Athlete-mom interview and co-author of The Athletic-Mom-To-Be: Jennifer Faraone

Let me introduce you to Jennifer Faraone, a mom of two and avid runner from Toronto. As a mother of two children, Jennifer has competed in road running, trail running, and duathlons. She is a World Championship two-time medalist in Duathlon (Gold and Bronze) and has represented Canada at the World Mountain Running Championship. Jennifer has won numerous trail and running events including the 3 Day Transrockies, the Toronto and Ottawa half marathons and North Face Endurance Challenge-Bear Mountain and Collingwood. She also coaches and hosts trail running clinics.

We have never met in person but I was first introduced to Jennifer a few years agao when she contacted me for a book she was writing for athlete moms and moms-to-be. Ever since I did the phone interview with Jennifer for the book, I’ve been super excited to see the final product: The Athletic Mom-To-Be: Training your way into pregnancy and motherhood.athletic mom to be.png

When I was pregnant with my first child in 2007 there wasn’t a lot of up to date information out there to empower women to stay active during  pregnancy and in the first year plus after having a baby. I was super excited to hear about this book coming together. As many people have said, it is a wealth of information all in one spot and a book I wish I had had 10 years ago.

Grab a cup of tea and read on to learn more about Jennifer the athlete, the mother, her co-authored book, and other tips she has for athlete moms.

What was your life as an athletically before you become a parent and how has it evolved since?

As a child, I was active but nothing intense; usually ringette in the winter, and baseball in the summer.  In high school, I didn’t do too much.  In University, I started to run a bit, and joined the varsity team to work out. This was my first real exposure to running consistently.  But it wasn’t until a few years later when I moved to Toronto that I started to pick up running again around 2003 or 2004. It was the first time I’d followed a training plan! I saw my running improve which was exciting and I was starting to win races. But I would run on and off, as I had a hard time dealing with the mental side of running. I wanted to run for the sheer pleasure of it, I was enjoying placing on the podium, but I had a big fear of taking it too seriously. I also did the odd triathlon/duathlon as cross training.

I have two children, Sophia (age 10) and Dominic (age 7). After Sophia was born, I was hitting personal bests in the first year postpartum and I started to train with a team again; but I also had some injuries! This is also the time I started to explore with trail running and competed at the World Mountain Running Championships.  After Dominic was born, I started to race duathlons (run-bike-run) as well, going to the World Duathlon Championships twice.

I would say that my “relationship” with training and racing has deepened since having kids. I have been more purposeful in my workouts and race selections, but with a healthier attitude and balance.

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Did you exercise/train during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother? 

With Sophia I was fortunate in that I had almost a text-book pregnancy. It went amazingly well and I was able to run most of my pregnancy; I would forget that I was pregnant when I was running; but then at 32 weeks I was showing signs of preterm labour, so I had to stop running. At 34 weeks my doctor gave me the go ahead to run again. I was heading out the door for that run when my labour started. She was born just under 35 weeks but totally healthy.

With Dominique, it was very different, as I had varicose veins from hell pretty much since the beginning. Running was too painful so I had to switch to pool running. I could do other forms of exercise but even walking was limiting. This was really tough but I wasn’t concerned about losing my fitness or gaining weight as I knew that it would be temporary. What I found really hard was the constant pain I was in (the varicose veins went from my groin to my feet) and I almost had to take a leave from work.

I would say that I have had more successes athletically since my kids have been born; I think it’s a combination of my desire to put in the extra level of training, wanting to be a good role model for my kids, and really being in tune with my body.  I am more thoughtful with my training and everything I do is because I want to do it as opposed to feeling the need to do it.  I’ve also seen my confidence and self-esteem grow, and I think that my kids play a big role in this. When I get nervous about a race I ask myself: “What would I tell Sophia or Dominic right now?” and it really reminds me of the reasons why I do this, that it’s okay if I have a bad race, and that I don’t have to do anything I truly don’t want to do. It’s all about fun and passion

As is the case with most athletic moms, my workouts are flexible as every week is different. Trying to run with others is rare but a treat when it happens. Sometimes I have to train at odd hours to avoid interfering with family life. But my husband and I are creative. Date nights usually involve some kind of athletic activity followed by dinner (with us still being sweaty at times). If we are driving to visit family, one of us is usually biking part way and getting picked up along the way. My daughter also bikes alongside my husband while he runs. Most of my runs are done during the day when they are at school; other parents at the bus stop are used to seeing me in my run gear covered in sweat.

We’ve also tried to incorporate family activities more in the past few years. Winter is all about cross country skiing an hour north of the city. The kids take their lessons, my husband Steve and I ski, and then after lunch we can all head out skiing again. Last year we all took part in the Ski Marathon. In the summer, we do a similar routine with mountain biking. If I’m doing a race, my kids will sometimes jump in the kids race or volunteer at the water stations. It’s really important to my husband and I that we do these things as a family and that our kids realize that “this is what we do”.

Maybe it has to do with trail running focus, but my training the past few years has been very laid back in that I wasn’t following any sort of plan, did few quality sessions, and did not monitor pace/distance etc. I just went out and did what I felt like doing; the only real intentional focus was ensuring that I got some long runs in. I like this approach as it works well for me; keeps me from taking things too serious and not getting anxious if I miss a workout. And makes it easier to have less interference with the family. These past few weeks, leading into a race I have on December 3rd, I’ve actually for the first time in years, started to put together a tiny training plan, meaning I aim to do one quality session per week, and schedule my long runs 10-14 days apart. (I’m more structured in the training plans I give my athletes)

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What currently motivates to get out training and/or racing?  What are your current training/racing ambitions?

I’m motivated by the pure enjoyment. Also the curiosity to see what more I can accomplish gets me out the door. I keep joking that I’m going to be one heck of a master’s runner.  I’ve always felt like I haven’t fully applied myself to training, or found the right training approach to see my potential. That being said, the minute I find that it gets too serious, I check out and take a break.

At the same time, I just love training and how it makes me feel. Doing well at races is icing on the cake.  I think that my husband is secretly annoyed with me in the way that I’m usually surprised when I win or place at a race. Honestly, I don’t usually go into a race thinking that I’m going to win and then I feel giddy like a child when I do well.  I think that this comes back to my fear of taking the sport too seriously and putting pressure on myself.

My daughter used to ask “mommy how did you do in the race”? And now she asks “Mommy, how did you do compared to the men in the race?” She has gotten used to the way that I win many races, and now sees me in a similar playing field as men. For her, this is just an innocent question; but at the same time, I think that this is amazing, as it’s showing her that it doesn’t always have to be the case where men and women are different. Training partners/competitors can be either sex.  Right now, she is in mountain biking class and she is the only girl so she is asking to discontinue the lessons. I’ve been talking to her about the fact that it’s okay (and kind of cool) to be the only girl and that she should be proud, and instead of looking at it as “1 girl and 8 boys” to see it as “these are other kids at a similar biking skill level as I, and can help me become a better biker”.

As for racing ambitions I’m not sure. This year my goal was to race some more competitive trail running races, and to continue exploring with longer distances.  My big race was the 3 day Transrockies (won) and in a few weeks from now I’m doing the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in San Francisco.  In the summer I also did the North Face Endurance Challenge Blue Mountain Marathon where I won, but also beat the first male by 15 minutes.  Prior to that I did the Cayuga Marathon (won, however all the competition was in the US 50 miler championship). As for next year, I’m still trying to decide what I want to focus on

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How do you balance family/work demands with your training/racing goals? 

