Kerri Walsh is training to win her third Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball, and for the first time, she is doing it as a mom.
Since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Walsh and husband Casey Jennings have added two sons, Joseph and Sundance, to the family. That has meant all the usual household changes -- less sleep being a big one -- as well as a shift in her outlook. Now one of corporate sponsorships, P&G, has her featured in its Thank You, Mom campaign that raises money for youth sport organizations across the country.
Motherhood also prompted Walsh to revise her workout strategy. Walsh had included Pilates in her regimen for about five years before becoming pregnant. Then she decided to ramp it up.
"Something was missing," she says. "I was feeling a disconnect. I felt like I hit a plateau lifting weights, and my movements didn't feel very efficient. Pilates gives you such great body awareness. When I got pregnant, I really got into Pilates because I wanted to fix all my asymmetries and deficiencies and go from there. I have a new body because of it."
Walsh, who shed 36 pounds of baby weight after each pregnancy, found that her Pilates work translated into results in competition.
"I'm a big believer in it," Walsh says. "If you have a strong core, you can do anything. You're faster, you're stronger, you jump higher. It's your foundation."
Walsh doubled her Pilates sessions to two a week after becoming pregnant for the first time, and she continues to maintain that schedule. But she says Pilates is more than just what she does during each one-hour session.
"Even when I'm not doing Pilates, when I'm doing weightlifting, cardio or circuits, I'm still implementing the Pilates lessons that I've learned and doing things the right way now," she says.
Each session is a little different, based on how her body is feeling. Sometimes it's devoted to recovery and flexibility while other sessions concentrate on building endurance and strength. "It's really cool that you can do so much in Pilates," she says.
Perhaps that constant variety is why Walsh has trouble distinguishing one aspect of Pilates that was particularly helpful during her pregnancies.
"I can't think of one that I would put above the other," she says. "I just think the whole mindset of Pilates is huge. Pilates 101 is just to use your core in the right way. A lot of us don't use every little detailed muscle in our core. We all use the big muscles in our body and don't focus on the little ones. That mindset and awareness is huge. I take that with me wherever I go. So I can't give you just one -- they're all wonderful."
It didn't long for Walsh to be a believer. She remembers after one of her earliest sessions thinking, "I'm so ignorant and I'm so inefficient in how I use my body. There's so much more power and strength inside me."
Although Walsh has been quite the devotee to Pilates, she hasn't added its friendly cousin yoga to her routine. Yet.
"One day," she says. "One day I will."
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