By Beth Janelle
I’ve always set different goals in life, wanting that success, no matter what the process to reach that goal was. Growing up as an athlete, I focused on competitive soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, hiking 4000 Footers, and once I was in my 20s, I took up running half and full marathon road races. I threw a couple long-distance obstacle course races in the mix too. Pounding the pavement turned into dodging trees in the woods on trail runs with my dog. Individual trail racing turned into ultra relay races up mountains with friends. I loved pushing my body to the limit to see what I could actually achieve with hard work and whatever elements were thrown at me!
Speaking of “pushing”, in April 2019, I went through a drug-free childbirth, which HAD to be my limit, right? Once I was fully recovered from the labor and delivery, I felt like I could do almost anything! I spent some time dreaming up a new challenge to take on. Finally, I could see it. I would complete a Triathlon.
Completing a Triathlon was always on my radar growing up: I was a competitive swimmer, a marathon runner, and who doesn’t know how to ride a bike?! It was my next challenge, with plenty of roadblocks. Not only did I have to set up a grueling fitness program to be able to swim, bike, and run all back-to-back-to-back, but I wanted to train for this while caring for a 6 week old breastfed baby. Would I have time? Would I have the energy? Would I be so out of shape after being pregnant for the past 9 months?
In May 2019, I decided to jump right in and see what would happen. I signed up for a Sprint Distance Triathlon, just to get my feet wet, to see if I liked the sport. I knew I could swim the 500 yards, bike the 12 miles, and run 3.2 miles as long as I could find the time to train. Even though I was pregnant for the past 9 months, I still exercised during the entire pregnancy. I made sure to adjust my workouts so I was only doing what I could handle and what was healthy for my baby. I did several days of strength training per week, yoga, walking, lap swimming, and even jogging every couple of days. I felt amazing during those 9 months, and I trained this way until the day before my son was born. I was able to get back into exercising so quickly at an advanced level because I retained my fitness throughout my pregnancy!
First I created my own training program which included 5-6 days of workouts, with a mix of short runs, longer bike rides, one day in the pool, and a few strength and High Intensity Interval Training days. I was able to complete most of the workouts while my baby was napping (luckily he was a great sleeper most of the time), or after my husband got home from work. Times proved to be tough though, and sometimes I just wanted to lie on the couch snuggling with my newborn! And even though sometimes that’s what I did for part of the day, my son would cheerfully play with his toys next to me as I finished a run on the Craigslist-purchased treadmill in our basement. I would count my reps with him while I used weights! Pushups with kisses were his favorite. Training for this race with a baby was actually doable…and fun!
In September I was ready for the Sprint Triathlon, but the competition was looking stiff! Everyone had fancy bikes, aerodynamic helmets, and expensive wetsuits. My bike was Used off Amazon and I borrowed my wetsuit from a friend. I felt a little embarrassed, but that was pushing me harder to prove that I didn’t need all the fancy gear. I was fast, and I was going to trust my training. Afterall, if I could go through childbirth, this should be a cakewalk!
That day I finished the 500yd swim, 12mile bike, and 3.2 mile run with a time of 1:26:58, and I literally sprinted the whole time! I felt amazingly strong and powerful through every leg of the race. I finished 1st in my age group (30-34 female) and 6th female overall! I was so happy with the outcome, and I was craving more! However, Triathlon racing season was over for the New England area, so I had to look South! I found a Triathlon in Sarasota, Florida on January 5th which was a longer (but flatter) course than the Sprint race I had just done. I would compete in the Olympic Distance race, an exhausting 1 mile swim, 27 mile bike, and 7 mile run. The distances didn’t scare me, but the plane ride with a 9 month old baby did!
I signed up for the race and got back to my training. I upped by distances and just took it day by day, trying to figure out when I could squeeze in a workout between entertaining my baby and scooting off to work for a few hours. The holidays quickly flew by, much faster than some of those workouts (especially on days where I had a back-to-back bike and running session which regularly took over two hours). With the help and support of my friends and family, I was ready for my Olympic Triathlon!
I arrived in Florida with my husband and son just a couple days before the race so we could get acclimated. Everything was lining up perfectly; the weather was supposed to be ideal, my rental bike was all set to go, and none of our luggage got lost! However, I got little sleep the night before the race, not because of nerves, but because of a teething baby, sick with a cold, who could not stop crying. My husband ended up driving around with the poor baby at 3am just so I could get a couple hours of sleep before I had to wake up for race day!
When my alarm went off at 6am, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was a Triathlon. But after watching some Tom Brady Motivational Speeches on YouTube, my adrenaline was pumping, and I was ready to crush the competition! The weeks of training paid off, and even though I was sleep deprived and also sick with that same cold my son had, I went as fast as I possibly could have on each leg of the race, all while feeling indestructible! I finished the run strong, and crossed the finish line with a time of 2:47:30, and literally breastfed my baby on the ground immediately after.
I was so depleted, but my Mommy Superpowers were kickin’ and after all that, I still needed to feed my son!
I ended up placing 3rd for Females overall, and 1st place in my Age Group.
To say I was feeling accomplished is an understatement. I was on top of the world! Not only was I able to piece together a multi-sport training schedule in between caring for an infant son and working part-time, but I finished the race feeling so strong, so tough, and now so overjoyed to get back out there and do another one! It all just reaffirms that if you set a goal, you can figure out a way to make it happen for yourself, and if there’s a will, there’s a way!
Challenging myself to see what I’m capable of has always been something that I’m passionate about, and I will continue to dream up something new and crazier than what might seem possible. Another Triathlon? An Ironman Race? Giving birth to Twins? Who knows what my next challenge will be!
Please note that if you are considering any fitness goals before, during or after pregnancy, reach out to your physician to get the all clear and then to a trainer to assist you in your journey!
By Beth Janelle
Personal Training/Fitness & Wellness Consultant
Education: NASM Certified Personal Trainer NASM Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist First Aid/CPR/AED Certified