Mother's Day 2023
Moms play a big part in the rowing world: we have women who show their strength as mothers and on the water as part of a masters team; we have moms who coach not only their kids, but also a rowing team; and of course moms who support their children who row/cox! In honor of Mother's Day, we sat down with three of our Team JL Ambassadors who are all moms who row! Read about how their training has evolved pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and post-pregnancy, how rowing has helped them as moms, and what they are most proud of as moms.
JL Racing: Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start rowing and when did you become a mother?
Jennifer Klau: I became a mom in 1994, 1996 and 1998. I started rowing in 2015 when the youngest graduated high school.
Sara Dvorak: I started rowing on a college club team, rowed for a few years after graduation, took a 8 year break to have two boys and then went back to rowing on water as fast as I could! And I’m still at it!
Shannon Macika: I started rowing as a freshman novice walk-on at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2010. I became a mother in July 2022 for the first time when we welcomed our daughter Aidy!
JL: What was your life as an athlete before you became a parent, and how has it evolved since?
Jennifer: I was always an athlete (swimmer, cyclist), but it intensified once I became a parent because I had to make the best use of what little time I had. Also, training was a good counterpoint to parenting; training was about me, parenting is very much not about you.
Sara: I’ve always made it a priority to take care of myself so I’m a happier mom and overall person. Both my husband and boys have been raised knowing this.
Shannon: Pre-parenthood, I was doing my best to balance a busy work schedule with a mix of rowing 1-2x per week, strength training, running training and yoga. It wasn’t as intense as my varsity rowing or immediate post college training days, but I was doing something athletic almost every day! Since becoming a mom, I’m happy with what time I can get toward training! In the first 6 months, my baby mostly wanted to sleep on or be held by me (understandable!) so it was hard to fit in any formal workouts, but I did some light rowing on the erg and we took family walks with our dog. From 6 months, I did a virtual workout challenge for new and expecting moms and that got me motivated toward my rowing goals again, along with Germany’s Women’s Rowing Challenge for indoor rowing. Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of a setback in that I was only able to row once before aggravating a previous back injury, so I am currently focusing on rehab for that before getting back in the boat again.
JL: Did you exercise/train during your pregnancies? Did you have to adapt your training/racing since becoming a mother?
Jennifer: I was teaching group fitness classes throughout all 3 pregnancies. I had a lot less time after having kids, though I became way more efficient.
Sara: Yes!!! I worked as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer while pregnant so I was pretty active. I lifted weights during both my pregnancies, held on to rowing as long as I could and then transferred to the bike or treadmill for conditioning.
Shannon: Yes! In pregnancy, I continued to do all my normal activities until they no longer felt comfortable. For rowing, that was around 22 weeks and for running, that was around 29 weeks pregnant. I even ran my second marathon while 4 weeks pregnant, although I didn’t realize I was pregnant at the time! I also rode my bicycle for commuting throughout pregnancy and even cycled the 2 miles from my house to the grocery store on my due date (my baby was born 3 days past due date). Since becoming a mother, I’ve definitely needed to take things slower, to give myself time to heal in the postpartum period, and also listen more to my body because I can’t necessarily handle the same training load yet as I used to pre-baby (especially also while I am still breastfeeding and hormones like relaxin are still at higher levels, making me more prone to injury).
JL: Has motherhood taught you anything that translates well to rowing?
Jennifer: The chaos of parenting makes being in the boat so simple. No need to steer or think. Just do.
Sara: Organization and communication is key!
Shannon: Patience! In motherhood you have to be patient with yourself and with your child, and focus on the things you can control versus letting yourself get bogged down by all the things you can’t. For instance, I can’t control if my baby decides to refuse a nap but I can control if I practice proper self care for myself.
How has being a rower/cox/coach helped/changed you as mom?
Jennifer: Being a rower saved me when we lost our daughter during the pandemic (to a fentanyl overdose, on the other side of the country). Even though all our training, and even the funeral, was on zoom, my rowing community was incredibly supportive and is still helping me get through it. Also, if you cry during a zoom training session, no one can really tell 🤪
Shannon: Being a rower definitely helped me in birth! I had an unmedicated home water birth and definitely relied on my endurance and pain tolerance from rowing to get me through that experience.
f your children row, were you part of the inspiration behind their own journey into the sport?
