ELIZABETH COTE: SINGLE MOTHERHOOD & COMPETING
Interview by Ben Yosef
It seems like I have hundreds of kids because I have been a teacher since I turned 16. But biologically, I have two smart, endearing, beautiful children. My daughter will be eight this October, and my son will be six in December.
Have you always been into training and working out?
When I was young I competed in gymnastics for a very short time, but I didn’t really become athletic until I was about 11 or 12 years old. My father was an avid runner, so my brother and I would spend a lot of time riding bikes and running alongside him.
September 11, 1999 I ran in, and won my first road race. From that time on, I was all about competing athletically in any way I possibly could. I distinctly remember competing with my cousin to see who would be able to get up on one ski water skiing, and being in P.E. class trying to bench more and run faster than any of the guys. Of course at that time I could only bench 115 lbs and run a 6:35 mile. I probably believed I was going to be setting some type of a record.
My father’s dedication to running and training for marathons really helped me see the importance of being healthy. I was the star of my cross country team for 4 years. I loved the feeling of accomplishment and ability to free myself from stress when I ran.
Knowing that I am in complete control of the outcome when I workout is so empowering. Working out or training for competitions is about more than just proving something to other people. It is about discipline, a positive mentality and being better than I was yesterday.
“I distinctly remember… being in P.E. class trying to bench more and run faster than any of the guys.”
When did you become interested in competing?
After the birth of my son I had two very young children and I was newly single. I had tried to continue running as a form of stress relief, but I wasn’t getting the results I desired. Getting the kids in the stroller and going for a run seemed to be adding stress instead of relieving it, so I started taking a few classes at the YMCA where I worked at the time.
I absolutely loved the burn I felt the next day, the energy and confidence I gained, and most of all the way my children were able to make friends and be involved in the community I was raised in. Going to the YMCA for “mommy” to workout became a part of our daily routine and the results helped me regain my sense of self-worth and confidence.
A little over three years ago, a few friends of mine competed in Fitness Atlantic and that was when I first learned about Body- building competitions. Many friends and family members would constantly tell me how great my body looked after having two children and that I should compete. When I mentioned it to my friends who had just competed, they told me there was no way I would be able to have the discipline to stick to the diet. Honestly, that was my biggest motivator when I was first interested in the sport. If someone I really care about tells me I won’t be able to do something, I make every effort to achieve and exceed that goal.
How hard is to prep for a contest while raising children on your own?
When I’m prepping for a show, my life really doesn’t change all that much. Working out has always been part of my life and I want to make sure it is something my kids see the value in. Some days are better than others and I have moments when I question what I am doing, but at the end of the day, I feel really good about myself and how much my kids and I are able to do together. I am very blessed to have so much time with my kids. We are always on the go, but we have so much love and excitement in our lives.
I think because I am a single mother and their father isn’t around to teach them about strength and how to love, it makes my job much more important. It is critical that I take care of my health and wellbeing so I can be there for my kids now and in the future.
“…they told me there was no way I would be able to have the discipline to stick to the diet. Honestly, that was my biggest motivator…”
I see working out as an investment. I am much healthier mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually since I made a commitment to fitness. That is what children really need, a healthy role model that they can count on and look up to.
Although it is absolutely crazy sometimes trying to manage food prepping, their extra-curricular activities, school, work, working out, etc., it is worth it for me to be able to provide that model for my kids and my students. My goal is to show others that no matter how little time we have, how difficult something may seem, it is possible, with hard work and dedication, to attain success.
Do you have help from family members or babysitters?
There is absolutely no way I would be who or where I am without the help of my family and friends, who often double as “babysitters.” My parents, brother, grandparents and even aunt, all live within a few miles from my house and work.
When I am training, my kids come with me to the YMCA, which provides up to 2 hours of babysitting services each day. Going to the Y is a privilege to them because they love all the staff and activities available to them. I absolutely wouldn’t be able to train for my shows if it weren’t for the YMCA and the wonderful childcare staff.
There is no way I could justify having my kids in a daycare room at another gym for two hours a day. When I am competing, my parents are a huge help, either bringing them to the show to watch me, or doing something exciting while I am busy. My daughter is getting old enough now that she really likes to come to the shows and help me with touching up my tan, perfecting my make-up and cheering me on. It is absolutely amazing to me how fast they are growing up. Before I know it, they are going to be up on stage with me!
