#Trimum: Balancing Motherhood & Triathlons

featuring Emily Huelsermann

Supermum, triathlete & fitness coach, Emily Huelsermann strives to find balance between her busy schedule as a full time mum to 2 boys and training for upcoming races.
Find our how she finds time to train and why she finds it important to encourage and instil the active & healthy lifestyle with her kids.
At the Malacca Aquathlon finish line. Image credit: Emily Huelsermann

“I am motivated by strong women. Strong mothers who sacrifice so much of themselves and still kick ass on the race field!”

1.Tell us about your background

I’m originally from San Jose, California, better known as the Silicon Valley. Born and raised in the sunshine state!  As far as I can remember, our family was always outdoors and we spent time growing up in the neighbourhood riding bikes, skateboarding, roller skating, climbing trees, jumping fences, and running up and down the streets like little rascals. The beach was an hour away and we’d spend weekends in Santa Cruz cartwheeling in the sand, jumping waves and watching surfers. Every winter, we’d head into the mountains for skiing. It was a very stereotypical American upbringing, which I feel now, is very lucky considering my parents were hardworking Taiwanese immigrants. My siblings and I became the 1st generation Asian Americans in our family.

We started moving around when I was 10, and the next decade was spent in Washington D.C, Virginia, Hong Kong, and California. I graduated with a B.S. in Exercise Biology and a minor in Asian American Studies from the University of California at Davis (UCD) and began my career in high tech / consumer electronics for the next following decade in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

2. When did you get into fitness?

When I was a toddler, I watched my mom prancing to Jazzercise in her 80s leotard to Jane Fonda and Denise Austin. I started ballet, swimming, basketball, skiing around 4-5yrs old. In high school, I was on the Varsity team for Volleyball and Cheerleading, which were both competitive sports. I started Triathlon in 2008.

3. What was your biggest challenge then?

I think my biggest challenge then, is the same as now – finding the time and managing a lifestyle balance between my love for sports and the responsibilities of life. As a student, one must focus on studies and grades, but equally have an outlet to pursue one’s passions and hobbies. As an adult, I had to find time in my hectic work schedule to exercise or take dance classes or workout at the gym. I would utilize my lunch hours to head to the gym instead of socializing at a restaurant. I would wake up extra early to get in a morning run. It’s a balancing act. (Luckily, American Culture is a proponent for well rounded lifestyles. And growing up in California – well it was quite natural for “everyone” to be active and healthy.)

Image credit: Emily Huelsermann

4. How did things change when you had your kids?

Sleep deprivation is my #1 challenge! Even now, if I don’t get enough sleep, I have to alter my training plan. I quickly realized that I will never get a full night’s rest until… Gosh who knows? The next 10 years? So, I’ve had to learn to be OK with sporadic workouts depending on my sleep levels. Which is hard if you’re competitive by nature. But sleep is just sooo… important for Moms!!!

#2 – I had to re-design my balancing act. I stopped a gym membership because there’s just no way I can spend 1-2 hrs away from home!! I stopped taking physical classes and signed up for online classes instead. I started home aerobic workouts (remember my Mom & Jane Fonda?) while kids napped, took them running in a jogging stroller, and bought a hiking backpack so we could traverse the jungle. Everything had to change in order to revolve around small children’s needs.

5. What made you decide to be a full time mum?

My mom raised us as a full time, and all my childhood memories revolve around her. I want my children to know I gave them 100% of my time. It’s so short – childhood is just a tiny bleep in the big timeline of life. It’s a blessing that we can financially afford it.

6. What does your schedule look like these days? 

My training has changed almost every year since having children. I’m constantly adjusting that balancing act, according to the rate of child independence or free time on my hands. Whereas before, with babies/toddlers, I had about 10min – 1 hr/day to exercise. Now, the boys are in nursery and reception, so I have 3hrs/day to train between 9am-12pm. My typical day looks like:
6am: Kids wake up, play.
7:30am: Prep for School.
8am: Send kids to school.
8:30/9am: Workout/Training/Sleep/Socialize.
1pm: Pick up Kids from School.
2-6pm: Mothering.
6pm: Dinner.
7pm: Bedtime.
8pm: Teach Spinning Class.
11pm: Pass out.
2am: Kids wake me up for some reason or another.

