Parenting Confidence?

How can I increase my confidence? This question is pretty common with athletes I work with these days. Whether it is the search for confidence in general, or striving to maintain confidence through injury, illness, poor training or disappointing competition results. Is confidence something we’re just born with or does it develop over time? Or both?

A book I’m currently reading was recommended to me by a colleague and sheds some interesting light on the development of confidence. The book is called The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance by Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD. In the beginning the book mentions a study that labels anyone born in the early 1970s through to the 2000s as the GenMe generation.The researcher of the study stated, “Born after self-focus entered the cultural mainstream, this generation has never known a world that put duty before self.” Yikes! Words like narcissism and entitlement have also been used to label this generation, I guess I have to reluctantly say this is my generation. And for many reasons, which can be found in the book, “GenMe’s” are more likely to suffer from symptoms of the self-esteem trap characterized by obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to take on adult responsibilities, feelings of superiority (or inferiority), and excessive fear of being humiliated…..hmmmmhmmm.

After an interesting history of parenting presented in this book, the author indicates that part of the problem has been the shift towards the belief that parents and children’s rights and needs are nearly equal, that parents should be friends with their children, and that children’s self-esteem should be protected at all costs. In practice, well intended parents may offer laid-back or inconsistent discipline, feel the need to show off children’s successes and accomplishments, provide excuses for their children’s behavior, want to be friends and avoid conflict with their children, unrealistically want their kids to be happy 24/7, overpraise children, over serve children’s needs, or follow the chlid-centered belief that “if you just give children the right nourishment, open affection, a lot of freedom and encourage their inner genius, they will flourish.”

So what have some parents unknowingly lost touch with, that can contribute to raising self-confident kids? Perhaps it is the exposure to a little more healthy experience in adversity as well as less interference with opportunities for children to develop autonomy. As the book explains, it is finding the right balance between the best of Eastern and Western Culture. For example, one fundamental teaching from Buddhism is that human life always includes discontent and adversity. No one can escape difficulty, pain or loss and we all need to learn how to deal with the inevitable parts of life, such as illness and death, realistically and compassionately. Part of the path to self-confidence is based on our skill to relate to and understand our interdependence with others, as well as the planet!

On the Western or Individualistic cultural side of the spectrum, we need to recognize the importance of autonomy in developing self-confidence. Autonomy is our ability to self-govern and to guide ourselves by our own decisions. So in a nutshell, the basis of this book is founded on an approach based on the above two principles, as described on page 34-35:

“Robust self-confidence, self-determination, self-compassion, and resilience are founded on learning early and repeatedly that true happiness comes principally in two ways: being able to relate to others in a caring and kind manner (since we always depend on others, we need to sustain our connection to them), and knowing how to be responsible for ourselves and our actions.”

Like most parents these days who want to give everything and every opportunity to my children, this book reminds me of the importance to let my children fail, fall down and make choices, as well as develop age-appropriate independence and responsibilities as they grow. This will prepare them to one day leave the nest, like the quote, “we have them to raise them, not to keep them.”

As for athletes, we often hear the cliché, “You’re only as good as your last race”, which I have a love-hate relationship with. All too commonly, an athlete’s confidence and self-esteem can go up and down according to how his or her last training session or competition went. But real confidence comes from finding solutions to difficult problems, persisting through setbacks, overcoming disappointments, and committing to working on the process of mastery no matter how big the ups and downs of competition go! Parents and coaches, who “run interference” with this process will only thwart the healthy growth of a self-confident and self-determined person or athlete!

In the runner-up book in the Canada Reads 2012 contest, author and famous NHL goalie, Ken Dryden finished his book The Game with this poem, titled, I am a player…

I want to win

It matters to me if I win or lose

It matters to me how I play the game

I want to win without injustice or bad luck or regret

I want to own every pleasure and disappointment

I want to get lost in play

I want time not to matter

I want to do something more important than me

I cannot win alone

I need my teammates and my opponents to make me better

I trust, because I have to trust

I forgive, because I need to be forgiven

I play a game, not only a game

I try because that matters to me

I try because it’s more fun that way

I don’t quit because it doesn’t feel good when I do

I play with others, but I play against me

I learn when I play

I play when I learn

I practice because I like t0 be good

I try what I’ve never tried before

I fail to fail smarter

I want to be better than I was yesterday

I dream

I imagine

I feel hard and deep

I hope, because there is always a way.

