhood can be a big challenge, but listening to your body wins. I’m super excited to finally feel my body respond and I’ll keep doing all the little things I’ve been doing. Until then, I advise every woman who has been in my skin not to listen to negative comments, listen to her body and take baby steps, that’s how we win.
“I decided to channel my energy with every step I took and listen to my body more than anyone, I received some criticism, but I decided to listen to my body and look forward. We are all different and we all have different goals,” explains Saina, who competes for the United States.
Eddah Jepkoech, fitness expert at Trim Gym, Eldoret, says gaining weight during pregnancy and after childbirth requires a balance between a meticulous schedule in the gym and enhanced training on the road and track.
Jepkoech explains how he once helped an athlete from Eldoret who ran a major world marathon while waiting and after giving birth. She had added a lot of weight.
“Getting an athlete back in shape is more difficult. However, they lose the weight gained during childbearing more easily than their counterparts who gain weight naturally,” Jepkoech told The Nairobian Sports. She prefers not to reveal the identity of her client.
Jepkoech said the athlete came to the gym and was worried that the weight gain would delay her return to active athletics.
The fitness expert says that after four hours a day of hoverwalking and machine toning, the marathoner regained his form in a month and a few days.
“The fitness trip was very rigorous. It’s about two hours, non-stop, of aerostepping. After the two hours, the athlete takes a break to change before coming back for more exercises,” explains Jepkoech.
She attributes the weight gains to fat-enriched porridge, junk food including potato chips, and sugary foods during childbearing. “We advise those who come to us to avoid junk food and reduce their sugar intake.”