I went from training first thing in the morning with others to training during the day often on my own.  I will be starting to train with the team I coach (MB Performance) in the new year as there will be a subgroup of us meeting at 9am which I’m super excited about! My husband travels a ton for work, and when he is in town, he works long hours; and we have no family nearby to help. So I try to give him the priority to work out in the mornings.  Creativity and flexibility are key, and my husband and I try to plan things a bit in advance. Where possible, we try to make a race a family affair.  My husband and I will sometimes go just the two of us to a destination race, so that it’s a combo of “we time” and racing.

But if helps a lot that I quit my job working in health care as project manager/change management consultant a few years ago, as it gives me the flexibility to train during the day. It also means that there is more time for me to manage the family stuff.  That being said, I feel that I am busier now than when I worked. Although I no longer have a typical office job, I also coach, write and put on various clinics and retreats every year.  I’m often waking up at 5:00 am to get some work done before the kids wake up.

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You recently co-authored the book “The Athletic Mom-to-be”. What is the book about? What was the inspiration for the book? How did the book come together?

I co-authored the book with Dr. Carol Ann Weis.  It all started when I was injured postpartum and the physio treating me suggested (in a joking way) that I should write a book on the topic of pregnancy and postpartum for athletes, as info was hard to find, not to mention confusing. For whatever reason, I thought to myself “sure, that would be fun; I can do that” and literally got started. Shortly after, I met Carol Ann and we decided to write it together.  The book is a one-stop shop for valuable information from preconception to postpartum and touches on a variety of topics; it’s not just about exercising.  It’s also about empowering women to make decisions that are right for themselves and for their baby; to do this, they need accurate, comprehensive and up to date info.  This is not a book that only talks about how to continue exercising while pregnant and how to get back to it after having a baby. If a person decides that they want to take a break from training during this time, good for her for making this decision! And we encourage such reflection, and there’s a lot in the book that touches on the emotional and mental side of exercising.  The book encourages women to let their body be the driver, and not the numbers on the watch.  And to respect that every pregnancy is different. We incorporated feedback from close to 50 female athletes helps to further reinforce this message.

I love researching a topic, so the idea intrigued me. I love helping others make exercising part of their lifestyle, and deriving pleasure from it. And because I now had personal experience to draw upon, the idea of the book made sense to me (even though I had no writing experience).  My goal from the beginning was to produce a resource for other athletic women regardless of their performance level.  Instead of having to do their own research and try to find the information (not to mention try to make sense of the research), we wanted to put everything in one spot. I also wanted to use the book as a platform to reinforce a few keys messages, such as:

  • Continuing to exercise, and at what level, is a choice and it is possible to make an informed decision with resources like this book
  • It’s okay to decide to take a break from your training; this doesn’t make you any less of an athlete.
  • Have faith in yourself while also recognizing the importance of understanding and appreciating the complexity of getting back to exercising postpartum
  • Pregnancy and postpartum is a time to think creatively and to change the mindset that “the way you did things before” might look differently now
  • Just because you are experiencing discomfort or pain doing your pregnancy doesn’t mean that you need to just “put up with it”. For instance, if a pregnant woman suddenly felt discomfort running, a common response would be “I guess my body is telling me that I need to stop running now”.  On one hand, sure, maybe this is what your body is telling you, and you need to respect that. But at the same time, a) your body might feel different in a few days, so wait and see and b) there’s things you can do to try and alleviate the discomfort such as a lower lumbar belt, seeing an osteopath, doing adequate strength work etc.
  • Have honest discussions with yourself and to reflect on what training means to you; how much of it is driving by guilt or pressure?

What makes this book unique as compared to other resources out there for athletes who transitioning into motherhood?

  • It is based on 3 key sources of information: 1) the latest research/guidelines, 2) advice from clinical subject matter experts (over 50) and 3) advice from other female athletes of various abilities (close to 50). So this is not just our opinions and thoughts; it’s a collection of valuable resources.
  • It’s not just about exercise; we touch on a lot of other subjects such as breastfeeding, pacing your mind, etc.
  • We focused on many of the common questions and misconceptions when it comes to athletes and pregnancy, starting from preconception
  • We really emphasize the fact that every pregnancy is different; you can’t compare
  • The book is very proactive in nature. It talks about what you can do before getting pregnancy in order to maximize your chances of staying active while pregnant. We also talk about the role of several health care providers such as osteopath, naturopath doctors, etc.
  • We try to reinforce what you CAN do, whereas most books talk about what you CANT do
  • There’s a big emphasis on pelvic floor wellness (which is often neglected or not discussed enough) and this spans across preconception, pregnancy and postpartum.
  • There is a lot of information about the pregnant body and the postpartum body; we feel it was important that women have a good understanding of the changes happening to her body, as this would help her to honour and respect it more.
  • The postpartum chapter is quite extensive; we divide it into 3 separate phases and explain in the detail the importance of each one. Getting back to training is not just about putting on your running shoes the moment you think you feel ready; it’s a lot more than that, especially if you want to come back for the long haul. Most books simply provide a few guidelines.

How has the book been received so far?

The book has been received really well so far.  We often get feedback such as “I wish I had this information before I was pregnant” or “Where was this book when I was pregnant”?  Unfortunately, our strength is not in marketing/advertising so I’m sure that there’s a lot more that we could be doing to market the book; but to be honest, our motivation was never to make money on this book; our goal was to produce the book and make it accessible to women.  Even the way that I describe the book likely doesn’t do it justice! I should probably hire a spokesperson!!!

What did you learn through the experience of putting this book together?

It takes time!!! And yes, info can be hard to find or track down, or try to make sense of the conflicting information at times.  But honestly, this was all such an amazing experience. I got so inspired writing this book. I loved seeing the diversity among women and their pregnancy; everyone was so open with sharing their experience, including the good and the bad.  It’s hard for a woman to admit that she let the “pressure” get the best of her and returned to training too soon. Or to admit that she had a hard time accepting her sagging tummy. Yet this book gave them the opportunity to reflect on their own experience and to be more accepting.

Our biggest challenge is writing this book was synching our schedules.  When I would be available to spend a lot of time on the book, Carol Ann would be super busy. And vice versa. This is the primary reason why the book took so many years to write

My biggest lesson: you can do things if you have the passion for it. I had no writing experience, yet I had the desire to write this book. I really, really enjoyed this entire process and this is what kept me going for many, many years. I really believed that the information we were providing was meaningful, unique and would help women a lot (I should add that we also intended for the book to be a valuable resource for health care providers; we were surprised with how many HCP are buying our book!)

Any other tips or advice (perhaps not found in your book) that you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or continuing to train/compete with children?

One piece of advice that I’m been giving lately (which is not in the book) is that whether you are injured or getting ready to come back to training, start by carving out some time to yourself on a regular basis. For instance, take 30 minutes as “your time” and make this a routine 3 times a week. This way, once you are ready to start exercising, the time is already laid out for you and you don’t have too feel guilty. Taking time out for yourself can be really hard for many moms.   For example, a close friend of mine who is a mom of 3 kids, finally (after 6 years) began to exercise 4 days a week and was loving it for so many reasons.  She took so long to get started because she felt guilty about taking the time to herself and logistically thought that it would be impossible.  But then she got injured and couldn’t walk and she mentioned that she was really afraid that she wouldn’t be able to start up again once her injury had healed because she stopped the routine of taking that hour to herself 4 days a week–she got absorbed with the household stuff again. So I suggested that even though she couldn’t walk right now, that she should still preserve those one hour blocks four times a week and do something else so that once she was healed, she could easily start walking again with no guilt.  She loved that idea. I think that a huge hurdle for athletic moms is getting over the guilt of taking time to ourselves; and it’s too easy to say that there isn’t the time.

