Olympic Swimmer Dana Vollmer Is Going for Gold -- but Her Son Always Comes First
Find out how this mom and athlete juggles the responsibilities of both those roles.
By Liz Alterman
Training for the Olympics seems daunting all on its own. Now imagine attempting it shortly after giving birth and with a teething baby at home. Sounds nearly impossible, right? But that's exactly what four-time Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer, a momma on a mission, is doing -- and that's just one of the reasons the record-setting swimmer is kicking off our Moms Who Inspire series this May.
The powerhouse, who hails from Texas, set two world records at the London Olympics in 2012 and won three gold medals. She's hoping to return to the pool in Rio this summer and add to her collection.
But a lot has changed in the past four years for the 28-year-old. Vollmer married former Stanford University swimmer Andy Grant, and gave birth to the couple's first child, son Arlen, in March 2015.
CafeMom had a chance to speak with the Olympian about her amazing post-pregnancy comeback, which has been a feat in itself, at Procter & Gamble's launch of the newest installment of the "Thank You Mom" campaign.
"Trying to survive as a new mom was step one," explains Vollmer, "and then it was, 'Can I introduce some training?' It was very humbling. It's hard to get back in shape. I had put on 50 lbs. I had not really trained for two years and, to come back after giving birth, it was ground zero."
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The athlete credited breastfeeding and training simultaneously with forcing her to make her health and nutrition a major focus.
"It was nice for me because I felt that balance. It wasn't just me trying to lose weight or get back in shape. It was always about health and it was about having enough nutrients and eating a little bit in excess to make sure I had enough to produce the milk that I needed for him," she says.
Though the swimmer, revered for her butterfly stroke (arguably the most difficult), has been taking it day by day, her son and the time they share remains her top priority.
Waking each day at 4:30 a.m., Vollmer practices for two hours in the pool before starting her weight training session. While she's working out, her husband and Arlen get their quality time together. A nanny then watches the 1-year-old for the hour between when Grant heads to work and Vollmer returns from practice.
"It's the perfect schedule in my mind," the doting mom says. "I set it up as that because that's what I could manage. That's how I felt happy being a mom and giving my time to Arlen, and then it was more of a: 'We'll see if this is enough to make a run at Rio.'"
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The champion has been pleasantly surprised with how she's been able to rebound given her new time constraints and, of course, lack of sleep. She noted that she's been amazed by how motherhood has taught her to train "smarter."
"I only have the two hours to practice," says Vollmer. "I can't rely on having six hours of training. I have to be smarter in what I'm doing and the intensity that I bring to what I'm doing. Then I have the rest of the day with Arlen."
While she adores spending as much time as possible with her little man, from a training standpoint, she admits, "It's a very different day."
"I used to go have a hard workout, have food, have a three-hour nap. I definitely can't do that one anymore," Vollmer jokes. "It's about finding so much more strength as a mom. Just get it done."
Where does the gold medalist draw inspiration? From her own mom, of course.
"You have a whole new appreciation for what your mom did," she says. "I watched my mom give everything to me and my brother. She did anything to make our dreams come true and I know that's the mom that I want to be."
Vollmer also credits her mom, Cathy (above), for her mantra: "Everything is going to be all right." Whether she's in the pool competing or up all night trying to comfort her teething toddler, the new mom is grateful for the peace of mind her mother instilled in her.
"No matter what is thrown at you, you're going to get through it. It's going to be okay. My mom was really amazing at always wanting to be in the present and cherish the moment and really trying to make each day special," she says.
Looking ahead, Vollmer says she and her husband are excited to get Arlen involved in sports.
"I want to just be the supportive mom that's there for him. I don't ever want to cross that boundary of trying to coach him," Vollmer says. "I can't wait to be a mom in the stands."
Image via Liz Alterman
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