Ac­tive moms lead­ing by ex­am­ple

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - JILL BARKER

This time last year, Jaime Sochasky-Liv­ingston set an am­bi­tious goal to com­pete in a 102-kilo­me­tre cy­cling road race. An ath­letic ther­a­pist, it was Sochasky-Liv­ingston’s first at­tempt at training for an en­durance event. The mother of a nineyear-old, she was sud­denly con­fronted with a dilemma all ac­tive moms face: jug­gling an in­tense training sched­ule with an al­ready busy life­style that in­cludes work and fam­ily com­mit­ments.

“I knew it was go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult ath­letic chal­lenge,” she said, “but I didn’t think about the other per­sonal chal­lenges that come with it.”

A lot has been said about the dif­fi­cul­ties of jug­gling the de­mands of mother­hood and a ca­reer, but lit­tle on the ad­di­tional stress moth­ers like SochaskyLiv­ingston feel when they toss yet an­other ball in the air. Un­like elite ath­letes, for whom training is akin to a full-time job, most women who pur­sue chal­leng­ing ath­letic goals af­ter start­ing a fam­ily strug­gle to do it all — work, kids, house­hold chores, a so­cial life.

Keep­ing in mind that rais­ing chil­dren is of­ten re­ferred to as the most im­por­tant job in the world and is still viewed as pri­mar­ily the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the mother, sup­port for women who de­vote sev­eral hours a week to training can be lack­ing.

De­spite claims that reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and the pur­suit of fit­ness goals can re­sult in more pa­tience, con­tent­ment and en­ergy — some of a mother’s best as­sets — the mo­tives are of­ten per­ceived as self-serv­ing, and there is fre­quently judg­ment and guilt.

So how do women like Sochasky-Liv­ingston do it all?

In an at­tempt to learn more about how to nav­i­gate the rocky road of par­ent­hood while training and racing at a com­pet­i­tive level, re­searchers from Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity in Sud­bury, Ont., and the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia in Aus­tralia in­ter­viewed seven ac­tive moms, look­ing at “how they nav­i­gate psy­cho­log­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tural bar­ri­ers that of­ten con­strain ac­tiv­ity.”

The re­searchers de­tailed three strate­gies that “highlight the nu­anced ways in which jug­gling mother­hood and sport (can be) con­strain­ing and eman­ci­pa­tive for re­cre­ational com­pet­i­tive ath­lete moth­ers.”

AD­JUST­MENT OF TRAINING AND COM­PE­TI­TION

Plan­ning and the will­ing­ness to mod­ify plans is key to bal­anc­ing mother­hood with a com­pre­hen­sive training sched­ule. It’s also im­por­tant to ac­cept that there will be days when work­outs get shelved in favour of fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, so it might take a bit longer to pre­pare for a com­pe­ti­tion as com­pared to some­one who can fully com­mit to their weekly training sched­ule.

Sochasky-Liv­ingston tried do­ing most of her training rides in the early morn­ing, mak­ing it back home be­fore her daugh­ter was out of bed.

Pri­or­i­tiz­ing fam­ily time when pos­si­ble min­i­mizes the stress and guilt ac­tive moth­ers can feel dur­ing long hours of training.

The same goes for sched­ul­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

Reg­is­ter­ing for events that re­quire lit­tle in the way of travel time and tack­ing on a fam­ily va­ca­tion af­ter a com­pe­ti­tion keeps the fam­ily happy. Training for shorter events — for in­stance, half marathons ver­sus marathons — can also help, re­duc­ing prepa­ra­tion time.

MULTI-FACETED AND NE­GO­TI­ATED SUP­PORT

Ac­tive moms need help, both in terms of child care and emo­tional sup­port, to man­age the de­mands of sport, work and mother­hood. Spouses should be con­sid­ered part­ners in rais­ing the kids and do­ing house­hold chores, and cheer­lead­ers when it comes to the re­al­iza­tion of ath­letic goals. This de­mands on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions and com­pro­mises to en­sure that nei­ther spouse is over­bur­dened.

Fam­ily and friends are also good re­sources, and many ath­letic women cre­ate a net­work of peers who are will­ing to re­cip­ro­cate child-care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties when nec­es­sary. It’s also pos­si­ble to share babysit­ting and train to­gether, which adds an of­ten ne­glected so­cial com­po­nent to the life­style of an ac­tive mom.

Sochasky-Liv­ingston re­cruited sev­eral friends to com­pete in the same road race — not only to pro­vide com­pany dur­ing long training ses­sions, but to of­fer mo­ti­va­tion and emo­tional sup­port.

RE­CIPROC­ITY OF MOTHER­HOOD AND SPORT

Key to re­duc­ing the stress re­lated to do­ing it all is the re­al­iza­tion that mother­hood can ac­tu­ally en­hance training and com­pet­i­tive suc­cess. Some­thing life-chang­ing, like hav­ing a fam­ily, can pro­vide the im­pe­tus to mod­ify training sched­ules so that they are more eco­nom­i­cal and en­joy­able.

Many women re­mark on a change of at­ti­tude that comes with mother­hood, view­ing training not as a chore but as valu­able “me time.” They revel in the quiet and per­sonal space that’s so rare in the lives of those who jug­gle work and fam­ily com­mit­ments.

The ac­tive moms in­ter­viewed by the re­search team re­marked that “sport not only made them bet­ter and more fo­cused ath­letes, but en­hanced their roles as good moth­ers.”

Sochasky-Liv­ingston echoes those sen­ti­ments af­ter suc­cess­fully fin­ish­ing the 102-km race last Septem­ber: “I learned how to value the time with my fam­ily and the time I spent away from my fam­ily.”

SCOTT LIV­INGSTON

Ac­tive moms Wendy Hunt, left, Kelly Christie, Corinna Wil­son and Jaime Sochasky-Liv­ingston cel­e­brate af­ter com­plet­ing a 102-kilo­me­tre bi­cy­cle road race in Septem­ber.

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