Kapas Marang International Swimathon 2018. Image credit: Emily Huelsermann

7. What races have you done this year and which were the highlights?

Ironman Langkawi 70.3:
 It is SIGNIFICANT to me as it was my first half Ironman since I had kids. 5 years later! It was a sign to me, that I’m back in the game.
Langkawi Oceanman 5km: 1st Place Women’s

Putrajaya 3km New Years Swim: 3rd Place Women’s
113 Malacca Aquathlon (1.5 swim + 10 run): 3rd Place Women’s
Swimon Port Dickson 2km: 3rd Place 
Women’s Kapas Marang 6.5km: 8th Place Women’s SIGNIFICANT to be in the top 10 Womens because it showed me that I can keep up with ex-professional, ex-national competitive swimmers.

8. What do you love about your races? 

A race is about ME. Ultimately it boils down to my mental and physical game. Often it’s a battle of self-confidence: Can I REALLY DO THIS??? Crossing the finish line just proves once more, than I am capable of all that I aspire to be. I absolutely adore seeing my family at the finish line. I bring my kids to every race -which is logistically possible – , so they can experience the whole thing. And to cheer all the racers on.

RED CAP: Kapas Marang International Swimathon 2018. Image credit: Emily Huelsermann

9.What do you love about swimming ? How do you get started? 

Swimming was only a pastime until I recently got a double meniscus surgery (knee). I couldn’t run, and I needed a way to rehab + keep up my cardio fitness. Little did I know, that I would fall in love with the quiet rhythmic motion of swimming. Competitive swimming becomes very technical – and with my dancers background, I was fascinated how every body angle – from finger, hand, wrist, elbow, arm, neck, shoulder, back, hips, legs and ankles can actually shift an entire swimming experience and speed. Imagine that! So essentially, I’m still learning how to swim efficiently and improve my speed. I love the challenge of isolating a body part and honing in on the muscle control to improve my overall swim.

10. How messy and fun does it get having your kids on a holiday + race-cation?

Oh… so so messy! We pretty much throw everything out the window – sleep, eat and play is on the go! It can get stressful, but Jens and I have learned to play tag team depending on who is racing that day. We have to remember that it’s the family experience we most care about.

ENCOURAGING ACTIVE LIVING: Emily & her family enjoying a day out biking . Image credit: Emily Huelsermann

11. How do you encourage fitness in your kids?

By living an active lifestyle and eating healthy. On weekends, we go on a family bike ride or family run. Hiking at TTDI or Bukit Gasing. I also expose them to a lot of sports – Soccer, Gymnastics, Swimming, Boxing, Karate class. I talk about healthy foods build strong muscles. We differentiate between good vs junk food. We live in an era where nutrition is critical to kids health, so I always bring steamed vegetables and fresh fruit wherever I go. It’s extra work but I’m laying down a foundation. Habit builds habit. When they see me and Jens doing squats and pushups, they join alongside, and eventually we end up in messy giggle piles. It’s all about having fun and staying healthy together.

12. How do you motivate yourself?

Positive thinking. Believe in starting a new day tomorrow. Making a realistic training plan and stick to it. Make friends who have similar hobbies. Buy a new dress and feel sexy in it. Signing up for a race every 4 weeks also keeps me on my toes!

“…nutrition is critical to kids health, so I always bring steamed vegetables and fresh fruit…It’s extra work but I’m laying down a foundation.
Habit builds habit.”

FITNESS TRAINER: Emily teaches spin classes at HIIT2Fit. Image Credit: HIIT2Fit Facebook Page

13. What got you into teaching classes? Where do you teach at?

I started teaching HIIT Spinning 6 months ago at Hiit2Fit Gym in Publika. The owners who are fellow triathletes, asked me to try teaching. I love road cycling, but I never thought I could teach a class. Well…I’ve loved it since Day 1! Pumping music, cool moves that build your core and killer sprint sets help me burn 500+ calories per class, so it’s a win-win.

14. What are you training for next?

SwimJunkie El Nido 8km Swim in Palawan, Philippines. I will be racing with a strong group of endurance swimmers. It’s my longest distance yet, and my aim is to finish in top 5 Women’s.

15. Who inspires you?

Any woman, who is pursuing her dreams while balancing family and career. I admire tenacity, boldness, courage and endurance. Women are incredible creatures who can expand within themselves to carry the passions of their hearts while meeting the needs of their loved ones with outstretched arms. Women truly run the world!

Rubbing shoulders with inspirational women: fellow mom Angelia Ong, ex National Swimmer and Liz Pinches, multiple 70.3 and Ironman World Champ Finisher.

“When I look back I learnt the importance of accepting and loving myself in that particular season of life, but still holding myself to new goals and challenges.”

Supporting husband Jens at SCKLM full marathon race

About Us

ash be nimble is an online journal that focuses on sharing real and relatable fitness stories of everyday Malaysians! We are your one stop guide to everything sports, fitness & health. If you have an inspiring story to share? Write to us at hello@ashbenimble.com


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