About Danelle Kabush

I am a mother of two, professional Xterra triathlete for the LUNA Pro team, and a mental performance consultant

Sports Parenting in 10 Sentences

Danelle Kabush:

Some great succinct advice here!

Originally posted on JAG GYM Blog:

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1 word: Hi.  Greet your child when they get in the car with “Hi” before you ask about practice, the score of the game or homework.  

2 words: Have fun.  In all likelihood you’ve heard this statistic: 70% of kids quit sports before they turn 13 for the primary reason that they are not having fun.    Encourage and remind your kids to have fun.

3 words: Tell me more.  Before forming an opinion or dispensing advice, ask for more information from your child.  This will force them to tell more of the story and give you more information as to what is actually happening.  

4 words: Good job. Keep working.  Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and parent of a NBA player suggests these four words.  Rivers notes that as parents we are often tempted to say…

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What my parents taught me about raising healthy, happy and self-motivated athletes

At 40 years old I’m scaling back my racing focus for the first time and the lifestyle of my most recent sport, that of a Professional off-road triathlete – although I love training and racing too much to ever “retire”. Meanwhile my 3 x Olympian brother continues to race his mountain bike after 22 years and counting with in his words, a motivation of “increasing complexity”.

While there are many factors that have kept both of us active and competitive since our first competitive beginnings in track and field club at the ages of 10 and 12, I would give a lot of credit to our parents and how we were raised.

After several years in the motivation lab at the University of Ottawa to complete my doctorate, and having worked with athletes over the past 10 years, I’ve heard about the pressures from parents often enough. Of course, the majority of parents have well-meaning intentions. But I can’t help reflect on a few things my parents definitely got right, which I believe have made a lasting and positive impact on sustaining our self-motivation, and I hope I can do the same with my children.

1. Our parents participated alongside us. On weekends growing up in the earlier days we did family runs. As our two border collies zig zagged in and out of the woods in front of us we ran several miles as a family on the roads and trails in Courtenay, B.C.. We cross-country skied together, did breakfast runs with the local running club together. My parents chaperoned the local kids to many track meets. My dad shot hoops with us, played soccer in the back yard. Both parents got into mountain biking well before I did when my brother started racing his bike.They are still mountain biking, xc skiing, hiking, swimming etc as they head into their seventies.

2. Give lots of free time to play. We were lucky to grow up on 10 acres of land with lots of forest to build forts in and climb trees. While of course there were some structured activities like swim lessons and soccer, my happiest memories are just free time play shooting hoops or running around the yard. My brother spent hours juggling the soccer ball or hopping over the picnic table on his bike. With plenty of playtime, there was room for self-discovery, curiosity, and creativity – all foundations of self-motivation. For one winter in high school I attempted to play club volleyball, high school basketball and continue my winter base training for running. It was all my own doing and after getting totally burnt out, I chose to drop the volleyball. It was a glimpse of how many over scheduled kids must feel all the time today!

3. Be more interested in the story than the outcome. Whatever sport we were doing, our parents took an avid interest. On top of participating with us, they were students of the sport and huge fans. They have always been most interested in the story of the day versus the end result. (e.g. How did it go? What was your workout today? How did you feel today? Not “Did you win?” or “Why didn’t you do better?!”). They’ve always known enough about our developmental stage, the sport, and the competition to understand what a truly good or off-day meant. I still appreciate that I can call up my Dad, say I smashed a track workout, tell him my times and he’ll get it.

4. Leave any “critiquing” out of the parent-child relationship. In contrast to the last point, I don’t recall my parents handing out any criticism or “coaching” type tips unless I specifically asked. Their unconditional support has primarily been through the role of being the patiently guiding, active listeners to let me express my feelings, and do all the problem solving on my own. All my choices in sport have been self-driven. As a female athlete I also need to give a big kudos to my mom. While many athletes struggle with body image to some degree or another for various reasons, I admire my mother in that she has not once put herself or her body down or once made ANY comment about mine. I cringe when I hear other female athletes say, “I’m so fat” or “Look at that girl, she is SO skinny”. I’ve even caught myself thinking or saying similar comments. I try to mindful of never making such remarks in front of my own daughter.

Thank you to my parents for continuing to lead by example, and for your continued support and unconditional love!

What drives you from the inside out?

