Let me introduce you to Susie Mitchell who I met through the magic of this thing called the World Wide Web :). Susie hails from Dublin, Ireland, where she works as a Fish Vet and lives with her husband, Cormac and their 11-month old daughter, Tori. Remarkably just 4 months after giving birth to Tori, Susie won the World Masters Track Championships in Cycling in the Individual Pursuit event! What I love about this interview is the passion and energy that exudes from Susie as she writes and tells us about her athletic journey, which she enjoyed all through pregnancy and straight into the life-changing transition of motherhood. I loved hearing about how her coach creatively adapted her training through pregnancy as well. Read on and be inspired by Susie’s story!
1. What was your life like athletically (or otherwise) before having your
I played a bit of hockey and soccer in school and college but not seriously. I was always into running to keep fit and some mountain biking for fun, but I really only got into competitive sport in the last 6-7 years. It all started when my husband persuaded me to get involved in adventure racing. Adventure races are multisport events; they usually involve navigating around a course by mountain biking, hill running and kayaking. They can have all sorts of stuff mixed in depending on the race, such as abseiling, shooting, archery and swimming. The events I participated in usually lasted anything from 4 – 36 hours, some individual but mostly team events (mixed teams of two-four people). I used to race with my hubby and our team name was “Grounds for Divorce” – for obvious reasons! While I was on my multi-sport buzz I also did a few Xterra triathlons – I really loved them but there were very few of these organised in Ireland at the time and I think even less now. So in summary I really was a bit of a jack of all trades, relatively competent at everything but not particularly strong at anything. I did manage to podium in some of the races however, to be honest the standard in Ireland isn’t that high. Small pond and all that.
2.How did you get into cycling? How and when did you decide you would compete in Track Worlds at 4 months postpartum?
As I said I started out doing a bit of mountain biking. That was about 10 years ago. We went camping in Wales for a holiday and rented mountain bikes and I loved it. In fact I bought my first mountain bike on the way home! When I got involved in the adventure racing, I started to take the mountain biking a bit more seriously and put in a bit more time in the saddle. It was the only kind of biking I had done up to that point, but in January 2011 while on holidays visiting relations in New Zealand, I got the opportunity to try riding on an indoor velodrome. It was something I had always wanted to do since watching the track racing the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It was such a buzz I was immediately hooked! I discovered when I returned to Ireland the following summer we actually had an outdoor track in Dublin and started to go to the training sessions. I seemed to be relatively good at it from the start so I shelved the adventure racing to concentrate on track cycling. I went to the World Masters in Manchester that same autumn after just a few months of riding on the track to compete. It was my first time competing on an indoor track. I was actually about 7 weeks pregnant at the time but was in denial about it partly because I wanted to compete in the masters so much. I didn’t win any prizes but didn’t shame myself either and probably more importantly didn’t fall off the bike! It was fabulous just to be there and try competing in some of the different events.
Masters sport is fantastic as it opens up the door to serious competition for everyone no matter what the age. Even though part of me was sorry I hadn’t started track racing when I was younger so I could have had a right crack at it, masters sport gives you the opportunity to compete on an international stage at any age. It was a super experience and I made up my mind there and then I was coming back with a vengeance the following year to make my mark. I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do as I knew it would only be a few months after giving birth but the Masters became my goal for October 2013. I told everyone I was planning to go back, and most people looked at me like I was mad, knowing it would be pretty soon after having the baby. This of course just spurred me on and made me more determined. Having a goal like that really motivated me to train right throughout my pregnancy and to get back to training very soon after having my little girl Tori too.
My coach (Hugh Byrne) could see I was serious about continuing to train right through pregnancy so he resigned to support me, even though he had never coached a pregnant athlete before. Firstly he helped me devise some guidelines to enable me to cycle safely right through the pregnancy. He reckoned it was also a good opportunity to focus on improving some of the technical aspects of my biking. For instance he devised some sessions for me to do on the stationary bike in the gym to improve my leg speed / cadence which is really important for the track. He also sent me to get a proper bike fit and on a course on visualisation which gave me something else to work on. All these little things kept me focused. Aside from that I was also in the gym once or twice a week cross training and doing weights and core work. I had never done any weights before and actually just started lifting when I was pregnant. When I look back now I really think all the core work and weights I did throughout stood to me and enabled me to make a speedy recovery post birth.
