Five Ways Being An Athlete Prepared Me For Motherhood

There is a saying amongst folks tied to the Olympic movement that goes: “once an Olympian always an Olympian; never former, never past” and this resonates with me so much now that I’ve retired. Sure, I’ve hung up my track spikes and no longer dedicate several hours a day to training, but the heart, mindset, and approach to life is still very similar.

As a mom of two who is adjusting to life with a newborn and preschooler, these are five key ways that athletics prepared me for motherhood.

1.) Being able to perform under pressure

I’ve mentioned this skill as a “super power” that has helped me as a pharmacist, but being able to perform under pressure has also been helpful as a mom. Even though I’m not being asked to prepare daily for 4 years for a 12 second race with huge implications, there is a lot of pressure in being tasked in molding a little human.

Being a mom is a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly, and I am very intentional about how I show up for them, even through sleep deprivation and hormonal changes after childbirth. I’m aware that childhood trauma can have lasting effects in adulthood, so it’s always in the back of my mind.

Short term pressures of mothehood can look like a toddler wanting attention while a newborn needs a diaper change & more milk, while you have dinner cooking on the stove, with several important emails in the drafts folder, with two loads of laundry needing to be folded and boxes that need to be unpacked from your move.

But you get it done.

And you realize that even though the tasks may be challenging, you’re capable and have an unwavering sense of confidence that was birthed while you were competing against the best athletes in the world.

In track and in motherhood, it has been helpful to survey a situation, create a game plan, hype yourself up, prioritize the steps, begin working, and consistently build to get the job done.

2) Understanding that some things are out of my control

Anytime you’re dealing with other people as a measure of your success, whether directly or indirectly, you have to understand that some aspects may just be out of your control. This is true even when those other people are your children.

In track, you can control how hard you train, what you eat, and how you’re recovering but you can’t control how your competitors will show up, and/or if they’re approaching the sport with integrity. Similarly, with motherhood you can train your kids to listen, behave, and cooperate, but ultimately they’re unique individuals with their own personalities that you can’t always control 100% of the time.

And I’ve learned to embrace that. There’s an art in being able to identify the controllables and focus on those, instead of wasting time on factors you can’t change.

3) Remaining laser focused on achieving a goal

The way you don’t stumble into being a decorated professional athlete, is the same way you have to be intentional in your approach to parenting. Becoming an Olympian, winning global medals, and breaking records takes a tremendous amount of focus, hard work, and sacrifice. This type of unwavering commitment to a goal taught me life lessons that I use today as a mom.

If I want to homeschool my children, I will research and work to be the best teacher, even if I’m not an educator by trade.

If I want to potty train my children efficiently, I will figure out the best approach for them and their unique personalities.

If I want to learn how to cut a little boy’s hair in a professional way, I will intern barbers or do whatever necessary to ensure that my work is top notch.

Reguardless of what my goal is, I am no stranger to identifying the steps to take, and putting in the work to achieve it. This was true with athletics, and it is true now in motherhood.

4) Appreciating the power of a team

It may be a cliché that “you’re only as good as your team” but I’ve found it to be true both in sports and in motherhood.

The same way even the best athlete won’t fully flourish without a good coach/physio etc, a mom may not be able to show up as the best version of herself without a strong support system. Having training partners, for example, can force an athlete to step their game up, and having a community of support can encourage a mom to be at her best.

As moms, we often feel the need to be superhuman and avoid asking for help. Some moms even go as far as thinking it’s a badge of honor to “do it all” alone. If there’s one thing that track has taught me, it’s that there’s strength in identifying your weaknesses, and power in knowing how to improve them.

Motherhood is no different.

As there is no parent manual, there may be areas you’re not an expert in immediately and having humility to ask questions from other moms, or professionals can help. For example, when my daughter was a newborn, I feared that my milk supply was low so I employed a lactation consultant and she helped to give me tips & encouragement on how to improve. As a result of her assistance, I was able to successfully nurse my child for two years, and I’ve used some of the same advice this time around with my son three years later.

5) Embracing the benefits of diet & exercise

When you’re an athlete for over twenty years, you learn a thing or two about nutrition and how diet aids in optimal performance. I learned to use food as fuel and was disciplined in my approach with portion control etc.

As a mom who no longer needs to be in world class athlete shape, I still appreciate the role diet plays as fuel, weight management, and overall feelings of well being. With that, I know how to effectively lose weight, bulk up, lean out, or whatever goal I have for a particular season in life. Right now, for example, I am less than a month post partum and exclusively breast feeding my son, so rapid weight loss is not my top priority since I need to consider the quality & quantity of my breastmilk for my child.

Yes I want to be fit and healthy and eventually shed the pregnancy weight, but as I did with my daughter, I am taking a slow & steady approach. There’s also something to be said about the pressure of “snap back” culture for new moms during such a vulnerable period in their lives that I want to push back on as well.

As far as exercise is concerned, I do have the built in benefit of being a former athlete who knows exactly how to get in shape, and which exercises will benefit various parts of the body. I also am married to a world class coach who helped get me to the Olympics after pregnancy before, and is more than capable of training me back to shape this time too.

In addition to the obvious benefits of sport (pride, recognition, compensation etc.) there are intangibles that I’m still benefiting from well into retirement. This is yet another reason why I am such a fan of sports and all that athletes can get out of them. Whether you’re an athlete or not, let’s lean into learning lessons that will carry us for years to come. You’ll be happy that you did!


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