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.


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)


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


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.


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.


Thank- you Jennifer for sharing your personal and book story with us! For more from Jennifer you can check out her blog here:

Athlete-Mom Interview: Gillian Clayton

Meet Gillian Clayton from Courtenay, BC, where she works part time as a physiotherapist. Previously a CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) gold medalist varsity soccer player, Gillian started running marathons in 2004. She taught herself to swim in order to compete in her first half-Ironman in 2010. Gillian raced as a professional triathlete in 2012 — and won the 2012 Ironman Canada — after just 2 years of racing as an amateur in triathlon.


Gillian is mom to two little boys (3 years old, and 6 months) and recently finished the Victoria Marathon as the 10th women overall with a post-baby personal best of 3:11:30! Read on to learn more about Gillian’s latest perspectives on life and sport as a mother. You can also check out Gillian’s website here, and follow her on Twitter: @gillianliz


1. What was your life like athletically (or otherwise) before becoming a parent and how has it evolved since?

My life before kids? Well, very different is the answer. The bottom line is that before kids (we have two young sons, 6 months and 3 years old), I could just decide what I wanted to do, and do it.  Quite simple.  I wanted to race in Europe? Okay.  Whereas now that question makes my head spin before I even figure out how to book a plane ticket (which we couldn’t afford anyways!).  So some logistics are different, and that shapes your training.  I get very excited now for local runs and races (here on Vancouver Island) because they are ‘available’ to me. Training is getting out the door and doing the best I can in whatever amount of time or energy I have that day.

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

I did train well through both pregnancies. I’ve often said I was lucky to be able to be so active during pregnancy, but I also worked really quite hard at it. Definitely I struggled in the first trimester with both pregnancies because I was so sick.  That was hard, for sure, but at least training made me feel like I accomplished something that day.

Certainly I’ve had lots of friends that had pain or illness that did not allow them to continue training, and I really felt for them, and felt quite lucky in that sense that I could continue doing what I wanted to do.  I was able to run and swim up until the days I delivered with both babies.  Biking took a bit of a backseat after the 3rd trimester because it wasn’t as comfortable and primarily I was more concerned of motorists on the road.  I am so happy I was able to train throughout pregnancy, as it has so many benefits (to the mother, to the baby, to the athlete, to the family!)

My training has changed immensely since becoming a mother so it’s a hard question to answer.  I realize I have a much smaller window for training, but I have quadruple (or more!) the amount of gratitude for the ability to get out and train. It’s a treat! I love my children and my life, but I am a born athlete, and I cherish when I am able to get out and move, breathe, and be an athlete again.  I recently trained for a marathon that I completed 6 months postpartum.  Some of that training was very hard, emotionally more so than anything.  But all I had to do was just start.  Just start and keep running. It came back to me, even when I was pretty sure what I had chosen to do was impossible (and maybe not the best idea – wrong, it was the best idea!).


3. What motivated (or continues to inspire you) to get out training and racing?

Training is very simple.  I was just born to do it.  I love it.  It makes me who I am.  I’m not hardcore – I’m hardwired. I feel good inside my body when I move.  Racing is slightly different – there’s that extrinsic factor thing going on.  Why do we race? I’m not fond of race medals anymore and I am now comparing myself way less than I used to.  I do love the spirit of racing – of running beside someone and honestly putting your body & mind up against them and meeting the challenge. When you race someone to the line and you both end up laughing about it – that’s joy.

I keep getting out there because I have to do it too.  As a new mom, I’ve realized I need this for my mental health more than just about anything.  Postpartum hormones are no joke, and they can make for a very bumpy ride, and for me, I found that exercise was what kept me level. And as a mom of two young kids, being level is a gift in itself.


4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for the upcoming months?