Whether it be work, school, sport or any other arena in life where one needs to perform, the prevailing motivation view is typically, “reward me and I’ll work harder.” But is that how motivation really works? Not always, at least for the longer term for motivation sustainability. According to my favourite view of motivation, which is well grounded in science with an abundance of research around the globe, Self Determination Theory has demonstrated well that the psychology of motivation is innate, universal across cultures and evident for any age or developmental period.

When your motivation is self-determined, you have high levels of intrinsic motivation. And why is it important to pay attention and cultivate intrinsic motivation? As opposed to the other end of the motivation spectrum being extrinsic motivators, intrinsic motivation has proven to be associated with higher quality motivation, specifically better learning, more interest, greater effort, higher self-esteem, increased life satisfaction, and enhanced health. In sport, intrinsic motives also correlates to increased persistence and higher performance.

To cultivate your inner motivation, consider the three following types of intrinsic motivation below. If your motivation is wanes from time to time consider getting in touch again with any of these types of intrinsic motivators:

1. Knowledge. In the context of sport, what peaks your curiosity? What do you seek to understand better? (e.g. training science, nutrition, technology, new and innovative techniques?) What kinds of novelties and creative approaches to your life as an athlete keep your motivation fresh?

2. Accomplishment: Do you take pleasure in surpassing your previous self and personal bests in training or competition? Do you enjoy the ongoing challenge of mastering all the skills essential to your chosen sport? Can you take pleasure in the journey of becoming more and more competent at what you do?

3. Stimulation: Anyone who has ever called themselves an athlete, knows sport can be full or highs and lows. Intrinsic motivation for stimulation means focusing on that drive to experience excitement, the adrenaline rush of pushing our comfort zones, the challenge of putting it all together for a peak performance, and experiencing the optimal challenge-skills balance of being in “flow”.

Intrinsic motivation is experienced in those moments when you are simply enjoying the pleasure and satisfaction of doing your sport. Getting in touch with your intrinsic motivation means connecting with those moments of pure enjoyment, embracing the challenge, cultivating what is interesting and exciting, letting go of any fears of failure and doing your sport simply because it feels good!

Full Circle Focus for 2015

It all started with a grade six science experiment for school. The details escape me but it involved training with short versus long interval repeats, and running a mile flat-out several times, sometimes on the track and sometimes on a gravel road and see where I improved the most. It hurt every time and my lungs burned. My dad timed every one and cheered me on, he hasn’t stopped cheering since.

Running fast was fun. Battles and wins were fun. I peaked, plateaued and peaked again. A handful of times I experienced that perfect race: effortless, floating, in control with another gear ready to unleash anytime. It is the most amazing feeling when all the hard work pays off. Then my first long-lasting injury.

Why don’t you try mountain biking? Not many girls are doing it. Sure! You only live once! I learned that momentum is everything as I smashed my face into rocks and flipped over the bars. I was bloody and bruised almost every day that first summer. I was hooked. I like to be in control but I learned to let go of the brakes and be comfortable letting it slide. “RIDE IT!!” my brother bellowed from way down below. His teammates were watching on, waiting. I was shaking but I DID IT!! Things that were once scary and sent my heart racing became exciting and fun. I grew quads, developed pedal power and learned how to push mentally through race efforts of over two hours. I learned how to focus through fatigue and fear in order to stay upright at maximum effort on two wheels. I have had the opportunity to race on amazing single track all over North America. The post-race story-telling high can last for hours. There’s nothing like the feeling of flow on a mountain bike.

But I’m glad I dabbled with swim club racing in junior high. Gliding rhythmically through the blue water of a pool, over sea turtles, or next to the tree-lined shore of a glass calm lake is magical. I learned about balance through training for a 3-discipline sport. How all our energy comes from one place and that we need to spend it wisely; how variation and variety are the spice of motivation. From a sport that embraces the young to the very old, the able-bodied to the physically challenged, I have learned we should never set limits on what we think we can do…especially after birthing babies’ ladies! And oh, the places I might never have been and the wonderful friends I have made!

