Much like triathlon involves swim, bike and run, triathletes have a number of things in their lives that they need to balance as well. Jenna-Caer Seefried is a mom to a 5 year old son Ryker. I wanted to catch up with her and find out how becoming a parent has impacted on her training, how she managed her training while pregnant and how she plans to maintain her training and racing in the future. She gave me some insight into how she managed to keep training right up to giving birth and how she even races with her son now.

Jenna made her Iron Man debut in 2013 with a 10:56 and was used to a strong training load when she realised she was pregnant. Being active and wanting to maintain her fitness, Jenna managed to train through most of her pregnancy. Keeping active also helped Jenna to manage some of the symptoms of pregnancy.

“I know that keeping active helped hugely with keeping pregnancy symptoms at bay I took a few weeks off for travel and that’s when all of the symptoms showed up I had back pain, couldn’t sleep and was exhausted, when I got back to training it all went away.”

During her pregnancy Jenna focused on low heart rate training as well as strength work. Coming from the high volume and intensity she was used to she found this low intensity work easy to manage. During her first trimester when she was experiencing fatigue, nausea and back pain she kept herself motivated by acknowledging how much more it would hurt trying to regain her fitness and strength had she done nothing. She remembers getting some funny looks at the gym and even an amusing story involving a personal trainer.

“I did have a personal trainer come up to me in my 2nd trimester saying he could help me tone up and get into great shape, he asked me what my goals were.  I responded with a big smile, “I’m looking to gain about 25lbs and a few more inches around my waist over the next few months.” He was very confused, I think it took another month when I really started to show that he got it.”

Jenna worked closely with both her coach and doctor during her pregnancy. Constant blood tests were used to ensure that Jenna was able to train safely with no impact on her baby. By working closely with her team, Jenna was able to train right up to the day that she went into labour, managing a run and strength session the day that she went into labour.

Jenna started training about 2 weeks after Ryker was born. The recommended time to wait is 6 weeks but she started walking and decided to try a little run and felt good. She stared riding again 4 weeks after giving birth and got back into the pool 6 weeks after giving birth.

Returning to training brought with it challenges that Jenna hadn’t faced before. Specifically with sleep deprivation as Ryker was up hourly until 9 months old, day and night.

One thing that I struggled with was the hormonal and physical implications of the severe lack of sleep when he was younger.  I ended up overtrained and burned out, not because the training was anything crazy but because of the lack of sleep.  I ended up having to cancel my race plans and take 3 months completely off exercising.  So I recommend to new moms now to take it slowly and don’t set any big goals until you can start getting some solid sleep again.  Most of us are A type and if we have a goal we will find a way to fight through, however after pregnancy it’s the time to listen to your body and let it take the lead.

Jenna has found a new training partner in Ryker. She built a play room next to her training room and does a lot of her training on her treadmill and bike trainer.  That way Ryker can play and be entertained while she trains while always being within view.

The biggest piece of advice I have for parents that want to train for Ironman is communication with your partner.  It takes a big commitment from the family and managing expectations, schedules and needs on both sides makes the process a lot smoother.  Last year while training for Ironman Cork the majority of my training was done while Ryker was napping or in kindergarten a couple hours a day to try to fit it all in with less impact to family time.  Except strength workouts, for those Ryker and I pump up the tunes and he likes to do what mommy does.

Since then Jenna has gone on to win her AG at the ITU Long Distance World Championships as well as an AG win and Kona Qualification at Ironman Cork.

Burning myself out post pregnancy taught me a lot about how to be successful in the sport. As a parent you truly have to find some form of balance.  It takes a lot of time to train and triathlon is a big commitment for the whole family.  I love the Ironman distance most but now I only race Longer distances every other year to somewhat balance life, family and training.  There are definitely challenges training as a parent, but I hope that being active and pursuing something I’m passionate about will inspire my son to do the same.

Not having children of my own, I am amazed how parents are able to fit their training around their children and it always puts a smile on my face when I am out racing or training and I see a parent doing something active with their children. The fact that Jenna has managed to adapt to her new life and is able to maintain her training shows that it is possible to maintain balance in life and training.

Jenna’s Tips for New Parents:

  • Make it count – I’ve transitioned to higher intensity lower volume since I have less time to train
  • Plan ahead with your partner to schedule in key workouts,
  • Include your kids where you can. Ryker likes to walk/run on my treadmill while I’m on my bike, and during strength workouts he likes to follow along!
  • Get it in early. When they are young each day is a new adventure and the schedule is constantly changing so getting it done early stops anything from getting in your way.
  • Don’t worry about getting to pre baby weight. I still haven’t lost all the baby weight but I know it will come with time and consistent training.
  • Listen to your body. A lot of things change with child birth and its like having a whole new body so pay attention and give your system what it needs. I recover and move differently so I have to pay attention and cant assume I can do things the same way as pre pregnancy.

What have you done with your children to include them in your triathlon journey? How do you manage to fit training around your children?

Jenna-Caer Seefried is an age group world champion, Kona qualifier and full-time triathlon coach with MX Endurance. Having lost over fifty pounds through triathlon, Jenna works with athletes from around the world to fundamentaly improve their triathlon performance.