The Biggest Parenting Muscle?

Like most relatively new parents, I tend to think of my life in terms or pre-kids and post-kids. My husband and I joke about how pre-kids we were in control of our time – we determined when we could relax, when and how long to sleep, or when we could just chill and watch a movie. We also thought we were busy pre-kids!

And while it is always a challenge to get back in physical shape and workout consistently with all the extra (but rewarding!) demands of children, another big muscle gets extremely challenged to grow much bigger when kids come along. It can grow via many different stimulations: a child waking the middle of the night while you’re in a deep sleep, children waking up for the day much earlier than you would like, trying to get kids out the door and in the car in order to be somewhere on time (and then whining in the car while driving!), constant cleaning and picking up food off the floor for the third time in 5 minutes, waiting out a toddler’s tantrum, dealing with sibling squabbles over toys, reading a favorite story for the 5th time in one day, endless questions that begin with “Why”….the list goes on! 🙂

As defined by the dictionary, you know this muscle has grown, stretched, and been strengthened if you’ve increased you’re ability to:

1. Bear or endure pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness

2. Exhibit calm endurance through pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

3. Be tolerant and understanding.

4. Persevere

5. Calmly await an outcome or result without haste or impulsiveness

Yes, this muscle is called Patience! And I know I’ve had to work on it! Pre-kids, I could easily say I’ll never be THAT parent – the one raising their voice a few octaves too loudly at their kids, pulling them by the arm a little too gruffly in frustration, offering them candy or other junk food, allowing extra TV time – we all lose our cool or drop our intended standards at times – but like anything, we can learn from our mistakes and get better with practice.

Recently I’ve realized this “training” in building patience has transferred over to my athletic life as well. I don’t get as frustrated as I used to if a workout doesn’t go as I’d expected. I’m less of a potty mouth when I screw up technically on the mountain bike. I’m better at dealing with deviations from my pre-race routine. Heck, I’m happy to make it to the start line healthy, prepared and on time! I’m grateful for every OPPORTUNITY I have to workout, train and race. It’s not that I’ve dropped my standards as to what I expect from training and racing hard, but these tests of my patience have just put a new perspective on it all! And yes, mental toughness in sport can be improved and strengthened in quite creative ways if we are open to it!

Finding Flow with a Family

I’ve always loved the term flow, as opposed to its other synonmyms such as “in the zone”, fully focused or peak performance. In sport, or any other context in life, flow can be described at the times you feel completely absorbed in what you’re doing and totally in the moment (For a great book on it check out Flow in Sports). As an athlete, you may experience those rare training or racing days where time seems to slow down, your efforts feel effortless, and you feel in total control of what you’re doing. It is often the moments where the challenge is optimally matched with your skill level.

I think of mountain biking as a great example to illustrate flow in sport. If you are riding trails that are way beyond your ability level, you’ll end up walking more than riding, while likely throwing out many choice words in frustration. If you ride trails that are too easy, you could end up bored with nothing to challenge you. On the other hand, if you’re riding trails that are the optimal challenge to your present physical and technical abilities you’ll be fully alert and focused on what you’re doing, loving the thrill, and whooping with excitement!

Through working with many different athletes and from personal experience, it seems that our ability to find that challenge-skills balance in life in general can relate to our ability to experience flow in sport performance. Experiencing flow generally happens right in the middle of the continuum between boredom and stress or feeling overloaded. And for everyone that balance is completely individual. Some athletes perform optimally when they can focus 100% on their sport, and taking on any other commitments sends them into the stress zone. Others feel more focused when they are pursuing other goals such as school and work (and I could add for some of us raising a family!) at the same time. Everyone has to find the balance that works best for them, and it can be an evolving pursuit.

