Rudy Project Pro triathlete, Olympian, and mom, Sarah Haskins, knows a thing or two about balance. Sarah completed her first triathlon in 2003, and went on to become a professional triathlete less than a year later. Since then, her multisport journey has taken her to 37 professional wins, the Olympic Games, and even motherhood. In the summer of 2013, Sarah and her husband Nate Kortuem, who is also her current coach, had their first child Caroline. In this article, Sarah highlights the balance between being a part-time professional athlete and a full-time mom:
Ever since I was a young child, I loved to race. I loved the thrill of competition, getting the most out of myself, and trying to improve my times each week. Fast forward nearly thirty years, and I am still competing! Over the years I have learned much about the sport of triathlon and myself as an athlete. While the core of my training remains the same, I have to include more modification and flexibility. In between my training sessions, I have an energetic, willful two-year-old to chase around the house or playground! My life has become so much more rewarding (and never boring!) while watching my little girl grow up, but I do have to be more thoughtful about recovery and a little more lenient with my racing and training schedule. Racing as a professional athlete and wanting to accomplish my dreams at the highest achievable level is attainable since becoming a mother; however, I have learned that being flexible, relaxed, and patient are the keys to success in my daily life. All these traits are also key to raising a toddler!
When I have a hard training session, I try to plan it around a time when I know that I can have an hour or two of downtime. This does not always work out as planned, but if I finish just before Caroline’s nap time, it really does help me recover. Sleep is the key to recovery, so I try to always rest when she is resting and go to bed shortly after she does. You never know when a toddler is going to wake up with a nightmare or have a poor night of sleep, so I figure if I get to bed earlier, I know I get a jump start on what could possibly be an interrupted night of sleep. Now that she is two, she does sleep well most nights, but kids are always throwing you for a surprise.
Just like athletes thrive on a consistent training plan and routine, so do kids. If I keep Caroline on a similar schedule day in and day out, she is a much happier child. Of course, traveling and events come up, but during those key training blocks it helps all of us to have a routine as a family like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Another hurdle that I have learned to jump over is that fact that toddlers pick up viruses very frequently! Last year, I was coming down with colds due to exposure and a heavy training volume that suppressed my immune system. I found that Vitamin D and Zinc supplements have helped keep Caroline healthy as well as helped me to boost up my immune system. With children in the house, it is important to tune into your body and be flexible. When I feel like I am coming down with something, I back off the training for a few days and let the body heal. This is so hard to do when you are in the middle of a great block of training, but necessary to get to the start line healthy.
Traveling in general with a toddler can also be exhausting and tricky; flying solo with Caroline is almost more exhausting than a long IRONMAN® training day! I now know not to fly with Caroline during her nap time, because she will board the plane exhausted, cranky and screaming! After learning the hard way, she now gets her naps in prior to departure and the days go much, much smoother. In addition, I try to keep the carry-on bag organized, so I know right where a wipe or diaper is when I need it. Most importantly, I try to stay calm even when she’s not!
Prior to having children, my days off would be spent laying on the couch watching a movie and/or some active recovery in the pool or a spin on the bike. Now, I typically take Sundays “off” training, so that I can enjoy quality time with my family. I find that with a toddler, I am getting plenty of “active recovery” chasing her around on the playground or taking her swimming at the pool. This kind of active recovery is much more fun and rewarding. On the warm summer days (which is six months of the year in Florida), I have found that family time in the pool is a great way for my daughter to get in her exercise, and the best way for me to recover after a long day. During the winter months, indoor swimming is great too.
Training with a toddler is all about flexibility. If needed, I am prepared to change my training plan daily and have learned not to sweat the small stuff. If I can get in quality time with Caroline, my training sessions will suffer; I need that family balance to be happy and successful. Being a mother is one of the hardest jobs out there, but it is the most rewarding. Being a professional triathlete is just the icing on the cake! I embrace the daily challenges and try to teach Caroline something new every day. Children have a special gift of teaching us something every day as well, and challenge us to be better people. It’s important to be a role model for all young kids out there as an Olympian and professional athlete, but most especially for my daughter.
About Sarah Haskins:
Professional Triathlete, Olympian and Mom.
Follow me: @sarahhaskinstri and www.sarahhaskins.com