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Tairāwhiti’s Fittest Mums

Juggling with kids, work and taking care of the house, mothers do it all . . . Tairāwhiti’s Fittest Mum title winners for 2022 spoke to The Gisborne Herald reporter Akula Sharma about their journey.

Juggling with kids, work and taking care of the house, mothers do it all . . . Tairāwhiti’s Fittest Mum title winners for 2022 spoke to The Gisborne Herald reporter Akula Sharma about their journey.

Getting to the gym every day and making it to the competing stage was a challenge that 50-year-old Debbie Hutchings did not want to give up.

Gisborne born and bred, Debbie won first place in the masters 45+ RX category at the national Fittest Mum competition in April.

“I have been active in sports most of my life, netball, gymnastics or surf lifesaving, I have given it my best.

“My journey in crossfit started about 10 years ago. One of my close friends tagged me along to one of the sessions while we were doing pre-season netball training.

“I enjoyed it so much the decision was made to join on a casual basis attending one or two classes per week. Later through a team event when they were short on one female I agreed to jump in.

It was “eye-opening” to see so many strong women competing on the stage.

“The first time seeing this, I told myself I wanted to be like those ladies.”

Crossfit allowed Ms Hutchings to take a break from being a mum.

“It allowed me to come and have some ‘me’ time, I was a solo mum this was my time out.

“Competing in events like Fittest Mums is about doing crossfit in an all female environment where regardless of age or ability we are testing ourselves against other mums.”

“I just love seeing other women challenging themselves, you know exactly how life is for them — juggling kids, jobs, taking care of their home, partners and family, despite that they still make it to the gym to get themselves in a position where they can be on a competition stage.

“To me, that is super inspiring, especially seeing the first time mums giving it a go.

“It takes a lot of work to prepare oneself physically and mentally to join a competition like this. It is a privilege to be part of something this cool for mums.”

'Come and join in . . . give it a go'

Ms Hutchings said at the moment, the focus was beginning to shift to women and girls being physically active.

“Walking into a gym traditionally has been predominantly a male space. I would argue now that females are strongly represented in gym memberships.

“We want to inspire other wahine to come along, be it just for a work-out to release stress or to be a better version of yourself.

“Come and join in . . . give it a go.”

The biggest thing for Ms Hutchings is the women she was surrounded by.

She loves to be challenged and she is competitive, she says, but having people around her make it fun and enjoyable.

“At my age now, it’s the love and enjoyment of it, which keeps me going.

“I came to crossfit because I did not want my joint problems to become a hurdle.

“I wanted to stay mobile and have a better quality of life.”

Thirty-seven-year-old Tamera Nelson says she can’t imagine her life without the gym. For her it was the drive to appreciate her body after becoming a mother.

Ms Nelson won the first place in the masters 35+ RX category.

“I grew up in Auckland. I was a dancer for about 15 years.

“Then I moved to Gisborne and crossfit was a way to make friends.

“Ten years later, as the mother of a four-year-old, I am the fittest and strongest I have ever been.”

Crossfit made her strong and empowered. It made her celebrate her body.

“The moment I became a mum and held my child, the love for my body went through the roof.

“I thought ‘my body just produced this amazing baby against quite a few odds. I have been given one baby and she is perfect’. I have got my body to thank for that, so crossfit is a way for me to celebrate my body.

“The first time I went to the competition I was alone and my baby was only eight months old.

“I was so proud of being a mum and I wanted to join other mums on their fitness journey.”

Her mum journey was a bit traumatic, but fitness gave her a coping mechanism to break away from the stress.

“Being fit makes me feel good about myself.

“I can teach that to my daughter, make her see a strong, fit and healthy mum. I want her to know that she is strong and I want her to have a positive body image, to focus on being strong, not skinny. I want her to feel healthy, like she can do anything.”

Ms Nelson said now crossfit was more about seeing the new mothers joining in for the first time and sharing “so much positive energy from other mums”.

Being fit gave 46-year-old Vesna Radonich the resilience and determination to do whatever she wanted, as a mother and as a business owner.

Ms Radonich won the 45+ scaled division category at the competition.

She grew up in Auckland and was diagnosed with behavioural and learning challenges at a young age. She had no learning until four years old.

Her hearing was impaired, which explained the challenges she had experienced. Hearing aids had made a difference.

“My hearing loss has been my greatest strength. It has given me the resilience and strength to overcome my mental health. It helped me become a world champion in 2012 in my sport, waka ama.

“Ten years ago I moved to Tairāwhiti, where I had my son one year later. I bounced back pretty quickly fitness-wise after the birth. With the birth of my second baby, I struggled quite a bit.

“I was an older mum, 43, and needed fitness to help me recover. That is when crossfit entered my life.

Ms Radonich’s first Fittest Mum competition was in 2020.

“It was exhilarating, knowing I was with other mothers, grandmothers and aunties . . . we all had that common ground.

“Crossfit gave me a way to connect with other people, strengthen myself as a mother and a business owner. This has kept me going.”

RECOVERY: Fittest Mum Vesna Radonich said being around other mothers inspired her journey in crossfit. Picture supplied
Team work: Winners Debbie Hutchings (left) and Tamera Nelson say their journey is about being surrounded by other wahine to strengthen themselves as mothers. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell (the website version of this picture has been cropped).
SHOWING STRENGTH: Fittest Mum Debbie Hutchings (centre) lifts a barbell at the national competition in Auckland. Picture supplied