 Well, doing the marathon was a huge goal for me.  And now we head into the winter months where there is little on the schedule in terms of road races (I signed up for a trail race and rolled an ankle while walking on the road the week prior, and then realized, maybe trail is not for me – yet, anyways).  I really now look forward to the Cross Country ski season – because it’s a tremendous workout, lower impact, and I get up into the snow – which for the seasonal blahs of the west coast – is so, so important for me.  Plus I get to tow a kid along – honestly there is no harder workout!
Triathlon is a long term goal – I just don’t see the time to be able to fully commit to what I’d like to accomplish in that sport at the moment, so I’m happy with sticking to running.  Certainly I will run another marathon next fall, and perhaps one in the early summer depending on how it works for our family.  I just love endurance.  It should have been my middle name 🙂 My training is a combination of some workouts for my fitness, some for my mental health, and some to entertain my kids (or give my husband the occasional break!).  The goal of training right now is to stay healthy, in the greatest sense of the word.  But I do agree that racing helps you set goals, and that is something that I need to do to help feel purposeful in regards to training.  Certainly I will be back racing my second Loppet (Cross Country race) this year – I did one and loved it (bad technique and all!)


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

I’m currently in the advantageous position of being on maternity leave, meaning I do get the extra time for training, but that’s balanced out with the needs of an infant who needs me a lot, so it also has some restrictions. Balancing the needs of my family with training is always the most important part.  Sometimes for my family to work well, I have to come first, and I need to get out to exercise enough to have a break, reap the rewards of the lovely endorphins of exercise, and normalize my energy levels (all moms know how being up multiple times every night can mess with your sleep/wake patterns). I’ve struggled with the guilt of saying, “I have to run”, but it’s getting easier.  I know as a mom I am not alone in this, which makes it easier too.

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?

Oh, good question. Gosh, what would I say? I’d say do it because you enjoy it, not because you feel you have to have a certain type of body or look. I’m sure in the biggest milky boobs to speed ratio, I’d win every race. I look different – it’s okay. Your body has gone through a tremendous change, and it’s meant to be different right now.  I’d also say listen to your body – not everything is smooth postpartum (is anything actually….?).Push yourself because it feels good to do it, not because you’re supposed to.  Know that I felt so super crappy technique and speed-wise getting back into running – but that I felt so free getting a break that I didn’t care how awful I thought my running was.  It comes back to you faster than you think, but never as fast as you want it to.  Get a good sports bra.  In fact get 5 because you’ll never have time to do the laundry.  Find good body glide type products because you’re likely going to chafe – and that hurts! You’ve bled enough having a child – no need to lose any more!
Know that it’s okay to start small because no amount of exercise is insignificant.  Find a healthcare provider that can help guide you with exercise if you feel you need it – I’m a Physiotherapist so I have a bias, but we’re pretty good at getting you started and solving issues along the way.


7. Anything else you would like to add?

I can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t able to intertwine exercise and pregnancy, postpartum, and motherhood.  It’s just who I am.  Motherhood has helped me see that more clearly because I care less about the results, the races, the validation of “I’m a good athlete”, because I now realize I was just simply meant to do it.  That has become a huge freedom in my life as of late.  I worried before, after having our first child and again when pregnant with our second, what if I lost the ability to really ‘push’ or ‘hurt’ myself in training to get to the level of fitness I wanted? When the mama-brain took over, I wondered if I’d ever be a good athlete again.  This was a real fear.What happened when I ran my last marathon was that I was so free of the old thoughts that once served me (usually punishing type thoughts), that it made way for a whole slew of positive thoughts, and room for the ‘flow’ of training and just enjoying doing what I was doing.  And now, although I don’t think I really care if I ever win a big race again, I’d be tempted to say, watch out, because I have a feeling I’ve finally gotten out of my own way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I can now achieve more than I ever have before.

 Thanks for the opportunity to answer these questions Danelle!

Ride like Yer Mom!

On Hornby Island, B.C. there is a trail called “Yer Mom”. It makes me smile and think of moms out there riding and I love that it’s a tough trail described on as the “Only trail with significant technical features. Large built up drops, gap jumps and skinnies. Most features have a ride around.New optional feature has been added to the trail. Its a 25 foot road gap that enters just passed the skinny to rock-face.”

However, it also makes me chuckle how often my 6 year son Nico will ask while out riding, “Mom, Uncle Geoff could ride that right?” When examining a feature or a descent its a fun way to assess together whether something is rideable. I may reply, ‘yes I’m sure he could ride that!’ or ‘hmmm, not sure that would be safe for anyone to attempt’. Or I may also need to add, “Yes, and mommy could do it too! Want to see?”