School is back in this week, and with all the nostalgic feelings of going back to school comes renewed enthusiasm to start new projects, study something new, sign up for classes, and buy new clothes! There are so many things we could do!!!  Just as we as athletes strive to find flow more consistently in sport performances by balancing all the demands optimally, we can also practice some of the same principles as we parent and figure out how to balance a family by remembering things like…

1. “Over-reaching” from time to time is okay. Over-reaching is the type of fatigue an athlete may feel after a hard training block or competition, and is readily reversible after a few days. Some weeks of training or life in general are crazy. We can get through them if we can see a rest time to look forward to at the end to reset the balance.

2. The art of saying “No.” It is unbelievable how many activities I could sign myself or my kids up for these days! Between lessons, birthday parties, work commitments, training schedules, social invites, and day to day life it is easy to feel overloaded. I’ve had to work hard at saying “no” especially to fun things that I know will impact too much on my recovery as an athlete, my ability to be fully present at work, or on family time.

3. Prioritize what is important. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a full time career mom, or somewhere in between, it takes just as much work to prioritize what is important for you and your family. Experiencing flow in life means being true to your values regarding career choices, family choices, and lifestyle choices! As moms, it is easy to get caught up in the so called “mommy wars” but the most important thing is striking the right balance between our needs and wants and time spent with our kids. If we are true to that balance we’ll likely be a better, more present, and hopefully patient mom to our children!

Finally, flow reminds me of the image of a river. A river keeps flowing smoothly. When it runs into obstacles like rocks or logs, it doesn’t resist them, it just reroutes and finds the best way around them. Those obstacles may be the days or moments we feel temporarily overwhelmed, but with proper time outs to unplug, to breathe, and to relax, we can get flowing again with our balance restored.

Is breastfeeding performance enhancing?

You’re still breastfeeding?! I get this question a lot. Zoe breastfed until just before two years old, and Nico is still going strong and feeds on-demand at 15 months. Whenever he pleases, the “dairy queen” is always open, ha! I don’t proclaim to be a “lactivist” and I certainly can appreciate the difficulties my friends and many women have with breastfeeding be it milk production, ongoing latching difficulties, scheduling with returning to work, or any other obstacles that make continued breastfeeding more stressful than pleasurable for mommy or baby or both!

I have one athletic friend, who said, “My body didn’t feel completely normal again until I stopped breastfeeding.” I can’t say I’ve experienced the same. And other than the 9 months plus I was pregnant with Nico, I’ve spent 3 out of the past 4 years breastfeeding while training and competing. In fact, I’ve even found it even has the ability to enhance performance and here are my top reasons why….

1. Motivation to set personal bests. In the first six months you may set some personal training and racing bests because you’ll be worried your infant will starve if you don’t get back to them in time!

2. Extra rest and recovery time. You can sneak in some extra and valuable downtime while breastfeeding, with a great excuse to put your feet up for 10 minutes or more, ahhhh…..You can say “Sorry ‘husband’, I can’t help with dinner (or whatever else) right now, ‘baby’ is nursing”….”Sorry, ‘other child(ren)’, can’t play etc right now, ‘baby’ is nursing.” Its also an easy way to calm your child and help them get to sleep easier! Plus the hormones oxytocin and prolactin are released which make mommy feel more relaxed!

3. You can eat for two! I know many jokingly say this while pregnant, but I’ve found “eating for two” is truly more appropriate while breastfeeding and exercising, especially during the second year of breastfeeding! Breastfeeding moms can burn an extra 300-500 calories a day. I’ve never been as lean as I have while breastfeeding. And I do not really have to watch what I eat! As long as I’m breastfeeding while training regularly maintaining race weight hasn’t been a problem, particularly in year two, perhaps due to the increased fat content of the milk as explained by the following quote found on….

