Pursue Your Goals
Laura is a former pro-rower on the National Canadian Rowing team and is currently aiming for her personal best time at Iron Man 70.3 Mont-Tremblant in 2019 during her second maternity leave. Laura shares her experiences as a female athlete, the obstacles she has had to overcome, including the physical changes endured during pregnancy and childbirth, and the mental endurance and shifting priorities that have been a necessary part of her transition to motherhood.
Professional sports is a big part of your life. You were on the National Canadian Rowing team in 2012 and now compete Ironmans. What do you love about it?
I love how it challenges me both physically and mentally. I grew up in the performing arts and that came much more naturally for me, so when I got into sports in grade 9, I found that I had to work really hard to be good at something and that was really rewarding. I remember not making the basketball team in grade 9, so that summer I went to the local basketball court almost every day to work on my skills. My hard work paid off and I made the senior team the following year.
You’re open about your miscarriage and struggles to conceive. What would you want to tell someone who shares these experiences?Everyone’s experience is different and it’s important to respect that and give full attention and support to each person’s unique experience. I miscarried within my first trimester, so although it was incredibly tough emotionally, I was very grateful that it happened early on in my pregnancy and was a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. That’s actually what I would tell someone going through a similar experience . If your body didn’t progress with the pregnancy then it wasn’t meant to be and instead there is an amazing little being still waiting to be conceived. And while that’s easy to say to someone going through the experience, it’s hard for them to process since the person or couple are still in the grieving phase. Accepting that you’ll go through the raw emotions is important – anger, grief, sadness and so on. I know for me that was all part of the healing process. I now have two amazing little rainbow babies whom I couldn’t imagine life without!
Everyone’s experience is different and it’s important to respect that and give full attention and support to each person’s unique experience. I miscarried within my first trimester, so although it was incredibly tough emotionally, I was very grateful that it happened early on in my pregnancy and was a sign that it wasn’t meant to be.
Did you ever encounter judgement for being such an active mom? What was your reaction?Surprisingly not. I thought I would have a lot more during my pregnancies since I was super active. I think that if someone had something negative to say, I would first take a moment to recognize that it coming from someone who was either worried about me and didn’t know any better or not educated about healthy and fit pregnancies. If negativity was to come at me now as a postpartum mom, then again I would simply take it as someone expressing concern and who doesn’t fully understand women’s health. As someone who is educated in health and fitness and confident in how I approach fitness both pre and postpartum, I don’t take any negative comments to heart. My energy is best spent on my family.
During your pregnancies what was your workout routine like?
My first pregnancy was great because I walked a lot! I lived close to my work, so I got to walk to and from work every day — in addition to doing spin classes, swim sessions at the local pool and some runs here and there. My second pregnancy was a bit different in that I moved further from my work so I had to drive a lot. I definitely did not walk half as much so I had to make a bigger effort to stay active. Fortunately, I was very driven to be active and made a point to do some sort of activity during my lunch breaks: usually a 30-45 minute spin class 3 times a week and strength training twice a week. Before or after work wasn’t ideal because I had to take my older child to daycare and pick her up after school, prep dinner and do the bedtime routine. Pregnancy is very different when you already have a toddler!
Earlier on I used the “me” time to work on addressing my diastasis recti. I had a gap that was about 3 fingers wide.
You had to deal with diastasis recti during your postpartum. How did that change your routine?
It was easier going into my second postpartum journey because I knew what to expect with a newborn, I just didn’t know that my toddler would require even more work and time too! She’s been great with my little one, but she’s still developing herself, so she goes through her own developmental needs and phases that are quite exhausting for a sleep deprived mom. So because of this, I have taken advantage of day naps and also tried to fit in “me” time each day when possible. Having time for myself let’s me recharge my battery. Earlier on I used the “me” time to work on addressing my diastasis recti. I had a gap that was about 3 fingers wide. Despite having a gap that is still 2 fingers wide in my belly button region, I’ve worked hard to strengthen the deep core muscles to create a strong foundation that is ultimately what you want in your core. I’m continuing to see a pelvic physiotherapist who is helping me continue to strengthen where needed and take action to fully close the gap.
You completed an Ironman during your first maternity leave and now you’re training for a half during your second maternity leave! What inspired you to do it?
The experience was incredible! I didn’t go for time or speed, I simply wanted to enjoy the journey and race day. It changed sports for me because I’ve always been training to be my best to make a team, but with the Ironman, I was able to do it at my own pace for myself and nobody else. I used to do triathlons as a teenager with my older brother. He raced at the Ironman World Championships one year and I was there to watch him. It was truly the most magical and inspiring day of my life and it was there, in 2003, that I knew I that someday I had to do an Ironman. Now with two kids, I don’t have the time or energy to do another full Ironman. However, I’m goal driven and love to keep active so I signed up for a half (a 2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run). I am aiming to complete it in great time. I want to train hard to see how fast I can go, hopefully fast enough to beat my personal best time from 15 years ago!
It changed sports for me because I’ve always been training to be my best to make a team, but with the Ironman, I was able to do it at my own pace for myself and nobody else.
Nutrition for a pregnant and new (and breastfeeding) moms is so important. What are some good rules to live by?
Definitely take your prenatal vitamins and make sure they have the recommended dose of folic acid. On the food front, I have to admit that during pregnancy I did not eat particularly well. I loved eating healthy before, with big delicious hearty salads, but during
pregnancy I craved bagels with cream cheese and croissants. So I ate just that, bagels with cream cheese and croissants. I think it’s important for moms to know that the body knows best, and if you are craving something during pregnancy, it’s ok and healthy
(in my opinion) to give in. It doesn’t mean you should eat a cake each day, but if you have a craving it’s likely that the baby is needing something from those foods that your current nutrition isn’t providing.
What are the most important things about fitness and nutrition you want to teach your daughters?
I want them to learn through experience and feel the benefits of living an active and balanced life. Feeling the benefits and understanding why will put them in control when they make decisions about their own health. Balance to me means that they are trying new things like dance, music or swimming, and finding out for themselves what motivates and excites them. With food, I want them to be in the kitchen with me making food so that they know how much love and care goes into making something delicious. I want them to eat healthy but also indulge in treats occasionally. Never do I want them to think about diets, but rather to eat a well balanced meal, enjoy their treats, and be active to ensure they are living a well rounded healthy lifestyle.