Second, don’t be afraid if your training is not a family affair; its okay if your training is just for yourself; it doesn’t make you any less of a mom.  You can still be a positive role model. Getting the kids involved with your sport has to be something that everyone enjoys otherwise it won’t be a positive experience. So often we hear comments like “involve your kids in your training”—and on one hand, it’s great to do so and offers so many benefits. But at the same time, it’s okay if you want to use this as your private time, and something you keep to yourself.  Respect your boundaries.  And these boundaries may change over time. Brining a small child to a race who is quite happy to nap in the stroller or sit on a blanket is much easier than bringing a toddler who can’t sit still.  I went through a period where it was more stressful to bring my kids. And whereas my daughter was quite happy to run/ski in the chariot, my son had other ideas.  So I chose to put him in daycare while I exercises, whereas my daughter was often my training partner.

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Thank- you Jennifer for sharing your personal and book story with us! For more from Jennifer you can check out her blog here: https://runningthetrails.wordpress.com/about-this-blog/

Athlete-mom interview: Alison Archambault

Meet Alison Archambault, of beautiful Bragg Creek, Alberta. My good friend Richelle Love introduced me to her online. I will let Richelle’s words introduce this athlete-mom. I love Alison’s story, her approach, perspectives and her wise advice:

There is the most amazing athlete mom I know! Her name is Alison. She is a single mom who’s daughter does a tonne of extra curricular activities and she is always there with and for her daughter AND she works full time and then some, is a volunteer firefighter and she trains dogs to be companions for those with special needs! All with gratitude, a smile and an awesome sense of humour. I literally don’t know how she does it all. She is just amazing. I do know that she has fallen asleep on her trainer before….. You would love her D!

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What was your life like athletically (or otherwise) and how has it evolved since becoming a mother? 

I have always been active as a runner and a swimmer.  After my daughter was born (Mackaela, now 11), I suffered from postpartum and was really looking for something that was “mine” because the new titles I had like “Mom”, “working Mom” etc were heavy!  My daughter was almost a year old, the baby weight was still there and I was feeling the farthest thing from myself, when I heard an advertisement on the radio when driving to work one day for a women’s triathlon (Strathmore Women’s Triathlon).  I figured since I already ran and swam, how hard could it be to add in a little bike ride?  Famous last words!  The race didn’t come together at all well, but I was hooked!

My athletic life has ramped up considerably since Mackaela joined my family.

My long-time partner was a military veteran.  He was impacted by PTSD and mental wellness issues.  While we were still together, I knew it was important for me to have a stress release from the heavy, dark blanket of sadness that began increasing cover our home – triathlon training definitely did that.   As the stress and sadness at home increased, I trained more and more.  Training and doing triathlons helped me develop the mental strength and clarity to make important decisions about my daughter and my physical safety and emotional well-being.  It kept me grounded.  As a single parent, and especially as my daughter gets older and navigates our body-conscious world, physical wellness has become even more important to me as part of setting a healthy example for my daughter, as well as making sure I have time to myself to re-group before I have to go home to my beautiful pre-teen (and all the challenges and joys of that life stage!).

Did you train during pregnancy? If so please describe.

I continued to train for long distance running races and swimming races throughout my pregnancy until shortly before my daughter’s birth – I honestly think my body would have revolted if I stopped doing something it had been doing for 20 years!   I was fortunate that my OB was a long distance runner herself and a tremendous advocate for “keep doing it”.  Physical activity wasn’t always comfortable as my body changed, but it helped me feel as normal as possible during pregnancy.  I did the Kananaskis 100 mile relay 3 weeks before my daughter was born….I’m pretty sure that’s what helped her make the decision to enter the world a bit early!

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What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing? How has your athletic life evolved or change throughout motherhood so far? 

My daughter and our active lifestyle inspire me to train, and keep training, because I want to be able to stay active and keeping up to my daughter for a long time to come.  We live in Bragg Creek and spend everyday hiking to the top of mountains and exploring.  I don’t have an atypical triathlete’s physique, but my athletic dreams and passions aren’t defined by that.   It’s important for me to set a good example for my daughter, her friends and other women about what is achievable when you set your mind to it.   My daughter comes to all my triathlons, and volunteers at countless events to support others achieving their goals and cheers her heart out.  I’m not sure I ever appreciated how much my commitment to physical fitness would create a space of empathy and encouragement in her to support others in their achievements.

My athletic life hasn’t changed much since my daughter arrived, what has changed is how I approach training and what I’m training for.  As her primary caregiver for most of my daughter’s life, like so many other athletic moms I’ve had to juggle training around family and work demands.  I have a high demand executive-level job, life on my acreage requires a lot of work and in my spare time, I’m a volunteer firefighter/medic and train service dogs.  I’ve got a lot on the go, and those passions take time away from training and family.  When my daughter was younger, I would run the highway and  driveway up to our acreage in 15 minute increments so I could check on her, or have her sit in a lawn chair and count my hill reps.  Sometimes I combine my run in the evenings on a mountain trail with her riding her bike and the dogs running alongside me.  She used to practice counting for math class by counting laps at the pool while I trained.  My coach also lets my daughter join into club training swim nights so I don’t have to make the choice between “Mom’ing” and training.  I always carry my cell phone with me to train, on days when she’s feeling a bit clingy, she calls me to chat.  Sometimes we chat for 20 minutes of an hour-long bike ride.

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Regardless of the size of my fitness goal, I’ve learned the importance of having a ‘community’ of like-minded people as part of my support network.   Rose and Richelle at Tri It Multisport were instrumental not only in outfitting me in pretty and functional gear to help me achieve my goals, they have also encouraged me endlessly and introduced me to the Triathlete Within Club to ensure I had people to train with safely in, and off, season – many of whom have become some of my closest friends.  The club has members from all walks of life and all fitness goals, but the coaches really unite everyone behind positive attitudes, safety, sportsmanship and the notion that there’s room for everyone’s goals and dreams always.   This year, I invested in a coaching relationship with Coach Chris Lough to help me achieve my wild-assed goals.  Words don’t describe the peace of mind and joy I feel from having him believe in me and my goal (on hard days I feel like he might be the only one of us that does!), but as importantly, hold me accountable to the training & commitment required to achieve my goals.

My daughter decided to do her first triathlon last summer.  I helped her train and prepare for her race and then took a front row seat on course cheering my face off.  She joined Kronos Triathlon Club this year and I’ve had the privilege of watching her continue to develop a positive relationship with her body, its strength and power through sport.  I’ve watched her question her abilities to achieve her dream and then overcome the anxiety to have a great race day.  I’ve seen her develop resilience when the race doesn’t go “as planned” and always show tremendous gratitude for volunteers who make dream days possible.  I’ve watch her learn to defend “why” being active is important to her to her peers.  This all may have happened with a sedentary Mom, but I don’t believe so.

What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2016?

To date, I have competed in 6 half-iron distances and countless long distance running races. My wild-assed goal for 2016 is to complete Ironman Kentucky and I have a few lead up races like IM YYC, Blitz Duathlon and the Wildrose Triathlon to keep it real.

