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  Inspiring Tales of Women Who Work Through Injury, Obstacles, Obligations & All the Stuff of Daily Life to Stay Fit, Athletic and In The Game




Heather N.,  Chicago suburb, Illinois
Mother of 5 and Natural Body Builder

As a mother of 5 children, I know the importance of my own health to help me raise healthy kids. Now a national level (all-natural) figure competitor, I strive for everyday stamina and “long-term maintenance,” not for pro-status or stardom. My age is 31 years young, and I not only love to go the gym daily and work out, I love to run, climb, swim, and pretty much do it all.

Nearly every single day, I wake up early in the morning, about 5;30 a.m., to let out the two puppies. I love my dogs enough to get up with them before the rest of the clan wakes up. Then I usually get one or two loads of laundry done while starting the coffee, and have breakfast by myself. I enjoy the rare peace and quiet, but sometimes the baby wakes up as soon as I leave the bed. My husband gets up around 6:30 and leaves for work, and then I feed the kids, make sure the girls' hair doesn't look like a rat's nest, and get them loaded up and off to the school bus.

Then I’m off… I throw my contacts in and bring the 2 little ones to the gym by 9;00a.m. I work out on 2 muscle groups each a day, and push a 35 min. cardio session, while the girls are lovin' the gym’s daycare room.

I get home with the girls around lunch time, do what needs doing, and try to manage another workout in the evening, usually when everyone is winding down for bed. By this time, I’ve already done homework with kids, fed, bathed, read books, completed school projects -- all the mommy stuff -- and I am home for good by 11;00 pm to cuddle up next to hubby, fall out, and get up to do it all over again.

On the weekends, my husband, our two boys and I work out together. Needless to say, this gal has a very supportive family. No matter where my competitions are, they always show up, even all the way in Missouri (where my identical twin sister and I competed; yes, I am a twin, and we compete and model together). My husband drove from Chicago with all of the kids. Now, is he a trooper, or what?

I have been an athlete my whole life -- gymnast, runner and more --and it’s obviously important to me. Now a mom times 5, I want to set a healthy example, and teach the kids each and every day about eating healthy, exercising, and a real commitment to staying fit. We all want longevity for ourselves and our children, right? Well, if kids knew what this meant, they would want the same for us as well as for themselves. To me, it’s about personal accomplishment, sure, but it’s really about good health in the end. This is what goes through my mind when it's still dark out early in the morning, and I’m folding laundry for seven and would just love to crawl back into bed.




Marie-Helene L., Montreal, Canada
Badminton Champ

MY JOURNEY AS AN ATHLETE MIRRORED MY EVOLUTION AS A PERSON. Now, over 25 years later, I can see where intense athletic competition sculpted the kind of person I became, and where a growing sense of self – and self-worth – elevated my ability to stay present and break through doubt, adversity, and even injury.

Barely fifteen when I first was introduced to badminton, it didn’t take long for me to want to become better and better. I had some talent, a lot of determination, and the high schooI I attended had an unusually competitive badminton team. Beyond that, this sometimes insecure teenager found no small comfort completely immersing herself in sport.

I went on to train for seven years before becoming a player on the national team, and then competed another five years on an international level. All those years of training taught me a lot of great life habits, but what I ultimately learned one could not get from mere physical training alone. Sure, you need a great work ethic and mental toughness, but what I came to realize was that the thing I needed the most was to have real self-esteem. And this is no small task for many young women in their teens and early twenties. It surely wasn’t for me.

I remember playing one important match and noticing right off that my opponent was just as fit and just as well prepared as I was. I immediately thought: Do I have what it takes to beat her? It took only a split second for my own nagging doubts to pop up. Work on your technique, fitness and game strategy all you want, but if you don’t have honest self-esteem it will be very hard to stay focused and win. Fortunately for me, a stubborn, competitive streak eventually came to override any personal insecurity. The harder the competition got the deeper I dug in and fought back.

At the age of twenty eight I went down with a bad knee injury. The timing could not have been worse for someone who was trying to qualify for the next Olympics. I had to let go of that dream pretty quickly. After less-than-perfect surgery left me with a dropped foot, I had to search hard for the courage to continue and redefine myself. My identity had become inseparably linked with my performances as an athlete. Now the real test had begun. I went from trying to qualify for the Olympics to something even harder: finding happiness and a deeper satisfaction within.

The athlete’s determination was definitely a major part of a difficult recovery over a long and painful 6 months. And somewhere during that very hard stretch I came to a new found belief that I would be okay no matter what. I no longer needed to define myself only as a competitive badminton player in order to feel complete. Besides, it was a near-miracle that my severely dropped foot healed at all, and what truly matters above all else is one’s good health. Armed with that simple truth – along with a new inner freedom -- I moved forward to achieve near-full recovery in about 20 months. Too late to get back into bigger international competitions but well in time to fully enjoy each and every workout, my health, and all the things I could still do quite well, on and off the court.

I am 41 now, a mother of two energetic young children, and just last year I went back to competing in Master Tournaments. And guess what? I still had the determination, skills and all-important sense of self to be able to compete and win a couple of national titles! It’s great to be fit, but it’s even better to know what one is capable of, and then go and do it.

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