It’s the modern-day mom’s proverbial challenge: how is it possible to find the time and energy to hit the gym while juggling soccer practice, going grocery shopping, meeting work deadlines, scheduling doctor appointments, prepping dinner, cleaning the house and keeping the family healthy and happy?
It’s a challenge that Kara Thom, a Chaska mom of four, fitness enthusiast and author, knows well. Working out had always been a priority for the triathlete, two-time Ironman competitor, and multiple marathon finisher. After giving birth to twin girls, another daughter, and then a son, she was forced to watch her regimented exercise plan slip away. “At that point, it wasn’t about, ‘Can I do another Ironman?’” she says. “I felt like every day was an Ironman! I was just trying to find my own fitness again and trying to carve out time to be active.”
For her, it was never about getting her pre-baby body back. Instead, her goal was to keep her body physically healthy and her mind sane. It was a mission that she soon found to be unique among the flood of material devoted to bikinied moms with record weight loss stories.
Inspired, she saw an opportunity to add her voice to sway the conversation away from moms’ appearances to one that promoted fitness-for-health and body appreciation.
So, she did what she had been doing for years. She wrote what she was living. “I was always writing about what I was doing,” she says. “I didn’t intentionally set out to do that, it just seemed like it would be fun.”
Before the birth of any of her children, she published two books. Becoming an Ironman:First Encounters with the Ultimate Endurance Event, a collection of insights on her first Ironman, published in 2001. Then, in 2003, two weeks before her twin girls were born, she published See Mom Run, a children’s book and her first foray into a life balancing exercise and motherhood.
She continued to write about what she was living, as well as help promote a health-centered and mom-friendly fitness mentality with the launch of her blog, “Mama Sweat,” and 2011 book Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, which she co-wrote with Laurie Lethert Kocanda.
In both, Thom shares her journey as an in-shape mom, including tips she’s learned along the way. For example, “If we really want to balance motherhood and fitness, the way you do that is work out with your kids around.”
“At first you just kind of want to get away and get your own time,” she says. “But then I realized how important it was that they see me do this and how it’s important for me to do things with them because fitness needed to be a part of their life, too.”
Being her children’s fitness mentor meant teaching them, especially her three daughters, about healthy body image. She wanted to be a part of raising a generation of empowered girls who believed in their bodies’ abilities, not just their looks.
She reached out to Go! Go! Sports Girls, a line of age-appropriate dolls that use sports to teach young girls about exercise, self-esteem and healthy eating habits. Over the past few months, the company has released six story books written by Thom, which accompany the dolls. “With the Go! Go! Sports Girls there is empowerment in being healthy and believing in what your body can do versus what you want it to look like,” Thom says.
This fall, Thom will continue to spread her female-friendly exercise and empowerment initiative. She is compiling some of her favorite blog posts from over the past six years into an e-book, tentatively titled Finding Fitness in the Chaos of Motherhood. In addition, she’s launching a new website, lifeasafitmom.com.
Thom is also taking up a coaching position at Jonathan Elementary for Eastern Carver County’s Continuing Education program, “More Than Pink.” It’s an eight-week training program to teach girls about empowerment, self-confidence and body image, all while training for a 5K run. “I’m so excited!” she says about her future initiatives. “It’s fun to be able to work on these things as I’m living them. I hope I’m always that lucky.”
Kara Thom’s Books
Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom
A guide written by moms for moms who want to include fitness in their lives while balancing motherhood and all of its demands.
See Mom Run
Penny watches her mom train for and run a marathon, ultimately deciding that she wants to give running a try, too.
Go! Go! Sports Girls series
A series of books for young girls that tell the stories behind sports-playing dolls and all the adventures they have while learning about exercise.
Becoming an Ironman: First Encounters with the Ultimate Endurance Event
A collection of stories detailing Kara’s first experience training for and completing the Ironman, an endurance event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run
Finding Fitness in the Chaos of Motherhood (tentative title; e-book)
A compilation of some of Kara’s favorite Mama Sweat blog posts, including fit mom ideas, managing life, kids’ fitness, and body image.