Team Mom Pep Talk with Heather Wajer: Teaching Our Kids by Example

"Anything is possible" is the mantra for those who compete in any Ironman triathalon, a grueling contest that challenges speed, endurance and heart. The phrase often sounds cliche when it rolls off of our tongues as we say it to our kids or to our friends. Sometimes we even have to convince ourselves to believe in it. But for single mom and Ironman triathlete Heather Wajer, the adage goes beyond running, swimming and cycling; it's the story of her life.

Related: Life lessons from lifelong athlete, Kristi Yamaguchi

In her early 20s, Wajer had the difficult task of becoming the primary caregiver of her mother, who was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease. After a three-year battle,  her mom passed away and Wajer turned to food, alcohol and smoking to cope with the loss. Years passed. At 34, she weighed more than 315 pounds. Her marriage was crumbling. And she was starting to worry about her own role as a mom to her then 3-year-old son, Griffin.

"I realized that if I continued down the path I was on that my son, who was the most important thing in the world to me, would end up living the life maybe similar to the one I was living," says Wajer in a video she created as her entry into the "Kona Inspired" contest. "...I was really negatively impacting the whole rest of his life by the way I was choosing to live mine." She quit drinking and gave up the smokes. "After that, the challenge that lay ahead was finding a way to lose more than half of my body weight," said Wajer. So she started training for a sprint triathlon.

Now 39, Wajer is an honest-to-goodness Ironman triathlete. And a single mom. She trains in the early-morning hours while her son, now 7, is still asleep. Her competition times have improved dramatically over the four years since she started her journey--and she's lost more than 150 pounds.

Wajer pulls from advice and words of wisdom from her own mom when things get tough. "She [my mom] taught me, by the way she lived her life and faced her disease, to take every new challenge head on," Wajer tells Team Mom. "That the best way to overcome something is not to avoid it, but to go through it with your head high. I take this into my life as a triathlete and a mom."

Wajer's lifestyle is also impacting her parenting. She's inspired her son to compete. He's raced in four kid triathlons (he was his first race when he was five). "Our habits -- both good and bad -- rub off on our kids. It's amazing to see the impact that good habits can have," says Wajer.

You can watch Wajer's complete video, and those of the other triathletes, over at the "Kona Inspired" Facebook page.