Athlete-Mom Interview: Ginny Sellars

I met Ginny, and her husband Andrew a few years ago when we stayed together at the Xterra Mountain Championship. I enjoyed their company right away and every time we have run into each other since. They truly embrace the athletic lifestyle with tons of passion and infectious positivity as a family with their now six-year-old daughter Maddi. Home base for this family is in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Vernon, British Columbia. Ginny has competed in many triathlons including Ironmans, bike races, and ultrarunning. Her next event is Ironman Wisconsin coming up on September 9th. Read on to hear more about how for Ginny family life, work, training and racing can all fit together synergistically, keeping everyone happy and fit! Ginny also has a blog where you can read about her adventures here.

Ginny with husband, Andrew and six year old daughter Maddi

1. Can you describe your athletic/competitive background before and after becoming a mom?

My involvement in sport has truly not changed pre and post bringing a child into this world. If anything, I’ve branched out a little more, and beyond Ironman, have taken a stab at bike racing and ultra-running. This is massively due to my husband’s encouragement. We had not planned to have a child. I felt somewhat fragile with my mood, and was terrified that I would fall in my mother’s footsteps, and experience post-partum depression. Given my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I’m highly aware of how that can affect the emotional development of a child. When I got pregnant, my husband immediately booked us for a bike tour through the Rocky Mountains, which would happen 6 months after she was born. He also signed me up for an Ironman 7.5 months after her birth. I fumed at him, thinking he had no idea what having a baby would entail. He knew me better than I knew myself, and it kept me active during the pregnancy, and the future events gave me the excitement and regime of exercise to balance my mood. As it turns out, the IM race when my baby was 7.5 months old was a PB. I completed it in 10hr29, and it gave me confidence that as a family we could do great things.

Ginny getting in some IM training

2. Since you and your husband both work, train/compete and coach how do you balance your family, work, and training/racing?

The way that we fit in exercise and training is constantly changing as our little girl grows up and work demands change. In general, we find a mix of being active together, and finding time to ourselves. In the early days, it was a matter of getting everything set up, so that the minute the baby was asleep I could jump on the trainer and spin. Our baby got used to feeding from a sweaty Mama. I would walk or run pushing the baby stroller. As she got older, I found a great daycare, and had to get over the baseless guilt of sneaking in a workout after work before picking her up. She’s now in school, which gives time for training. She’s finally strong enough on the paddle board that I can swim in the lake without a babysitter, and she can keep up on the her bike for my short jogs. My husband has also been very flexible, and we find ways to include our daughter instead of doing it all while she’s absent. It’s not uncommon for one of us to set off for a workout in the park, while the other one brings a picnic and hikes with our daughter to a meeting spot. Most of the time it requires tag-teaming though, and it’s easier when both parents are seeking training time, so it’s more balanced in the marriage.

3. What does Maddi think of her athletic mom?

Until this year, I don’t think it ever crossed her mind. Our active life is all she has known. Just this year she has made some comments about being excited for me at an event, or sometimes being scared for me when she knows I’m nervous. At times when I’m injured, she has written me cards “I hope you get better soon Mama. I’m proud of you.” She has her own first triathlon this coming weekend, and it will be such a pleasure to watch her experiencing the joy of participating herself.

Maddi catching the triathlon bug?

4. What have been/are your 2012 training/competition goals?

After an exceptionally busy year in 2011, with a 7 day bike stage race in Europe, some local bike racing, and two Ironman events, I was ready for a year with fewer planned events. I decided to go with the flow, and join in events as they emerged. This year began with an ultra-run in Mallorca Spain. I ran 64km over stunning mountainous terrain. My initial goal was completion of something new and exciting. I got the competitive bug out there, and ran myself into second place in the women.  I then got the Ironman bug again, and registered for Ironman Wisconsin that will take place in two weeks. To get my feet wet, I did two 1/2 Iron events this summer. The first one was done on very little training, and my only goal was to be in the moment and enjoy it. The second had the same goal, but I had an additional 5 weeks of training. I ran myself into 3rd place woman, and loved every minute of it. I’m now 10 days out from Ironman, and recovering from an injury. At this point my goal is completion, soaking up the joys of the event, and making good decisions along the way to bow out if I’m getting hurt. I will then cheer on my husband in his race.

5. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while following a consistent training program every week?

I had a motto after my daughter was born…”any exercise is good exercise. 20 minutes is worth it.” After doing longer distances, I had gotten into the mindset that it wasn’t really worth training for less than an hour. This is virtually impossible with children at times, so I realized that a hard 20 minute run gets you strong. I also tried to just move where ever I was. At the playground I would pull myself up on the bars, or do split squats, or play a hard game of chase. Being flexible with your thinking around how and when you will exercise is critical. Sometimes consistency is important too, such as team sessions, so you’ll need a support system organized. I did some ‘trading’ of babysitting to alternate swim mornings with a friend. I’ve certainly had a few 5am mornings on the trainer just to squeak it in. I think the biggest hurdle for me was getting over the guilt that exercise was selfishly taking time from my daughter. Someone shared with me the wisdom that allowing your child to spend time with others, learn from others, and feel confident without you is a gift to them. The demands of parenthood are constantly changing, and sleep and social time are as important as exercise. Hopefully a balance can be found.

1 thought on “Athlete-Mom Interview: Ginny Sellars

  1. Amazingly inspiring interview! I am a married working mom myself and have severe mommy guilt about working out/training. I only train for sprint triathlons because I believe that is all I have time for…but maybe that’s not true 🙂 Thank you for writing such awesome blogs! They really make me feel like I am balancing my lifestyle very well!

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