3. What was your training like post-childbirth?
Despite all my plans for a natural childbirth I ended up having an emergency caesarean section which was a bit of a shock to say the least. I felt OK physically within a few days but I was floored mentally after having the baby – partly the shock of the responsibility and I’m sure my hormones were all over the place. Having a section hadn’t been part of my plan for getting back training but I quickly decided to focus on the positives (easy to sit back up on the bike) and was back on the track 2 ½ weeks after having the baby. The first day I got out on my bike again was a turning point for me mentally and I started to cope with being a new mom a lot better. I suppose it was the longest I had ever gone without exercise in my life which had also been taking its toll on me mentally. Getting out doing my own thing was also a bit of a relief from the intensity of minding a new-born and gave me extra energy. In training, I took it pretty easy for the first few weeks, always listening to my body and letting it be the guide of how much to push myself. Then after three weeks on the bike I felt a significant change, suddenly I felt stronger and more up for it. Trying a few sprints on the track, I could actually feel the strength coming back. I knuckled down to some more intense efforts then and about 6 weeks after giving birth won my first ever National Medal on the Track, a bronze in the Olympic Omnium. My fitness of course was still lacking but I did pretty well in the short timed events which would be my strengths (the 500 time trial, the 3km pursuit and the flying 250m) then was able to use my brain to do OK in the bunch races – the Omnium allows you the chance to play other people off against each other which worked well for me and much to my complete and utter shock left me with a bronze medal!
As the summer went on, to enable me to get in training sessions during the day while I was on maternity leave, I started to take Tori to the track with me. I was really reluctant at first as I felt it wouldn’t work. But with a little encouragement from my coach I tried it out. The track was an ideal place to bring a baby, as it is a pretty secure environment and I was always able to keep an eye on her. I bought a pop-up tent to put her in if it was windy or cold or she wanted to sleep which worked really well. To my surprise I nearly always managed to get a pretty decent session in, with her either sitting in her chair watching me and my teammates whizz by or asleep in the tent!
4.How did it feel to win the masters title so soon after having Tori?
Winning the individual pursuit in the masters was a real shock. I knew I was starting to go well as had just won bronze in the nationals in the pursuit. However, based on my times during the summer, I was hoping at best to scrape into the bronze medal ride off but realistically felt I had no chance of a medal. The hardest part was trusting my coach and putting in a serious taper but it paid off, everything came together on the day and I had the performance of my life. I actually think I would never had done it had it not been for the pregnancy and becoming a mum. I don’t know if it’s the post pregnancy hormones, the fact I had limited time to train and had to train smart or if it just gave me a new way of looking at things but I rode my heart out that night to win the title, shaving a further 2 seconds off my PB that I had set that morning in the qualifying rounds. It of course was one of the best personal achievements of my life, but it was made all the sweeter because I had done it with Tori on board!
5.What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2013?
I’m trying to get in as much training as I can but obviously between being back at work part time and minding a baby it’s not possible to do all you want. Such is the lot of many athlete moms out there! I’m trying to focus on quality rather than quantity and do targeted sessions where I can. I really worked hard over the winter on trying to build a better aerobic base and improve my lactate threshold, I was definitely lacking in that at this stage last year. I have just started doing some racing on the road for the first time in the last few weeks and it’s a steep learning curve. Coming from the track where it’s more about pure power, you really have to learn to mind your energy when switching to the road, not to mention use your brain a lot more. I prefer the criterium racing, it’s a bit more like the track I suppose, short, intense and less brain power required! I’m really still very much focussed on the track however and am just using the road to sharpen myself up. The track racing season is starting up again now that the weather has improved so it will be back to more specific training in the next few weeks.
My ambitions for 2013 are to significantly improve my person best times particularly in the individual pursuit and the 500 time trial. I will compete in the Nationals here in September but my main focus will be the World Masters in Manchester in October so I will be building towards that. I just want to train hard and see how fast I can go, to get the best from myself, and if that’s good enough to win another rainbow jersey and retain my title all the better.
The other thing that’s keeping me busy at the moment is I’m writing a book. I found that when I got pregnant I really struggled to find good advice on what I could and couldn’t do. Opinions are varied and much of the advice is over conservative. I found a way in the end and I’m writing about my experiences now. Basically I’m writing the book I would have loved to have read when I was pregnant. Of course every woman is different but it’s a story about my experience and I want to get it out there to show women what is possible. It wasn’t part of the plan but he world masters is making a nice chapter at the end!
