How Letshego Zulu took having a baby in her stride
11 March 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, it’s good to have you with us and I am so excited to have our next guest on the show today. Funnily enough, I chat to her hubby all the time in my day job around sport, he’s one of South Africa’s top rally drivers.
But I’m chuffed that I get to speak to her about some of her activities as well. She’s one half of South Africa’s adventure couple. It’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the podcast today Letshego Zulu. Letshego, welcome, nice to touch base.
Letshego Zulu: Hi Brad, thank you so much for having me.
BB: Letshego, it’s incredible, I just think of what you’ve been through in the last two years and what you’re up to right now. Let’s just tell people first of all what you’re training for and then we’ll take a step back. You’re training for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra and on top of that you thought, oh we’ll throw in a little half Ironman effort as well.
LZ: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m working on currently. I’ll be doing my Two Oceans Ultra this year. I thought, you know what, let’s change the scenery a bit after the ultra and train for the half Ironman in June.
BB: It’s incredible Letshego because you’ve always been pretty active and I know the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is something that’s very close to your heart. But in the last two years your life has changed dramatically.
You fell pregnant, you had a baby eight months ago, your little one is now eight months old. If somebody has to look at you and doesn’t know you, they would go: there is no way’s that she had a baby eight months ago. You have just picked up where you left off, it’s incredible.
Having a baby is not a running handbrake
LZ: I pretty much did Brad. I’m one of those overachievers that I would just allow myself to fall flat. That being said, I pretty much did some form of exercise right up until the day before I had my baby. Then I had to be off, kind of off six weeks thereafter because I had a C-section.
But of course it didn’t mean that I laid flat on my bed. I got up and started walking as soon as possible, but actual exercise, I got back into it literally six weeks after and I haven’t stopped since. I’m just one of those people that is forever challenging myself and I’ve got these two amazing races that I’m training for.
BB: I think your story is so inspiring and one thing that I picked up and this is, I think, something that a lot of women struggle with when they do fall pregnant. They might not necessarily have been active prior to their pregnancy. But after they’ve had their baby, a lot of women do pick up a little bit of weight. They want to lose that weight. They struggle to get going again.
For someone like you who was really active prior to falling pregnant, it was really important that you stayed that way throughout your pregnancy. Obviously each pregnancy is slightly different and you need to consult with your medical practitioner and your GP and your gynae as well. but if you can stay active, that’s the key to making sure that you remain active after you’ve had the baby too.
LZ: Absolutely. If you’re able to keep active throughout your pregnancy, obviously having consulted with the necessary health professionals; it makes it that much easier for you to almost bounce back into it post pregnancy. In my case, like I said, I got the green light from my doctors, the minute I found out I was pregnant.
Also being a biokineticist, I know how to gradually decrease the intensity. Being someone who runs ultra marathons and so on, I was able to decrease the intensity throughout my pregnancy, to literally walking.
Like I mentioned, the day before I had my baby I did actually go out for a 5km walk, something that would typically take me about half an hour to 45 minutes, it took me two hours. But it was pretty much just to keep the blood pumping. Yes, if you do get the green light from your doctors to keep active, do so, because it will work best for you post pregnancy.
A mom’s time balancing act
BB: Letshego, let’s talk about the juggling act. It’s one thing staying active, it’s another thing actually finding the time to stay active. I know as a new mom it’s very difficult. How have you managed to juggle that? I know your hubby, Gugs is very active and he’s a fantastic dad. He does help out a lot as well and having that support really helps, but how have you managed that juggling act?
LZ: Well, obviously with my husband being a keen cyclist himself, we literally had to come up with a timetable. Just in brief, I’ve got Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. He gets Tuesday and Thursday mornings to head out and then on the weekend. Lucky for us, we’ve got his sister who lives around the corner. My mom lives around the corner and so do his parents.
The grandparents and the aunt get to babysit over the weekend so we can go to all the races that we want to do. The support really helps, but basically during the week it’s me and my dearest husband literally juggling our training sessions. When I don’t have a Tuesday and Thursday because he’s out in the morning, I might leave the afternoon or early evening when he comes back from work, in order for me to train.
Having a training timetable can really help
It’s literally about coming up with a timetable and sticking to it. It’s helped me so far. It’s very easy to fall into that trap to say, the baby keeps me busy or work keeps me busy. But it’s literally like setting a meeting for yourself, you literally need to schedule the training as if it were a meeting in your diary and that’s how you get to it.
BB: I absolutely love that because when I started running, that’s exactly what I did. This doesn’t apply to people who have just had kids. If you want to, and if you are serious about doing this, you need to set that time aside for yourself. That’s exactly what I did Letshego, I had, in my diary; on a Monday, Wednesday and a Friday afternoon, it was blocked out. No one knew what it was, but I knew that that was my running time.
LZ: Absolutely. I’ve got days where, because now I’m coupling my running with swimming as well. I swim during the day and it’s literally a meeting at 1:00 during the day. No one needs to know what it is, but it’s my meeting and I’m gone for two hours, out there swimming for 45 minutes. Make sure I get in the shower and freshening up so that it looks like I’ve done nothing! You need to plan and that’s the only way you can be successful or your training can be successful so that you’re able to race.
How do you deal with the guilt factor?
