Updated: Jul 13
It's time to get real and share something close to my heart. Today, I want to talk about a topic that often gets overlooked but is incredibly important: the challenges that come with being a mom athlete and the potential pitfalls of pushing ourselves too hard.
As a #momathlete, I've always had a fire burning inside me. Balancing the responsibilities of motherhood with my passion for sports has been both rewarding and demanding. The desire to excel in both roles has fueled me to constantly push the envelope and challenge my limits. And while this drive has brought many triumphs, it has also led me down a path of overtraining, burnout, and injuries.
When we become moms, our lives change in profound ways. Suddenly, our time and energy are divided between taking care of our little ones, managing household responsibilities, and pursuing our athletic dreams. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of juggling these roles and forget to prioritize self-care and recovery.
Parents are the ultimate role models for their kids. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on child than the parent. Bob Keeshan
The pressure to be the perfect mom and the perfect athlete can be overwhelming. We see other mom athletes achieving incredible feats and feel the need to measure up. We push ourselves harder, train longer, and neglect our bodies' warning signs. But here's the truth: pushing ourselves beyond our limits without proper rest and recovery can have serious consequences.
The Perils of Overtraining and BurnOut as Mom Athletes
Overtraining is a real issue that affects athletes across the board, and mom athletes are no exception. Our bodies need time to adapt and repair after intense workouts. When we don't give ourselves enough rest, our performance starts to decline, and we become more susceptible to injuries. Overtraining can manifest as chronic fatigue, mood swings, decreased immune function, and even hormonal imbalances.
Unfortunately, I experienced just that in 2020-21 when I found myself extremely fatigued, napping twice a day - still feeling drained. It was a real wake-up call. I had to take 6 months off the sport I love and let deep recovery happen. Luckily I was patient, listening to my body, which lead me to be able to take another huge step to improving my performance in Ironman triathlon. Within a year I qualified for three World Championships. Kona checked, 70.3 Worlds checked and XTerra checked!
Psychosomatic stress symptoms may manifest physically (think headaches, sleep disturbances and belly aches), but result from physical, mental-emotional and biochemical stress. These symptoms may directly affect athletes' performance (1).
As mothers, we already know that rest is rare in our lives as we carry the invisible load of always knowing where things are, who needs to be where at any given time, school lunches, permission slips to be prepared, sports practices, mom's taxi duties, in addition to the mundane making sure everyone's clothes are clean, the house is tidy, dinners cooked. It takes a lot of mental and physical capacity to be a mom.
Burnout is another danger that lurks in the shadows. Burnout pertains to subjective perceptions of stress reactions specific to the context of our lives. As moms, we already have a never-ending to-do list, and adding intense training to the mix can tip the scales. The constant pressure to meet high expectations, coupled with physical and mental exhaustion, can lead to a complete loss of motivation and enjoyment in what we once loved. It's a recipe for burnout, leaving us feeling drained and defeated.
It is important to distinguish between psychosomatic stress and burnout. Our bodies don't know where the stress is coming from. Stress is stress. If we don't address whatever is causing subjective stress, our bodies will find a way to plant our asses on the couch.
The pressure we often put on ourselves, ignoring self-care, can drive us to ignore warning signs and push through physical and mental barriers, compromising our well-being. A perfect example is when mom is sick, yet she still cannot (or won't) stop to rest.
And then there are injuries. Pushing ourselves to the limit without giving our bodies enough time to recover can be a recipe for disaster. Overuse injuries, stress fractures, and muscle strains become more likely when we don't respect our body's boundaries. These injuries can set us back for weeks, if not months, taking away precious time we could have spent with our loved ones or pursuing our athletic goals.
Recently, as our family is preparing for a move from Dubai, UAE to Houston, TX, USA, and hubby traveling, and after being ill on and off the previous two months, I pushed the envelope a little too hard, trying to make single parenting work, while taking care of my mom duties, work as a coach and keeping up with my own training. It was too much, and I eventually hurt my back.
But here's the thing: it doesn't have to be this way. We can still be incredible mom athletes without sacrificing our well-being. It all starts with finding the right balance and being mindful of our bodies needs.
Three Steps To Better Mental and Physical Health
First and foremost, listen to your body. It's constantly sending you signals, and it's crucial to pay attention. If you feel excessively fatigued or notice persistent pain, it's a sign that you need to take a step back. Rest and recovery are just as important as training itself. Prioritize sleep, nourish your body with nutritious foods, and don't be afraid to take rest days when needed.
It's better to take a 3-4 days off now than being forced 3 weeks off down the road. Steve Magness
Secondly, set realistic expectations. Remember that you're a superhero, but even superheroes need rest. Be kind to yourself and understand that being a mom athlete is an incredible accomplishment in itself. You don't have to constantly push for bigger, faster, or stronger. Embrace the journey and celebrate every small victory along the way.
Finally, seek support and build a strong community. Surround yourself with fellow mom athletes who understand the unique challenges you face. Share your experiences,
Listen to others' stories, and lean on each other for motivation and encouragement. Together, we can lift each other up and create a supportive environment where self-care is valued. If you'd like to be part of Tired Mom Runs' private Group support, join our private Facebook group. I would love to see you there!
YOU, A MOM ATHLETE, ARE AMAZING
To all the mom athletes out there, remember that you are doing an incredible job. It's okay to push the envelope, but let's do it with balance and mindfulness. Your well-being is just as important as your achievements, and taking care of yourself ultimately benefits both you and your loved ones.
Examples of self-care for moms:
Physical activity: Engage in exercise or activities you enjoy.
Rest and relaxation: Prioritize quality sleep and practice relaxation techniques, such as box breathing.
Healthy eating: Nourish your body with balanced meals and stay hydrated.
Pursue hobbies: Dedicate time to activities you love.
Social connections: Spend time with loved ones and participate in social activities.
Alone time: Carve out moments for solitude and reflection.
Mindfulness: Practice being present in the moment and self-reflection.
Seek support: Reach out to trusted individuals for guidance.
Set boundaries: Say no to draining commitments and establish limits.
Positive self-talk: Foster a kind inner dialogue of self-acceptance.
If you want to learn about self-compassion, I highly recommend Tara Brach's meditations.
So, let's continue to chase our dreams, but let's do it with compassion, self-care, and a deep understanding of our bodies. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a mom athlete and create a legacy of strength and resilience with the gentle power of self-care and self-compassion.
Yours in fitness and in health,
MSc Sports Sciences
GGS Women's Coaching specialist
Triathlon Canada Community Trained Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
PS. Want to learn more about Ass-Kicking Women who are Moms and Athletes and changing the game? Check out Chelsea Sodaro's story from birth to Kona World Champion in 18 months. Check out this article and make sure to follow Feisty Media on IG and check out their website here.
The purpose of this blog is to share relevant information about what it is to be a mom athlete, and resources for you who desire to achieve amazing things!
Daumiller, Martin & Rinas, Raven & Breithecker, Jennifer. (2021). Elite athletes’ achievement goals, burnout levels, psychosomatic stress symptoms, and coping strategies. 10.31234/osf.io/h7bfe.