6.How do you balance family/work/training/competing?
Hmm – Without a doubt this is really the hardest question to answer. Can I pass?! I’m not sure my hubby would say I’m the best person to ask! It’s a constant challenge to try balance everything and is occasionally a bone of contention with us. My husband is into sport too and needs to get out training so sometimes it feels like were living in a revolving door, as he comes in I go out and we don’t spend as much quality time together as we used to before Tori came along. It’s important to be aware of this and try make time for doing stuff together to. I don’t know if it would be easier to have a partner who wasn’t into sport – yea it might make the scheduling of training sessions easier, but I think there is an understanding there when both love competing and we do cut each other some slack! As for competing we usually go alone as it’s just easier at the moment. Also Cormac is into adventure racing which is not a spectator sport. Hopefully when Tori gets a little bigger she will enjoy coming to the track to watch me race! Poor thing, she probably won’t have a choice!
7. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape or even competing again after having children?
The first thing is know you can do it, it is possible. Sometimes it takes a bit more planning and time management (and an understanding spouse). You just have to be a little ruthless about it occasionally!
If you’ve just had a baby, it’s good to get back into doing some training as soon as you feel able for it. The best advice I got when training either during pregnancy or post-partum was “listen to your body”. If you feel up for it you probably are. You definitely do get an aerobic boost after pregnancy for a few months and you can get your fitness back a lot quicker than you would expect by taking advantage of this time.
Another thing is get help wherever you can. My mom for instance was great, mining the baby for an hour or two and letting me out for a spin. I know everyone won’t have that luxury but anyone who offers to help – don’t turn them down (as long as you know them!).
It’s really important when time is limited to train smart. You don’t need to put in massive numbers of hours to get really fit. Even short sessions can be really beneficial, especially if you work at a higher intensity, and it all adds up. Don’t ever think, I won’t bother going for a spin I only have 45 minutes. Get out there, warm up and do 4 hard 5 minute intervals. They will probably benefit you more than 2 hours easy on the bike. Also consider cross training as it might be easier to fit it in. For instance go to the gym when it’s dark and do half hour on the rowing machine and a half hour of weights.
I found my rollers (stationary bike trainer) absolutely essential in the first few months after having Tori. Many afternoons while she slept I would crank out a session. You have to prioritise this for it to work. Have gear and bike at the ready, just ignore the housework and get spinning the minute the baby falls asleep!
If you want to get back competing it’s essential to set some goals to focus on, be this targeting certain races or setting new PBs, it really does help your motivation to have something to work towards. I think it must work on a subconscious level. The most important thing though of course is to enjoy the training while getting there!
Thanks for sharing Susie. Please check out Susie’s personal website: www.pregnancytopodium.com
5. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while training and competing?
She was told she would never ride or run again either – let alone compete in triathlon. With the same determination, Jamie proved that wrong. Swimming was part of her rehab. And, with the aid of a brace she is biking and adds crutches for running. She returned to XTERRA racing last year at the Pacific Championship in Santa Cruz and Nationals in Utah (pictured below on the run). In 2012 she also competed at the XTERRA Guam Championship, the legendary Leadville 100 MTB race, and reignited her Olympic dream by winning the National Championship Time Trial for C-3 category Paracyclists. Read below to learn more about how Jamie has continued her athletic and return to competition as a mom!
1. Can you describe your athletic/competitive life has evolved before and since becoming a mom? And any special challenges/benefits with twins?
I used to think it would be no big deal to pop out a kid and then return to racing! Oh how naive I was! Being a Mom is hard when you work and want to train! You are on call 24hrs a day. If they are sick, they want you not daddy or papa . . . always Mom!! I used to train when I felt like it. Raced whenever. I could just hop on a plane and go to Maui or whatever I wanted. Now it requires planning all the time. Just to go ride I have to make sure the boys have lunch made so my dad doesn’t have to do it. If I go on a trip I have to plan meals and pack all clothes for them even if I am just leaving them with my dad! And if I take them with me . . . now that is even more work because now I have to figure things out on the road! Twins make it even more difficult because there are two that go in different directions. No older sibling to help corral them! Then throw in my disability . . . . both boys know they can outrun me so I constantly have to think ahead.