I’ve been away and now I’m back to where it all started. I’m falling in love with the purity of running all over again. I’m a runner who swims and bikes. I’m a triathlete who runs a lot. Either way, I’m having fun and still love the focus a competitive goal brings, the challenge of pushing way past comfortable, that body burn all over at least a few times per week. There’s no way I’m ready to just go easy yet. Maybe one day. Family and health come first. And for now, I just want to run out the door and see where it will take me next, some days easy, some days as fast as my legs can go.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Sharon Styles

Meet Sharon Styles, a coach (Team TriLife), runner, triathlete, wife and mom of two teenagers from Calgary, Alberta. While our paths crossed in Alberta such as at the Great White North triathlon in 2013 (pictured below), I unfortunately didn’t get to know much about Sharon, until now! Thanks for sharing your story Sharon, for another awesome perspective and great tips for balancing it all. Read on for another dose of momthlete inspiration as she talks about athletic pursuits with teenage children in the family!

Great White North Triathlon 2013 Overall Women's Podium

Great White North Triathlon 2013 Overall Women’s Podium (Sharon on far right)

1. What was your life as an athlete before and after kids? And how has it evolved as your children have grown?

I discovered I was a decent distance runner back in junior high, doing those dreaded 12 minute run tests.  I joined track in junior high but really started to love running in high school.  I competed in track and field and cross-country running in high school as well as some competitive swimming and cross-country skiing.   I went on to run track and cross country with the University of Saskatchewan.   After my daughter Ayden, now 17, was born I made the transition to 10km road races and continued to race at that distance after my son, Liam, now 14, was born.   After having to take a year off of running due to injury in 2005/2006 I decided to give triathlon a try in 2007 and was instantly hooked.   I started out with some sprint distance tri’s and quickly moved up to the olympic and half iron distance races where I found myself enjoying age group success.  Over the past three years I have seen huge improvements in my racing and I’ve become more competitive, investing more time into training as well as improving my health.

  1. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and/or continue racing?

I feel like being a runner (now a triathlete) was a huge part of what defined me.   Being a healthy mother is a vital part of raising a family and running was simply a part of my daily routine and a healthy lifestyle.   Making time for it was as important to me as brushing my teeth.    I feel the same way now 17 years later, not just because being an athlete is a big part of what I am ( I love training and racing) but also because I value being fit and healthy.   I love that,  with my husband, I have set an example for my children on how to maintain health and fitness throughout your life.

  1. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed over the years as a mother?

I stayed active throughout my pregnancies, with easy running in the early months and transitioning to cycling and walking in the later months.   I kept my workouts fairly easy.

Over the years my training and racing has definitely become more serious.    When the kids were small I stuck to running only, which made it a lot easier to get workouts in because you can take the kids with you most of the time.  I hauled my kids around in a double chariot for quite a few years!  When my daughter started riding a two-wheeler she would ride along side or sometimes we would even hook the chariot up to her bike and she would pull her brother while I pushed.   As they got older and grew out of the chariot I often ran small loops around our rural property while they played outside or I would get it done on the treadmill.  Even on gorgeous days I remember doing  trainer rides on the deck while the kids played in the yard.

Of course now they can look after themselves when I go out training, or if I am really lucky they will join me on a run.

Sharon volunteering at Alberta Summer Games while son, Liam competed in track

Sharon volunteering at Alberta Summer Games while son, Liam competed in track

  1. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?

In 2015 my goal races are the Wasa Lake Triathlon, Great White North Triathlon and ITU Worlds in Chicago where I want to defend my 2014 age group Gold medal.  I want to continue to get faster in 2015 and hope to improve on my Olympic distance and half iron distance pr’s.

  1. How do you balance family/work demands and interests with your athletic goals? 

In lots of ways training and racing with older children is even harder than when they were younger.   Timing seems to be everything, from weekly training volume to the big races.    I am a running and triathlon coach so I do some of my work from home and train during the day while the kids are in school.   Evenings and weekend are full of sports and extra curricular activities.   Saturdays have become one of the hardest days to get a training session in.  When I train during the school day I will often take my laptop with me to practices and work where ever the kids are.   I will also fit training sessions in during kids’ practices, running, swimming or cycling during volleyball, soccer, baseball, track, guitar….  I have worked out in a lot of different venues, including vacations.  My kids always joke how mom turns relaxation into workouts.

When it comes to racing there are only 2 or 3 races I firmly commit to, and I don’t travel far for most of them.  The rest of my races I try to work around the kids schedules so I can be there for their important games / tournaments / meets.