While I appreciate that the importance and value of my son’s male role models to look up to: the older boys at the bike park, family members like uncle, grandpa, and papa, I also take pride in the fact that I can model to my son and daughter that women can enjoy and embrace the technical and physical challenges of mountain biking the same way boys and men can. And that women can go for speed, distance, or strength in any other sport we so chose to participate in!

A friend pointed out to me recently that we are now seeing the first generation of kids riding and racing mountain bikes whose parents raced when they were kids. These parents are often still enjoying the sport competitively, or at least recreationally. The kids that grew up in the 1980s experiencing the beginnings of mountain biking are now raising kids and enjoying the sport alongside them.

I was fortunate and proud to be a member of the amazingly well supported, all-women’s professional mountain bike team, the LUNA Pro Team while racing Xterra triathlons from 2008-2014. After retiring from racing Xterra professionally, I kept running and swimming regularly but found myself begrudgingly saying ‘I don’t have time to ride’. After a certain amount of self-induced bike deprivation I realized how much I missed whizzing along the road, or rumbling down a trail in the woods on my bike. Plus my quads were shrinking, and who wants to lose all that hard earned leg power?! So the balance has swung back and biking has come back up the priority pole. As much as I’m motivated to stay fit enough to ride with my friends, especially my fast girlfriends, I also want to be able to keep up with my kids on their bikes as long as possible. I want to show them that moms don’t need to slow down or stop anytime soon! AND I aspire to be riding the trails as well as my parents, and my children’s grandparents still are in their seventies!

As women, it can be easy to find excuses not to get out there in the still male dominated sport of mountain biking. You’re only too old, too slow, too tired, too busy or too fearful if you continue to tell that story to yourself. It makes me sad when I don’t see more girls at the bike park or women out on the trails. But every time I do I smile and keep up the hope that girls will continue to feel more confident to try riding off-road. And persist long enough to discover the high of flowing up and down the trails on two wheels too! And yes, sometimes mommy can ride the same things as your Uncle Geoff!

Moms Competing in the London Olympics!

With the 2012 summer about to start, here are a few of the mom’s I know of competing in London, each pictured below in full competition! If you know of any others please let me know and I can add them to this list of moms to cheer on! Click on the athlete’s name for to learn more about each “Olympic Mom”

Aretha (Hill) Thurmond, 35, USA (Athletics-Discus). Aretha was a teammate of mine at the University of Washington and went to her first Olympics as a sophomore. She has a five-year old son, and London will be her 4th Olympic Games.

Jessica Zelinka, 30, Canada (Athletics – Heptathlon, 100m Hurdles). Jessica was 4th at the Beijing Olympics in Heptathlon and now has a 3-year-old daughter. She recently set a Canadian record in the Heptathlon and is the current Canadian Champion in the 100m Hurdles, in which she will also compete in London.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, 39, Norway (Cross-Country Mountain Biking). Gunn-Rita won the cross-country gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and she is a multiple World Champion. She gave birth to her son in 2009 and won her first World Cup in four years in May showing she is in great form for her second Olympics!

Kara Goucher, 34, USA (Athletics – Marathon). Kara is a long distance runner with an amazing career, she competed in the 10, 000 meters at the Beijing Olympics. Her son Colt was born in September, 2010. She will be competing in the marathon in London.

Christine Rampone, 37, USA (Soccer). Christine plays defender as a member of the USA women’s soccer team. She has two daughters, ages 6 and 2. London will be her fourth Olympics!

Kerri Walsh, 33, USA (Beach Volleyball). Kerri and her teammate, Misty-May Treanor were the gold medalists in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics and have been called “the greatest beach volleyball team of all time!” Since Beijing she has given birth to two sons, ages 2 and 3! London will be her fourth Olympics!

Gift from the Sea by Amy Golumbia

Ultrarunning mom of twins and holistic nutritionist, Amy Golumbia, recently posted a great blog which is a great reminder of why moms need to take time away to themselves, whether athletically or otherwise. She writes about the book, Gift from the Sea, and her own thoughts on motherhood guilt, trying to do it all, and the importance of taking time to step away, regain perspective, recover and find balance.

She writes, “Of my friends and the women I know, there seem to be two general types. Most of the mothers I know fall into the first category. This woman is constantly on the run but never really fulfilled…..” And later “On the other side of the spectrum, I have a few girlfriends who have figured it out and are great role models for me. They truly walk around with a genuine smile on their face….”