“Human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for >1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the infant diet might be significant.”
— Mandel 2005

4. You may continue to increase your pain tolerance. As most mom’s experience, once baby turns into a teething toddler, these little nursing munchkins like to practice their acrobatic moves, “twiddling” the side they are not feeding from, and occasionally chomping down with their teeth! Yeowww!

5. It enhances baby’s performance! You can be motivated by the fact that a few months or years of your life spent breastfeeding can go a long way for baby. Research has shown breastfeeding children benefit nutritionally, are sick less often, have fewer allergies, and are well-adjusted socially. Extensive research has also linked duration of breastfeeding to cognitive achievement!

6. It enhances mother’s health factors. Mom’s who breastfeed past infancy reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers. Breastfeeding also protects against osteoporosis, reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and can help moms lose weight easier (as already mentioned).

7. Appearance enhancement! Finally, for those of us who are born not so well-endowed, as long as we breastfeed it is just plain enhancing! 😉

I also enjoyed a similar post by Brandi earlier this year, as her son’s “boobie time” came to a close. Click here to read.

Practicing Mommy Mindfulness

On a very busy day with kids everywhere at a downtown park the other day my “mommy GPS brain”, now apparently strengthened with improved wiring for sight, sound, and movement felt overloaded. I was trying to keep up with Nico, the escape artist, who likes to run off in any direction as fast as he can, and only laughs and runs away faster and farther when I call his name. The ever more sociable Zoe happily goes off and plays with whoever she can find at the park. Finally, I was also trying to keep an eye on our parked stroller and bags off in another direction.

The playground experience reminded me how tracking our children constantly is just one more skill women naturally aquire for our constantly multitasking brains! And perhaps the best way to prevent ourselves from experiencing multitasking meltdowns is to take time to practice mindfulness and turn perceived chaos into calm. I like the definition of mindfulness by John Kabat-Zinn, a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and

I have tried to put the art of “keeping my consciousness alive to the present reality” (Thich Nhat Hanh) into practice not only in day to day tasks but also while training or competing. Here are some examples…

1. Mindfulness while exercising. For me, working on being mindful of what I’m doing comes most easily while training. With workouts planned and a coach to help set the training goals, the purpose behind each training session is already in place. Then I work on having something to focus on for each part of my workout with no more than one or two things at a time.  For example in the pool depending on the part of the workout I may be focusing on my stroke technique, my stroke turnover, or just going all out and not worrying about technique at all. Running intervals are still some of my toughest training sessions to get through. I might focus on staying relaxed, breathing deep, or turning my legs over fast, and just take it one interval distance at a time! While the high intensity and high quality workouts often take very specific and high mental focus to get through, I also try to be mindful of completely enjoying the easier workouts when I can just go with the flow. For example, on long easy runs or rides, I enjoying just go the pace my body wants to go without paying too much attention to gadget information like heart rate, pace, cadence, or watts.

2. Mindfulness with day-to-day work or tasks. About a year ago, I took a two-day workshop on meditation with a team I work with. We worked on breathing, sitting, staying in the moment, and just observing our thoughts and physical sensations without judgement for three hours each session. It was tough and very difficult not to let my mind wander to thinking about what I was going to do later or other distracting thoughts. Just like training your muscles for endurance or strength over weeks and months of physcial training, taking time to be mindful for even one hour, let alone 5 minutes, during a day takes practice! Some simple examples are eating a meal slowly and savoring every bite, being completely present in a conversation and really listening to what someone is saying to you, or just washing the dishes with complete awareness of washing the dishes.

3. Mindfulness with your children. In the age of constant communication it is hard not to become a “crackberry mom”, you know the moms who are constantly on their phone or blackberry while at the park, in the mall etc. I see them everywhere and the only reason I haven’t be prone to it is that my phone is so old school that I don’t even have a keyboard and hate texting….for now! I think as mothers these days we need to be displicined enough to realize that every e-mail, phone call, or text message does not need to be answered immediately. We don’t have to be available to the outside world 24-7. Often when I’m with my kids, especially in the house, I can get distracted by wanting to get a million things done. But I strive to be organized enough that when I have time to just hang out with my kids I can be fully present to read a story, get down on the ground and just play, or just go to a park and be fully engaged in having fun with them!

