You swap books, go shopping, bake together. Have you ever thought about exercising together? Getting sweaty as a mother-daughter duo is a fun (and healthy!) way to strengthen your bond and spend some quality time together. What’s more, mothers who exercise set a good example for their children. A 2014 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children with fit mothers were more likely to engage in regular physical activity, compared to children with sedentary mothers.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we spoke to four inspiring mother-daughter duos who have worked together to attain their fitness goals. For your next mother-daughter date, follow in their lead and lace up your running shoes, grab a yoga mat, or hit the hiking trails—not only will you forge memories that will last for a lifetime, you’ll also get healthier to boot.
Connie Koerth, 41, and Nicole Koerth, 17
When Connie Koerth, 41, first heard about Team in Training—a charity running organization benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society—in 2010, it hit close to home. Connie’s daughter, Nicole, was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the time.
“I really had to do this,” said Connie. “I wanted to do it while Nicole was in treatment. It was very near and dear to my heart.”
She set her sights on the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco in 2011.
“I started training a year in advance,” said Connie, who had never walked more than two miles. “13.1 miles seemed impossible, but I surprised myself by finishing.”
Nearly two years later, in November 2013, Connie saw Nicole’s bucket list. “On the list, she said that she wanted to run a half marathon,” Connie remembers. “We’re training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D. C. this April.” The two are running to raise money for Team in Training.
Nicole completed her cancer treatments in December 2011. Even though she is now cancer-free, her illness still presents numerous barriers to training—such as fatigue from cancer treatment and weight gain due to the removal of her thyroid—but she refuses to give up. “I realized I’m done fighting for myself,” says Nicole, who completed a local 5K in September to benefit leukemia awareness. “I’m raising awareness about cancer to help others.”
During the week, Connie and Nicole train separately but do their long run together on Saturday. “It’s good quality time together,” says Connie. “She tells me about school and her hopes and dreams.”
“I’m a little nervous,” Nicole admits. “Thirteen miles seems like a lot, but I’ve learned I’m capable of doing more than I thought I could.”
Connie is looking forward to sharing this race experience with her daughter. “I want her to treasure her first experience,” she says. “It’s a dream come true that she can do this.”
“This will be something I’ll always remember,” adds Nicole.
“We’re moving forward from cancer,” said Connie. “It’s a new chapter in our lives that involves health and wellness. It’s the start of a new journey.
Beckie Pulse,48, and Nicole Pulse, 16
In October 2013, Beckie Pulse and daughter Nicole tackled the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. Although they didn’t run side-by-side, the race proved to be an unforgettable shared experience that brought them closer in their mother-daughter relationship.
At the start line, Nicole, who runs at a faster pace than her mother, told Beckie that she wanted to race ahead.
“She didn’t hesitate,” said Nicole. “She said, ‘Okay, you can go run.'”
“It was a great moment as a mother,” said Beckie. “I had encouraged her up to this point. It was important for her to run her own race. I was comfortable with my 16-year-old running the hills of San Francisco without me by her side.”
“I had thought we would spend some time together for at least the first mile,” said Beckie. “But it was a great incentive—I knew she was waiting for me at the end of the race, so I knew I had to keep going.”
“It was a fun experience to do this with my mom,” says Nicole. “You learn how strong you are.”
“It’s a pretty cool thing to do this with your own child,” Beckie adds. “It’s a big feat to finish. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”
She hopes her younger daughters continue the tradition. “I’d like to take on a half marathon with them.”
Ellen Sloan, 58, Katy Hoffman, 18, and Cleo Hoffman, 16
Pacific Palisades, CA
After watching her own mother suffer a debilitating stroke in 2012, Ellen Sloan, 58, was determined to avoid a similar fate—and vowed that she would lead her daughters Katy and Cleo down a healthy path, too.
“I’ve always made sure my kids were active,” says Ellen. “I lead by example. We weave it into our lives.”
Ellen truly practices what she preaches, making healthy meals for her family and teaching the importance of good nutrition. “When Katy was a year old, we were at a family gathering and I put a plate of Chinese fried green beans in front of her. She gobbled them up,” said Ellen. “If you serve as a role model for your child, they will like all sorts of things.”
Fitness is an equally important part of their life. Ellen regularly attends the Palisades-Malibu YMCA and brings Katy and Cleo along with. “It’s an activity we share,” she says, adding that it gives her the chance to spend quality time with her two daughters. “As kids grow older, there are fewer chances for this. It’s hard to find time to spend with each other. It has strengthened the bonds between us. Teens are fascinating young adults. They have a lot to say.”
Ellen advises all mothers to set a good example for their daughters when it comes to health and fitness. “You have to adopt the lifestyle you want your kids to have and create opportunities to work out together,” she says. “It makes everyone happier.”
Jennifer Willis, 43, Norman, OK
Candy Reece, 63, Oklahoma City, OK
After a frightening colon cancer scare, Jennifer Willis, 43, was galvanized to start taking better care of her health. At the urging of a friend, she decided to start training for a half-marathon. “I didn’t consider myself an athlete,” she recalls. “I had no concept of what I was getting into.”
As soon as she completed the half-marathon a few months later, Jennifer instantly wanted to train for another. This time, though, she had an ulterior motive: She hoped to recruit her mother, Candy, to join her.
“When [Jennifer] told me she wanted to do a marathon together, I thought she was crazy,” Candy, 63, remembers with a laugh. “I like to sit on the sofa and stitch,” she adds with a laugh.
The following year, Jennifer signed up for the 2012 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco—and signed her mom up, too. “She didn’t ask me, she told me,” says Candy.
In spite of Candy’s initial reservations, her first marathon experience turned out to be a great success. Together, Jennifer and Candy raised an astounding $28,000 for Team in Training. During the race, they walked the 26.2 course, crossing the finish line hand-in-hand. Since 2012, the pair has made the commitment to do the Nike Women’s Marathon every year.
“This has been so great for us,” says Candy. “Training gives us the incentive to take better care of ourselves.”
Together, the two have completed multiple half-marathons and marathons. Of course, there have been missteps along the way: Last year, while competing in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., a passerby knocked Candy off balance in the first mile, causing her to fall and break her pelvis. “We were the first to cross the finish line in a medic car,” says Candy.
The duo aims to do two races a year. “It keeps us training all the time,” said Candy. “It’s something we do for ourselves. No one can walk for you.”
Their favorite motivational song is “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. “When that song comes on, you can’t catch up with her,” says Jennifer. “She jokes about her bad knees, but she’s fast! I like being her partner. She’s not a quitter.”
No matter what, the two vow to stay together during races. “It’s more fun to hold hands and cross the finish line together,” Jennifer says.