Click here to read the full post, a highly recommended read with some great reminders!

Amy also did one of my athlete-mom interviews which can be read here.

My favourite mommy fuel – Pancakes!

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal, and growing up I always looked forward to pancakes on the weekend – pancakes with maple syrup, pancakes with fruit and yoghurt on top, crepes with nutella and banana rolled up inside are all so yummy!

In both pregnancies pancakes were what I craved most in the first few nauseated months. And maybe that is why 3 year old Zoe is also a pancake lover now! Thirteen month old Nico has also started enjoying bites of them as well. We make pancakes together in the morning at least 2-3 times per week. Sadly my husband, J-F is not a pancake fan so luckily I’ve produced some kids who are sharing my favourite food!

I love mornings with the kids and the few mornings per week that no one has to rush out the door to be somewhere usually involves making pancakes. They are also great for an on the go snack when you’re in a hurry. Grab a pancake and slap some almond butter on top or roll a pancake up with jam and put in in your back pocket for a ride. I often make a double batch and freeze a bunch for the mornings that Zoe begs for pancakes and I don’t have time to make them. Maybe I’ll shove some in my back pocket to keep me fueled through the Furious 3 stage race that starts tomorrow!

Here are the two tasty recipes we use the most:

Whole Wheat Hotcakes from the Rebar Modern Food Book, also an amazing restaurant in Victoria, B.C.

1 egg, 1.5 cups buttermilk, 1 tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup unbleached flour, 4 tbsp wheat germ, 1 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt….you know the drill, mix wet, mix dry, combine and cook!

Oatmeal Pancakes from Healthy Mum, Happy Baby (a great book about eating well while breastfeeding with lots of fast, easy, healthy and delicious recipes). These pancakes are extra filling and will keep you feeling full for awhile!

Combine 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup 1% milk and 1 tbsp packed brown sugar and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk in 1 large egg and 1/4 canola oil. In separate bowl combine 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp salt. Combine with wet. Cook for about 1.5-2 minutes then flip and cook for 30-60 seconds longer.

Traveling to Races with Kids

Last night we packed up our car almost to the max with two bikes on top, the double chariot in the back behind the kids with gear and bags everywhere in between. After a pit stop for dinner in Canmore and another one along the side of the highway for Nico to puke everywhere on top of me (ugh! carsickness or a random bug I’m not sure) we made it halfway to my next race venue and it is funny to think how much more orgnaization it has taken over the years to get to races as I’ve changed sports and now added kids to the fun!

My pre-race checklist sure has expanded since I began competing as a runner in junior high! I will always love the simplicity of running. All you need to remember is your shoes, and running gear which is so easy to pack  anywhere! Although on one memorable occasion at one cross-country race in University I did actually forget my race spikes and ran the entire 5 km with my feet swimming in larger spikes borrowed from a male teammate.

When I got into mountain bike racing after finishing my undergrad degree, I was a little overwhelmed with all the new things I had to learn on top of just staying my bike and “keeping the rubber side down” as they say. I suddenly had to learn how to maintain a bike. Although I’m still not a very good mechanic I at least know the basics pretty well like fixing a flat, changing a tire, fixing a chain, and how to keep my bike clean so it was ready to go for race day! And then there is the gear to remember: helmet, glasses, gloves, extra tubes, tires for changing trail conditions, bike pump, CO2’s for race day, gels, and bottles for race day. Plus good race preparation involves riding the course and learning all the technical sections for race day, not just a short run with few strides like before my track races, ha!

Doing Xterras and triathlons the gear list increased again to include swim gear, run gear, and “transition gear”, things you want to have on hand in the transition area between swim to bike and bike to run during the race like a towel, extra food and drink. And when you add babies and kids into race plan the usual mommy checklist has to be added as well!

As with any new venture I started by making an actual list which eventually turned into just a mental checklist and now with much practice with all of the above checklists I’d like to say I’m able to remember most things automatically! Over the past 3 years traveling to many races with kids, most of them being on the plane and few pieces of gear have made things a little easier when packing the kids such as:

1. The Chariot Carrier is great for getting around on rough ground at a race venue. Believe it or not, the single chariot can even be checked at the gate when boarding a plane. Or if you prefer you can pack it in a travel bag and check it. My double chariot when packed in the travel box is almost as big as my bike but it gets checked for free because it is a “stroller”! Otherwise, any stroller in which a little one can nap it works great!

