This is me and one of my training spaces – our bedroom. I am in a such hurry to get this particular workout in as the kids are eating breakfast that I ignore the laundry strewn everywhere. I just need 15 minutes 4 times a week, an 8′ x 8′ space (and sometimes a hallway and a chin-up bar), and some kettlebells. I’ve been training with kettlebells for 3 years. You will hear me use “training” in lieu of the words “working out” and even “exercising.” This is because of my husband, Ever-Patient. He uses the term “training” because this term gives a longer-term outlook towards a goal whereas “working out” is just an action and most times is without a clear purpose and random. He makes it clear that I am training for strength. I have a goal – to be strong and get stronger. Strength is a skill that takes practice so when I “train,” I am not pushing my body to obscene limits that make me want to puke. I am practicing skills that makes me stronger just like a volleyball athlete would practice drills with a volleyball. And in the words of the great and all-powerful O (not the wonderful wizard of Oz, but Oprah), that was my “aha! moment” and has kept me on track.
A little background info…
Ever-Patient has been in the personal training/strength and conditioning/coaching field for about 16 years. Even while he sucked it up and worked at a mutual fund company for awhile, he trained people for FREE during his lunch hour, and before and after his shifts including some of the company’s top execs. He has trained clients in big franchise gyms, in small private studios, and in their homes. He has trained sports teams, athletes, and coached at different levels. He teaches and mentors other trainers, athletes, including our own children. He has informational and product websites that have become a huge part of his mission to spread the word about what he is so passionate about. He absolutely LOVES this stuff. When you hear about people finding their passion, their bliss, and finding something that they would do for the rest of their lives even if they didn’t have to make money doing it, that’s him.
But up until 3 years ago, I didn’t listen. I did my own “exercise thing.” There was no structure to it. I used to run. I even trained for a marathon but then ended up getting pregnant with I think #3? And then that was the end of that. Do you remember Tae-Bo and Billy Blanks? Yup. Did that. (Ever-Patient is cringing reading that confession just as he cringed watching me do those videos in the late 90s). I worked out like crazy right before our vacations down south and drove everyone crazy around me. I yo-yoed with my commitment and felt tired all the time. I HATED exercising. Above all, I felt pressure to maintain a certain weight because HE was my husband. Don’t misunderstand me. Ever-Patient has never once pressured me into looking a certain way and in fact has been patient with my complaints over my ever-changing body over the last 15 years. Pregnant. Nursing. Pregnant. Nursing. Pregnant. Nursing. Pregnant. Nursing while pregnant again. And then of course, more nursing. He keeps reminding me, and even still reminds me as my hormones are a bit wonky still, that my body has been through a lot in 15 years and it’s going to take some time to find it’s way again.
So after #5 was born, he helped me work hard fixing imbalances just by using my bodyweight and making sure we did things slowly since my joints were still so lax from all the baby-having (a new verb I have just coined). Then he introduced me to kettlebells only when I was able to do push-ups, planks, and squats functionally well (which was about a year later). I am now a kettlebell convert and I have been a believer ever since. I started with a wee 4kg bell and am now swinging a 20kg, and can press and snatch a 12 kg. Unfortunately, my shoulder has been bugging me which is from overall bad posture and carrying children on the hip for 15 years so I am taking it easy for awhile and can’t do my StrongFirst Certification this coming November. So I’m looking at the certification that is in May in Italy. I’m hoping to track my progress here to keep me accountable as soon as the shoulder feels 100%. Why do the certification? To teach? Heck no. Just to have a goal and to see if I can do it.
My stipulation for my training session: It cannot exceed 20 minutes per session (warm-up included). I have been able to keep to this for the last 3 years which has made it easy to maintain my regimen. The sessions have varied from 2-5 times per week depending on my goals, illness, and stress levels. I can fit these sessions in at any point in my day and have been known to train in my pajamas first thing in the morning.
And…I can train at home. I only have a 20 minute window which means I can’t leave the house to go somewhere to train. And frankly, I’m not interested in the social aspect of training that gyms and studios offer people. It’s great for some but not my deal.
My training isn’t random and my training goals are not weight/size dependent. My goal is strength. I want to bestrong. Period.
So without further ado, here is my list of why I
exercise train and why I want to be strong:
1. I want to be able to carry two big pumpkins on my shoulders as leave the pumpkin patch.
2. I want to be able to carry my 3 year old through rough terrain when he gives up halfway on a 4-hour hike (and hold #4′s hand as we go up a steep hill).
3. I love seeing my girls fight over turns on the chin-up bar because they see me on it.
4. I have to take down 6 bikes from hooks in the shed each time we go for a bike ride.
5. I want to play soccer until my girls can play alongside me on my team (just like some mothers and daughters have played on my teams before).
6. In 10 years, I will be 45. My kids will be old enough to go on some serious outdoor adventures. I want to be able to portage and trek for miles as I grow older.
7. I don’t want to be a burden for my children. I want to be able to take care of myself for as long as possible so they can enjoy their own lives.
8. I want to climb steep hills while carrying a cup of coffee so I can enjoy a warm beverage as we have school lessons at the top.
