Follow This Mother!

Whitney Hetzel and one of her nine--yes, 9!--gorgeous children

Hearing about a mom with more kids than you do is sortof like a reverse case of "the grass is always greener"--it makes you snap up and think, "wow, if she can do it with X number of kids, then I can certainly manage with X minus Y kids!" Thus my fascination with Whitney Hetzel, a mom in Charlotte, N.C., I met via Twitter, who has nine--count 'em, you use almost all your fingers--children, aged 21 down to 2.  Find out how she does it.

Best recent run: I ran eight miles recently with my two long-time running buddies. This was a big deal because it is not easy for the three of us to actually coordinate our schedules for a run together these days. One had a baby eight months ago, and has two teenagers as well, and the other one has a three year old and twin babies. With my nine (seven still at home), you can imagine the logistics of making this work. But it did, and we enjoyed eight miles of catching up on our lives. The worst part: The eight miles went by in a flash!

Things shift with age: Running has been a part of my life as a mother since baby number one was in the womb, when I was in my early 20s. Intervals, tempo runs, and long weekend runs were all a part of my running repertoire. As we added more children...three, four, and five...I began to ease back the pace a little. My high-maintenance days were full of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and I was happy to get out for a few miles early and get it over with. As my first few children got a little older and a few more babies (six and seven) came along, and I had more help with the teenagers at home, I entered into a “social running” phase when I ran with my sister or friends. Running became an escape and a time for adult conversations. Then came more babies... eight and nine! Fatigued and happier to sleep in than get up and run, I began strength training and swimming. But I guess running dies hard. After I started to coach my high-school son’s cross country team, I found myself trying to keep up with the faster kids (while running with two in the babyjogger) and to motivate those new to the sport. Then I realized how much I really do love to run. In this present running “season,” I run three or four days a week, and I am grateful for each and every time I get out.

Make fitness a priority: Running is my secret weapon. Any form of exercise is, really, but running happens to be my favorite. All I have to do is strap on a pair of shoes and go. Running really isn’t an option for me. My kids know it. My husband knows it. I know it. If I am crabby for more than a day or two, it’s usually because I haven’t gone for a run. It keeps me sane and it keeps me strong.

No, not that floor: While most women want a stronger core and are willing to work at it, most women don’t really include the pelvic floor in the core that they are speaking of. But guess what ladies? It’s in there! And we need to be talking about it. Over half of us will deal with stress incontinence sometime in the near future. To me, knowledge is good. Although not everyone is aware of this, there are physical therapists in most cities who work almost exclusively with patients trying to strengthen this area. Bio-feedback and other methods of analysis can show us our weakness and help us to get stronger in this area. I believe this should become a crucial part of our training--as important as stretching or strength training, even.

Running with kids: One thing I make an effort to do is run with my teenagers. Even if we don’t talk much, it’s a chance for us to share something and to build on as they get older. My 13-year-old is a good little runner, and she and I get out about once a week on a trail near our house for a run of 3 to 5 miles. With a large family, she feels this is a way to have some alone-time with mom. And of course, I love it! Running is a self-esteem builder, especially for girls. Many kids don’t realize that they can actually run two or three miles without stopping. This can be empowering for kids! Our oldest will be in his last year at the Naval Academy next year, and we have decided to both run the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. in October--I can’t wait.

Can’t run without: My Saucony shoes. I have very wide feet (visualize Fred Flinstone feet) and a lot of running shoes are too narrow. Saucony has a perfectly wide toebox, and my feet are quite happy in them!

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13 responses to “Follow This Mother!

  1. We’d so get along!! I can’t even express how similar we have it. I run w/my 11 yr old daughter and sometimes my 13 yrold son bikes with me. We ALL go on the bike path as a family and I run w/joggin stroller w/the baby. So nice when the family can be included in what could be a constant solo thing.

  2. Whitney, I can relate. My oldest is 14. He is running cross country and track. Although he is way faster than I am, he still likes it when we run together. He enjoys teasing me about my slow pace (and I enjoy it, too). Allowing your kids to run and being a role model to them is one of the best things you can do as a parent. You are giving them many years of health and a longer life. Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Thanks to all for the encouraging comments! And thanks to those who visited 9 Kid Fitness! It is great to support each other in our fitness endeavors…Good luck in all of yours! Thank you again, Another Mother Runner!

  3. Inspiring! You are an super role model to not only your own kids but their friends and the rest us “mother runners” as well!

  4. AWESOME!!!! Sometimes I debate on how many kids I want but when I read about women who have so many and are still able to have running in their lives – it makes me feel like maybe I can do it too! lol!

  5. Totally inspiring! LOVE that she and her midshipman are doing the race together – that’s going to be very special!!

  6. I’ve got ‘only’ five kids, and I’m mightily impressed. And I can totally relate about running being so easy to do: all you have to do is put on your shoes and run out the door.
    It’s a great feeling.

  7. okay, I will not complain about my 4 again. (well maybe for the rest of the week) what an amazing woman!!

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