Tracy Henning is a record-breaking "lumberjill," an athlete who cuts and saws wood in competitions. She's also the mother of a toddler, Drake — so she knows all about the challenges of pursuing competitive goals while parenting.
"It was a lot easier to prepare for a competition without having a toddler," Henning told TODAY Parents, adding that she was told she couldn't have kids initially. "When I first found out I was pregnant, I'd just gotten back from Sydney. I was on the U.S. team. ... It was like my miracle pregnancy, so everything was scary."
Henning didn't stop competing, and she was able to finish most of her season before giving birth.
"I competed all the way up 'til October, and then he was born in December," she said. "I pretty much did the entire season. I had to see my doctor more often, and she kept going, 'How much longer do you really want to do this?' And I'm like, 'Until I can't anymore. Until you tell me I cannot.'"
Henning was still breastfeeding when she returned to the sport, and she still managed to smash records.
"My first competition back after having Drake, I got a single-block world record," Henning said. "It was so awesome because I was breastfeeding. I was like, holy crap, I'm competing, I've got a teeny-tiny baby, and then I walked out there and broke the world record."
Despite her victory and consistently strong record, Henning said she sometimes worried that she wasn't doing enough for her son.
"There's definitely times where I would break down and question everything, like maybe I should just give this up because I'm his mom, and I'm supposed to be the one that is potty-training him and teaching him things," Henning said. "And I want to do those things, but it's such a conflict because I still want to be Tracy Henning and Drake's mom, and sometimes that's super hard. Balancing motherhood and marriage and everything is very difficult."
Now, though, they've figured out a routine.
"A normal day in the middle of my season is wake up, get Drake ready, get him to daycare, go to work, try to do something with him that's like, Mommy-Drakey time, and then I go to two different gyms, depending on classes," Henning explained.
Despite having a day-to-day routine with built-in quality time, Henning said it can be difficult getting ready for competitions when Drake is around. During her earlier years of competing, she said she had a "different headspace."
"I felt like I could focus more," she said. "I had my routines, I had my certain practices, my warmups, my stretches. ...
"Now it's really hard ... to be in it and angry and hungry and just wanting to rip stuff apart, and a simple smile from Drake will snap me out of it."
Henning, 40, noted that she's approaching retirement for her sport, but she still wants to set an example for her son. For that reason, she's determined to stay in the game as long as she can.
"I'm getting up there in age and I feel like some people are like, 'When are you going to retire?'" she said. "But there's still a fight left in me, so I'm not ready to retire. ... What keeps me going is that, I think, ultimately, I want Drake to be able to be proud of me when he gets older. Like, 'My mom did this. My mom was awesome. She was on national stages. She won world records.' I want him to be proud. That's what keeps me going."