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For most women, becoming a mother means doing things that make you feel good (including self-care activities that contribute to your fitness and health) takes the back seat.

We spoke with Danielle van der Leest, personal trainer, founder of Active Women and (most importantly) mother to the most adorable 2-year-old daughter to find out how she juggles motherhood, work and maintaining her fitness, plus an easy and healthy recipe that we guarantee your family will love! 

Tell us a bit about what you do. 

I am the founder of ActiveWomen. I help women integrate fitness and health into their lives, especially during and after pregnancy.

My aim is to help women experience the strength that comes from fitness, both mentally and physically, and above all feel amazing about themselves! 


What’s your favourite thing about being a mum? 

I love to see the excitement my daughter has for small things, and it’s great to see how fast she is developing and learning new things. It’s also amazing to see how our bodies as mothers change throughout pregnancy and afterwards. I think it definitely proves we are stronger than we think! 

What is the biggest challenge of being a busy mum and how do you overcome this? 

Finding balance between work, my own health and family. Like any mum, I find it hard to reserve time for myself over time I give to my daughter.

When I'm done with work, I try to spend as much time as I can with my daughter Valeria. Sometimes, it means that I have to cancel my own workouts. Although I have an active job, doing my own workouts is different from training clients. 

My tip to overcome this is to schedule your workout in advance during a time you know your kids are going to be at school, busy with homework or sleeping. This way, you won't get distracted. It also helps to schedule a workout with a trainer or sign up for a group class because since you've already paid for the service, you are far less likely to drop out of it.

Finally, it's all about accountability. Train with a friend or your partner so you can motivate each other to show up and get your workouts done. 


What's your absolute top tip for balancing work, your family and time for yourself?

Think in big rocks, little rocks and sand. 

Big rocks are your highest priorities; tasks, projects or goals you absolutely want to accomplish. Little rocks are the less important tasks and sand are the unimportant tasks.

This helps you visualise and identify what’s most important to you. Block time out for the big rocks first and foremost, and then fill the rest in accordingly. 

Has becoming a mum yourself had any impact on how you carry out your job?

Becoming a mum motivated me to focus more on pre and postnatal fitness because I realised pregnancy and motherhood brings about lots of different changes to many aspects of a woman's life. I wanted to use my experience to help other mums and mums-to-be through the process. 

I became more understanding of the daily life challenges that mums face, not only related to fitness and health, but also combining family life with work and/or household, or feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the kids or spending well-deserved quality time for yourself. 

Motherhood forced me to look at my own life and reflect upon what's most important to me. Because of my daughter, I got better at balancing work/life and made a conscious choice to start my days early so I could finish in the afternoon to spend time with my daughter. 

When asked to share a quick, easy and healthy recipe with our readers, you chose Pesto Pasta with Salmon. Why this recipe, and where did it come from?

A friend. I am originally from The Netherlands where it’s common to start living on your own or with friends during your bachelors. When I moved to Amsterdam where I studied, I lived with two friends and they taught me a lot of new recipes of which one was Pesto Pasta. 


There are a lot of variations to this recipe. Initially I cooked it with chicken, but nowadays I try to add more fish to my diet and introduce new flavours to my daughter because I think that’s an important part of growing up. 

Danielle's Pesto Pasta with Salmon Recipe


  • 1 red capsicum
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 100g french beans 
  • 300g salmon fillet, chopped
  • Handful of basil leaves 
  • 350g Farfalle
  • Tablespoon of Pesto 
  • Olive oil 


  1. Slice capsicum in long pieces. Trim off the ends of the beans. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

  2. Chop the salmon into small pieces. 

  3. Cook the farfalle according to packet instructions. 

  4. Place green beans in a large skillet; pour in 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as water comes to a boil, cover pan and cook for 3 minutes. 

  5. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the capsicum, tomatoes and beans at once stirring and turning frequently until the vegetable skins start to blister and turn brown in spots.Turn down the heat.

  6. Add the farfalle and add the pesto. Toss gently. 

Learn more about Danielle's personal training offerings on Active Women's website or book a free personal training trial and consultation with her today! 



Active Women, founded by Danielle, is dedicated in helping women integrate health and fitness into their lives. Active Women especially focuses on pre- and postnatal fitness. Other specialisations include weight loss, strength training and functional fitness.