Photo Credit: Courtesy of the American Heart Association
Gold medalist and two-time Olympian Jennie Finch retired from softball in 2010, but the former pitcher has done anything but slow down. These days the busy mom of two young sons -- Ace, 6, and Diesel, 1 -- runs several softball camps and an academy, recently played in the All Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, authored an autobiography, Throw Like a Girl: How to Dream Big and Believe in Yourself, and not too long ago starred in The Celebrity Apprentice.
Married to baseball player Casey Daigle, Finch also serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association’s Billion Calorie Count-Up, an initiative that is encouraging Americans to burn one billion calories by 2020. "I love working with the American Heart Association, helping them to motivate America to move and stay active," Finch recently told iVillage. "We can only be the best we can be if we are fit."
The softball beauty (she was, after all, named one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004) chatted exclusively with iVillage recently, opening up about the importance of having perspective while competing in the Olympics, revealing how she got her toned physique back after having two babies, and dishing on how she juggles (and struggles with!) being a working mom on the go. Check out the full interview below.
The Olympics are right around the corner -- what advice do you have for athletes training right now?
I would say enjoy this moment, the process, as hard as it is. I know the Olympics seem so far away, but it will be here in a minute. We trained in Italy for a month before the 2004 Olympics and it seemed like it was never going to come. It was hard and I was sore and in pain and hurting and away from my family, but now I look back and think, “That was the life.”
Perspective is also really important. We lost our coach’s wife [Sue Candrea] a month before the ’04 Olympics, she was traveling with us at the time. Our life was only about the Olympics, we were training all day, every day, and it was all that we thought or talked about. And then all of the sudden, within 36 hours, we lost her to a brain aneurysm. It was shocking how quickly things could change. And that’s why it’s so important to ultimately know that it is just a sport. It’s not easy, though -- especially when you’ve been hoping and dreaming of this your whole life.
What is the best part of participating in the Olympics?
Representing our country, there is no greater honor. It’s so much bigger than yourself, your hometown, your state. To participate in an event that involves the whole world in a competitive and healthy but peaceful way, no words can describe it.
You retired from professional softball in 2010. What have you been up to since then?
First and foremost, I had my second son, he is a year old now! I’ve also written a book, I filmed an instructional pitching DVD. Mainly I’m enjoying motherhood. It’s slower pace of life for sure, rather than being on the road with the team all the time.
Being a new mom, did you find it difficult to get back into shape?
I had two really easy pregnancies, which I think made getting back into shape that much easier. But for me it was staying fit during my pregnancy, staying active. I was able to get right back into things after both babies. I had my baby Diesel last June and I ran the New York City Marathon in November, just four months later. It was great to have a goal and it was great way to get back in shape. I think making yourself a priority is key. For me the best mom I can be is being a fit mom, being a great example for my boys. If I get a good workout in I have so much energy, it helps me emotionally and physically.
How do you make eating right and exercising fun for your kids?
It’s a struggle! I try to put as many colors on the plate as I can and make vegetables taste good for them. It’s so great how many of the vegetables in produce section are pre-cut nowadays, it makes my job so much easier -- I can just throw them in a pot of water and steam rather than peeling and chopping for an hour. Introducing them to all fruits and vegetables at a young age was important to me. I’m not going to lie, mac and cheese has its place in our house, but having fruits and healthy options on hand as snacks is crucial.
I’m still traveling a lot, and I can’t get to gym every day, so I fit exercise in when I can, whether that’s jumping on trampoline with my 5-year-old or taking the baby for a walk. If I tell my son to go play outside, he doesn’t want to, he wants to be inside with me. But if I’m outside running around, that’s where he wants to be. It’s special family time, and you don’t realize you are getting exercise simultaneously.
How do you juggle all the demands of being a working mom on a daily/weekly basis?
I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it’s not and I struggle with it daily. I want to be perfect. I want my kids to have the best childhood possible, I want to be the best wife to my husband. And I always feel like I’m coming up short. I think all moms have guilt, so I try to always be living in the moment now. If I’m thinking of all the things I have to do later, I miss out on the fun of putting my son to bed. I try to focus on my priorities, what really matters. A dirty house doesn’t matter, reading my son a bedtime story does. Believe me, if I look at a monthly calendar I will be in tears and overwhelmed. So I take it one day at a time.
Is motherhood different or similar for being a professional athlete? Which is harder?
Motherhood! Being an athlete you are in control of yourself and choices. As a mom, a piece of your heart is removed and in this little human being, and you want everything to be so perfect for them. A lot of things are no longer in your control. They grow up so fast and you want to protect them from everything. For me, traveling is the hardest part. I thought it would get easier as they got older, but it never gets easier, because now they can talk -- they can say they miss you.
WATCH: How Kerri Walsh Balances Family, Career and 2012 Olympics in London
Courtney Thompson is iVillage’s senior homepage producer. Follow her on Twitter: @courtneythomp.