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How one triathlon mom (triath-mom) encourages her young daughters to enjoy the miles

Katie Heyder and her daughters
Katie Heyder and her daughters

By day, Katie Heyder is a successful professional, working as the Director of Performance Improvement at Saint Mary’s Health Network. But, when the office work is over, the physical work has only just begun.

Katie, an avid triathlete and mother of three daughters (5-year-old twins and a 7-year old) is currently training for a full Ironman Triathlon. Yes, the race that involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a MARATHON (26.2 mile run).

Training for a race like the Ironman, requires an abundance of dedication, discipline and most of all TIME. To ensure she spends quality time with her family, she does what any active triathlete mom would do… encourages her daughters to train with her!

RMB: SO GETTING KIDS EXCITED ABOUT GOING ON A LONG RUN SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE DIFFICULT, HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO PARTICIPATE IN TRAINING, RACES AND OTHER FITNESS ACTIVITIES WITH YOU?

KH: Since my kids were born, they’ve watched me train hard, put in the work and feel the joy of completing a race or reaching a goal. I think showing the fun that comes along with training is key. Plus, reinforcements like getting a cool medal at the end of a race or traveling somewhere new to compete helps too. In addition to races, we all play soccer as a family and my kids do swim team, so being active is like second nature to them.

IMG_2359RMB: WOW, SO ARE THERE EVER DAYS WHEN YOU JUST AREN’T FEELING IT? WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY MOTIVATED?

KH: There are definitely days when I don’t want to train, but if my kids were looking forward to a run, ride, or swim- this helps keep me on target, because if your 5-year-old is ready to run, that should be encouraged ;). For the times when they aren’t wanting to train, I’ll encourage a shorter training period and try to make it as fun as possible. I don’t ever want them to feel like this is demanding work, but rather that its preparing them to do a good job for the upcoming event. And believe me, there are times when we’re all just in need of a good relaxation session.

RMB: ASIDE FROM THE OBVIOUS PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF FAMILY TRAINING, HOW HAS IT HELPED IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DAUGHTERS?

I love having an active role in their growth and appreciation for trying new things, while also being able to pursue my own fitness goals at the same time. My girls are super interested in my training schedule so I include them in “my training time” and then we will have “our training time.” For example, if I’m swim training at the pool, they sit outside the pool and help me count my laps. After my training period, it’s girl time. I get to watch them show me their swimming and we all train/play together.

IMG_2250RMB: ANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT RACE TRAINING WITH YOUR CHILDREN?

KH: Some people think I am pushing my girls too hard or that the training will lead them to injury. However, I feel it is all within moderation and what they are capable of. For example, with my 5-year-old twins, a training run might only be a half mile- but to them it was the best training time in the world. My 7-year-old daughter just completed her second 5K race and to her, that was an amazing accomplishment. Yes, my kids may be busy with all the different sports training and racing, but they enjoy what they do and it makes me happy that they are not just sitting around playing video games or watching TV. They are outside enjoying the fresh air. Also, training is not always in the function of outlined events, many times we go for a family hike and during our hike we do little runs that makes us stronger and fitter.

RMB: ANY ADVICE FOR FAMILIES WHO WANT TO TRAIN TOGETHER?

Keep it fun, and be aware of their abilities. As I mentioned earlier, a short run with my 5-year olds might feel pretty simple to me, but to them they just completed a major distance. I also like to celebrate them when they’ve met a goal or finish a race, it’s a big accomplishment and they should know that. For parents looking to get their kids involved, local kid race leagues and clubs are super helpful, because your kids are doing these kinds of activities with other kids.

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