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

I don’t buy into the concept of balance.  There’s only so many hours in the day and inevitably there’s some things that are going to get more or less of your attention at any given point in time because they need to.   You can constantly chide yourself for not being somewhere other than you are, but that doesn’t fix anything.

My daughter is the most important person in my world and she knows she’s  my #1 priority.  I am best able to be her parent and co-adventurer when I’m physically fit and emotionally healthy.  There are lots of things I’m passionate about in my life.  Creating a weekly schedule helps a lot to make sure everything/everyone gets what they need – mostly.  But, I won’t sugarcoat it…. there are times after a week full of work and supporting my princess’ life that I leave for a scheduled training run sobbing,  get in the pool with a knot in my stomach or hop on my bike after kid bedtime so late that its dark and a bit unsafe to be training so late, all the while questioning if I’m spending my time in the right places.  You just do the best you can each day and try harder tomorrow.

My coach works hard to plan training around family, work and personal commitments. My runs often take place at 4:30am and training rides often aren’t done until 9pm.  Life lesson…when the RCMP pull you over and offer to drive you & your bike home because its getting dark out – you left your ride too late after chores and homework!

Several of my Mom friends offer playdate on Big Training Days so I can get 6+ hours of training in an my daughter is still having fun.  My Triathlete Within pals and I frequently rearrange our schedules so we can train together and hold each other company – misery loves company.

Fortunately, my daughter is usually kinder to me than I am to myself, and that’s an important lesson to learn. I came in from an early morning run not too long ago, my daughter was awake watching TV before school and I apologized for not being there when she woke up.  Her reply back sticks with me:

“It’s okay, Mom.  You’ve got big dreams.  If strong girls don’t show me and my friends that we can do triathlons, how will we know how big we can dream?”

Being creative on how I get my training in helps and keeping things in perspective, is important.  A few weeks ago, I had a training ride scheduled on a Thursday evening and my daughter begged me to let her ride with me.  My inside voice was frustrated as I needed to get my ride in but Mom duties ALWAYS come first.  An hour later, after she braved her first highway ride, I reflected on how inspired I was by her and how joyful I was about the evening we had.  If I wasn’t physically active I wouldn’t have had that amazing experience. I hadn’t been flexible with the plan for the night, I would have missed out on making memories with my girl.  Finding my joy while training and racing is always a priority!

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

Just start.

Be kind to yourself – you will always be harder on yourself than you family will.

Be brave – set big goals and don’t apologize for them.

Sign up for races in your desired sport – the energy is contagious and having community is awesome.

Bring your kids with you to races

Make sure your heart and head are where your feet are – get a good training run in, then go home and be a great Mom.

If you’re feeling super stressed about leaving your kids to go train, trust your instincts: grab a little one close and skip training for the day once in a while.

Be creative in how you train – include your kids when you can.

(Try to) Drop the Mommy guilt.

Offer an encouraging word when you see another woman out training.  A little ‘darn you look strong’, goes a long way to quelling someone else’s Mommy guilt and could in turn remind you, it’s ok to do it too!

Find your joy – do physical activities that make you happy.

Find a support network of pals to train with.

Offer to look after someone’s children so they can get away to train – it’s a priceless gift with amazing karma

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Meet Karen DeWolfe: Founder of Momthletes

Meet Karen DeWolfe, a mother of three of Corvallis, Oregon. I met Karen in my Canada Cup mountain bike racing days and I still remember how fast she could fly down the hills. I wanted her fearless speed! More recently I have admired from afar how she has started a momthletes group to get moms together to exercise, get fit, connect and have fun! Since I’ve been wanted to learn more about what she does I asked her for an interview to tell us more. Read on for more on the story of momletes, Karen’s vision, goals, and how she and other moms work together to overcome the challenges of getting out for exercise. A great read full of so many tips and great resources!!

(Note: these great photos are courtesy of www.becerraphotography.com and to learn more about momthletes visit: www.momthletes.com)

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  1. Tell me more about your athletic background and how has it evolved since starting a family?

I grew up in Nova Scotia (eastern Canada) and my Grandfather, my father and uncles were always getting us to do fun little challenges, like diving off cliffs, playground obstacle courses, and all sorts of fun adventures. They really taught me a tremendous amount about overcoming fears and most importantly they knew how to make exercise really fun. My family enjoyed the outdoors together, camping, canoeing and hiking. We all loved riding bikes. We rode everywhere – the candy store, swimming holes, friend’s houses and to town. Being able to ride bikes was freedom. I also ran cross country, did gymnastics, and downhill skied.

In middle school I discovered mountain biking and I loved it. I did my first bike race when I was 16 thanks to a wonderful mentor who taught me and hundreds of people in Nova Scotia how to ride bikes over the years. Then I found another amazing bike community while studying Forestry at the University of New Brunswick. This lead me to my now husband, Matt Betts who helped me take racing to a whole new level. Within two years of meeting him, I was racing Canadian Nationals. The Fredericton bike community included a number of amazing mountain bikers including Peter Wedge, Anna Healy, Eric Goss, Matt Hadley, Geoff and Catherine Pendrel. The Radical Edge bike shop had a huge part in bringing us all together.

I raced mountain bikes at the elite level for much of my twenties.  When I was 26 I had my first baby. I did my first local race 5 weeks after my daughter was born and was racing world cups within 9 months. I also started racing Xterra and was loving that too. Then my daughter suddenly became ill and required hospitalization, blood transfusions and tests. She got better but it took 2 months for her to fully recover. That ended my first season of racing as a mother. My son also had a scary start to life, not breathing for the first 5 minutes of his life. It was unclear if he was going to survive, and if he did survive if he would have brain damage. He made a full recovery.  These two early experiences helped me decide to focus my time primarily on my children.

The first few years with children were hard for me as I had to let a lot of things change. There were days when I felt like I was failing as an athlete and a mother and days when I felt I was doing great. I ran more and biked less. I played with my kids a lot and taught them how to ride everywhere – to the library, preschool, to the candy store.  I still did some mountain bike racing locally and had fun trying some new challenges; 50 – 100 mile mountain bike races, some Xterra events, and my first longer running races, 15-50km distances.

As a family we went hiking and backpacking all over Oregon and travelled to Costa Rica to learn about their father’s amazing world of forest ecology, hummingbirds and flowers. It has been a great life but allowing the athlete in me to change was very difficult.

My oldest daughter is Ava Betts (11) – she hiked a 10,000 volcano with her friends for her 10th birthday last year.

My son is Miles Betts (8)– he is a limit pusher. He could ride his bike 6 miles when he was 3.5. He has a lot of energy.

My youngest is Anna Betts (5) – She is pure sweetness. She is kind and loving and rides her bike a mile to school and back everyday chatting happily most of the time.

2. You’ve started Momthletes, which is devoted to helping mothers fit exercise into their lives. How did the idea for Momthletes come about? 

I had a long standing Thursday Playgroup with a group of women I call my Pro Moms, because they are completely dedicated to their children. Playgroup was a place where our kids could all play together and us Moms could talk about anything we needed to.  When it was time to put my youngest in school, my Playgroup Moms asked me what I was going to do with my new found time. They suggested I help other mothers figure out how to stay fit. They had watched me fit exercise into my life in a “by any means necessary” way over 10 years – running to preschool, biking to playgroup, running to the grocery store, doing intervals with napping babies in the chariot. They suggested other people would want to learn about how I integrated my life as an athlete and a mother. And thus Momthletes was born.