9. I was never the strong and athletic kid. I was the super-skinny bookworm that loved to play sports but was never explosive. I want to be able to be strong now.
10. I want to keep up with my active children. I want to throw #5 in the air over and over again as he squeals in delight. I want to do handstands like #4. I want to pepper the volleyball back and forth with #3 when she wants to do it at the beach all day long. I want to race #2 – my roadrunner. I want to train alongside my incredible athlete – #1.
11. I want all my kids to see how important it is to make time for themselves. When I say, “Mama is going to train.” They disperse. They keep their voices down. They know that it is in their best interests to do so. I have made it a regular part of our life and an important priority for me so they have learned to respect those 20 minutes.
12. I love challenging myself. This past summer, on my 35th birthday, I did a chin-up for the first time in my life. For the FIRST TIME. It was a major physical accomplishment for me. I trained for it and did it. The kids cheered. Ever-Patient was proud.
13. Training takes me out of my head. When you are pressing a 12 kg overhead 4 times, you are not dwelling on the fact that you missed lessons that week or that winter is really wearing you down. I am in the moment, focusing mainly on not dropping the kb on my head.
14. I can confront my fears. I am afraid of swimming in lakes and in deep waters. I am afraid of heights. Being strong has made me courageous. I have swam in lakes these last few years at cottages. I have walked along high ledges with the kids.
15. Training has helped me manage my hormonal ups and downs. It is making me take notice of what my body is telling me.
16. Training has helped my marriage. I listen now. I don’t argue. I don’t complain (as much). I am more open to Ever-Patient’s critiques, coaching, and support. We talk a lot about the why’s and how’s. We train outside on the deck together. He pushes me past my comfort zone and now I am finally ok with that.
17. I am able to carry multiple sleeping children from the van, up the porch steps, and up another flight of steep stairs, without breaking a sweat.
18. Seeing training as practicing skills has changed my outlook on exercise. I WANT to master the skill and then I want to do it with a heavier weight. There is no preoccupation with the scale or how clothes fit. Yes, the by-product of getting stronger is a leaner body but when I focus on performing a skill, the kids, especially the girls won’t get the wrong message.
19. I want to be more conscious of what I consume. Training makes me hungry but I don’t want to count calories or measure portions. I am more concerned about what food will help me or hurt me in my training. I want to eat and not restrict myself. Again, this only benefits my girls. When I don’t eat something, I stop eating it because of the way it makes me feel and not the way it makes me look. This is huge. This wasn’t always the case especially when #1 was little. Now I am hyper-aware of what I choose to say and do especially when it comes to the quantity of food and eating things in moderation. I bake bread and eat it. I eat butter tarts. But I am careful to say how it makes me feel after and how I can’t eat too much of it. Ever-Patient frequently discusses at the dinner table what are “muscle foods” and how certain foods make you stronger. I’m not going to lie. My kids can be picky about greens and I probably could reduce the amount of starches they consume. I bake a lot. We introduced the green smoothie in the morning and green veggies with dinner.
20. I have some lofty things on my bucket list: doing a triathlon, climbing a mountain, surfing in Costa Rica, camping alone (even if it’s in my backyard), doing a handstand push-up to name a few. Time is ticking and the only way I have the remotest chance to check these things off the list, I have to be and stay strong.
21. For me, there is a correlation to being strong physically and being strong mentally. This is key. I am more patient and forgiving. I can withstand more stress and stormy weather. Again, it goes back to courage. But instead of being courageous when it comes to physical feats, I am able to face scary situations like when the kids enter meltdown city or the house looks like we’ve been reversed-robbed (a new verb) where strangers have broken into our home and dumped stuff in it. You know how it goes.
So now when I hear my girls role-playing and acting out imaginative narratives with their friends, they are no longer “princesses.” They are women warriors entering a battle at the request of Athena, the goddess of war, wisdom, and courage. They no longer need to be rescued from the dragon. They want to slay the dragon. This could be because their friends are mostly boys and they are all interested in Greek myths or maybe, just maybe, I am making some impact on how they see themselves.
Training for strength has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It has made me conscious of the messages I send my children – how I want the girls to see themselves and how I want my son to view women.
Sometimes I get a little over-anxious about it.
The other day I noticed that #1 had just been eating soup for a couple of days. I proceeded to lecture her on what she should be eating since she’s been training heavily and that I hoped she wasn’t trying to watch her weight, blah, blah, blah. She rolled her eyes at me and said in a huff, “Mom, I went to the ortho and he put screws in my back teeth two days ago. It still hurts to chew. And I know all that stuff already. Trust me. I hated being skinny and weak. I love being strong.” Right. I remember the day she stepped on the scale and jumped for joy when she got off it. I was in horror. I freaked out at her again, and again, she put me in my place, “Mom! I’m happy because I gained weight. Daddy told me that I would probably build a ton of muscle training over the summer so I can jump higher. And now I know that I did! By the way, you need to relax.”
Phew. And this is why I love to train. I can stop over-thinking and just keep getting stronger.