Playing on the LPGA Tour is mentally and physically challenging for any player. Traveling each week, trying to stay healthy, eating right, getting adequate sleep, maintaining focus, and preserving muscle mass built in the off-season is a struggle on its own, but it is even more challenging for mothers like Katherine Perry-Hamski, who is also taking care of her family while playing on the Tour.
As many mothers know, having a baby changes more than just your day-to-day routines; it changes your body and your habits as well. Bouncing back from any pregnancy takes time, but recovering and getting back into shape as a professional athlete comes with its own set of challenges.
While Perry-Hamski was pregnant last year with her first child, she was able to stay active the entire nine months. She played golf three to five times a week and went to the gym three times a week with a trainer who designed pregnancy-safe workouts just for her, but while her diet could remain relatively the same throughout her pregnancy, she had to make the first of some adjustments to diet by eliminating her favorite food—sushi—and deli meat to avoid potential bacteria and foodborne illnesses.
After giving birth to her son in September 2020 via C-section, and getting the green light from her doctor to return to normal activity eight weeks post-partum, Parry-Hamski headed back to the course and the gym much weaker than before. She continued to work out in the gym and on the course for the next few months and returned to tournament play in February 2021 at Gainbridge. Almost a year after her C-section, she continues to struggle to build muscle again and still feels like “something is ripping” in her lower abdominals, but it doesn’t stop her from competing.
While some women struggle to lose their pregnancy weight, she had a significant weight loss due to necessary dietary changes. She suspected her son had a diary allergy and went off dairy as she breastfed to test her theory. He started feeling better, but when she eliminated dairy from her diet, her weight plummeted. It is likely dairy is where a significant amount of her calories and protein were coming from, and without replacing it or supplementing with something else, she found herself imbalanced nutritionally.
“I realized that so much of what I eat is dairy,” she said. “I love glasses of milk during the day, cheese, yogurt, all sorts of dairy.”
To rebuild muscle post-pregnancy, women need to make sure they consume enough calories and protein to support muscle growth.
“It is just really hard with breastfeeding to get in enough calories,” Perry-Hamski said.
Perry-Hamski and her husband are also trying to eat healthier and eat more fruits and vegetables, and with her son now on solid foods, she wants to model good behavior for him.
“If I am forcing him to eat a banana, and I won’t touch one, that is just not right.”
But with being away from home for weeks at a time to play on the Tour, consistently making healthy choices can be difficult.
“It is tough to get a healthy meal on the Tour sometimes because we get a lot of takeout or whatever is easiest,” she said. “If we get home late, I try to get John [her son] ready for bed and Kevin [her husband] is figuring out dinner plans, so we’re just trying to find the quickest meal possible, which is usually not that great.”
Now, after having played in 13 tournaments in 2021 so far, she is still working to regain the weight she has lost over the last year and rebuild her strength. Still, she feels like her focus and concentration on the course have been waning around hole 12.
“Thinking about John is definitely draining some brain power out there where I just make bogeys out of nowhere that I normally wouldn’t, or I’ll randomly three-putt. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to combat that with nutrition on the course to get ahead of it.”
To do this, she makes sure to have a filling meal before she plays, eats plenty of snacks on the course such as protein bars and bananas, and tries to stay hydrated with water and diluted Gatorade.
“It has been a learning process to get back and figure out how to play and travel with a child. The other moms on tour were super helpful with all kinds of things like what to bring on Tour, and comparing notes, and talking about their journeys. They all understand the grind out there as well. It’s exhausting, but I love it.”