I started with my Playgroup Moms, showing them my ball workout that I use almost exclusively for strength training, and I gave a few women workout programs. We also started the Momthletes Facebook page so we could share our victories and strategies with one another. Then I met another Mom friend out running one day. She told me she wished she could just go for long adventurous runs some day. I told her I was planning on starting a Momthletes class and she said she would be there and would tell others. That began the Momthletes Basic Workout which we are still doing today. We start with body strength exercises on the playground, then run or hike straight up an 800 foot hill and then sit in silence for 3-5 minutes at the top of the hill overlooking our city. We then walk back down and talk about whatever we need to. That wonderful Mother I met running that day can now run a half marathon at the drop of a hat, is raising three beautiful children and is completing her master degree in education.

Now I offer different programs – personal training, mountain bike lessons, and different running classes. I help women organize their homes to make more time and space for exercise, define their goals for exercise and life and create work out schedules that support those goals.  I help women pick out the appropriate equipment for the exercise they are interested.  I also direct them to physical therapist and message therapists if there are issues I think they need help with.  Momthletes Classes bring together a community of women who are dedicated to helping each other reach their goals in exercise and life.  There are a variety of prices and ways to get involved and I am still planning new programs to meet the many needs mothers have.

Momthletes13. What does a typical week of workouts with momthletes look like?

Summer Schedule example:

Monday 6am – Momthletes Basic Training Workout

Monday 9am – Run with Ease (how to make running easier)

Tuesday – Personal Sessions

Wednesday 6am – Trail Running Techniques (how to make hard terrain easier)

Wednesday 9am – Grampy John Family Adventure Day – bike/hike adventures with kids

Friday 6am – Trail Run – 5 miles at a talking pace.

The schedule changes depending on the season. All the workouts are outside. This winter we met every Monday and Friday at 6 am and trail ran in the dark with headlamps and often in the rain. It was not large group but the women who did it reported feeling less seasonal effects and left every workout feeling tough and happy and ready to take on anything, and they do!

momthletes24. In your experience what are the biggest challenges moms have for fitting exercise into their lives?

  1. Finding the Time – There are so many things mothers have to do. Career, housework, educating our children, volunteering, grocery shopping, making healthy meals – the list is endless. Taking time out of that endless list for exercise can seem impossible for moms and dads. But when we stop taking time to care for our bodies and ourselves, these other tasks start getting more and more difficult.
  1. Pain – A lot of women are in pain after they go through a pregnancy and give birth. Our core strength completely changes after pregnancy and this can change how our bodies feel. Then there are all the things we don’t like talking about but need to – tearing, bladder control, even sore breasts can make exercise painful. Figuring out ways of using exercise to make postpartum better and not worse is key to helping women get back on the path to exercise. Sometimes this means prioritizing physiotherapy or massage therapy to become relatively pain free before beginning exercise.
  1. Money – The gym membership, the fancy bike trailer, and other exercise equipment all costs money. There are also all the expenses of having a new baby. One part of Momthletes is trying to help women find inexpensive options for exercise while they are adjusting to all the costs of having children.
  1. Fear – There can be a lot of fear beginning an exercise program. Fear that it will be painful or too hard, that now is not a good time, or that the community will not be kind and accepting. Overcoming fear can really open up a lot of doors in life and fitness.
  1. Support – Sometimes women do not feel like they will have the support they need to begin exercising. Women need support to begin exercise, sometimes in the form of encouragement, the giving of time or financial support to take the steps to get fit. This support needs to come from our partners, community, families and/or friends.

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5. What are the biggest factors that help moms to be successful at exercising regularly?

A Strong Community: Having a community of people to exercise with who understand the challenges we face as mothers can really help women fit in exercise regularly. Having people to meet up with and share their knowledge about exercise with one another is invaluable.

Time Management: Mothers have to understand time management. There are so many things we have to do as mothers, it is key to know how our days work in order to fit exercise in. Having a workout plan ahead of time, that takes in consideration all the other roles and duties mothers have can dramatically increase our chances of exercising. I found Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  by Stephen Covey a very helpful resource to teach me how to schedule my time for all my different roles in life.

Household Organization: Having my home in a reasonable amount of order dramatically improves my ability to access my clothes, healthy food and my equipment quickly and easily. Quick transitions can only happen when our things are organized and ready to go. Learning how to have this piece in place was a game changer for me. But it can be difficult to learn how to fit new people into our homes and lives! The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has added years on to my life.

Getting Help and Fixing Pain – Take care of your pain. Don’t just live with it. There are great physiotherapist and massage therapists. Find out from other athletes and mothers who they trust and get help if you are in pain. Pain is exhausting and can often be fixed with the right help. It can take time to heal but it is worth it.

Low Cost Exercise Options – I highly recommend the Chariot (Thule) or Burley trailers to people. It is a big initial investment but it is a solution to many problems. Bike Trailers and joggers allow mothers to exercise without a gym membership (thinking of it that way, it is paid off in less than one year). We used ours often as transportation. It has served as my family’s second car, saving us a huge amounts of money in gas, car payments, insurance, etc. Plus, it has allowed me to stay fit and teach my children how to stay fit.

The exercise ball is my most valuable piece of exercise equipment (okay, after my mountain bike). You can get a full body workout in your home for $12.

Running is also an inexpensive activity. The Cool Impossible by Eric Orton, has some really great information on running in a way that is easy on the body.

Overcome Fear – There is nothing as scary as having a baby and with that done, what is left to fear? Don’t let fear stop you from doing great things. Find a community of friends to help you see past those fears.  You will help them do the same.

Support – Moms sometimes have to ask for support from their families in order to fit exercise in. I find most families are excited to see their partners/mothers out exercising and it makes everyone in the family feel inspired. When we learn to take care of ourselves we can take care of everyone else much more effectively.

6. What are the biggest things you’ve learned since starting your group?

  1. That I will never stop learning.
  2. I can learn from everyone around me.
  3. I am constantly gaining a deeper understanding of how important exercise is.
  4. Every mother out there has an inner athlete that is amazing and unlimited.

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7. How do you hope momthletes will continue to grow and evolve in the future?

Team Momthletes – I would like to see an official team of inspiring mothers of all abilities levels doing the adventures, and races they dream of. There is already a Facebook page for sharing ideas, races, stories and information. I would like to find sponsors and support mothers making their athletic dreams happen.

Momthletes Non-Profit – Fun activities for families will be used as fundraisers and the money raised goes to various organizations that are doing great work. This has begun this summer with Grampy John Days – adventures in memory of my grandfather, my first great coach. We bike around the city to fun locations (including the candy store).

Momthletes LLC – I would like to see Momthletes LLC continue to grow. I love working with my clients and watching what happens in my classes when women work together towards their goals. I also love seeing mothers reconnect with their bodies and discover their unlimited potential. I would like to begin thinking about working with clients online in the coming year.

Momthletes Retreats – The first retreat is taking place this summer. The retreat is based out of Oakridge, Oregon and we will be taking advantage of the town’s incredible mountain bike and trail running system, including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail leading to the Diamond Peak volcano. My goal is to have more retreats (Costa Rica, Bend, OR) and bring amazing women together to travel to other inspiring places and share each others talents.

8. Anything else you would like to add (tips, insights etc)?

Exercise is more than exercise. There is no separation between body and mind. When our bodies get stronger, our minds get stronger. As our bodies learn endurance, we learn endurance in our lives. Being able to endure the hard parts of life means we are able to hold on and get back to better times. But mostly exercise is just a lot of fun. And it helps you look healthy and nice. And you meet great people.