Everything used to be about my racing and what I wanted to do . . . as much as I drag them everywhere and have taught them to be flexible I often put them first before making decisions! They even dictate when I train. Always when they nap or before they wake up! On easy days I spin on the trainer while we all watch a movie like Cars or Toy Story!! I try to get quality time in with them as much as possible!
2. What is your biggest motivation to stay active/competitive at this stage of your life?
This has a lot to do with my cancer and disability! I stay competitive because I want to show my boys that they can do anything they put their minds to. It might not be how they pictured it or achieved in a different way but they can still do it! On paper I should not be able to bend my knee which means I shouldn’t be able to ride a bike but I am . . . that alone pushes me to keep pushing the limits! You don’t know unless you try! And when you have been unable to do something for 3 years it is all the motivation to not take it for granted when you can do it again!
3. How do you balance your family, work, and training/racing?
Extended family is a huge blessing! My dad is amazing. He watches the kids all the time for us so that I can train and work. If it weren’t for him I would be riding the trainer all the time or getting up at 5am just to get a ride in! And who wants to do that??? I try to train when the kids are napping so that I don’t miss out on spending time with them. When I am coaching (work) I sometimes take them with me so they can hang out and run around!
4. What do your boys think of their athletic mom?
I hope they think I am pretty cool! Not sure yet since they just turned 3 years old. But every time they see a race picture of me they get pretty excited and say “That’s mommy!”
5. What are your 2013 training/competition goals?
This year I hope to scope out my competition. I am new to the para cycling world (cyclists with physical disabilities) I would love to make the National A Team and travel to World Cup races and the World Championships. My long term goal is The Paralympics in Rio in 2016!!
6. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while following a consistent training program every week?
Don’t let training become more important than family! It is easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing . . . but you can’t get time back. Kids will only stay young for a little while! When you do train keep it quality and not quantity. It is better to be 15% under trained than 1% over trained. I went into The Leadville 100 race only having done a 55-60 mile ride as my longest ride! I made sure they were quality miles!
In order to get all that I get in I do rely a lot on family but if you don’t have family find a friend that also has kids (if you have little ones) and trade off on watching each others kids. I have several friends with no extended family that do this so that they can run errands or clean the house! I would use it for training! As they get older you can use training time to spend with them. Take the kids out when you have an easy spin . . .they can ride their bikes too! Or let them hop in the pool with you.
I love your advice Jamie and good luck as you shoot for the Paralympics in 2016!!
I met Ginny, and her husband Andrew a few years ago when we stayed together at the Xterra Mountain Championship. I enjoyed their company right away and every time we have run into each other since. They truly embrace the athletic lifestyle with tons of passion and infectious positivity as a family with their now six-year-old daughter Maddi. Home base for this family is in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Vernon, British Columbia. Ginny has competed in many triathlons including Ironmans, bike races, and ultrarunning. Her next event is Ironman Wisconsin coming up on September 9th. Read on to hear more about how for Ginny family life, work, training and racing can all fit together synergistically, keeping everyone happy and fit! Ginny also has a blog where you can read about her adventures here.
1. Can you describe your athletic/competitive background before and after becoming a mom?
My involvement in sport has truly not changed pre and post bringing a child into this world. If anything, I’ve branched out a little more, and beyond Ironman, have taken a stab at bike racing and ultra-running. This is massively due to my husband’s encouragement. We had not planned to have a child. I felt somewhat fragile with my mood, and was terrified that I would fall in my mother’s footsteps, and experience post-partum depression. Given my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I’m highly aware of how that can affect the emotional development of a child. When I got pregnant, my husband immediately booked us for a bike tour through the Rocky Mountains, which would happen 6 months after she was born. He also signed me up for an Ironman 7.5 months after her birth. I fumed at him, thinking he had no idea what having a baby would entail. He knew me better than I knew myself, and it kept me active during the pregnancy, and the future events gave me the excitement and regime of exercise to balance my mood. As it turns out, the IM race when my baby was 7.5 months old was a PB. I completed it in 10hr29, and it gave me confidence that as a family we could do great things.
2. Since you and your husband both work, train/compete and coach how do you balance your family, work, and training/racing?