Of course it helps to have a supportive spouse!  My husband Marty, an avid Crossfitter, is able to be sports dad x2 when I head away to race.   Of course if the crew is free, they are there to cheer me on for the bigger races.   When I recently competed at the ITU World’s in Edmonton they were there to cheer. Nothing meant more than having them there to celebrate with me.

Sharon and family at 2014 ITU Worlds in Edmonton

Sharon and family at 2014 ITU Worlds in Edmonton

  1. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children? And more specifically tips for teenage years?

Make your goals and fitness a priority, but within reason.  Keep it simple.  Your teens need you around, even though they would disagree.    Sure, they don’t want to talk to you 75% of the time, but you can’t miss the 25% when they do.  I want to be at their special events as much as I want them at mine.    I want them to know they are more important to me than racing, and yeah, I do love them more than I love my bike, despite the jokes

Be flexible….   Know that sometimes your workout needs to be done between events and that the other parents will get used to seeing you in spandex and not smelling all that great.    Sometimes the Saturday long run has two options, 6am in the dark or 6pm in the dark, and you make it work.  If you planned on a 1 hour work out one day and only had time for 20 minutes, that’s OK. The benefits to your mind and body are incredible even without the volume.

Menu planning….being on top of this is so important for both you and your family to eat healthy.   Planning meals that  can be eaten on the go or that you can throw in the crock pot help a ton!

Invite your kids to train with you.   They might say no 9 times out of 10, but on that 10th time, you will share something special.

Family bonding Color Me Rad Run Race 2013

Family bonding Color Me Rad Run Race 2013

Athlete-Mom Interview: Katie Palavecino

Meet Katie Palavecino, a “triathloning” mom who lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, Matias, and two young children: 2.5 year old son, Leo, and 16-month old daughter, Chloe. Katie and I first met in 2008 at a Luna Chix summit and have kept up with each other now and then online since then. Read on to see how this crack-of-dawn rising mom balances family-time, work and training with that other thing we all deal with along the way – mom-guilt! When Katie isn’t training with her current team HPB, she manages to also find the time to keep a family blog (www.thepalavecinos.com) and a training/racing blog (www.katiedavison.net). You can also follow Katie on twitter: @k80gage

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What was your life as an athletically, and otherwise, before having children? How has it evolved before and between each of your children?

I met my husband, Matias, in 2007 at a masters swim practice.  We were married in August of 2011 and soon after had two children, Leo (2.5 years) and Chloe (16 months).

Triathlon has become my lifestyle since I did my first triathlon in 2005. It has had it’s ups and downs since then but has always been and will always be a part of my life. The summer before Leo was born after several years of heavy training all I could think was…I wish I had a baby so I wasn’t expected to go on a 6 hour bike ride every weekend!  I needed and wanted  to find more of a balance in my life.

Now as a mother, the volume of training has definitely decreased…while the intensity has increased….quality over quantity!

Chloe 1 year-15

What has motivated and inspired you to get training and racing again?

Balancing family, work and training is a challenge…but anything worth doing is worth overdoing right?! Managing it all on a daily basis is extremely fulfilling to me.

Since becoming a mom I still have a lot of the same motivation to train…as it has become my lifestyle and a part of me.  And now with a family have added more motivation…I want to set a good role model for my children and I need to stay fit to keep up with my two bundles of energy!

One aspect of triathlon that has somewhat dropped since having a family is the social aspect.  I don’t have as much time to go on group rides/runs/masters practices or happy hours.  I got a coach in August to help with giving my quality workouts that I could do on my own and keep me from overtraining…knowing when I can stop and I have trained hard enough for the day.

Did you “train” during your pregnancies? 

I stayed active through both pregnancies…swimming, spinning, or jogging every day…just got to keep moving.  With both I swam right up until the day I delivered.  I think I did about 500 miles in the pool with each :)

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What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?

After back to back pregnancies and not much racing for 2 seasons…2014 was all about feeling it out at local races…seeing how competitive I wanted to be.  Training and keeping in shape will always be part of my life…but the racing I was unsure of.  My first race back and it was like nothing changed!  I was loving it.

2015…hoping to venture out a bit.  I have always struggled with running.  Hoping to get that more solid and have a successful half ironman, as well as compete in my favorite local races.

How do you balance family/work demands and interests etc with your athletic goals? 

