Juggling Triathlon & Parenthood

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published May 17, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:38 PM UTC
Nikki, Tyler and Savana Butterfield. Photo: Nils Nilsen

Many of the issues female professional triathletes face when considering motherhood are universal. Others are unique to athletes, especially when a race-ready body is a job requirement. We chatted with a handful of pros about their hopes, plans and choices regarding parenthood, and how these things fit in and around their triathlon careers. Here’s what they had to say.

Nikki Butterfield (29), the 2012 Abu Dhabi International winner, and husband Tyler, also a professional triathlete and Olympian, are parents to Savana Rose, born Dec. 22, 2010. Nikki’s athletic career began in triathlon, switched to cycling, and looped full-circle back to triathlon in 2011, a mere five months after giving birth.

I’ve wanted to start a family since I was very young. I just had to wait until we weren’t traveling as much and Tyler was ready, too. The pull on me was getting stronger and stronger, and eventually it was all I could think about. I love racing, training and trying to get the best out of myself, but at the end of the day it’s my job. My family is what is most important to me. If I was racing now without Savana I think I would be very unsatisfied with my life.

Tyler always had in his mind that I would return to triathlon after we had Savana, but I didn’t start to think about it at all until late in my pregnancy. I had quite a few complications before Savana, so all I cared about was having a healthy baby. I was on semi-bed rest for the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy. From then on I would walk two or three times a week for half an hour and swim twice a week. The exercise was just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. I put on 40 pounds. After I had Savana I was dying to shed my pregnancy weight, which is what got me out the door in those early days. I wasn’t motivated to get back to racing at all—I just wanted to feel like myself again. I didn’t expect to race well for at least a year, but then I jumped into an ITU race in Europe and finished second.

My life is a balancing act in terms of spending time with Savana and getting in the training I need to be competitive. I have my moments where I don’t want to leave her. I love to train but I always question if I am being the best mom I can be. Now that Savana is a year old, I feel much better about it. I remind myself that most moms would be fortunate to only work part-time for the first year of their child’s life. It’s time for me to go back to work now. The days when I don’t feel like training hard, that is my motivation—to save enough so I don’t have to work if I don’t want to when we have our next baby, and to achieve enough that I feel content with my career when I choose to stop racing.

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