Emotional toughness training?

You never know what each morning will bring! Although most of the time Zoe acts like the “big sister” she is, this morning was one of her regressions into “I want mommy!” (as she’s clinging to me and can’t possibly get any more plastered onto me), “Carry me!” (no, you’re a big girl and are perfectly capable of walking downstairs by yourself), “I’m too tired, waaaaaah, collapsing on the floor full out crying” (well, you’ll have to stay upstairs then and come down when you’re ready to be calm). After about an hour of whining, crying, snivelling and being carried back upstairs a few times by me she was downstairs as calm as could be happily eating her breakfast, and chatting like nothing had happened!

Meanwhile, I’m working hard at staying cool and calm myself as mornings like this put my goal of consistent parenting performance in the emotional control department to the test. As Zoe’s emotions fly out of control now and then as they naturally should at her age, it made me realize that I’ve actually honed my emotional management skills a little over the years too. As I’m always connecting dots between work, racing, and motherhood in many of these posts, I’ve realized that bringing out your best emotional toughness is great for racing, and your best emotional softness is best for parenting but they both take the same kind of work. Vicarious observation, personal experience, and parenting have taught me that…

1. If you feel the need to shed some tears let it go as fast as a terrible two forgets about a tantrum! I remember when Zoe first started the lovely tantrum stage sometime around two years old, I used to feel myself tense up and feel pretty stressed until she finally calmed down. It took some work, and still does not to just snap sometimes, but with some practice and strategies in place I’ve become a lot better and staying calm, physically, emotionally, and verbally. Just because she is spewing emotions, doesn’t mean I have to too! Sometimes I would find myself staying angry at her behavior after it was all finished. But just as she lets it go faster than you can blink, I’ve tried to practice doing the same.

Zoe at 2 years

2. Managing the emotional highs and lows of racing avoids burnout! In sport, the practice of letting go quickly is just as important. I learned this really well in my work with short track speed skating. They often race two distances in one day with 3-4 rounds per distance. If they spend too much emotion either being overly excited or disappointed after each race, they will end up twice as fatigued by the end of day, and then they have to do the same thing all over again the next day! There is a reason the best athletes in any sport don’t get overly excited after a victory and don’t get overly down after a sub-par performance. Top athletes often have to race back to back in one day, over a weekend or weekly depending on the sport. Good emotional management and perspective is key to pacing the season and avoiding sheer exhaustion by the end.

3. Sometimes it is wisest to save emotions for future spending! With all the above said, it doesn’t mean that emotions need to be suppressed or bottled up. But if we give them free rein at inappropriate times, things can backfire when it comes to performance. Think of yourself or an athlete with a lot of nervous energy in the week or two before an important competition. You can sit around twitching, worrying, and spending nervous energy over a performance that is out of your control because it is X days away, or you can use any passing twinges of pre-race anxiety to remind you to refocus on the present, and save those emotions for race day! Other examples are athletes who give in to emotions too soon and start to celebrate before the race is over, give up before the race is over, or spend unnecessary emotional energy getting angry at other competitors, race officials or competition circumstances before it is over (think John McEnroe in tennis). The ability to save the processing of strong emotions until its all said and done is also a piece of the pie in haivng your best competition.

4. When strong emotions come up we can CHOOSE our reaction! Finally, while it is okay and developmentally normal for children and babies, especially under the age of three, to let emotions rule their behavior, as adults hopefully most of us have realized and learned that we can be in the driver’s seat! As a parent, we can choose to stay calm and cool through tantrums and sibling squabbles. As athletes, we can choose the most productive responses to our own mistakes, competition conditions and circumstances, hard to get along with teammates or competitors, or bad calls. If it sometimes appears that a top athlete is acting like they “don’t care” under high stakes circumstances, it may well be that they are just well practiced, wise, and calculating in how they manage and fuel their emotions in order to perform their best!