2. The Ergo baby carrier is great for carrying a little one around at a race, on your front as a baby, and on your back up to 3 years old it is still very comfortable! JF has done some good cheering running around with Zoe or Nico on his front or on his back this way!

3. When I had to start paying for Zoe’s seat on the plane when she turned two years old I discovered a great gadget for wheeling her carseat to the gate called a go go babyz. It is a set of wheels that hooks on to the back of most carseats and easily unhooks to store in the overhead bins once on the plane. It is great for 2-3 year olds + who don’t stay in their seat on the plane very well.  By bringing the carseat they stay put easier, and it makes it way easier if you have second little one on your lap!

Its still fun to see the looks we get at the airport when showing up with a bike box, the double chariot travel bag, a couple of car seats, and suitcases – I could probably write another entire post on airplane adventures with kids, ha!

What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile

I just finished a great read called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In the first chapter she lists her personal, “Secrets of Adulthood”, one of which is the title of this post. It stuck out to me as a good motto that applies to many aspects of being a mom and trying to keep in shape.

Sometimes one of the biggest challenges to getting things done when you’re a mom, is not having large chunks of time to do things, especially with little ones. Take keeping your house clean for example. It would take me at least 3-4 hours or more to get my entire house clean in one go. I rarely have or want to take a chunk of time like that to clean. A mom friend of mine and I talked about how the best way to keep house cleanliness under control is to do a little bit every day. So one day I might get a bathroom cleaned, another day I might get time to vacuum. If I do a little bit of cleaning every day I feel like I can stay on top of the dust bunnies that keep hatching! I also liked Gretchen’s goal to do an “evening tidy up” every night no matter what. It is very satisfying to wake up to a clean kitchen by taking the time to get it clean before bed every night! When Zoe was first born I’d often go several days at once without cleaning up the kitchen – not a pretty site! And of course, not everything can be done every day but it is important to recognize a few key things that will make your life just a little bit happier! Some things I strive to do daily include eating fruits and veggies, flossing teeth, reading to my kids, laughing, picking up toys and clothes off the floor, stretching, and getting outside to name a few…

Similarly, by committing to exercise every day you’ll get many more benefits than if you’re just a weekend warrior. I’m working on applying this rule to core workouts and physio exercises. I’m lucky to remember to do core work more than once a week, but even just getting down on the floor for 5 minutes a day of exercises I’d be way farther ahead than I am now!

Finally, I’m trying to follow this motto in writing this blog. I’ve had many ideas of things to write about related to motherhood, mental performance, training, competing etc floating around in my head for some time. I’ve tried taking notes in a book but the books always eventually get stolen by Zoe and turned into coloring books. So I’ve finally had the AHA moment to get my ideas down and categorizing my random thoughts through a blog. And here I am on post number 6, and plan to write a little bit each day until I run out of “Deep Thoughts by Danelle” which I don’t think will be anytime soon….ha ha….

Returning to racing easier after baby number two?!

Wow, does a year ever fly by! While out riding my bike and dodging thunderstorms yesterday I was thinking about the fact that just a year ago, Nico was one month old and I was just starting to train again. And when I compare getting my body back into shape after childbirth, to my great surprise I found it much easier the second time around and looking back these are the reasons why:

1. I won the baby sleep lottery! My firstborn, Zoe, often woke up and liked to play for an hour of more a few times per night until at least 3-4 months old and regularly woke up in the hour of 6:00am well past the age of one. On the otherhand, by about 10 days old, Nico was sleeping through the night other than waking up to nurse and go right back to sleep which he still does. He also has rarely woken up for the day before 7:30am so I have been able to wake up most days feeling reasonably rested and ready to go!

2. I was committed to get back in shape fast! While pregnant with Zoe I was unsure of whether I would feel like racing again after she was born. I signed with my current team, the LUNA Pro team, a month or so after she was born, and that motivated me to get going. While pregnant with Nico I had already signed a contract with LUNA to race the second half of the season starting in August after he was born in May! But you don’t have to be on professional team to set some comeback goals to get yourself going. I’ve talked to several moms who’ve told me they set goals while pregnant to for example, to run at 10k at 4 months PP, run a marathon at 6 months PP, or complete an Ironman at 12 months PP etc.