As much as I am motivated and driven to continue in the sport…I still struggle with mom guilt.  Before children I thought it would be about finding the TIME to balance it all.  But I have all the time I need.  I have a super supportive hubby and I don’t like to sleep.  But there is this thing called mom GUILT that gets me!  Or not so much guilt but wanting to be with my kids.  I plan my days and balance of family/work/training to minimize this feeling :)  Love hurts!  (in a very good way)

I work at home full-time as a Patent Examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  The job is extremely flexible.   A typical day is getting up before everyone (4:30am) and rolling up to my office to start work.  Once the family gets up (6ish) we all hang out and they are out the door to daycare (7ish).  Then is my training time.  Then it is back to my desk.  Often days I am able to finish early and pick the kids up and do something fun before the evening routine of dinner/bath/bed.

Chloe 1 year-8

Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?

Routine and planning!  Making a schedule with your family (hubby) is such a huge help!

Also having the help from a coach…with less time to get in with groups it gives focus and quality workouts and having that accountability to someone.

Incorporating family into workouts is huge too.  Some weekends can be crazy with my hubby and I both trying to fit training in.  Taking kids to the pool with us to play a bit, jogging with the kids in the stroller, riding with the kids in the trailer…all ways to get in workouts while spending time with family :)

Athlete-Mom Interview: Cindy Spence

Meet Cindy Spence from Calgary, Alberta, where she lives with her husband Ryan, and two very active daughters, Emma (11 years) and Kate (8 years). I met Cindy through the mountain biking and Xterra scene while living in Calgary. Cindy always has a smile on her face and has an energy and excitement for life that is contagious. I am so excited to share this interview as I think she shares some amazing insights, wisdom and advice on balancing her full-time job, staying active and competitive (while being a great role model for her daughters!), spending quality time with her family and encouraging her daughters in their athletic pursuits. You will also find a link to Cindy’s great blog below.

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1. What was your life athletically (or otherwise) and how has it evolved before and between each of your daughters births, and as they’ve grown?

I was always active, I loved to ride my bike and run when growing up through elementary school, got serious about playing basketball and running track in high school and continued to play basketball at university. I remained active through university, and moved to outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and mountain biking after graduation. In fact, we moved to Calgary because of the active lifestyle and access to mountain exploits, like hiking and mountain biking in summer, skiing in winter.

Prior to Emma, I was “fit,” and between uni and Emma, I was involved with recreational teams (beach volleyball with friends, Ultimate frisbee) and outdoor pursuits with The Husband (Ryan). I commuted on a big, heavy old mountain bike to work. Nothing formal or structured, no racing per se.

My pregnancy with Emma was challenging: I gained a lot of weight and encountered some complications (the same thing happened while pregnant with Kate). So postpartum, I was anxious to not just fit into my clothes again, I also wanted to look good in them – it sounds vain, but that was my initial push. I made a small goal, and I enrolled in a local triathlon. It got me off the couch and was a great way to add intensity to the hiking and skiing and biking we tried to do as a family. Family activities were more “social” and low-intensity. I discovered that I loved the intensity of triathlon, and sought the help of a coach. I was also acutely aware of setting an example for my curious daughter. I wanted her to see a healthy, happy mom who was capable of chasing her across the yard, down the street, and all the way to the park – every day! I wanted her to see a healthy, fit mom whose lifestyle was sustainable and strong.

I stayed on the local triathlon age-group circuit for 2 years, and then came Kate! After Kate was born, I was hungry to start training again. This time my motivation was different. Yes, I wanted to return to an athletic “look,” and I wanted to set the example for my girls, but I was also conscious of the aging process. My family has some crazy genes in it, I was determined to be healthy and stay that way, I wanted to continue to be healthy for many years to come and beat the genetic odds. My Mom was afflicted by several degenerative diseases, some of them with genetic tendencies, and she passed away this year at the age of 67. I often reflected on her life at my age, and I vowed to do everything in my control to beat the odds.

So I returned to triathlon and made a multi-year plan: my next goal was Ironman Canada. In 2011 I raced IMC in Penticton. It taught me about mental toughness, it taught me about discipline, it taught me about pain. Training for an event like this requires extensive time away from the family. I also have a full-time job (Client Rep for Oil&Gas IT Services at IBM), so I had to find ways to balance and juggle all the spinning plates that come with family, training, and working. My LinkedIn profile and resume now includes an “Accomplishments” section, where one sentence reads: Trained for and competed at XTerra World Championships in 2014 and 2013, and Ironman Canada 2011 while working full-time, raising two daughters, and being a charming wife. The “charming wife” may be a bit tongue-in-cheek – but we are a happier and stronger family for it!