BB: Letshego, one thing that new moms struggle with too and it’s got to do with exercise, it’s got to do with going back to work as well after giving birth is the guilt and being away from your baby. Is that something that you’ve had to struggle with as well?
LZ: I’ve got an amazing nanny who has literally been with our little one since she was eight days old. The guilt side of things, I think I worked through that in that I had a goal for myself. A personal goal to get back to my pre-pregnancy shape. Having carried this precious being for nine months, I did the best that I could to get her to where she is.
I guess for me, there was no guilt trip because I had that goal. I had to make sure that I get back to my old self, otherwise I would lose my sanity. I think for me that’s what worked. I really don’t know how it works for other moms.
BB: I think you make an important point there too, you need to do something for you and that’s an important lesson that you’re teaching your little one as well. She might not realise it now, but growing up in a household where you guys do set goals and you do work towards things, I mean that’s so valuable. That’s going to set her up for life to do the same things in her life.
LZ: Absolutely and it takes us back to the whole planning. You set a goal and you need a structure to assist you to achieve whatever goal it is. For me it was literally, I know I’m pregnant, let me keep active so that I don’t put on too much weight. The little one gets born, now I need to snap back into shape. I literally had planned it during my pregnancy how I was slowly going to get back into shape and I did so.
BB: I love it and you mentioned that Gugu is a keen cyclist, did I see something yesterday that he’s riding the Cape Epic again this year?
LZ: For the fourth time, he’s a sucker for pain!
A fitness goal orientated family
BB: I’m not going to say a word, but it also says a lot about what you guys do. It’s one thing exercising to stay fit, but you guys have set some big goals. I mean Gugs is riding the Epic, you’re doing the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra, plus the Ironman; you guys aren’t scared of putting things out there.
LZ: No, we don’t play. We love setting massive goals for ourselves on an annual basis. It’s just going out there and doing big things that the ordinary person is unable to do and hopefully inspire one or two people out there to try out these amazing things.
As I mentioned, I’m doing my fifth Two Oceans Ultra this year. It’s a beautiful race that has literally been in my life for the past five years and I just can’t miss it. You know, with that being said, I know I’ve inspired quite a number of people to try out the race. So you know, we do it for personal gain, but we do it to inspire others as well.
BB: You mentioned that, let’s talk about what you do as well. You don’t just walk the talk and do it, you actually physically help other people. I saw you had an event on this past weekend, you are helping so many people turn their lives around. Tell us about some of the things you’ve got on the go at the moment Letshego.
Pop Up Gym – train where you like
LZ: I started a company called Pop Up Gym and it’s pretty much to show people that you can train anywhere, anytime. So many people, I found, were complaining that firstly they can’t afford gym memberships because it’s too expensive, or they work long hours and they don’t have time to fit in any training. The whole thing about Pop Up Gym is showing people you can train anywhere, anytime. Even in your backyard, even in your living room.
We share with people. We show people exercises that don’t require equipment. From doing functional training, to dancing to kickboxing. That’s my passion because on a daily basis I receive emails from people telling me their long stories. How I’ve been struggling with weight loss for so many years and I don’t know what to do.
It’s pretty much to show people that you don’t need that much in order for you to achieve weight loss or whatever your goals may be. So that’s pretty much what Pop Up Gym is. We had this past event at Montecasino on the Piazza, which is a place that you particularly wouldn’t find anybody exercising. It goes back to the message of you can train anywhere, anytime.
We’ll be doing a couple more Pop Up Gym’s throughout the year in odd places that people typically wouldn’t expect to see anybody exercising. Just to continue driving that message that you can train anywhere, anytime.
BB: I think it’s amazing. Letshego, if people want to find out more about that Pop Up Gym and what you’ve got planned and where they’re going to be, is there somewhere they can go and check out online?
BB: Brilliant, what I’ll do is I’ll pop those links into the show notes of this episode as well, to let people click straight through. Talking Old Mutual Two Oceans, what’s the goal? Are you going there just to finish? I get the sense that you’re not just going there to finish, you’ve got a specific goal time-wise, what are we chasing?
LZ: You know me too well Brad. I keep saying to myself, I only had a baby eight months ago, I need to go and just enjoy the race and cross that finish line in whatever time. I’ve been saying that for the longest time, but I’m honestly hoping to finish in less than 5.5 hours.
My best time, I think was about two years ago, was 4:55, my only sub five, but I’m not too sure if I’m on par. I mean I only had a baby eight months ago, but I have been training hard. It’s one of those, I’m kind of dangling, sitting on the fence about. But I think I’ll be happy with anything that’s less than five and a half hours.
BB: You’re such an overachiever and I love it.
LZ: I am Brad, I am!
BB: Letshogo, we need to have a wee word with Gugu as well, I know he’s run the half marathon a few times. But I think it’s time he makes the step up and runs the big one.
LZ: I think so too, he needs to up the ante come 2017 cause I know this year he’s doing the half again.
BB: I know, it’s just not on. It’s just not on! We’re going to have to have a word with him. Letshego, thank you so much for joining us today here on Old Mutual Live, much appreciated and I just love the way you both are inspiring people, but you are incredible. Just so you know, you’re a great mom, your little one is lucky to have you guys as parents, which I think is amazing.
LZ: Thank you so much for having me Brad, always great chatting to you.