Being a Mom and an Endurance Athletempinzon
by Michelle Niemeyer
As a 2016 ambassador, the wonderful staff at Gildan Esprit de She asked me to write about my experiences as a mother and an endurance athlete. Here is my story.
I was an average high school and collegiate athlete, and then, life happened. I married my “solemate” (who is a marathoner, #winning), and now work full time as a hospice volunteer with four daughters under the age of 10.
I had taken more than 18 years off from sports until some friends asked me to participate in a mud run. That’s all it took — one silly mud run — and I was hooked on running again!
Returning to running was awful at first. I couldn’t make it two houses away without wanting to stop. I came home crying more often than not, but something inside me wouldn’t let me quit. I’m inspired to push myself because I want my daughters to push themselves. They are watching my husband and me, and I want them to know that they are strong and capable of anything! I emphasize to them that they can become whatever they want, they are stronger than they know and that there are no limits in life.
Since that 2012 mud run, I’ve run all sorts of races from 5Ks to 50Ks, and this summer I’m running a 12-hour ultramarathon. I also started participating in triathlons last year. I had never swam until last January, but I set a goal to complete a triathlon the year I turned 40 (I ended up participating in five!). I signed up for adult swim lessons and continue to work hard at learning proper swim technique.
I feel so proud knowing that I couldn’t swim a single length of a pool just 16 months ago, and here I am, training for my first IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon. One of my favorite events last year was the Gildan Esprit de She Naperville Triathlon. I love this photo of me coming out of the water because I overcame so many fears and doubts in order to be able to complete that race.
The tricky part is training — how do I get it done? My entire life is a balancing act, and with my husband and I both training for endurance events, we have to keep a pretty strict schedule, while also being flexible. We both have specific dates on which we work out; my husband runs, while I alternate between running, swimming and biking. Most of my runs start before the sun comes up and the majority of my swims and bike rides happen after I tuck my daughters in at night. This isn’t the ideal time to train, and oftentimes I’m already drained before I start my training session.
Of course, despite my best intentions, sometimes my family life does interfere with my training, and occasionally I have to cancel a workout because I just can’t fit it in. Let’s face it — I’m not making it to the Olympics and I’m not a podium finisher, but I do the best I can with what I have.
Sometimes I only have time for a 20-minute run, and if that’s all the time I have, that’s all I can do. A 20-minute run is better than no run at all. If your children are old enough, bring them along with you for runs or have them ride their bike alongside you. Set a goal and go for it.
While I dream about the future and how my husband and I will be able to go on runs together someday, for now, our runs together go something like this (photo on right). This is a picture of my little people running with my husband this past weekend while I struggle to push the jogging stroller to keep up with them. I love that we have taught our daughters the importance of being healthy and how to run just for the fun of it!
Here are my three oldest daughters after their fall running club race (photo on left). Their faces show how proud they are of themselves, and that makes me proud. Even my youngest is finding joy in running, and my goodness, she has some speedy little wheels. She ran the end of a 5K this past December, and her sisters came out to run her across the finish line.
My last piece of advice is to be gentle on yourself and remain positive. The picture at the top is of me nearing the finish line of an Olympic-distance triathlon last year (my biggest triathlon achievement so far) with my oldest daughter running me in. It didn’t matter where I placed overall — I felt like I won the race because I didn’t give up.
It’s a beautiful journey.
Follow Michelle’s motherhood and triathlon journeys on her Facebook page This Momma Runs