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Sonja Tajsich has her hands full—and that’s putting it mildly. The three-time Ironman champion and fourth-place Kona finisher (2014) is toting six-week-old daughter Julia in a front baby carrier while hauling three Challenge Regensburg athlete backpacks in one hand and sending a text message with the other. All this, with a sparkling smile and an aura of calm and compassion about her that even a yoga master might struggle to muster.
This week marks the inaugural Challenge Regensburg race, an even which Sonja and husband Thomas are producing in their beloved home city in Bavaria in Germany. The three backpacks are for Sonja and her relay teammates; Tajsich will tackle the swim leg as an unofficial return to competition following Julia’s birth. The race is a project spurred by the couple’s passion for the venue plus Sonja’s experience as Ironman Regensburg Champion in 2010.
“2010 was an amazing race—and not only because I’m from here and everyone was shouting Sonja, Sonja!” she says. “It’s not often I have seen so many people on the run course standing and clapping. It was crowded; it was packed! It was just so nice. And the lake in the morning with the fog—it was beautiful! The bike course is good, first with the hill and then it’s almost flat, and it’s really stunning. And then the run is four loops in town. It’s one of the nicest races I’ve ever done, combining the scenery and the atmosphere and the old town. But the problem was that the finish line was in this place just outside of town, and it was like a ghost town. We always said we have to get the race back here [2012 was the final running of Ironman Regensburg] because it’s just the place for it, but with another finish line position, somewhere really special. So we tried to get it at the Dome [the local name for St. Peter’s cathedral, a magnificent monument and cornerstone of the historic city center], and now we have it there!”
Tajsich is obviously excited to see this passion project come together on the heels of another celebratory event, the addition of baby Julia to the family (the Tajsich’s eldest daughter Lisa is now eight). Asked whether she’ll eventually resume her professional triathlon career—which began in 2002—Tajsich is comfortably uncertain.
“I’m planning to, but I’m not sure yet. I don’t want too much pressure on myself,” says Tajsich. “When I gave birth to Lisa I decided to stop triathlon. It was done for me; it was finished. And I was a very relaxed mommy. But because I love sports I went to the gym. After half a year I was doing sports at the gym, and with the trailer, and with the jogger—like a mom does, or maybe a little more—but I did it just to have fun. And Thomas said, ‘It was always your dream to become professional, don’t you want to try?’”
Although she had been a pro “on paper” for several years, until then Tajsich was always either a student or working full-time in conjunction with racing; triathlon was not yet her sole professional focus. So she decided to give it an all-in try, and with proper, disciplined training the results followed.
“I think it worked very well because I was so relaxed before and I didn’t put the pressure on myself. And because I was relaxed, Lisa was relaxed too, and then it was OK for her that I did it. I think right now if I had it in my imagination that I needed to come back—and come back soon—that’s too much pressure, and then the baby would feel it, too. So I would rather wait and see what happens. If I see that it is good and I see the progress coming back, then why not? But if I see that it’s not so good, or maybe I’m too old now (I turned 40 in December) and I can’t ever get the performance that I had before, then maybe I’ll just do it for my own [enjoyment].”
Meanwhile, in addition to motherhood and working on the race, Tajsich keeps busy coaching (she has 30 athletes on her roster) and as a business owner (she and Thomas own endurance sports retailer Purendure). Who better to share advice on balancing numerous responsibilities and interests, and ways to involve young children in one’s own training? Here’s how Tajsich succeeds in managing her time.
Relax, But Stay Organized
Tajsich’s relaxed approach is bolstered by her natural discipline. “Relaxation is important, but still you need to balance everything somehow, because each thing takes time. Because I take a little bit of time for myself in doing sport, I feel personally balanced. And I’m a person of pretty good organization and pretty disciplined in what I do, so that’s also important.”
Timing Is Everything
A flexible schedule allows Tajsich to fit multiple priorities into each day. “The jobs I have are mostly with the computer and I do them mostly at night. My concentration is pretty good at night and nobody disturbs me, so I can do individual training programs for 30 athletes. It’s quite a lot! So my day is like this: In the morning I do some sport for myself, so my day starts pretty good and balanced, and I have my training done. Then I take time for the kids. Lisa’s in school now, but not Julia. Then I do some work and then I take Lisa from school and we do something together—maybe some sports. Then I am home for dinner and I can bring the kids to bed and they do not miss me too much. And then I work at night. I think if you have a job in an office eight hours a day that’s definitely more difficult. But whatever schedule you have, if you are balanced I think your kids also enjoy this balance.”
Shore Up Your Support
While many athletes with busy schedules focus primarily on quality over quantity in training, Tajsich says, “I am more the person who is riding long and watching the flowers and the scenery! The intense training is more of a hassle for me. But I try to do it, of course, because otherwise you do not get good. When I was racing I followed the schedule of a professional coach and that worked well. I knew this was my schedule and so I tried to fit it into my day as a priority. Also Thomas always said, ‘OK what’s the training today for you? That’s a priority.’ So the whole family needs to help.”
Share The Snacks
Tajsich involves daughter Lisa in her athletic lifestyle wherever she can, including on the nutrition front. “I like energy bars, but Lisa’s not so much into those. She likes ice cream more! But she really loves protein shakes. And I think they are healthy for her as well. She goes to the gym with me to the kids’ corner and she always asks, ‘Mama may we get a protein shake?’ Yes, we can.”
Get creative, says Tajsich, in order to combine the things you love the most. “When your kid is small, you can take her in the jogger, you can take her on the bike and you can take her to the gym. So you can do a lot of this together. It really works well, you just have to have some ideas to combine it and do it together. With Lisa I did a lot of training on the indoor trainer because then Lisa could be at home and I didn’t need anyone to look after her. I read books to her. She would sit and I would read books to her while I was riding! And other days we would sing songs together. And then I would say, ‘OK, we’ll take a break now because I have an interval.’ And she understood it and enjoyed it.”