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Beth Gerdes proudly sports several titles these days–pro triathlete, coach and, most importantly, Mom. Along with boyfriend Luke Mckenzie, Gerdes welcomed daughter Wynne in May of this year. Less than four months later she stepped up to the line at Ironman Malaysia where she scored an impressive fifth place. She also earned sixth at the recent UWC Bahamas Tri. This week, Gerdes and baby Wynne are in Phuket, Thailand to support McKenzie’s bid for the Challenge Laguna Phuket title, as well as to enjoy the much-touted hospitality and luxury of the Banyan Tree Laguna Phuket Resort. I grabbed the opportunity to chat with Gerdes in order to learn her tips for a healthy return to fitness post-pregnancy.
Triathlete.com: First, congrats on your success in your return to racing! You’ve had some excellent results and you certainly look lean and fit and strong. I’m sure a lot of women would appreciate hearing your advice for a healthy return to fitness post-pregnancy–advice that can probably also apply to anyone whose fitness has lapsed. What helped you get back in shape so quickly?
BG: Thank You! Returning to racing was something I wanted to do fairly quickly (at 34, I’m not getting any younger!), but also safely. In order to return quickly after pregnancy, the most important thing I did was to keep fit during my pregnancy. I did not subscribe to any crazy training schedule while I was pregnant, but I did make sure to keep exercising at low intensity in swim, bike, run and strength one to two hours per day throughout my pregnancy. I did take days off here and there whenever I didn’t feel good, but overall, I just listened to my body and kept moving. Keeping that baseline of general fitness really helped me when I returned to actual “training” six weeks postpartum. I didn’t have to start totally from scratch and was able to build upon my base fairly quickly. One thing I did learn, though, was that I needed more recovery than I had in the past. The combination of sleep deprivation and breastfeeding made me quite tired even before adding in workouts, so I really did not beat myself up that I needed complete rest days every week instead of maybe one per month as I had taken prior to having baby Wynne. My other big tip is to keep a strength routine in both pregnancy and postpartum. I do functional strength workouts at Rehab United Sports Performance Center two times a week, and I did this throughout my pregnancy and postpartum. Having strength and muscular balance are both key to returning to fitness without injury. Your body changes structurally when you have a baby and you need to make sure to strengthen key areas (hips, pelvic floor, abs) and focus on functional movement to avoid developing poor biomechanical habits that put you at risk for injury.
Triathlete.com: Your lifestyle is very much on the move. How do you keep on top of good nutrition with traveling so much and in general having a busy schedule and an infant to look after? What are some of your favorite easy to make meals and on-the-go snacks?
BG: Good nutrition has certainly been a challenge since having a baby. Typically, I come in from a tough workout and instead of making myself a recovery meal, I need to breastfeed Wynne right away, which can take 30-40 minutes–that critical refueling window! Luckily, Luke is sponsored by chocolate milk, so I admit to stealing from his stash for a quick mix of protein and carbs post-workout until I can get into the kitchen an hour or two later. We have traveled a lot since having Wynne. By five months old she had already been to France, Switzerland, Germany, Oregon, Hawaii and the Bahamas. When traveling, I pack some healthy snacks like apples and almonds and also Bonk Breakers for snacks on flights. Bonk Breaker has a new High Protein Cookies & Cream bar that tastes amazing and is also gluten free and made with real ingredients, so I like snacking on those. I need to constantly be getting enough good calories to fuel my workouts, but also to make enough milk for Wynne! When I’m at home or have access to a kitchen, I love making quick egg scrambles with lots of veggies and topped with avocado. My go-to five-minute carb/protein fix is a microwaved sweet potato topped with cottage cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Triathlete.com: With both you and Luke training, I imagine you have to juggle your schedules a bit so that each of you can get in the training you need while also taking care of Wynne. Do you ever struggle with training at certain times of day, and if so, how do you make sure you’re ready to go and get the most out of yourself whenever those windows of time open up?
BG: This has been a big adjustment. We have had family (namely Luke’s sister Jacque) helping us since Wynne’s birth, so Luke and I can often train together, but when they are not around we definitely do a lot of tag-teaming. When Luke was preparing for Ironman Hawaii and I was preparing for Ironman Malaysia, we decided as a family that his race and training was the absolute priority, since it was the world championships and he had a shot at winning. I would often get the “leftover” training time, which might be a quick 45 minutes before dinner or some other sub-optimal training window. I do struggle with training in the evening, but when you have an infant, your body clock is all out of whack anyway and you just make it work. There is no more messing around and if you find a window to get out the door, you take it! Recently, as I’ve been preparing for Ironman Western Australia and Luke has been preparing for Challenge Laguna Phuket, he has had fewer training hours. A couple times he’s been Mr. Mom as I’ve gone out for a longer workout. It’s really cute–he takes Wynne to the coffee shop and dresses her in cute outfits. He is a great Dad and loves it.
Triathlete.com: What’s next for you–and what are your long-term athletic goals?
BG: Ironman Western Australia on Dec. 7! My long-term goals are to qualify for Kona in 2015 and to win an Ironman in the next one to two years. Simple, right? You can keep up with our racing, training and travels on my blog, which can be accessed through Bethgerdes.com.