After Ironman, I went back to my mountain bike, I have always loved to ride. I got deeply involved with a Calgary-based women’s only club, Spin Sisters (www.spinsisters.ca), where I spent 3 years as President (I’ve been a member for 8 years). I loved the interaction with other athletic women who dabbled in racing and who genuinely wanted to keep advancing their skills on a mountain bike. The club seeks to inspire riders of all levels to take the next step, to keep riding. I strongly believe in promoting women in sport, that we need to continue to develop female leaders in sport throughout their active lives, it helps them in many areas of life and it provides younger girls with role models, examples, and heroes to model their lives around, whether consciously or not, at all stages of life.

I also crossed over to the world of XTerra racing, which has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Details can be found in my blog: http://graphixdivasblog.blogspot.ca/ . In short, I have been honoured to race at the XTerra World Championships twice, and each time it was a significant life experience for me.

I have always included my girls in athletic endeavours, whether they were riding in the Chariot while I ran or biked; whether they rode high on their perch in a backpack carrier across Scotland or through the Rockies, or whether they came with us to the mountain for ski days, we have tried to instill the notion that an active, athletic lifestyle is the status quo. They have always come to my races, they are my biggest cheering squad and love to cross the finish line with me. Now that my girls are reaching the ages of 11 and 8, they are starting to understand the social and personal-satisfaction benefits of an active lifestyle. They participate in local races. They ride bikes in a neighbourhood gang and are active in some local clubs. I can take them with me for a ride on the trails, and they can climb like crazy, their technical skills already surpass mine, they just don’t know it yet! I’ve got some wicked memories pics of my girls riding and racing, I am in awe of their near-perfect technique, their focus, their smiles.

I see Emma’s friends dropping out of sports (age 11) and I worry that my girls will follow. I try to create an environment where they see my female friends, my peers, active and happy both in racing and in social athletics. I try to provide them with examples of role models and heroes across the sports that interest them, women like Danelle Kabush, Tatum Monod, Cindy Klassen, and others. I try to provide them with support for activities that interest them and keep those activities FUN. I try to include their friends, I often pile 4 giggling girls and their bikes into the back of the pickup, and head to COP where we might only ride one lap of the park, but we work on simple skills on the bike, and the girls get to laugh and shriek and ride together. My goal is to nurture them carefully and provide them with exposure to athletics and an active life.

Sport has always been in my life. I speak about it in my professional life, as I believe it has informed a lot of my habits: perseverance, mental strength, being a team leader or team member, discipline and more.

I also believe that sport and athletics make me a better person; the off-season makes me “itchy” and I find that I cannot last more than 2-3 weeks of unstructured non-athletic activity. I find a good workout will give me head space to solve lurking questions in both professional and personal life. I can hit the pool for an hour, count laps and sort out the structure of a looming presentation, I can hop on the trails along the river and run (never with headphones, I like to hear my own thoughts) and sort out the family calendar for the upcoming week, create a mental grocery list, and, when I’m all done, my sunny disposition has returned.

2. What motivated (or continues to inspire) you to get training and racing? And/or has this evolved through different stages with your daughters ages?

My motivation to return to an active lifestyle after the birth of my daughters came from three places: First, I wanted a “goal” to achieve, something to look forward to, something to train for. I chose a local triathlon. I also wanted to set a healthy example for my kids, to return to an outdoor lifestyle for our family and be a healthy Mom that could chase her kids, this was important to me. And finally, I have watched many members of my family fall prey to illness whether from genetic factors, inactivity or illness, and I am bound and determined to beat those odds.

As I have (gracefully?) aged, I am more focused, more motivated, and more determined to first and foremost set the example for my girls. In order to stay involved in their lives so that I can see them grow into adults and beyond, I need to be healthy. Athletics is one contributing factor.