Can “Selfish-Athlete” and “Guilt-Free Mom” Coexist?

In the few short years that I’ve been a mom, I’ve come to the conclusion that reading too many books or articles on parenting can make you feel guilty in the same way that reading too many fashion magazines can make you feel ugly. I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of great advice, methods, and techniques out there to learn from but the bottom line is that you have to make anything your own and go with what works for your family and each individual child.

For example, I’ve read a lot about the importance of routines for children whether it be bedtime routines, nap routines, or meal time routines. Unfortunately for me if I followed all that routine advice I probably wouldn’t get out the door too often to train as I’d be constantly interupting a nap time, a bedtime routine, or a specific meal time. Am I being too much of a “selfish athlete” for not structuring my days more around consistent routines for my children’s ultimate security and happiness?

It is a continual balancing act to try and do what is best for the kids while also fitting in my job called training and racing to the best of my ability. I have basically been a “routine-less” mom up to this point. Some days I may train at the crack of dawn (rarely!), the middle of the day when I have a babysitter, and/or a night with my training group. My work as a mental performance consultant is also super variable with changing hours and days each week.

In my routine-less world, Zoe and Nico have adapted very well, and these are the few rules of thumb I’ve followed that help to keep the happy mom, happy kids, happy family ratio the highest….

1. As long as everyone is well rested and happy all is good!  This means most mornings I wake up in the middle of a Zoe-Nico sandwich. Although Zoe sleeps in her own bed, in the wee hours of the morning she often sneaks her way into our bed alongside me without me noticing until I roll into her when I wake up much later! Nico still sleeps happily in the middle of our king size bed and though we’ve had intentions to kick him out since he was about 6 months old, it hasn’t happened yet! We will eventually but are not fixing what isn’t broke yet! With a very busy travel schedule bedsharing is what has worked best for our family and getting kids to sleep is never an issue when on the road!

2. A nap on the go isn’t a bad thing! Zoe took the majority of her naps in the Chariot. Having done nothing differently with Nico he easily goes down for a nap in his crib, somedays two shorts ones, or one longer one. While a crib is likely more comfortable, occasional car, stroller or Chariot naps (especially with the added fresh air) while running, cycling, or cross-country skiing can leave kids just as rested and mom re-energized from a good workout!

3. It is important to be able to workout or go to work guilt-free! In the beginning with Zoe I struggled a lot more with feeling guilty spending time away from her while out training such as on a long bike ride or away for occasional overnight trips for racing or work. With some practice, I’ve become better at being fully present where I am when I’m away from the kids whether it be training or meeting with an athlete. They also do just fine with quality Papa time, grandparent time, or fun play time with our energetic babysitter. Breaks also leave me more excited to come home and play with them, while also strenghtening that muscle called “patience” that every parent learns to exercise the day a new baby comes home!

I know one day life might become more routine. In the meantime, as long as I get to spend quality time with my kids and husband every day, as long as they are thriving (e.g. happy, well fed, and rested), and that I get in my quality “selfish athlete” time, then we will continue our routine of “go with the flow”!

What have my kids taught me about a winning mindset?

In my opinion, there is nothing cuter these days than watching my 14 month old son waddle around. He is getting faster every day and it seems like his body is just trying to keep up to whatever direction his feet want to take him in! Of course he falls down often and gets right back up, most often without any complaining. It is a whole new world to discover up on his feet and his curiosity to explore everything in sight is infectious!

As I observe my two little ones growing up so full of wonder about the world, enjoying being more physically capable every day, and the incredible rate of Zoe’s language development as she doesn’t even notice she speaks “Franglais” (mixing her French and English) so often now, I’m struck by all the things they do so naturally that are most often associated with reaching our highest potential in life, in sport or otherwise.

Why is it that as we get older a certain self-awareness develops that allows us to be suddenly painfully self-conscious, always comparing ourselves to others, and nervous about what the future will bring? When athletes feel overwhelmed with these natural tendencies that occur as we come of age, sometimes reminding ourselves that if we once did the opposite so well as a small child, maybe we can cultivate the same mindset again when the pressure is on to perform. So tap into your inner child and reconnect to the things that are associated with best performances such as….

