Did you watch much of the Athletics when it was held in London recently? I was glued to it, and once again it completely reinforced the sheer strength and dedication that athletes have to their respective sports. The training that goes into preparing for these events, both mentally and physically, is insane.
While the championships were taking place, I read this article about a mum of toddler twins. She has a demanding day job, as well as being a mum, and she decided to run an Ironman. For those unfamiliar with what an Ironman is, it’s a 2.4 mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112 mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2 mile (42.16 km) run to finish.
I know! Crazy, right? Well actually, shit ain’t so crazy. Reading her motives for doing it – I get it. It’s not just about fitness. It’s not just about goal-setting. It’s not just about having a hobby. It’s all of those things, and so much more. It’s pride, it’s a sense of achievement, and it’s stamping an assertive trainer over every person that tries to pigeonhole the modern mum.
As Zoe writes, you hit your parenting years and society wants to consign you into your little box. Slummy mummy / spinning plates mummy, perpetually-knackered-and-on-the-gin mummy. Oh, it’s SO HARD being a mum these days, it’s a wonder we even have time to slick on a bit of 2009 No.7 lip butter. And yes, it is. It really is that hard. But this – mummy and housewife and employee – it isn’t all that we are. But the problem is, we’re actually validated when we let things go. There will always be a slew of other compatriots telling us that it’s perfectly acceptable not to push ourselves, because we already have such a full plate of life admin. That’s it’s ok to sit within that box and ride out the storm, without tapping into the person we once were, or crucially…the person we could be.
But this blog you’re reading right now – and the countless other thousands that exist right alongside it – are testament to the fact that we want more. We CAN raise children and juggle a house, perhaps with a job thrown in and a marriage to sustain…and we can still be capable of more. Blogging is a stellar example of the skillset we’re capable of teaching ourselves, at 2am, 4am and 6am while we’re bouncing babies in desperate pursuit of sleep. Barely a year ago, I didn’t even know what SEO meant. Now, I’m maxing out every day and rinsing it for all I can get.
It’s the same with the Ironman lady. You’re already so bloody fucked and knackered, that why not test the limits and take on something else? The more I think about it, being a parent is absolutely the best motivator for taking on an epic event. You’ve got the endurance thing nailed and exhaustion is your default mode anyway, so why not capitalise on it and drive your body to new levels of strength in the process?
When I look at my training regime, I know it’s pretty heavy going. I often sacrifice decent sleep, I head out before 6.30am on a Saturday and 7.30am on a Sunday to run to the gym, and I push myself until I can barely stand upright. On a Sunday afternoon, doctors and nurses is the game of choice that I play with my children, mainly so that I can lay down and be patted. I sweat like I have never sweated before, these days – I’m the fittest I’ve been in years. But before I had the girls, I simply wasn’t capable of this endurance. Isn’t that weird – I’m in my thirties and I’m way stronger now than I was a decade ago.
But then, why wouldn’t I be? I’ve grown and given birth to two babies. Pregnancy and labour are two of the most gruelling physical challenges that a woman can undertake – comparable to a marathon, some people say.
Zoe writes that she never skips a training session and she never skips a bedtime story, either. The Ironman training is super hardcore too, with back to back sessions that would make grown men weep over their laces. It has to be, because the race itself usually takes around 12 hours from start to finish. You NEED to hit your rock bottom in training, then realise that rock bottom has a basement, before you find a secret staircase and start to pull it all together.
It’s taken four years of me pushing myself to the brink, to realise what I can achieve. The older my children get, the more demanding my lifestyle is, and yet I am continually adapting. I know I can function for a day on zero sleep. I know that I can be up half the night, already exhausted from two or three or four days of non-stop parenting, and I can still smash my workout. I can still hit PBs. I can bounce back. I can outrun twenty year olds. I can leg press more than my own body weight. I can crunch my abs better than the man next to me in my class. I can do all of this stuff, because I am a mum.
Mums are pretty fucking hardcore. Don’t underestimate us.
-SJW August 2017