The way that we fit in exercise and training is constantly changing as our little girl grows up and work demands change. In general, we find a mix of being active together, and finding time to ourselves. In the early days, it was a matter of getting everything set up, so that the minute the baby was asleep I could jump on the trainer and spin. Our baby got used to feeding from a sweaty Mama. I would walk or run pushing the baby stroller. As she got older, I found a great daycare, and had to get over the baseless guilt of sneaking in a workout after work before picking her up. She’s now in school, which gives time for training. She’s finally strong enough on the paddle board that I can swim in the lake without a babysitter, and she can keep up on the her bike for my short jogs. My husband has also been very flexible, and we find ways to include our daughter instead of doing it all while she’s absent. It’s not uncommon for one of us to set off for a workout in the park, while the other one brings a picnic and hikes with our daughter to a meeting spot. Most of the time it requires tag-teaming though, and it’s easier when both parents are seeking training time, so it’s more balanced in the marriage.
3. What does Maddi think of her athletic mom?
Until this year, I don’t think it ever crossed her mind. Our active life is all she has known. Just this year she has made some comments about being excited for me at an event, or sometimes being scared for me when she knows I’m nervous. At times when I’m injured, she has written me cards “I hope you get better soon Mama. I’m proud of you.” She has her own first triathlon this coming weekend, and it will be such a pleasure to watch her experiencing the joy of participating herself.
4. What have been/are your 2012 training/competition goals?
After an exceptionally busy year in 2011, with a 7 day bike stage race in Europe, some local bike racing, and two Ironman events, I was ready for a year with fewer planned events. I decided to go with the flow, and join in events as they emerged. This year began with an ultra-run in Mallorca Spain. I ran 64km over stunning mountainous terrain. My initial goal was completion of something new and exciting. I got the competitive bug out there, and ran myself into second place in the women. I then got the Ironman bug again, and registered for Ironman Wisconsin that will take place in two weeks. To get my feet wet, I did two 1/2 Iron events this summer. The first one was done on very little training, and my only goal was to be in the moment and enjoy it. The second had the same goal, but I had an additional 5 weeks of training. I ran myself into 3rd place woman, and loved every minute of it. I’m now 10 days out from Ironman, and recovering from an injury. At this point my goal is completion, soaking up the joys of the event, and making good decisions along the way to bow out if I’m getting hurt. I will then cheer on my husband in his race.
5. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while following a consistent training program every week?
I had a motto after my daughter was born…”any exercise is good exercise. 20 minutes is worth it.” After doing longer distances, I had gotten into the mindset that it wasn’t really worth training for less than an hour. This is virtually impossible with children at times, so I realized that a hard 20 minute run gets you strong. I also tried to just move where ever I was. At the playground I would pull myself up on the bars, or do split squats, or play a hard game of chase. Being flexible with your thinking around how and when you will exercise is critical. Sometimes consistency is important too, such as team sessions, so you’ll need a support system organized. I did some ‘trading’ of babysitting to alternate swim mornings with a friend. I’ve certainly had a few 5am mornings on the trainer just to squeak it in. I think the biggest hurdle for me was getting over the guilt that exercise was selfishly taking time from my daughter. Someone shared with me the wisdom that allowing your child to spend time with others, learn from others, and feel confident without you is a gift to them. The demands of parenthood are constantly changing, and sleep and social time are as important as exercise. Hopefully a balance can be found.
I’m overdue for an another athlete-mom interview, so check out this interview with an amazing mom of seven kids, yes seven!! If you think its tough to get and stay fit with just one or two children, read on to see how Lesley has done it with in her words, “seven wonderful children ranging in age from 7 to 21.” Read on to hear about her life as a stay at home mom, to a single and super fit working mom, now in training for her second Ironman!
What are the ages and names of your children?
My first three are boys. Andrew 21, Craig 19, Benjamin 17. Then came the three girls. Shayanne 15, and twins Emily and Katie 13. Then the youngest little guy Eli who is 7.
How active were you prior to having your children?
The amount of physical activity that I did before having children was none! I was busy studying for my Social Work Degree. Shortly after graduating University I had my first baby, and they tumbled forth in rapid succession!
As a stay at home mom, my workouts were composed of running up and down stairs to change diapers, weight lifting was the laundry (which I liken to the eighth wonder of the world) and carrying car seats everywhere, running up and down the sidelines at the kid’s soccer games cheering them on and carrying them into the house when they were exhausted after their big game! I was fully immersed in raising my children. When the twins were born I had six kids aged seven and under. I also had a marriage where I was alone 80% of the year as my now “Wasband” travelled overseas most of the time. As time passed I was becoming increasingly lonely and frustrated as I knew I was losing myself, and wondered if I would ever find myself again.