“When I am competing, my parents are a huge help, either bringing them to the show to watch me, or doing something exciting while I am busy.”
How do you manage sticking to eating prep foods with children? I am sure they aren’t eating what you eat! [laughs]
Well, I must be the meanest mother ever because I make my kids eat balanced dinners. Luckily my kids eat breakfast, lunch, and snack at school so I don’t have to drool over their food. Maybe my daughter is just trying to make me happy, but it seems like she loves chicken just as much as I do. I try to pack all my meals for the week on Sunday nights and bring my food to work with me each day.
My mom and I used to bake a lot of cakes when I was younger and now my kids bake with me. Of course I don’t bake as many cakes, but I try to get creative with meals. I am always looking up new recipes that are high in protein but low in fats and sugars. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is hard to pack my kid’s lunches with cookies, chips, sandwiches and fruit juices without wanting to have some, but I am good at reminding myself that it would be counterproductive.
Sometimes when I am making my kids something to eat, my daughter will ask me if I can eat what she is eating and if my answer is no, she will tell me she doesn’t want to have that meal. Other times, I will ask for them to give me just one bite of something like their ice cream or cereal and they will tell me I can’t have any because I have a show soon. I try to explain why certain foods are good for them and not me, so they will have a better understanding. I really think it is a good learning experience for all three of us. They are funny and I love how little things like choices in food will bring out their personalities.
You competed in two shows last year and have already done four this year. So, you are a pretty active competitor. How does having children impact your competing frequency?
I don’t think having children has impacted my competing frequency because competing has become part of our lives. My kids (daughter especially) like to come to my shows and meet new friends. When I am competing, I am only on stage for a few minutes, so when the kids come with me to shows I actually get to spend a lot of the day with them. It gives us an opportunity to travel and play games or color together while meeting and inspiring others.
“…she really likes to come to the shows and help me with touching up my tan, perfecting my makeup and cheering me on.”
My kids are very proud of my success and I am proud to be their mom. It is the most amazing feeling to see my kids rooting for me when I am up on stage. When my kids aren’t at my shows, it just isn’t the same when I get off the stage. I feel a empty inside. And no, it isn’t because I’m hungry.[laughs] I am actually really looking forward to this August because I have the month off of work and I plan to take my kids with me to a few competitions that we will make into mini vacations together. It is exciting and gives us all something to look forward to.
What tips or advice would you give to other moms who compete, especially the single moms?
Cherish every moment with your children and help them understand your goals while they grow along with you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re selfish for spending time at the gym or competing. If you’re sharing your experiences with your children and helping yourself get to a healthier place, you’re doing more for your child than you could even imagine.
If you ever feel guilty, take a step back to reflect. Being healthy and making fitness a priority doesn’t mean sacrificing your time with your kids. Think of ways to integrate the activities your children already enjoy doing into your workouts. Recently, one of my favorite things to do in this nice summer weather is go to the park and do workouts on the playground while my kids play.
There was also a time when I worked out at work on my lunch because my kids had evening activities almost daily. I tell my students all the time that if they really care enough about something they will make it a priority. Working out helps me relieve stress and gain confidence which should absolutely be priorities to us moms, that is why I am sure it remains a priority for me. I am extremely passionate about fitness, education, children and helping others, so being able to help other mothers is one of the best feelings. Please contact me on Facebook @Elizabeth Cote or Instagram @e.cote if you have any questions or feedback. Despite my busy schedule, I will always make every attempt to help others as much as I can.
“Cherish every moment with your children and help them understand your goals while they grow along with you.”
What’s next for you?
Maybe I will meet a genuine, dedicated and loyal man and get married??! Back to reality… It is actually hard for me to tell at this point what is next because I am really happy with where I am in life; owning a home, working in a rewarding career, having an exciting hobby and a way to network through competing, and most of all a wonderful support system (lead by my children)!
I actually just graduated from a parent leadership program this past June and I am really looking forward to teaching a class about how fitness impacts your role as a parent. Something I am hoping to start up again this year is an after school fitness group at the high school I teach in. I will also be going back for my masters soon and I am really interested in learning more about physical education and athletic training so that may be something I pursue. I can tell you this much, I am absolutely not done competing any time soon! BIKINI
“It is actually hard for me to tell at this point what is next because I am really happy with where I am in life…”
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