13 reasons why being a mother is a lot like being a triathlete

13 reasons why being a mother is a lot like being a triathlete.

1. The anticipation before your first one is huge and it’s a life-changing event.

Split image. Left - nervous looking woman wearing a wetsuit, swimming hat and goggles. Right - newborn baby yawning.
First-time nerves.

(I’ve heard people get blasé about further occurrences, but even so there’s likely to be a frisson of excitement and nerves before each one!)

2. It’s expensive.

Split image. Left - cyclist wearing an aero helmet on an expensive bike. Right - woman pushing a smart buggy.
Lots of new (or second-hand) kit is required.

You end up buying a whole load of kit you never knew existed… and even though you read a thousand reviews you still end up replacing some if the things that you bought when you started out.

3. You need a new car to fit all the kit in… But it’s not top of the range as you’ve no money left.

Split image. Left - a tiny car with a bike rack on the back. Right - a messy car interior with a baby seat in it.
You car will never be the same again as every spare inch of space is utilised!

For eight years I was the proud and happy owner of a Fiat500. I could fit my road bike in it, as long as I removed at least one wheel and folded the seats. Likewise, I could fit a car seat and a running buggy in it as long as I removed a wheel and folded a seat. It wasn’t practical, but I loved it… however, the time came to trade it in and I’m now the owner of a ‘mum bus’ (a Citroen Berlingo). I try to keep it clean, but there are always bits of snacks lurking in the back. The good news is that it fits two adults, one child in a car seat, two bikes, a bike trailer and a running buggy – WIN!

4. You buy new clothes.

Split image. Left - triathlon kit spread out, including bib shorts, tri shorts, tri tank, cycling jersey, running shorts, vest, socks, flip flops, arm warmers, knee warmers, bottles, hat, cap and visor. Right - pile of baby clothes with bootees on top.
There are always new items of clothing that you need to get.

When you think about it, a babygro and a trisuit are pretty similar… but one is a lot cheaper than the other. When you have a child, you have to buy new kit regualrly… and as a triathlete, you have to choose between one-piece and two-piece suits, and you need to regularly replace chlorine damaged swimsuits.

5. You start to focus on nutrition.

Split image. Left - sports bottle. Right - baby bottle.
Which drink is best?

You focus on what you are eating and drinking more than other people. If you choose to breastfeed, you probably avoid alcohol most of the time… triathletes also tend to avoid alcohol. Also, triathletes tend to plan their meals very carefully and as a mother, I try to create meals that everyone in the family will like, which sometimes feels impossible. There are also endless debates about what to drink – which electrolyte drink or breastmilk vs formula?

6. You get up at crazy hours.

Split image. Left - alarm clock showing just after 3am. Right - a baby's cot with a mobile over it in a dark room.
What time do you get up?

As a triathlete, you choose to get up before dawn to take part in training or events. As a mother you often get up before sunrise, but it’s not of your own volition!

7. You covet other people’s wheels.

Split image. Left - a gold bike. Right - a red out'n'about nipper sport buggy next to a blue Thule Glide buggy.
Some cyclists might covet an Auramania Crystal Edition Gold bike; as a running mum, I’d love a Thule Glide!

There’s always someone with a bike that’s better than yours… and there’s always someone with a better pram than you. I didn’t spend a fortune on a buggy for M, I chose a practical running buggy that I love… but I still feel a pang of jealousy when I see someone with a Thule Glide.

8. There’s no time to feel relief that you’ve finished one phase as you quickly transition to the next one.

Split image. Left - two women looking stressed whilst trying to get ready in transition during a multisport event. Right - a toddler in a swimming costume, hat and goggles.
On the left is my first ever multisport transition; on the right is my daughter M who is now an adventurous toddler!

Each phase requires different skills and strengths. Swim done… now it’s on to the bike. Or no time to heave a sigh of relief that you don’t have a needy baby any more as you now have a toddler in her terrible twos! (…and I’m not even thinking ahead to the teen years!) There’s always something new to learn. It never gets easier as the challenges change!

9. You make a new group of friends.

Split image. Left - five cyclists looking out over a beautiful view. Right - two women and two children laughing together.
Training is much easier with a group of like-minded individuals. Similarly, it helps to have friends who understand what it’s like dealing with a young child.

You may join a tri club (or a mother and baby group) and voilà, you have a new group of friends with similar interests. For some people this is important as your old friends may not ‘get it’ anyway!

10. Your ‘downstairs’ may never be the same again.

Split image. Left - close up of an old-fashioned leather bicycle saddle with big springs. Right - a naked newborn baby placed on its mother's tummy immediately after birth.

Anyone who has ‘squeezed out a bowling ball’ is bound to have some anatomical changes, which may be permanent. Likewise, most cyclists will suffer from saddle sores at some point, whether they are a novice or an experienced rider. Eddy Merckx was unable to ride the 1976 Tour de France and Sean Kelly withdrew from the 1987 Vuelta while wearing the red jersey. Emma Pooley has shared tips about how to avoid saddle sores.

11. You may pee when exercising.

Split image. Left - a triathlon supporter holding a sign saying 'Smile if you peed yourself'. Right - a woman wearing running kit with a wet crotch area.
The good news is that lycra dries quickly!

I have to say that I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t have any pelvic floor damage after having M, so this isn’t a problem for me, but over 7 million women in the UK suffer from urinary incontinence. In comparison, triathletes just like to save time and many long-distance triathletes pee during the bike leg (and also during the swim).

12. It’s all about endurance.

Split image. Left - a man who looks like he's nearing the end of a long run. Right - two parents and two children holding hands and walking into the sunset.
You’ve got to be in it for the long-game.

Triathlons and parenthood both require great stamina and the mental power to endure.

13. You say ‘one and done’ but look back fondly on the process and start thinking about another one.

Split image. Left - an open planner with a pen next to it. Right - a woman holding a digital pregnancy test that says 'not pregnant'.
Are you planning your next one?

I know so many people who have decided to do an iron distance triathlon as a bucket list event. They say ‘never again’… but several months later, they miss the early mornings, exhausting training and routine, so they sign up for another one. Likewise, many parents seem to forget all of the dirty nappies and missed hours of sleep and decided to add to their family. (Just in case anyone is wondering, no, this isn’t some strange sneaky way to announce that I’m pregnant!)

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