Monday, April 16, 2012

How You Can

Sunday afternoon, I was driving back from a fun photo shoot with 6 amazingly fit, beautiful and driven moms and our collective 9 children.  Max was in his carseat, putting Goldfish crackers between each of his toes, shouting “NO” (I assume self-correcting) but then eating them (I assume unable to resist the awesome deliciousness of Goldfish crackers).  I turned around briefly at a stoplight to notice he also had a mud beard. 

No idea how that happened. 

A few months ago, a local athlete and acquaintance contacted me about writing chapters for a book on being an athletic mom.  I’m athletic.  I’m also a mom.  I love to write!  How hard could this be?  Writing for the book was more challenging than I thought it would be.  I’ve got material.  Believe you me, I’ve got volumes of stories and examples in my head.  Finding time was the first challenge.  Having the inspiration when I finally did find the time was the second challenge.  Piecing together my thoughts coherently and in an entertaining way was the final challenge.

Thank goodness for an amazing editor! 

Sunday we all met to take photos for the book.  At the studio were 6 moms and our 9 children. Immediately I walked in to be greeted by the vivaciously bubbly Jennifer Harrison, just coming off of a whirlwind weekend of working with athletes and balancing it with taking care of her twins while her husband was traveling.  Christine Palmquist was there, a woman whose passion for endurance sport has spilled over into her own two children and an entire children’s triathlon team.  Carla Hastert was dressed as the “biker” in the group.  Anytime I see Carla she always looks nothing short of incredibly fit.  I think she used to do body building before triathlon!  Lindsay Zucco is someone who I’ve known since I started triathlon.  I used to run with a local track group and watched Lindsay running her 800s with the fast group, she was always quietly focused and had an amazing resume of races – one that she still adds to today.  Lastly, Jenny Garrison, a perennial champion and new mom to her third child (whom she gave birth to 5 weeks ago).  Nothing slows her down.  She’ll be winning races by June.  The only one missing was Deb, the woman who started this project!  (I believe she was in Boston at the marathon).

The book will weave together our stories and experiences of being an athlete and a mom.  I was flattered to be asked to contribute to this book.  And, impressed that Deb had the motivation, resources and energy to put it all together!   But she was right – it was time for there to be a book like this, written by real athletic women who are living it every day.  Real women who are competing at the top of their category while raising kids, working and inspiring others to do the same in their community. 

My goal in contributing is to help women answer a question I get all the time:  how do you do it.  When I had Max, I read a lot of mixed things about balancing parenthood and competitive racing.  Everything from – you’ll never have time to even if you do have time you won’t want to be away from your kid to it will take years to get back into your racing shape or you’ll never find the same motivation.  Encouragement was not easy to find!  There just weren’t enough examples out there of competitively athletic women who did it – and did it well while balancing other life demands (work, other kids, etc).  I kept reading or hearing about the obstacles, the barriers.  But also knew that like many things in life, if this is what I wanted to do – it would take a lot of work, time management and sacrifice but all would be worth it. 

All of the other moms involved are examples of how it can be done – whether with one kid, a stepfamily, twins or three kids (including a newborn!).  Something I’ve learned in parenting is that you never have the time, you make the time for what’s important to you.  And for us – it’s important to make time for athletics.  One of my chapters talks about how I make time for workouts – balancing it with working, caring for Max and a husband who also trains.  It takes a lot of planning and making the most of every minute in the day.  And it’s always worth it, pursuit of your own passion is not selfishness, it is self fulfillment!  You don’t have to give up who you are to be a parent.  In fact, you’ll be a better parent if you keep on being yourself and giving yourself time to be yourself. 

There’s no doubt that at the end of a busy day, I wonder: why do we do it?  A lot of this is because we, as moms and athletes, realized what years of athletics have done for us.  I never intended to be an athlete.  One of my chapters in the book starts with how I became an athlete – and it was really rather accidental.  I showed up at the meeting to be on the track team because I wanted to wear a high school sports jacket.  What started as a teenage need to belong snowballed into me becoming an athlete.  On the track team I was working hard, making friends, setting goals, learning to win, learning to lose, improving myself, developing great fitness and at some point – falling in love with that process.  A process that taught me so many things that spill over into all areas of my life. 

I’m proud of who I am today – and part of who I am is an athlete.  There are a lot of identities I could have taken in life and I realize this one is not the most popular, the most easy nor does it always smell great (as my husband often tells me).  But from what I have learned, the people I’ve met and the things I have gained, I wouldn’t have chosen any other path.  I know that sticking with this path is hard especially now that we have a family.  And the bigger we grow our family, the harder it will get!  There are days it would be easier to settle into a quiet life with no workouts, no coaching and never having to wear black spandex again.  Yet being an athlete has taught me so many valuable life lessons and rewarded me with so many wonderful experiences and memories.  Not to mention a husband, and son and many, many friends.  I couldn’t imagine myself as anyone else.

I’m not sure when the book will be available but once it is, whether it sells one copy or a thousand, I’m hoping a woman somewhere will read it and think to herself  - I can do this.  There are too many people out there too willing to give you all the reasons why you can’t.  This book is a collection of how you can. 

(Not a professional photo - we weren't allowed to have cameras in the studio - but an awesome photo nonetheless of the moms.  PS - yes, I am wearing a skort)

Hope you enjoy it when it comes out!


Jennifer Harrison said...

I agree! Seeing everyone together in that photo shoot took me back 15+ years when Lindsay, Jenny G and I used to swim 5am Masters, run and then go off to work. And, then we saw this quiet little girl at Masters sometimes....(you!) and how we all evolved to be friends, coach one another or each others kids AND compete against one another.

I was nostalgic when I was there at this photo shoot because THIS is why I do this sport. Yes, I like to race and I like to train and coach and all that good stuff...but it is the people and the hard work we all have done together and separately...and now as moms that really makes me happy.

ADC said...

Great post. Can't wait to read the book.

Pam said...

How ridiculously exciting!! I look forward to reading the book. Women need this!! Just curious- will there be a chapter on why men are never asked "how they balance everything"...

Pam said...

I am so excited for this book! I am nursing my baby as i type this... Will there be a chapter on why men are not asked how they manage to balance everything...

Steve said...

I don't really have a comment, but wanted to let you know I added you back to my list. I don't do Triathlon, although I will ride my bike when it gets warmer probably. Never inside, that is where you people are really off your rocker. :)

My Step-Mom (real mom really) was a paraplegic, and raised 3 kids that weren't hers, and that had its own battles. She still drove us to soccer practices and stuff like that, and if her life wasn't hard enough she died of cancer really early. In her 40's I think. I can't remember how old, because I barely ever remember how old I am. :)

Best of luck, to you and your family. :)


TriEVIElon said...

AWESOME POST! There are so many ways that people try to discourage you these days no matter what the circumstance - be it motherhood, illness, injury or whatever. So glad this will be a book that's out there saying, YES YOU CAN. I love it! YAY all of you - you look fantastic and besides the gorgeousness you hold the torch for so many others looking for that lighthouse in the stormy sea of "don't bother". BRAVO!

Lindsay said...

just read this! i love it! and i think our book will be awesome; even with a 9 yr old i still struggle with the same battles of BALANCE!!! see ya out there!