In spring 2011, I expected to complete the GoodLife Toronto 5K race. I did not expect to meet Running Room Founder, John Stanton. Our conversation was brief but memorable. I told him it was my first race since having my daughter. He told me that statistically, many women achieve personal best times after having children. Could it be true? When it comes to fitness performance, do moms do it best?
My unofficial research revealled a modest list of high level female athletes with young children. Among them was Canadian Heptathlete, Jessica Zelinka. Jessica had a personal best performance in the javelin throw and achieved her second highest heptathlon ranking at the Commonwealth Games the year after having her daughter. But why?
Certianly hCG levels and stretch marks do not relate to performance. Are women otherwise physically stronger after bearing children? My only thought – and I’m reaching here – is that maybe senses and reaction times improve with the state of constant alertness necessitated by motherhood. But then wouldn’t that apply to male caregivers too? So maybe something else is at play?
Maybe it’s a matter of timing. A 25-35 year old athlete might easily have 15-30 years in their sport. Childbearing age may simply coincide with a performance peak after year of training and experience.
If not physical or chronological, maybe the reason in mental. I have learned that motherhood requires incredible mental and emotional strength. I think the demands of parenting allow some women to tap into strength they didn’t know they had. Naturally, this strength translates into other areas of life – like sport and fitness.
Motherhood also provides a new sense of purpose for women eager to return to their active lifestyles and svelte bodies. So maybe we’re simply working harder and smarter. As an amateur bodybuilder, I know my training has changed drastically since having Naomi. My time, energy and financial resources are all less abundant than before. Gone are the days when I could afford three hour workouts five days a week. The shift in priorties has forced me to train more efficiently. I can now accomplish in one hour what I used to do in three. I value my limited time and for that one hour, I am focussed on nothing on becoming a better competitor.
Many women, be them athletes or average Janes, might feel the same. I am as impressed with the Fitmoms and clients I see each week, as I am with the moms competing in this year’s Summer Olympics. Many of our Fitmoms train 3-5 days per week. They carefully time feedings and naps, pack cumbersome baby gear and arrive at class to perform challenging sets of lunges, presses and curls – often on less than six hours sleep!
This summer I’ll have my eye on Canadian hurdler, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep who trained through her pregnancy and gave birth just eight months ago. I’ll also be tracking Jessica who trains and competes while raising her toddler.
Will we all prove John Stanton right? Will we take on new challenges, train smarter than before, reach personal bests and prove that moms do it best?!