Athlete-Mom Interview: Brandi Heisterman-Houlding

Brandi and I go way back, we met running track against each other at the club level in junior high. After many years, I saw Brandi again for the first time racing mountain bike nationals last summer in Canmore, where she rocked to a 7th place finish in the elite women’s race. Brandi lives with her family in Whistler, B.C., works as a high school teacher and has developed some mad technical skills on the bike in her spare time! After a solid mountain season in which she entered her first World Cup races, came second at the famous Test of Metal, and 7th at Nationals, she recently decided to dabble in Xterra and placed second in the Pro division at the Xterra Canada Championship. In another refreshing athlete-mom’s perspective, Brandi talks about balancing her life on the bike and life with her family which includes husband, Jay, 5 year old daughter Kianna, and 3 year old son, Hunter.

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

I started running cross country and track at age 7 for the Nanaimo Track and Field Club.  I was a competitive runner until I was 14, then I realized that I wanted to play metro soccer, ski, and play highschool basketball.  I am 3rd born in a family of 4 competitive  siblings.  I never wanted to be left behind, or complain. It made me tough for sure.  I played Varsity soccer and ran track at UVIC (University of Victoria), so have always been involved in sports at a high level.  I love competing; whether it be paddle board races with friends and family at the cottage, loonie races against the local men in Squamish, or the beep test with my grade 10 PE boys class. Win or lose, I love it.

2. What motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?

I didn’t think I would want to race anymore after kids, so I bought a non- race bike, a Julianna Santa Cruz, and I really started to enjoy descending.  I started going out with friends and riding tough trails. I still trained tons with my kids in the chariot, so I got fit again.  I went into a loonie race after my second was born and won, and realized that my race days weren’t over, yet!  Since then, I found that setting competitive goals has allowed me the balance I need in my life.  Racing and riding bikes is my personal time.  I don’t need the spa, I don’t go shopping, or on girl’s party weekends.  I just like to ride, with friends, or solo.  Mountain biking to me is like the thrill of skiing with the exercise component.  And, my toes don’t freeze!

3. How did you get into mountain biking and mountain bike racing?

I moved to Whistler in 2004 and got a Rocky Mountain Oxygen, 3 inch hardtail.  I hadn’t done much time on the mountain bike, but I had spent a few years riding a road bike in Victoria.  My sister and boyfriend (now husband) are rad mountain bikers, so I was determined to learn.  I was a spazz for sure, but could climb.  I went in my first loonie race and was 4th, the second loonie race I won, and I got 50 bucks.  I was hooked.  I realized that my overall fitness from road cycling and running allowed me to go fast, I just have to work on my technical skills.  Not hard to do in Whistler, where there are technical trails everywhere.  I love riding with my girlfriends, as we encourage and empower each other to try new stunts.  I did only local races before I had kids, and now with two little ones, have started to race nationally and internationally.  We get faster after kids, right?!?!

4. How do you balance training and racing with your family?

This year has been a learning year of balancing racing and family.  In previous years, I did a lot of my fitness training with the chariot.  But this year, I had a coach, and needed to ride and race without the kids.  I try to schedule rides when the family is sleeping (early am), or when the kids are at Montessori, and I go to the gym in the evenings when kids go to sleep.  I think it is a difficult balance for sure… I try to keep my husband happy and not overwhelmed.  I often hire my students (I am a highschool teacher), to watch the kids, as this is easier and less stressful than waiting for my husband to get home from work and say, “Here you go, I’m off for 3 hours”.

5. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?

I was fortunate to have awesome pregnancies.  Aside from some sickness from months 3-5, I was able to stay lean and fit during both pregnancies.  My first child is a girl, and I was unable to ride with her in my tummy, as I carried her so high, like right under my ribs, ouch.  I hiked under the gondola in Whistler with my dog, and swam everyday from 5months-birth. I swam the day she was born!  I loved the pool, as you can push a bit harder as the cool water keeps your heartrate so low.  I also found it was a relief on my back from the baby bump.  When I was pregnant with my 2nd, I carried him very low, and was able to ride my mountain bike on roads with my daughter in the bike seat or chariot.  I rode until 35 weeks.  I swam as well with my son inside, but only a few days a week, as I had my daughter with me most of the time!

6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing a family?

I try to communicate to my husband and kids that the training and racing is not the most important thing in my life, they are.  I try not to talk “shop”, too much to my husband, I save the bike talk for my friends on long road rides.  I find this difficult, as sometimes I am bursting with enthusiasm about a particular workout or race, but I have to remember that my husband has just been playing with the kids for hours and hours, and there are plenty of other things in life to talk about.  I try to take the focus off me and cycling.  When I am with my kids, I take time to focus on them, I don’t clean my bike, do emails about racing, talk on the phone; I try and give them my undivided attention.  These are things that have been working for me!  You have to be very organized with meals and activities.  I often have art projects ready for the babysitters so the kids will have fun while I’m gone, rather than miss me.  One great piece of advice that my coach gave me is: “It is cheaper to get a babysitter than couples counselling!”

7. Any upcoming events you are training for? Next season?

I have just finished my first full season as an elite xc mountain bike racer.  I went in an Xterra  race for fun, and had a blast.  This fall, I am trying to squeeze in some swims and runs, while teaching at the highschool, and will hopefully be ready for Xterra World Championships in Maui this October.  I will race at least one more mountain bike season in 2012, hitting two North American World Cups, and Canadian Nationals in July.

2 thoughts on “Athlete-Mom Interview: Brandi Heisterman-Houlding

  1. Another great post. Thank you for letting us know that motherhood can be the beginning of so possibilities! Very inspiring to know how you and other mothers are out there being badasses… Go mamas!

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