Finding the balance and making it work

By Kristine Wooten

Living la vida loca is Spanish for “the crazy life,”  and as a mom it’s the life we live!  And that said, you probably aren’t only a mom.   I am a mom, a wife, an elementary school teacher, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a nurse, a coach, a cleaner, a taxi service, and an athlete.  The trick is finding the balance in life for everything you are.  By definition, balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.   I got a good chuckle out of this definition, as obviously whoever wrote that definition wasn’t a mom.   Balance to me is trying to always remember to live, love, laugh and be happy!

As a mom who works full time out of the home, finding balance for all that I am, can be a a struggle for me.  While managing to be  a mom has always come with reasonable ease, I met a new challenge when returning to my athletic life.  I refer to my time before motherhood as BC (before children).  Life BC included running a few marathons, going to the gym, enjoying long walks in the woods with my fur baby and hubby, and eating healthy.  I was an accomplished skier in high school, with the thighs to prove it, and got more into running through college.  But, I wasn’t living the college or BC life any longer.

Kristine Wooten competing at IM Cozumel 2014

Kristine Wooten competing at IM Cozumel 2014

The lifestyle of an athlete came to a bit of a scretching hault as we began fertility treatments to conceive our first child.  I was always envious of seeing all these athletic moms out running and walking until they were about to pop.  When you hit the road block called fertility issues you will do anything and everything to not only get pregnant, but stay pregnant. To me it meant I needed to chill out and relax - so I did.  After getting pregnant with our daughter, and adding about 50 pounds on top of already being 10 pounds over-weight, I didn’t give exercise another thought.  Being a mom was my sole focus.

Our daughter, Tori, arrived happy and healthy.  I would go for walks with her, but that was the extent of it.  I don’t  remember ever wanting life to be any other way, no doubt my inner athlete was asleep!  I was able to lose the weight with breast feeding and maybe a bootcamp class thrown in a few times over the summer.   Then it was time to head back to the fertility clinic to try for baby #2.  Long story short, he was shockingly conceived oh natural, but not with a rocky first trimester.  So, exercise would eventually consist of some walks while pregnant with #2, our son, Conor.  With two kiddos I managed to find Mommy Bootcamp, a program designed for moms to be able to work out while the kiddos played in a play area that you could monitor while sweating it out with other moms.  My inner athlete was starting to wake up.

As the inner athlete had been awakened I would find myself on a walk with the double stroller and running up the hills, then running the double stroller to drop off our daughter at school.   Running with a double stroller is no joke and I challenged anyone to say something to me about my two kiddos in the stroller eating lollipops and watching a portable dvd player early in the morning.. this mama was going to get her workout in and if lollipops were a must, then lollipops were had.  I was finding starting to find the balance of all that is being a mom while also an athlete.

Fast forward to hearing about my younger sister competing in a triathlon (swim, bike, run), and knowing if she did it, I had to as well!  I entered and placed 1st in my age group during my first sprint triathlon, and I was hooked!  In my head screaming to myself “I’m a mom AND an athlete!”  Then thinking there should be a separate category for triathlete moms.  I fell in love with this newly discovered sport of triathlon!  I was a strong runner, comfortable on the bike, and would need to hit up some friends for some pointers on swimming, but I was fully committed to improving in this sport.  I wonder if it’s a mom “thing” or and athlete “thing” but almost everything I do in life can be a competition.  While I’m proud of myself for just being out there and participating, I want to kick ass too!  

Finding that balance of all that is mom with being an athlete threw a bit of wrench my way.  As I was finding ways to get creative with time to get my athlete fix,  I forgot that I was also a wife.  A few visits to the marriage counselor set us on the right path again.  Talking problems out with a professional can be a game changer and marriage saver!  I was that mom at the track practice with my fellow athletes from my triathlon team, Team FeXY, who would park her kids on the side, sandwiches for dinner, while they hung out and I got my track work in.  It worked, my kids were outside in the fresh air,  surrounded by positive and outgoing people, and learned to eat quickly so the birds didn’t steal their meals.  

I could feel my life as an athlete starting to really hit it’s stride although still found it challenging on the homefront.  Having a supportive spouse is so important and I wanted my husband to also be a part of my life as a triathlete.  While life can be a lot more challenging if both parents are active athletes, it is also so much easier in a sense.  While time management becomes a little harder, having a partner who understands your need to get up before the sun rises  to get a workout in, or to go to bed with the kids at night makes a difference.  Our life balance was getting  a little easier.

So, with triathlon trianing in full force my husband signed up to compete in his first full IRONMAN triathlon.  What? No way in hell was I going to let him complete a full without me.  Sounds a little like how I even entered the triathlon world in the first place, not wanting my little sister to do something that I hadn’t done.  My competitive spirit rose to the occasion and I soon found myself signing up for my first IRONMAN.  A full IRONMAN consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full 26.2 mile marathon run.  So, if I was going to do this full IRONMAN thing I was going to do it right, in Cozumel, Mexico!  The race would be over Thanksgiving break, so of course it was a family affair!

Training for a full IRONMAN is a lifestyle, it has to be.  Your weekend consists of 6 to 7 hour training rides followed the next day by a long run ranging from 10 – 20 miles.  Needless to say, I found triathlon training was overtaking my world.  A friend once told me “we’re all just fighting to get back a piece of our old selves,” because BC I would have not minded spending my whole weekend training.  To be honest, I LOVE triathlon training.  If being a triathlete was all I was in life, it would be manageable.. but, that’s not all I am.

Being a mom is what’s most important in my life.  As my kids have gotten older I found my triathlon training had me missing baseball games, swim meets, and adventures with my kids and my husband.  My husband moved to the injured reserve list with triathlons, making my training so much easier, but I wasn’t happy to be missing so much.  It was kind of expected that our kids would become competitive athletes after growing up so far in the world of athletics and having gifted athletic talent… I know every parent says that, but my kids have a natural athletic talent, making  watching them participate so much fun!  Was I willing to keep giving up this time with my family?  Was I willing to miss another playoff game?

After two full IRONMAN events, numerous Half-IRONMAN events, included in a solid 6 years of triathlon endurance racing, I’m tapped out.  What some people don’t understand about triathlons is you have to train in 3 different sports!  Not only do you have to go out for a run, but you might have to do that run after a swim or bike, called a brick workout.  Not to mention as a triathlete you must drop some major $$$ into the sport, if you want to be competitive.  The list of gear a triathlete needs to train can be endless.  

I may not be able to find the balance in life to include being an endurance athlete along with everything else, although I will always be an athlete.  Finding your balance means always making adjustments.  I will find balance with triathlons still, by competing in the shorter formats such as a sprint or international distance races.  The training and race time commitment is much more manageable for this mom living la vida loca!  Being an athlete is good for my head, and makes me a better mom, wife, teacher, coach, taxi, and friend! Maybe I secretly thrive on living la vida loca, but you can only sustain that crazy live for so long when you need to maybe bring the crazy down a notch.  Being a mom is one of the toughest, most challenging, and most rewarding parts of my life, yet I can be a mom and an athlete.  Maybe you don’t want to sign up for an IRONMAN, but do something for you.  You must take care of yourself in order to be everything else that you want to be in life.  Find out what motivates you and challenge yourself for yourself!   Make those adjustments and never give up!