How did you find the time to find physical activity (and yourself :)) again?
My fitness journey began one day when I happened upon a kickboxing studio where my oldest son was competing in soccer. I gave it a try one night, and from that day on I went everyday for 6 years (one of those years I was pregnant with my last child and actually trained intensely right up until the day I had him….EASY BIRTH/ EASY RECOVERY!!!) until I earned my black belt in Muay Thai and Kickboxing. I entered the ring and won a Canadian Championship bout in Vancouver. I started training for my bouts at the Talisman Centre where I began another chapter, teaching the Get Ripped Program (Lesley is currently in 9 of the Get Ripped DVDs). The creator of the program had seen me at Talisman and begged me to teach it. I was incredibly reluctant to do so as I still hadn’t found myself and had NO confidence at all. Upon her insistence I started to teach the program. Right around this time my “wasband” came home from his travels one day and decided that our marriage was over. At that moment my days as a stay at home Mom were over. I hadn’t worked for 14 years. I was now single-handedly raising 7 children 99% of the year! Teaching fitness became my profession and my passion. What I didn’t know at that time was that it was something I was becoming really good at and my children and a wonderful group of highly supportive women who were participating in my classes were being so incredibly supportive that I started to find out where and who I was! I somehow gathered up a huge following who continue to encourage and support me every day. I have found that having that positive support system to be integral to anyone who is trying to juggle family and a fitness goal.
How did you get into triathlon?
Three years ago I was approached by a triathlon coach who expressed that I would be a great triathlete and would I consider trying out the sport. I have always had the philosophy that people should try things once….Well here I am three years later training for my second Ironman!
How do you balance your training with work and family?
My training schedule for this incredible undertaking is somewhat hectic and sometimes exhausting. I choose to swim early in the morning way before my kids are up, and run while they are in school. My long bike rides happen while they are with their dad on the weekends, and thankfully when they are not with him they are so supportive that they almost push me out the door!!
What do your kids think of their active mom?
My children have shown incredible support of my goal to compete in Ironman and all of the races I compete in. They understand it’s importance to me, and have joined me in my sport by competing in a few races of their own. I know they are proud and inspired by my tenacity, and my overwhelming desire to constantly get back up and keep going when times are rough.
I am blessed that they continue to allow me to fulfill my goal this year of improving my time at Ironman Canada. It is also my goal to be the very best single working parent that I can possibly be, however it is a very fine balance of hard training, work, family and a lot of encouragement and determination.
Any advice you would give to other moms while trying to stay active while raising a family?
As a mom I think it is so important to keep yourself close to the top of the totem pole in life. Remember in addition to being a mom, a wife, an employee or employer, you are also a woman who should forever be challenging herself to personal goals and personal time to achieve those goals. My experience has allowed my children to understand the importance of goal setting, the long-term benefits of fitness and proper nutrition, the ability to create and maintain balance in their lives and the life long lesson that when life hands you a challenge, you are the only factor that can hold you back. There is ALWAYS a way, and there is no such phrase as “I can’t”. I’m proof of that.
As a side note, I now have a wonderful man in my life now who is also training for Ironman and supports me every day and allows me to do the same for him. To every challenge in life there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Think positive and surround yourself with positive people and you will accomplish everything!
What kind of work keeps you busy these days?
I am now what I call a Life Coach. I teach mostly women how to pick up the broken pieces and make themselves whole again through proper fitness and nutrition. My goal is to teach them to become whole for the rest of their lives, not just for the moment. I create individual fitness programs on line for those women who have children and just can’t get away from home, or if they can get away just for a while a program that will suit their needs at a fitness facility. I also teach Fitness classes at Talisman Centre and Heaven’s Fitness, and am a personal trainer who will come to people’s homes to train them there or if weather permitting, in the great outdoors.
To all you ladies who are striving to reach a goal and have children in your lives… I am well-known for this saying….YOU CAN DO THIS!!!
