Meet Norie Kizaki: Guide and New Mother
Mountain guide, sponsored athlete and mother. Hear how Colorado Mountain School guide Norie Kizaki approaches motherhood, pregnancy and professional mountain guiding in this special Mother’s Day guide interview.
What made you want to become a guide?
I became a guide because being a part of my clients’ experience in the mountains is very satisfying and addictive in a way. And I love it. Climbing and skiing FOR clients is a completely different experience than personal outings. I feel like I have the right personality for it. The best part of guiding is that many of my clients have become good friends; I feel very fortunate for that.
Did you always want to have a child?
No, not always. Whether or not to have a child is a difficult decision, especially when you are a female climbing/skiing guide. I pushed the thought of having a child to the side for a long time so that I could focus on AMGA guiding certifications. When I am in my 80’s or possibly 90’s and look back at my life, I would not personally care if I had a certification or two; I would rather be proud of a fact that my husband and I raised a wonderful person. I have not given up all of my certification process, but we are very happy and lucky to have our son Hiro.
Once you were pregnant, did you have worries about how it would change your body, or your personal and professional climbing?
No, I was not worried. I knew to a small degree that being pregnant and giving a birth would affect my body and my climbing ability for some period of time. But having Hiroyuki was a gift. Thus, changing my body, etc. seemed like a small sacrifice.
Did you climb or ski while you were pregnant? What other exercises did you do?
I stopped skiing as soon as I was pregnant. I am a good skier, but a good skier can fall, too; I did not want to take that risk. I know some women who continued skiing while pregnant. That is their decision and I respect it. I also did not climb during the first trimester due to a higher risk of miscarriage (and I was very sick). I only started climbing again during the second trimester, when I determined, after some discussions with doctors, that top-roping or following easy routes would be safe for me. I also took some easy guiding work during the second trimester. I climbed and worked for a good mental health.
I made sure to have a workout every day, such as swimming, lifting weights, hiking and later walking. I discussed my exercise routine with a trusted personal trainer and followed a personal training schedule. Each pregnancy is different and each pregnant woman should only do whatever it makes her happy and within her comfort level.
What did your friends, family and doctors think of your active lifestyle mixing with pregnancy?
My girlfriends are active people too, and many of them are moms. They understand active lifestyle is important; so does my family. We live in Boulder, where top athletes live and train. Doctors in Boulder are used to athletes. Still, they are understandably conservative when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. I agree with doctors that while pregnant, you should not pick up new sports. You produce a relaxant hormone during pregnancy, which can cause loosening of the ligaments. It is easier to get injury because of the hormone (and it continues if you are breast feeding.). It is important to talk to your doctor about whatever sport/activity you would want to continue while pregnant.
After giving birth, how was transitioning back to a life of guiding?
It turned out that nine months of pregnancy is difficult on your body and a birth is a traumatic experience by itself. I was not aware that core muscle is torn for most moms and stitches at your bottom is common with natural birth. Going to bathroom to pee become a difficult task for a while, and hips and knees are left in a loose state. Needless to say, it is not easy. But guiding and climbing/skiing have been important part of my life. Thus, continuing to do so makes me a good mom in the end.
As a professional mountain guide, how do you see motherhood changing your life, both personally and professionally?
This is definitely a big change. It is important to accept that things change with a child. When you want to have a day of work or a day of personal climbing, you will have to plan ahead of time. When you have a few hours, you end up rushing to a gym to get a quick work out. When you get to play outside for a day, you may be fighting with some “mama guilt.” And there is no more last-minute climbing trip. But the inconvenience is replaced with the joy of motherhood. We are so fortunate to have him in our life. It is so much more fun to have him than I ever imagined!
Now, as an outdoor athlete, being home a lot during the early infant age can be difficult. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I have done nothing productive while caring for Hiro. Sometimes I am sad that while caring for Hiro I feel unproductive. Other people are getting fit, climbing mountains and earning IFMGA guiding certifications. But then, I have grown a human and am helping him grow even more. If that is not productive, then what is! It is important to remember that.
How did you balance risk and reward now that you’re a mother? Has it changed your perspective?
Many parents have told me that once they are parents, their risk tolerance decreases. For me, when it comes to playing and working in the mountains, not much has changed. My job has always been to bring my clients back from the mountains safely. Whether or not I have a child, my job description has not changed.
Are there any professional parent athletes that you look to for inspiration?
I have a few. Serena Williams from Tennis world. Nia Ali from Track and Field.
What advice do you have for parents on how to have a healthy relationship with climbing, skiing, etc.?
I am not an expert on this topic (not yet anyway). I am trying to figure it out myself. If you are mom with a small child reading this, you’re already doing an amazing job as a mom. What helped me is to connect with other moms who are in the same situation: trying to balance family time and outdoors activities. Discussing schedule ahead of time with your significant other is also important. Having a balance of baby time, family time and your own outdoor time is key. I still have a lot to learn.
Follow Norie’s guiding and motherhood adventures on Instagram: @noriekizaki