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Article updated: 6/13/2013 11:08 AM

Suburban triathletes swim, bike, run through motherhood


One-year-old Matt squeals happily while he plays with his 5-year-old sister Molly.

Their mother, Jennifer Garrison of Naperville, casually checks on her children as she discusses how she manages being a mother of three, coaching triathletes at her own business and volunteering at her children's school -- while still taking time for herself to work out.

"What I've realized is … (training) is what makes me 'me' and it feeds me," Garrison said. She has had to cut back significantly since her days as a professional triathlete, but taking a few minutes to exercise when she can makes her a better mother and wife, she said.

Garrison is one of seven co-authors of a new book, "Tri-Mom: Swimming, Biking, and Running Through Motherhood." Debra Hodgett of West Chicago, who spearheaded the project, asked friends and acquaintances -- Garrison, Carla Hastert, Chris Palmquist, Elizabeth Waterstraat, Jennifer Harrison and Lindsay Zucco -- to contribute to the book.

Garrison continues to share her insight while three of her co-authors listen in and help keep her young children and Hodgett's energetic black Labrador mix distracted.

The controlled chaos is familiar to this group of women -- they regularly switch between their different roles, sometimes from one minute to the next.

Their collaborative effort details experiences like Garrison's: managing motherhood and a career, while trying to maintain their passion for an active lifestyle.

The women met through their shared interest in triathlons and their training. Hodgett said she chose this group of women because readers can identify with the variety of experiences.

While the stories are unique to each woman, they all cover a common ground, said Hastert, a Batavia resident.

"It all comes back to the fact that we're trying to follow our passion," Hastert said. "We're trying to be athletes, it's important to us to be moms and we're also trying at some level to have a career." Palmquist, of Geneva, agreed. She said that taking time for her kids and her workout has encouraged her to be flexible and resourceful; and sometimes that meant going for a run right after dinner on a full stomach.

"Sometimes with your workout, you set the bar lower -- you don't need to be an Iron Man," Hodgett said.

Zucco, a full-time physical therapist who lives in Elburn, reinforced this point and said it's not just a book for triathletes, it's for any mom who wants to have time for herself.

In the book, she shares a story which highlights her effort.

Her children were 4 years old at the time and she had been struggling with leaving them to go for a run. She said she had been feeling guilty about taking time away from her kids.

Zucco's husband knew training was important to her, so he told her to run to the sledding hill, and he would drive the children to meet her. She said it made her feel good that she got in her workout and the kids got to go sledding -- she was able to balance both roles well.

She admitted that not every day works out like this, but, "You do everything you can to make it fun for everybody," she said.

Being a triathlete helped Hodgett sustain her drive to finish the book, she said. After months of writing, promoting the book, sending emails to publishers and media outlets, and talking with her editor, she said when the letter came from Dog Ear Publishing, she cried.

"The book was like climbing Mount Everest," Hodgett said,

After 45 minutes of talking in Hodgett's living room, the children are starting to get restless -- the plastic rhinoceros and fire truck just aren't cutting it anymore. Garrison gathers up her "mommy" bag and children, says quick goodbyes and is gone within minutes. Just like that, she is back in full mom mode.

Ÿ For details or to purchase a copy of the book, visit www.debrahodgett.com.

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