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Five knee surgeries during a successful career as a pro netball player would not seem the logical path to qualification for an Ironman championship. But Ngarama Milner-Olsen has taken that road less traveled—even having a baby along the way—and, at 36 years old, has arrived in Kona crazy race fit.
“It’s much easier on the knees to run in a straight line, compared to the zig-zagging in netball,” the New Zealander says, but she reiterates that strength training is a huge part of her athletic longevity and transition into endurance sport.
Milner-Olsen did her first duathlon in 2013, just six months after giving birth to a daughter and retiring from the court. That was the launch of her progression into multisport, and she’s maintained a high level of fitness throughout.
“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that swim, bike, run isn’t enough,” Milner-Olsen says. Her multiple meniscus tears sustained on the netball court have left her knees vulnerable, so she’s adamant about strength and conditioning—even though there’s so little room in her schedule for it. The ex-pro mom owns a gym back home, Mobile Fitness Solutions. Her typical day begins at 4:30 a.m., and she’s at the gym by 6 a.m. working with clients; 9-11 a.m. is her own training slot; then it’s back to working with clients until 2:30 p.m. That’s when she leaves the gym to pick up her daughter from school, and the mommy-time lasts to about 6 p.m. Finally, Milner-Olsen devotes a part of her evenings to more personal fitness.
“We run a really tight ship,” she says of her home life, emphasizing her husband’s supportive role in this scheduling regimen and shared parenting. “He has his own special relationship with her, as I do, and I think that’s really healthy,” she says.
Milner-Olsen is a role model for triathletes with guilty-mom complex. She believes fitness and training for sport can make women not only healthier and stronger, but happier. “I’m so encouraged seeing pro athletes come back from pregnancy,” she says, with a nod to tri-stars like Mirinda Carfrae. “It’s about giving ourselves some time and being ok with it.”
Milner-Olsen’s husband and daughter have traveled with her to watch her race on Saturday. “No matter where they are on the course, it’s going to be magical to see and hear them.”