When we take care of our bodies we can take care of all the other bodies in our lives.

Move with your children. Use exercise as transportation, save the gas, earn your calories, and teach your kids how to stay fit and healthy. In my town, it often doesn’t take much more time to move by bike or foot. Then once I get to a location – grocery store, library, playdate, I have my stroller there already. If babies are sleeping, they can just stay asleep while I get errands done. The chariot was the best investment I made as a parent.

Get outdoors – it is hard to be sad for a long time outdoors. Try it. The outdoors will absorb your hard feelings and return you to a better place.

Keep moving, keep exercising. Balance it with your love for your children. Sometimes it is okay to change, slow down, speed up, switch sports, join a band. You may find you are just rediscovering other parts of yourself that were there all along as well. Let yourself explore your life.

Someone told me this fact about butterflies. When caterpillars enter into chrysalis they completely dissolve, then reassemble the liquefied caterpillar molecules into the butterfly. I think this is what happens to us when we become mothers. We liquefy and change dramatically – but with the proper conditions and time we reassemble all our original parts and emerge as something even more beautiful.

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Athlete-mom interview: Kelli Montgomery

Meet Kelli Montgomery from Wallingford, Connecticut who I met thanks to off-road Xterra racing. She is tons of fun and I always loved hanging out with her when on the Xterra tour. Kelli has over 18 years of pro and age-group triathlon racing experience. She is a two-time Ironman Hawaii qualifier and finisher. She is also the 2014 Xterra World Champion (40-44 age group) and 2016 USAT off-road national champion (1st overall amateur and 1st in her age group). Kelli is a multisport coach and you can learn more about her qualifications and coaching services on her website: www.coachkelli.com
Kelli also works part time for the Wallingford Parks and Recreation as a Health and Fitness Supervisor (she organizes a kids triathlon, cross country running series, and fitness classes), along with helping coach the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team. Read on to learn how Kelli trains, competes and balances it all….
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1. What was you life as athletically (or otherwise) and how has it evolved before and between each of your children and and as they’ve grown?
I have 2 sons Benjamin Gyulay (11 years old) and Nolan Gyulay (8 years old) who are soon to be 12 and 9 in September!  When I had my first child I was taking a break from triathlon after racing elite and having some injuries and health issues. In between having my two sons I did race a little bit.  Then after both children where born as of September of 2007 it was slow build up to getting back to racing more consistently in 2010.  I would say the biggest change has been managing my time efficiently and staying organized. Before kids if I started a ride 15 minutes late it was no big deal; now I need make a soccer game so if I don’t start on time then my workout gets shortened. Certainly being more flexible now that I have children and not sweating the one workout missed here or there or if something doesn’t go quite right.  In the big picture realizing I’m pretty consistent and slight change doesn’t really make a difference.
2. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother?
I did do some training/exercise during both of my pregnancies. The first pregnancy I was really motivated to stay in shape and the second I did a lot less with having another child and another on the way.  With both I felt like I had lost some fitness and had some post pregnancy weight to lose. I’m more selective on what and how many races that I do knowing that its time away from the family.  I try to work in camping trips with the kids with local races so we can spend time together.
3. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing? And/or has this evolved through different stages with your kids ages?
I’ve enjoyed the challenge of taking up off-road triathlon and really learning how to ride a mountain bike in last 3+ years. Facing my fears of riding tough obstacles or scary descents gives me sense of accomplishment.  I keep seeing improvements in my riding and trail running so that is exciting and helps keep the motivation. I believe the biggest motivator for me is that I am having fun training and racing.  I’m working hard and being consistent in training but I make sure to keep it fun and not be too serious-be like a kid.  What has evolved since the kids is balancing my training and racing with their schedule. As their schedule changes with school, activities, etc I rework what days I do certain training on so it fits into the schedule. As they are getting older there are more sports activities, homework, and sleepovers to work around.  It just takes some planning and scheduling to make it all work for everyone.  I also have good support system with my husband and friends that helps tremendously.
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4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2016?
I’d like to continue to improve my skills as mountain biker-riding tougher obstacles and going faster!  I’m shooting for a win in 40-44 age-group at Xterra Worlds in Maui and top 3 amateur overall, but most of all improving over last years performance there and giving it 110% on race day!
5. How do you balance family/work demands and interests with your athletic goals? 
Keeping the balance is a constant process that keeps changing as my kids get older.  I take the time to think about how to achieve that and change things when I find the balance gets out of whack. Its certainly a challenge!
6. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or continuing to train/compete with children?
Don’t rush and put pressure on yourself to get right back to training and racing after having children. For the first year after childbirth I didn’t put pressure on myself to get right back to training and racing. With both I didn’t take much time off from work so I was juggling being new mom and working and that was enough of challenge. I made an effort to get some type of exercise in each day but if it didn’t happen I didn’t beat myself up over it. Babies are so unpredictable that first year with their schedule so a lot time the intended plan got changed and staying flexible helped.
If you can find other moms to train with during or after pregnancy for support it really helps since they can relate to your experiences.  I was lucky my friend Sandie and I both had our kids within a month of each other each time. So we worked out together during our pregnancies and then provided each other motivation to train afterwards.  It was good training time to provide support to each other too.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
Make sure you keep it fun! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and set big goals, you can make it happen!
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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.

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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!

Athlete-Mom Interview: Caitlin Foisy

Meet Cait Foisy who lives in beautiful Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. Cait and I met awhile back while mountain biking in Canmore. She and her husband, Alex have recently become the proud parents of six month old, Olivier. We can quickly forget the joys and tribulations of getting active again in the first year after a new child comes again, but you can feel the enthusiasm Cait has for continuing to stay active as a runner. She has so much in fact that herself and Alex and another couple started a blog as a resource for families who want to continue to stay active with children in the mix (link below).

Cait, Alex and Oliver at a recent Halloween 5km race

Cait, Alex and Oliver at a recent Halloween 5km race

1. What was life like for you athletically or otherwise, prior to having your son and how has it evolved since? Growing up I was athletic but never one of the ‘top’ athletes. You could probably classify me as an ‘age-grouper’ (usually placing top 3 in my age group but not normally top 3 overall, unless it was a really great day). I did my undergrad at Queen’s University where I decided to take my love of running to the next level. Long story short I learned at Queen’s what it really meant to be a serious runner, and over 4 years I significantly improved my performance. I also took a one-year post-grad diploma where I competed in xc-running again. After university I continued to run for fun (yes, such a thing exists) training for everything from a 5k to a marathon. I have competed in triathlon for a while (up until recently where my current job isn’t conducive to training in the summer), mountain biking, trail and road running… basically I love everything outdoors!

Flash forward to present day. My son Olivier is 6 months (already?!) old and I have made the lofty goal to do a marathon this Spring (Ottawa) with the end goal of qualifying for Boston. I have found there wasn’t a lot of resources or ‘how-to’ be active with your whole family, how to manage who trains with baby if you both want to run, etc, so another couple and my husband and I founded a website: www.myactiveparents.com that addresses these issues.On the blog I talk about everything from how I started racing too soon post baby (oops! sorry pelvic floor muscles!), to doing a hiking trip with my girlfriends and  3-month old baby, to my training plans for Ottawa.

2. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again?
I think my motivation is two-fold. First and selfishly, running is my time to think, de-stress, and be ‘me’. Sometimes I run with baby, sometimes alone. I am a better, happier person after I run. Secondly, I want my family to be active and the best way to do this is by leading by positive example.
I have always been competitive so for me it was only natural to want to race again. I am really excited to see how my results will compare. I used to compare my results ‘pre’ and ‘post’ marriage (new last name, new clean slate, new PBs!), and now have divided my results into ‘pre’ and ‘post’ baby. I am interested to see if having kids makes me faster (there has been much discussion and speculation about this for professional athletes)
3. Did you “train” during your pregnancy? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother?
I am not sure if I would say I ‘trained’ but I was definitely ‘active’. I was fortunate enough to keep ‘running’ until 33 weeks. My activities looked completely different though. I didn’t do any interval training. My normal run speed slowed down to my long slow distance speed. I hiked a LOT. I was pregnant through the winter so I did a lot of spin classes (thank you YMCA!). I went on a trip to Nepal and did an epic hike to Annapurna Base Camp (I joke that our son should have a better VO2 max than Lance Armstrong after that trip). I used to HATE walking but I got into walking during the pregnancy. David Suzuki had a nature challenge in the Spring last year where you had to get outside for 30 min 30 days in a row. This was a great way for me to take breaks at lunch, go for walks and break up my day.
Cait before power walking a half marathon while pregnant

Cait before power walking a half marathon while pregnant

Since the birth of my son I was eager to get back into running. I took it slow. I consulted with a pelvic floor physiotherapist (which I now recommend to all my friends) and talked to other moms about what they did. I did a lot of run/walks and am now into continuous runs. I have done spin class again, a few road rides (before the snow came), hiking and some walks. I have tried to fit in yoga (mom and baby yoga), weights (when I remember) and have done a lot of postnatal fitness classes at the YMCA.

A 5km run at 6-months post-baby

A 5km run at 6-weeks post-baby

4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?
-Snowflake Series (a fun, no-frills winter running series in Orillia, ON).
-Surf City Half Marathon Feb 1 in California (hellooooooo sunshine!)
-Ottawa Marathon in May 2015
-5 peaks trail running series
I would love to do a triathlon but with going back to work in the Spring I am not sure if that is realistic. It likely will not happen…
5. How do you balance family/work demands and interests etc with your athletic goals? 
This is a tough one! Communication. My husband is very supportive and understanding but I need to tell him in advance what the week’s plans look like so we can plan accordingly. My son is still not sleeping through the night so I am not willing to get up early to get a run in before my husband leaves for work. This means being very effective with my time during the day, and planning workouts/chores etc. I find I usually make a list for the next day with 5-10 things on it. I am lucky if I accomplish 3 of those things! A great tip from my friend Chantal Warriner (who is an amazing ultra runner and mom) is to do a ‘kid swap’ where you watch your friends kids for an hour so they can get in their exercise/ sleep/chores and then you switch. Moms are great, aren’t we?
7. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?
The biggest piece of advice I have is to be flexible. Before baby, getting a good night sleep was a given before a race. Now I am lucky if I get sleep on any given day. If you are tired or your body needs a break- listen to it! Take it slow. You don’t need to get into racing right away- you just had a baby for goodness sake! If you are worried about the weight not coming off, be patient. If you can breastfeed that definitely helps. If you are breastfeeding- get a supportive bra! Find a gym that has childcare. I am a member at the Y and it is great to be able to get a quick workout in while someone watches my son. Invest in the right equipment. Try out run strollers, baby carriers, etc. I have the chariot which is perfect for me as I can run with it, bike, and I just got the ski attachment so I can substitute some runs for skis this winter. Find like-minded moms or athletic groups. It’s a lot harder to bail on a workout if someone is joining you. Be happy and have fun! Enjoy being active. Your kids will thank you for it (maybe not right away, but they will one day!)
Hiking in the Adirondaks with Oliver at 3 months old

Hiking in the Adirondaks with Olivier at 3 months old

Athlete-Mom Interview: Rebecca Dussault

I met Rebecca Dussault a few years back when she got into racing Xterras as a Pro as she was coming off of her stellar, Olympian cross-country skiing career. Since I first met Rebecca, her family has doubled in size and we met up again recently at the Whiskey off-road race at the end of April. She is a down to earth, multisport mama who recently won the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail and is ripping it up on her road bike as well. Rebecca lives in Gunnison, Colorado with her husband, Sharbel and four children: son Tabor (age 12), son Simeon (age 7), son Anselm (age 3), and daughter Emiliana (age 15 months). Read on for yet another refreshing perspective on raising a family while being real to one’s inner “default mode” to stay active!

Go Pro Mountain Games

Go Pro Mountain Games

1.  Describe your life athletically (and otherwise) and how has it evolved through having each of your four children?

My husband and I married at 19 years each and I continued to compete for another season in XC skiing. Traveling the world with various teams lead to my early retirement from racing due to the struggle to be myself and remain faithful to my morals. During my 2 years away from the sport we had our first son and then I returned to skiing. It felt much better to be traveling with others who share my Christian beliefs and support me unconditionally. As a family, we committed to trying for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, which I did compete in, and one of the real victories was that my husband and son had come to every race and training camp for three years straight.

Next up was son number two conceived right after the Olympics. Unfortunately, my husband became very ill with an auto immune disease 8 months later and I again had to step away from sport to care for him. I was in survival mode as an athlete at this time. He eventually regained his health after three surgeries and I regained my competitive edge. I narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (overlooked for being a mother of two who’d taken breaks from racing despite skiing to a National Championship right before they named the team), but instead won a World Championship in Winter Triathlon in Norway 2010.
Ski racing in January 2010

Ski racing in January 2010

Following this win, true to our commitment to be open to life and fruitful in our marriage, we conceived another son and took a summer to learn holistic farming techniques. I got a lot of exercise on the farm just chasing pigs, carrying water and milking cows. I was strong from life, not lifting.
Since then, we have had a mobile wood fired pizza business which operates heavily on the weekends throughout the summer and totally cut into my competition schedule. That and we decided to live in a camper traveling the country for a year of learning. During this hiatus our fourth child, a daughter, born to us on the road in Washington State.
I have had to be content to be primarily a winter athlete until this year.  After a full and successful season of XC skiing and ski mountaineering, I have transitioned onto the bikes for racing and am loving it.
2. What motivated and continues to inspire you to get training and racing again?

I think I’m hard-wired to compete. Each pregnancy or life event, like my husband’s illness (2007-2008) which have taken me away from competition have caused me to fall back on my “factory settings.” It is my default mode to stay active for my own health and to maintain an effective platform for reaching people who need motivated and encouraged. Plus, being a homeschooling mother, I need a break from the kids occasionally and I’m not going to spend it any other way than exercising and having that healthy interior conversation time. I think it’s the picture of being wholly healthy (physically, mentally and chiefly spiritually) that keeps me going.

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

I never “trained” while pregnant, but allowed myself ample opportunities to get out and stay fit. I was able to remain very active almost the whole duration of all four pregnancies. I believe this helped me have four totally natural births and very healthy babies.

Since becoming a mother, my training and racing has looked more like a balancing act. It is of utmost importance for me to keep things in the proper perspective, getting my priorities right daily. I am wife first, them mother, then athlete/mentor/coach. I know I am happiest, and so are those around me, when I stick to that. I have a selfless husband who kicks me out the door to train while he holds down the fort. His support, willingness and flexibility are the only reasons I have risen to the level of athlete that I am.
We make it a priority to travel to races as a family so that it is not just about ME because a lot of the training can feel that way, but it’s about a healthy exposure for our while family. Our children are gifted athletes and already love to race, so they are less thrilled than ever to miss out on competitions. The fun budget is sure tight when everyone comes, but it’s actually priceless to be together.
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4. What are you current training/racing ambitions for 2014?