Rosario and I met through triathlon training with Critical Speed Racing in Calgary and she always has a smile on her face! She is also my very favorite person to go see the odd time I can fit in a massage. She goes deep and knows what an athlete’s muscles need! If you are in Calgary, you can find her at Therapeutic Hands. After having her first son, Sebastien in June of 2009, Rosario competed in the Honolulu marathon six months later and continued on to compete in Ironman Canada when her son was 14 months old. Her second son, Jonathon was born in June, 2011 and Rosario is back on track for her next Ironman. Her husband, Andrew has also managed to fit in some half and full Ironman races in the past few years as well. Rosario was one of those amazing pregnant moms who was able to run almost to the end of each pregnancy! Below she talks about how she has been managing to balance it all!
1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?
I was born in Mexico and I started swimming at the age of four. I got into competitions when I was 8 years old and competed at our National Championships. I stopped swimming competitively when I was 15 years old. In 1998 I got into triathlons looking for a more dynamic way to exercise. I raced professionally in 2001 for a few months, then I started an internship at university and had to stop. I did my first marathon in 2003 and after that I just loved the long distance races, so I did a few half-marathons and half Ironmans. I did my first Ironman in 2005 and I just fell in love with it. After my second Ironman I had my first son, then I got pregnant the following year and had my second son. Presently, my sons are 8 months old and 2 years and 8 months old.
2. What has motivated you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different from pre-children?
I think I just don’t want to forget about taking care of myself, plus is an amazing feeling to see your kids when you are finishing a race. It just takes you to a different level. I also think it’s very important to show to your kids this athletic world, and I am hoping in the future that they will find a sport that they like as much as I do mine.
3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family and work?
It’s hard to do everything. But I think you really have to organize your life if you really want it…and I keep my agenda close by. I usually do my workouts in the mornings, sometimes I have to wake up at 5am when everybody is asleep at home. Then I take my boys to the gym where I drop them off at the babysitting centre at the gym.
I am a Registered Massage Therapist and I work part-time one or two times a week during the day, some late afternoons and evenings when my husband gets home as well as full days on Saturdays. Usually my longest workouts are Saturday and Sunday mornings when my husband is home and he can help me out. Sometimes I miss having dinner with my family, but I don’t want to give up the ability to spend time and take care of my kids during the day. I will probably change my schedule once my kids are in school, that way I will be able to work more during the day and work less evenings. I do not want to stop working either because it’s a break from the busy life at home with kids, is good to talk to adults for a change. For now, I have to think that what I am doing is for everybody’s well-being. I try to keep housework up to date, so I do small amounts cleaning here and there all the time. I also cook every two days, that way the day that I don’t cook I clean or vice versa.
4. Did you train during your pregnancies? What was your approach?
I trained up until two weeks before I had my boys. I was running, doing stairs, yoga and swimming most of the time. I would alternate these activities so I was doing something at least three times per week. I always listened to my body, and if I felt like sleeping in I would do it. During my first pregnancy, I did only one activity three times a week. With my second pregnancy, I was more at ease and some days I did two activities in one day. Of course, it got harder as time went by, but I felt very good during both pregnancies.
5. What were the biggest challenges getting back into shape after your first child? And now, again after having two? Has the challenge of getting fit again been the same, different, or even easier the second time?
The first time wasn’t too bad, I just felt that I needed to strengthen my core a lot more than the rest of my body since I was able to train up until the end of my pregnancies. I gave myself 6 weeks before I did anything else after childbirth. Unfortunately after my second pregnancy my hip was out of alignment since all the ligaments where loose, after running again for a week and in combination with my work (standing for long periods of time), I developed plantar fascitis. I am still recovering from it, but getting back on track. I didn’t give up of course during this time of injury. I’ve done a lot of non weight-bearing activities like water running, crosstrainer and stairmaster. I found that after both pregnancies pilates has been very effective at getting my core stronger again. It’s amazing how sore your abdominal area can feel after long runs!! I didn’t I was due to breastfeeding, the hardest part for me was getting used to the lack of sleep. Which happens a lot with my kids. I think it’s easy to get fit again as long as you want it.
6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active and/or competitive while balancing life with children?
Organize your life, everything is possible. Remember if mommy is happy everybody is happy.
7. What is your favourite part about racing Ironmans?
I love the mental challenge more than the physical, but of course for these types of races you must have both. So you have to be ready for it, with all the hours of training. But is your body going to give up when you start feeling all the miles on race day? It’s a lot of hours of commitment to train, but when you cross the finish line you just realize how much it means to you and the people who love you.