It’s not just about the racing – I also genuinely enjoy the journey to race-day. I always view race-day as a celebration of the work that has gone into preparing for it, my ideal race-day will be a tough day, but it will be the result of my training. I love the thrill of competing, it suits my personality, and the extra effort to find the edge of my limits, to keep pushing that limit and exploring the nuances of it is what keeps me toeing the line. I’m not a pro athlete, I’m rarely on the age-group podium – but I love being out there, racing against my limits and, lately, like good wine, getting better with age!

3. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother?

Yes, while pregnant I tried to stay active – hiking, walking, and so on. But some complications arose, I gained a LOT of weight (close to 60 lbs) with both babies, and found walking painful and ultimately dangerous. So I turned to swimming. I swam for the final 4 months of both pregnancies, a consistent, even paced swim, 4 or 5 times a week, I remember the relief of the water for my joints, and I believe it helped to build strength for birth and beyond. Immediately following both girls, I started with walking and swimming, built back into running and cycling, then got motivated to race again.

4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?

After Ironman in 2011, I planned to return to mountain biking. In 2012, while pre-riding a course, I had a freak accident and broke my humerus, which out me out for the season.

In 2013, I focused on XTerra, where I qualified for the XTerra World Championships. I was honoured to qualify and return to Maui for XTerra World Championships in 2014, where I bettered my performance.

Cindy exiting the water at the Xterra World Championships

Cindy exiting the water at the Xterra World Championships

I’m still passionate about triathlon, and I will certainly continue to race both road and off-road tri’s, but my mountain bike has been calling to me. I plan to focus on mountain biking for the next couple of years, and plan to kick it off with a bang.In 2015, both The Husband and I are registered for BC Bike Race, a 7-day stage race in British Columbia. I’m excited and a bundle of nerves at the same time!

I’ve also gotten involved with the Calgary Women’s Masters Basketball League this season – my skills are rusty, but I’m energized by playing team sports again – with a full roster of skilled women across 8 teams!

And I am looking forward to a winter filled with skiing: downhill and alpine touring. We have some big trips planned, the girls have started to ski backcountry with us and are in search of the pow for 2015.

I’m also thrilled that my daughters share my excitement for sport. Both girls can shred on skis and on wheels, the only reason I’m ahead of them on trails is because I have mass and gravity on my side! They are both in ski and mtb clubs and love the social element – meeting friends who love to do the same things they do. Now I’m looking at ways to ensure there are appropriate avenues available to them as girls, making sure they have opportunities that nurture their interests and passions.

small spence family mckerrell_photo_june 18, 2013 050 (1)

5. How do you balance family/work demands and interests etc with your athletic goals? 

First and foremost, I have an amazing Husband. He is my partner in so many ways, his support is unwavering, and his commitment to a healthy lifestyle for our family is all-in. Sure, he grumbles about multiple, consecutive, large-volume weeks, sure we “debate” which races (and how many) to participate in each year. But he’s out there with me, making sure we find ways to turn a training day into a family day: we take shifts on the trails with our mountain bikes, we start early or finish late, reward the family with a trip to the lake or beach while the other gets in a long or hard workout.

I also gave up unnecessary things: we cancelled our cable service because we simply weren’t watching it. I’m not afraid to get up at 5am for a swim or to spin before hustling the girls off to school, because I get to bed early. I’m not afraid to call in the babysitter so that, when The Husband is traveling, I can go do a hill repeat workout. When I travel, I pack running shoes and explore new cities and work on speed on a treadmill if it’s too dark. There is more than enough time in a day, you just need to organize it.

We find ways to turn “races” in “race-cations”. We continue to train while on holidays by bringing wetsuits and bikes everywhere.

We (almost) always bring kids to the Finish Line.

We support each other’s goals, and take turns having an “A” season or training camp. I support his athletic dreams and he supports mine. It took a lot of encouraging from me for him to get into the race scene, he was so busy supporting my dreams that he forgot to include his own. Now that he is actively racing (mostly running), I find that we are mutually better at supporting each other.

It all boils down to respect and communication.

6. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and continuing to train/compete with children?

Be patient with yourself – you have plenty of time to enjoy your kids AND be an athlete.

Be kind to yourself.
Remember: you are stronger than you think, mentally and physically. Don’t be afraid of limits, go find them, then respect them.
Living in Calgary and very near to the Rocky Mountain, makes for an amazing place to play!

Living in Calgary and very near to the Rocky Mountain, makes for an amazing place to play!