Jennifer: One child (26) is a professional triathlete. He’s always been athletic, ran through high school and college. I’m sure that having an active mom and coming to races as a young kid had an effect, but my other two were much less interested.
What currently motivates you to get out and train or race? What are your current training/racing ambitions for the upcoming months?
Jennifer: Rowing kind of snuck in and took over my life when I wasn’t looking. I love being part of a team and having scheduled practices. My goals are to get myself into top form, avoid injury and hit PRs in competition.
Sara: Having races to target and teammates depending on me helps but honestly, rowing is such a priority in my life, I just do it. I do make a conscious effort to balance the give and take in my club so it isn’t all give. This helps ensure my love and passion for the sport stays strong.
Shannon: I want my daughter to be able to look up to her mom & find her own ways of moving her body / staying healthy that bring her joy. So continuing to pursue my own athletic goals is part of that. Rather than training for a specific race, at the moment my focus is on movement for functionality - so that I can continue to play with, lift, and move with my daughter as she gets bigger and more active. At the moment I am also doing physical therapy for herniated discs in my low back and working to build a strong base again. Once I’m done breastfeeding my daughter (and once my back is healed), I want to work on getting back into a more consistent training rhythm and set some race and time-based goals.
How do you balance family/work demands with your training/racing goals?
Jennifer: It helps that my kids are grown. But back in the thick of it, I mostly felt like I was juggling plates and a few always hit the ground, but you sweep up and keep going.
It’s key to carve out training/exercise time because otherwise work and parenting will just run you over and not look back. It’s essential self-preservation.
Sara: I’m blessed to be able to work part-time and schedule my days around my boys’ activities and rowing. I’m very lucky!
Shannon: Currently I live in Germany, where we have a very generous maternity leave offered compared to most employers in the USA. I’ve been home with my daughter since she was born last July, so I can focus fully on family at the moment without work demands. At the moment my training/racing goals are honestly on the back burner, but I’m enjoying the time I have now since in the grand scheme of things, I know it will just be a short period.
What are you most proud of, as a mother, and as an athlete?
Jennifer: I’m proud of maintaining my fitness and having my kids see how important that is. I treasure the pictures I have of my kids greeting me at the finish line at the top of Mt Washington four years running. And I’m proud of setting an example for other parents that it can be done and that there is life and joy after tragedy.
Sara: Showing them that moms too can kick some butt and still be a good mom. My youngest thought girls only won medals for hitting beach balls over a net in bikinis. True story!!! I’ve proudly proved him wrong.
Shannon: I’m really proud of my birth experience and also what I overcame postpartum. As I mentioned, I had an unmedicated home water birth, and I’m proud of the mental preparation I did beforehand, the physical and mental toughness that got me through the experience, and also proud of my daughter for her role in appearing into the world! It was tough and the worst pain of my life, but I’m so grateful I was able to achieve the experience I wanted and that my body cooperated. I’m sure my strength from rowing played some part in that! About a week after my daughter was born, unfortunately I also experienced an episode of postpartum psychosis, which was scary but thankfully a fleeting experience. But I am also proud of how I’ve recovered from that and how I continue to prioritize my self care and mental health to be the best mom and person I can be.
Do you have any tips or advice for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or continuing to train/compete with children?
Jennifer: Children are amazing and wonderful and terrible (usually all at once), but it’s critical to maintain your own life and identity. Although it feels like forever when you’re in the thick of it, it goes by quickly and they emerge independent (mostly), doing their own thing. So you need YOUR thing and being fit and healthy and involved in a sport is awesome.
Sara: Give yourself grace. My boys are now teenagers and the rush of life with small children goes so fast! Enjoy it! Do not be afraid to put some space on the daily/weekly calendar for you!!! Moms are often the driving force behind keeping things running at home. If the “mom” engine burns out, who will be there to take over? We often put the priorities of others before ours, we are equally just as important.
Shannon: Take it slow! And don’t be afraid to dial things back if you feel like it’s going too fast. I had a slight twinge in my back once I started back into running and rowing postpartum; had I listened to that, maybe my back injury wouldn’t have been as severe. There’s no rush to get back to your pre-baby fitness. It takes 9 months to grow a human so certainly just as long, if not longer, to get back into shape and regular training!
Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there! Whether you row, cox, coach, or support your child in the rowing community, we want to thank you for all that you do!