1. Staying in the Moment. Although Zoe is already at the age where she gets excited about upcoming events, that usually only happens when I remind her about something coming up. Otherwise, she and Nico are experts at staying totally absorbed in the present moment, whether it being playing with their toys, fighting over their toys, or being engrossed in a story, call it experiencing flow, or being in the zone for an adult. When stuck in the past or too wrapped up in some “uncontrollable” in the future I like the reminder of my favourite quote from the Peaceful Warrior movie, “What time is it? NOW. Where are you? HERE!”. When playing with my kids they remind me to practice being fully present! And they notice when I’m not!

2. Failure is Good for Us! Unfortunately too many athletes self-worth fluctuates wildly according to their last training session or last race result. Lucky for little Nico, he isn’t saying, Geez, why aren’t I walking as well as that other 14 month old over there? Or I wonder if I’ll ever be able to run like my big sister? Maybe I should just give up! Heck no. Kids get up, fall over and over again and keep tyring. Failure is how children learn so quickly and they don’t beat themselves up over mistakes (okay maybe just a little bit if a boo boo occurs). If all athletes could think like a child again, maybe we’d reach our potential faster. Falling and failing is good for us. We learn our limits faster and how to improve!

3. Do it because its FUN! So many times after a top performance, you may hear yourself or other athletes often say, “I was just having so much fun out there!” When children try out their first sports, most of the time they stick with something because they find it fun. When something is no longer fun, we quit. Zoe has recently caught the biking bug and was whoo hooing over the bmx bumps with feet in the air the other day. And that’s why we should continue in sport at any level – because we love it!

Here is Zoe shooing away the Mommy Paparazzi today before she rides on by, with Nico keeping up behind pretty well on foot for awhile too!

The Evolution of an Active Family

My “little” brother Geoff arrived in town this week for mountain bike nationals coming up this weekend (pictured with Zoe and her first official cowgirl hat at the Calgary Stampede). Here we are both getting ready for the same race again and sometimes I find it comical that we are still both racing so seriously now that we are both officially in our mid-thirties! I often joke with my parents saying, bet you’re wondering when your kids are going to grow up and focus on “real” jobs, ha!

All jokes aside, I think one big reason we have both lasted this long has been from the continual support and encouragement of our parents. Since the day Geoff and I both joined the local track club at the ages of 10 and 12, my parents have been actively involved in a positive way. First, they have participated alongside us over the years. I have very fond memories growing up of family runs on the weekend with our two border collies leading the way in the trails around our house in Courtenay, B.C. My parents also chaperoned at many track meets over the years, and attended high school basketball games in the winter. Pictured below Geoff and I are riding on Hornby Island in high school, me on my brothers first ever race bike, the good old rigid purple Kona Kula!

When Geoff switched to mountain bike racing in high school, my parents soon followed along and took up mountain biking too. When an injury sidelined my running after university and I took up mountain biking, it was my parents who taught me trail skills that first summer while riding in Courtenay and on Hornby Island! Geoff was also my coach for the five years I focused on mountain bike racing before switching to Xterra.

My parents have been to countless races over the years, and I’ve always appreciated how well they understand what we do. They’ve always understood what interval times mean on the track, and understand our sport involvement (from soccer, track, volleyball, basketball, cycling, to triathlon) well enough to understand what a good or bad day means because they enjoy following it all, especially with plenty of internet race viewing now! Now both in their sixties, they aren’t running much anymore but are both still mountain biking as much as ever!

Now that I’m a mom, I’m even more grateful to my parents support. My mom or both parents have traveled with me to several races and team training camps the past four years in order to help with the kids. As a parent myself, I hope I can encourage my kids in the same way my parents have encouraged us – by simply taking an active interest in whatever sports (if any, no pressure, ha!) my kids would like to pursue. I think taking an active interest in understanding the sport, and encouraging the process and effort is the best thing a parent can do!

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….