I am not a very scripted person and least of all a planner. My spontaneity has me doing workouts and entering races on the fly. I wait for my window of opportunity to open and I race out the door to train or drop everything and head to a race. With 4 kids and 4 small businesses there’s so much to continually juggle.

I have the ambition of becoming pro in another sport, which this time around is road biking. I have in the past and currently, race pro in XC skiing, Xterra triathlon, winter triathlon, mountain biking, ski mountaineering and adventure racing. I guess “multi-sport momma” is a fitting title. My goals are to inspire women (men and children too!) everywhere to seek to be wholly healthy and I do that through my outreach at www.massstart.org and through my motivational talks, coaching and clinics nationwide. My further ambitions are to grow my fitness business, be a student of sport myself, and to race awful fast while keeping everything in balance.
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5. How do you balance family/work etc with your athletic goals?

Drumroll please… A Great Husband of course! Actually, we both have always been entrepreneurs and have conducted business (e.g. www.globalshelters.com) from the home or the race course. I have been blessed to have flexibility to have my family in tow at most races. There is no more important work than I do as wife and mother, so my athletics are just the bonus round.

I do, however, have to confess a great struggle with feeling grounded enough to compete steadily and with my whole heart. For years we’ve wanted to move to the land and homestead, so I feel like I’m straddling the fence with my lifestyles. We are still in the process of hunting for the perfect community and land. I think I have a “best of both worlds” scenario in part, but we need to put down roots soon to stay true to our holistic and bigger life goals.
Also, I for the first time at 33, I feel my window of competitiveness closing. It has been a challenge to still be such a competitive mom while my children have begun to compete as well. We try to never head in different directions on the weekend, but rather stay as a tight-knit family which has me at lots of sacrifices. I feel a little guilty that they’re only really getting exposed to sports I love at this point, but that’s where we’re at. I will always compete until they shovel rocks over me!
7. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?
Find inspiring faster people to get out with. Cause yourself to be challenged. Be creative with your schedule and look for that slot where you can get out by yourself too and remember how much you love to move your body as a female athlete. It is a “body battle” just to get your figure back, never mind getting the competitive juices flowing again. Be patient. You just gave life to another human being. Embrace this sacred and precious time in your life. You can smash a new athletic record tomorrow!
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DussaultFamily

Athlete-Mom Interview: Rose Hughes Grant

Meet Rose Hughes Grant, a Pro mountain bike racer and travel agent from Kalispell, Montana. I first met Rose at a 3-day mountain bike stage race in Fernie, B.C. in 2011. Fast forward almost 3 years and Rose and her husband, Nelson are now the proud parents of 14-month old Layla. I ran into Rose again recently at the Whiskey 50 mountain bike race in Prescott, AZ at the end of April. She ripped it up there with a 5th place podium finish in both the Friday night Crit and Sunday Pro mountain bike race! She is going full steam ahead with a many national mountain bike races to come and two World Cup races in the schedule for 2014. Read on to find out how Rose has continued to follow her riding and racing passion through pregnancy and the demanding baby days….

RoseFamily

1. What was you life as an athletically (or otherwise) before having your daughter?

I’ve always been involved with athletics, mostly running in the years leading up to finding my mountain bike again in 2010. I enjoyed endurance races, and got to run the Boston Marathon in 2007. In 2011  I purchased a USA Cycling Race License for the first time and did my first real travelling for mountain bike racing. I completed that season with 2 national championships as a category 1 rider. The following season, 2012, I upgraded to Pro, and at the very beginning of my scheduled race season unexpectedly found out that I was pregnant. I was on my way to Fernie, BC for the Furious Three, a 3 day stage race, when through a conversation with a friend, confirmed that I had better take a pregnancy test. I waited until after the race and the test was positive. The next weekend I had XC Nationals slated in Sun Valley and the Missoula Pro XCT race the weekend after. I was feeling pretty good, so I competed at nationals to finish in 13th and in 6th place the following weekend at 6 and 7 weeks prego. I continued to race locally until I was 15 weeks along.

Rose 3rd on the Podium at US Super D Nationals Race with Layla - 4 months old!

Rose 3rd on the Podium at US Super D Nationals Race with Layla – 4 months old!

2. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again since becoming a mom?

Even after becoming a mom, I am motivated to find where my potential lies. I love riding and racing my bike. I like structure and having goals. For me, training and racing is my outlet, it’s where I unwind and regroup to be the best wife and mother that I can be. Biking is my thing. It’s what I’m good at. It makes me happy, and as long as it continues to work… as long as I am able to fit in my training…. And as long as I continue to have support from my husband and family….I’m going to keep running with it. I believe that God gave me a talent, and I believe that my passion is my purpose.

All of us moms are truly thankful for supportive moms/grandmas!!

All of us moms are truly thankful for supportive moms/grandmas!!

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

I did all I could to stay in the best possible shape throughout my pregnancy. I made it my goal to do something active every day, knowing that I fully intended to put in a solid race season after having my baby in March. February came and the Montana weather started to warm. I switched from skate skiing to riding my bike (although very uncomfortable),and was doing mellow 40 mile rides on the road through my due date. I also made sure to incorporate some strength training at the gym throughout my pregnancy.

Since becoming a mother, I am not on my own time frame any longer. The biggest change is not actually a change in my workouts, but the strategy to accomplish them and in a timely manner. With the blessing of working from home, I am flexible to train during a portion of my day that my husband is available to watch Layla. Otherwise, I find a sitter or ride with her in her Chariot. I actually use the Chariot 3-4 days per week, or I would ride my trainer during her nap during the winter months.

4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2014?

Last season was an experiment really. Having an infant, nursing, getting back into peak fitness, losing the baby weight, etc. I didn’t place an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself. I trained hard and did have a solid season, but I wanted 2014 to be my year to have a consistent presence at the national races. My ambitions are to never miss a workout unless there is a very good reason. My biggest and hardest ambition is the East coast block of races that I am planning out the logistics for currently. There are a lot of details to coordinate when traveling/training/racing solo with a one year old. I’m planning to race XC Nationals and my first 2 world cups during the East coast block.

5. How do you balance family with your athletic goals?

I don’t over commit my time. I prioritize what is the most important to me…family, work,and training. Most days I don’t do anything else. My husband is really active too, and it can be so easy to do the “pass-off” at the door, which some days is just the way it is,but time together with the hubby is something that unfortunately has to be scheduled into our busy lives.

Husband Nelson with Layla cheering on Rose 2 months after baby Layla born!

Husband Nelson with Layla cheering on Rose 2 months after baby Layla born!

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

The biggest thing for me was to set goals that are reachable, but not without hard work and commitment. I think there is almost always a way if there is some creativity put into your planned workouts. If training gets too hard or is causing family tension, re-evaluate how you are completing your workouts. The Chariot is my lifesaver! It was a splurge but worth my mental and physical health ten fold!! In addition to pulling it behind my bike, I use it as a jogger and for skate skiing in the off-season as well! Sometimes splurges are necessary if they are possible!

Rose racing the Whiskey 50 one month ago (April, 2014)

Rose racing the Whiskey 50 one month ago (April, 2014)