Nutrition & Health
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Date Posted: 2 May 2022
May the force of strong mothers be with us. Today you'll meet Nicole and Olivia, follow the link below to learn about their journeys as single mums and the challenges that come with it.
Nicole Jukes: @nicolejukes
What is your sport/exercise of choice?
My sport of choice is the Backyard Ultra. It is a 6.7km loop every hour on the hour until there is only one person left standing. I did my first Backyard Ultra in 2020 at Clint Eastwood. I am now a Community Ambassador for Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra. This race format makes me feel strong. To be successful in this type of race it isn't just about training to be physically fit. It is about training to be mentally fit. Having fitness in both of those areas brings an unbelievable strength which then filters into other areas of your life.
How many children do you have?
I am a mother to 3. My daughter Amity is 10, my son Jack is 8 and my firstborn son Max would be 11 this year, however he passed away from a congenital heart defect (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) and is a big reason why I run ultras.
What challenges have you faced as a mother in regards to your fitness/exercise?
The biggest challenge I find most mothers face is the guilt that comes with taking time out for ourselves to train and pursue our passions. However, it is so important that we do make the time to do the things that bring us joy because it ultimately makes us happier and equips us to be better mothers.
How have you overcome this challenge?
I am a single mum so for me a lot of my ultra training is done on a treadmill in the darkness of the very early morning before the kids wake up. I like to fit most of my treadmill long runs in before they wake up so I am not taking too much time away from them. For shorter sessions the kids and I like to go to the local track where I can run in circles while they either do some laps themselves or play on the oval.
What has been your greatest achievement in your sport/exercise?
My greatest achievement to date would be starting lap 26 at Clint Eastwood Backyard Ultra in 2021. It was my first time cracking 100 miles. I will never forget the moment I crossed the line after lap 24 straight into the arms of my crew and cried with an overwhelming sense of relief that I had finally done it. I wanted 100 miles so bad. It really is something I will never forget.
How do you incorporate exercise into your daily/weekly routine?
My training is non-negotiable. At the start of every week as soon as my coach sends through my training plan I map it all out with my other commitments (work, uni, kids) and plan exactly when my training will be done each day. It is usually very early in the mornings or in my lunch breaks at work. I never waste a minute on any given day. It is all accounted for. If you plan it out there is a better chance of you sticking to it and prioritising it.
Do your children have any involvement in your exercise/sport?
I try to get my kids involved by taking them to the track and we like to go along to Junior Parkrun. I don't like to push them into it because I want them to enjoy it and find the love for it themselves.
Do you have any future goals?
My ultimate goal would be to break the Australian Female Backyard Ultra record or to at least get to 40 yards. It currently stands at 41 yards with Jess Smith. There are so many amazing women stepping up to the line in this sport now so it may never happen for me but it will sure be fun trying!
What advice would you give to any mothers wanting more physical activity but may be unsure as to where to start?
Just start. Put on your shoes and walk out the door. It doesn't have to be much. If you go too hard too soon you will simply lose interest and give up. You don't just wake up one day and run a marathon or an ultra. It takes time. We all start at zero. Walk to the end of the street, then around the block, then run/walk a little. Eventually with consistency, what you once thought was hard will become easy and enjoyable. Grab some friends and go for a jog. Grab a coffee afterwards. Join a run group. Make it an enjoyable experience. I am a huge advocate for people to take up running. I guarantee it will change your life and the people you will find along your way will become priceless and irreplaceable. It is so much more than just running.
Anything you would like to add?
A great place for mothers to start their fitness journey is Running Mums Australia. It is a closed Facebook group with over 40,000 members Australia-wide of mothers who like to run. It is a safe group with a wealth of knowledge and experience with runners of all abilities from those just starting their journey to some of our wonderful Olympian mums.
Running has been the sport of my choice for many years. While I started running consistently about 6 years ago, I’ve always run just really casually on and off since my third son was born, mostly for health and fitness but also for the mental space. I’ve always loved getting outdoors especially when we’re so lucky to have such a great natural environment to enjoy. To me running is pure joy. I find it inspiring, and it makes me feel so free. I used to just do road running but back in 2016 through Intraining I won an entry and accomodation to do the Hamilton Island Hilly half marathon and that’s when I really discovered my love for trails. I’ve never looked back and still absolutely love running both trail and road.
I have three sons. Their ages are 32, 30 and 23 and they amaze me constantly with their diversity of skills and unique talents. We are all still very close even though the oldest two have long moved out of home. I just treasure our time together.
I was a single mother for many years when my boys were young and I found it a real challenge going back to study at university and work and keep up with all the school obligations and sport and fit my own training in. It was non-stop and I look back and wonder how I did it all. I was lucky I had the help of my grandma and other parents to carpool for sport. I’ll never forget my youngest riding his bike with me along the river at West End while I ran, as one way that I managed. I’ll also never forget running up from the ferry wharf at UQ to get my assignments in on time.
Organisation and flexibility are so important when there’s a lot to balance. I found being prepared to just get up super early and having early nights is really important but also being flexible to adjust when needed.
I’d have to say completing the Brisbane marathon in 2017 and Surfcoast 50km in 2019 have been some of the most rewarding achievements. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of even getting to that start line, pushing through and then finishing with such an amazing feeling.
I’ve unfortunately had to recover from a couple of consecutive injuries and I’ve just recently made it back to be able to start training again for some events later this year. In doing that it’s been critical to be consistent. I’m lucky I’m such a morning person, I make sure to get up in time to get it done before work even if it means a 4.30 alarm.
My sons are not keen on running. My eldest ran with me occasionally though he was kind of gangly but still much faster than me despite no training. My middle son was a great runner in high school but ran more for his footy, as he was a wing it was really important that he was fast. My youngest has done a couple of trail hikes with me but prefers mountain bike and motocross.
I am determined to build up my ability to do distances in a safe way, then see what events are possible. I’m hoping to do Coastal High and Blackall later in the year and a road half marathon, either the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.
Be brave and make a start. Look for groups of like-minded people, such as within Running Mums Australia, or Ladies of the Trails or a local Parkrun can be a lot of fun. Even the local gym if you need a crèche.
What have you learned over the years and what advice do you pass on?
To enjoy the journey, the wonderful supportive community and adventures the sport brings. Don’t compare yourself to others or even your former self, it’s all relative. Just getting started, or running a continuous 5 km can be just as big to some as running a marathon: Be kind to yourself, patient and appreciate and celebrate your efforts and all your achievements. You are amazing just for getting out there.