3. I’ve been there, done that! Having your first baby is a major live changing event! It is exciting and overwhelming at the same time with so much to learn about yourself and taking care of a baby. Like anything new we try in life, once we’ve been through something once, we’re much better prepared the second time- for example, in sport I often think of an athlete returning to his or her second Olympics way better prepared about what to expect because they’ve been through the crazy excitement of it all once already. With Nico I’ve been more relaxed, and have been able to get in much more “guilt-free training” knowing he is well taken care of – it has also helped that Nico also took a bottle since 4 weeks old and Zoe never did. Having already traveled to countless races with Zoe, the extra organization of having two versus one to travel with has been less of a jump. Who knows, maybe it would be even easier again after three kids. Since I don’t plan on finding out, maybe some other moms would know?? HA!

How do you organize your week to get exercise/training in with kids?

Its Monday today, what I usually consider the first day of the week. But maybe the wall calendar set up of starting the week with Sunday really is a better idea in order to plan the Monday to Friday part! Whether you’re at home full-time with your kids, work full time or are somewhere in between like myself, making time for yourself to get a workout in can always be a challenge! Although your ideal schedule likely varies depending on the age of your kids and what else they’ve got going on, this is what has helped me get my training in and still be a happy mom at the end of the day:

1. Make a training plan. Make a plan for at least one week of details planned out in advance of what your workout will be each day. I sit down with my coach once a month and we plan all my workouts and races for the next 4-6 weeks at a time. Once I have my training plan I can figure out my babysitting needs, work schedule, and family plans around it. When you have a plan down in writing you’re more likely to stick to it and make it happen – the where, when, how, with whom etc part.

2. What time of day works best for you? Although I aspire to be an early riser in order to workout and do it on occasion, since my kids rarely wake up earlier than 8:00 each morning, I take that time to get my much needed sleep as well. I’m lucky enough to have a fabulous babysitter for a few half days a week to work or train, and a great training group, Critical Speed, to meet up with in the evenings if needed – personally it is also important to have a few “social” training sessions each week if I can. All that said, motivation definitely drops as the day progresses so some advice posted by Barbara Edelston Peterson on our facebook page, “Athlete Moms” might make more sense to more of us:

“My advise all of us Moms, is to do whatever it takes for the VERY early morning workout session. Once the day gets rolling, there are endless obstacles. Waking up burns whether it’s 5:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m., so make it EARLY enough to do the workout you love/need before anyone awakens. It’s the best feeling, it fuels so many parts of YOU and the family, and once it’s accomplished, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you with clarity and less stress. There’s probably time for another outlet at the end of the day, that may include the kids. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – and something may have to ‘go’ – so you can ‘go!'”

3. Indulge in some outside help.  If you’re like me you may not be lucky enough to have some grandparents around the corner, and you don’t want to be playing tag team with your husband every night in order to get your workout(s) done.. The next best alternative is to invest in a babysitter to either get some workouts done during the day (if your schedule allows) or even to let you and your husband get out together for an evening “training date’ as we call it or even separately at the same time on the weekend to allow more family time together. In Calgary, where I live there are many recreation centres that offer daycare while you workout. I’ve used it often to get in a swim or cross-training workout at the gym. An even cheaper option is finding a girlfriend to trade childcare with. And of course, if all else fails just pull out your trusted Chariot for a run or a ride!

4. Have frozen meals in the freezer. All too often I fall short of my nutritious cooking goals. I rarely think about dinner plans before my husband comes in the door at night – lucky for me he does like to share the cooking. But in my occasional “lets get organized bursts” I’ll cook up double portions of a few of my favourite meals like my mom’s spaghetti sauce over a few days and fill the freezer. Great on busy days when there is no time to cook!

The toughest challenge of training is that it needs to be done almost every day to be effective, and usually in some sort of systematic order if you are preparing for a race – I always joke that you can’t cram for a race and say, hey I’ll just put in a few 8h days of training this week and then put my feet up the rest of the week!

I would love to hear any other great tips from moms that help you consistently get workouts in week after week?