8. How does someone from Mexico adjust to Canadian winters? 🙂
There is not even a comparison with weather!! Ha ha ha…I think that is the hard part. But you just have to adapt and it’s the same with having a family, you need to adapt to the changes and challenges that you will face. And of course you have to do a lot of indoor training, you have to learn to love a treadmill and windtrainer, but in the end just means you will do anything for your favorite sport. I just want to say, if a Mexican girl can run on a -20 C temperature with cross winds that means any Canadian person can do it!! Good luck training and see you out there!!
Many thanks to Sara Gross for being my first athlete-mom interview of 2012! I caught up with her for the first time this past year at the Calgary 70.3 in July where she finished 2nd just 7 months after giving birth to her daughter, Rosalee. After competing in Ironman Canada at the end of August and finishing 4th in a time of 9:46, Sara took the racing challenge up another notch a few months later when she went on to do two back to back Ironmans (yes that’s one week apart)!! In November Sara competed in Ironman Arizona and finished 8th in the Pro Division while running to a marathon PB (3:07) in a total time of 9:18. A week later, she competed in Ironman Cozumel and did not slow down much at all, while finishing 6th place in an impressive overall time of 9:56!
Sara also has a PhD in Ancient History and Religion from the University of Edinburgh. She works as a coach while living in Victoria, B.C. with her daughter, Rosalee and husband and personal coach, Clint. For more info on her coaching click here. You can also follow her on her personal website: www.saragross.ca. In the meantime read on about Sara’s transition into motherhood racing….
1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?
Before my daughter was born, I had been a professional triathlete for 6 years. In that time I had collected 13 top 5 Ironman finishes and was ITU European Long Course Champion in 2005
2. What has motivated you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-children?
The thing that motivates me most is that I have not reached my potential in the sport. Finishing in the top 5 all those times and not winning an Ironman is frustrating and keeps me pushing forward. Though many things have changed since Rosalee was born, this central motivation has remained the same.
3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family (and work?)?
The main thing that keeps me balanced is the amount of support I have. My husband (and coach) Clint understands that if I am going to compete against the best in the world we have to prioritize my training. My mental coach Bob (from Sportexcel) taught me how important it is to move easily from one role to another on a daily basis. So when I get home from training I quickly shift from athlete-mode to mom-mode, likewise when I am coaching I shift to coach-mode. Its amazing how much easier my life is if I don’t carry the baggage of a bad training session into the rest of my day. I also don’t have much time to stop and think about how I am feeling. If I am tired, I often don’t notice until I hit the pillow at night.
4. Did you train during your pregnancy? What was your approach?
I would not consider what I did during my pregnancy “training”, but I did exercise. I averaged about 1-1.5h/ day for most of the pregnancy, just easy swimming, biking and running. I ran up to an hour until week 32 and stopped because I could feel my baby’s head pushing down on my pelvis and it was just weird. I biked (mostly on the trainer) until week 37 and swam up until the day before she was born. I was anaemic during the middle part of my pregnancy, so I felt too fatigued to do any more than this. My main goal was just to keep myself sane. I had no illusions about maintaining my fitness. When I started training again after birth, I really was starting from scratch.
5. What were the biggest challenges getting back into shape after your daughter was born?
One of the biggest challenges for me was not being able to plan my days, weeks and months the way I had previously. My time was no longer my own. I had to get used to training on a whim. For example, if Rosalee fell asleep, I would get changed and jump on the trainer. Or if she had a bad night, I might need a nap instead. I found that if I kept my priorities straight in those first few months I could get in a decent amount of training, even if I couldn’t plan out the details like I used to.
6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing life as a mom?
My best advice for new moms is to let go of any guilt associated with spending time away from your child. Finding people to take care of Rosalee who love her as much as I do was good for me and for her. I think that all women should get in the habit of taking care of themselves for at least an hour or two a day. Its good for our sense of well-being and is also a good example for our kids as they get older.
7. What are some of your race goals for 2012?
I have always wanted to have a great race in Hawaii (Ironman World Championships). In 2008 I finished 20th there having cramped up on the bike. The new qualifying system for pros means I have to race to earn points to get on the startlist, so that’s what I am doing this year. And of course, I am always looking for that elusive Ironman win!