Motherhood: My Strength and Weakness

As I tucked my kids in to bed this evening, Caleigh reached up to give me a big hug and whispered “Happy early Mother’s Day, mama”.  I had to take a moment.  Hearing her sweet voice say those words made my heart swell and brought tears to my eyes.  Just like that my seven year old found my weakness.

Being a mom.

It’s a weakness and a strength.  I remember reading an interview with Angelina Jolie who was asked to reveal her biggest weakness.  “My weaknesses are also my strengths. It’s my family – if anything ever happened to my family, it would break me.”

I could not agree more.  My family can be my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.  I have grown more as a human being as each of our three little beings came into our lives.  They have taught me more than I ever could have imagined.  They have forced me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  My husband first, and my three kids second, are the best things to have ever happened to me in my life.  I would literally move mountains to get to my family, help my family, and do whatever needed to be done for my family.  I am stronger because of them.

As strong as I can be, at the same time I can fall apart at the smallest of things.  Like when my daughter wraps her arms around my neck and whispers “Happy early Mother’s Day, mama”.  These beautiful moments come out of nowhere and take me by surprise.  I can be reduced to a puddle of pride as they score their first soccer goals.  My heart aches when they come off the school bus in tears because of something one of their school mates said.  I put on a brave face as I watch them take off around the corner on their bikes for their first time alone….and yet I know exactly how long it takes them to do our neighbourhood loop and if they are more than a minute late getting back, I’m ready to take off down the street to look for them.

All of these are life lessons for me, masquerading as lessons for my kids.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Being a Mom has given me more pride, joy, heartache, love, adventure, wonder, and zest for life.  I would not give it up for anything in the world.  I read once that children actually pick their parents before coming into the world.  How lucky am I to have had these three amazing kids pick me as their mom and Tom as their dad.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the other moms out there who are enjoying their day.  Especially to my own mom, who has set such an incredible example as to how to be an awesome Mom.  I look back at the things she sacrificed, the lessons she taught me, and support she gave….all of which she continues to do.  I’m so grateful for her.  And just writing out this blog post reminds me that I don’t tell her that enough.  Thanks mom.

And thank you to Caleigh, Blake, and Maggie, who have given me the opportunity to be called a Mom.  I hope that you know how much I love you, how much I appreciate you, and how grateful I am to have you in my life.

My three little ones back when Maggie was first born.

My three little ones back when Maggie was first born.

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Enough with the Excuses

There is one thing I know for a fact about being a mom.  If I don’t take care of myself, then I can’t take care of the rest of my family.  If I’m sick or if I’m laid up due to injury everything goes haywire in our home.  And here is the second part of what I know – if I’m sick or I’m laid up with an injury it’s because I wasn’t taking care of myself properly.

It’s not because of bad germs, bad genetics, or bad luck.  It’s because of bad choices.  Let me make that really clear – people get sick because people make poor lifestyle choices.  They don’t take care of themselves properly.  They eat crappy foods.  They don’t get enough sleep.  They don’t exercise enough or properly. They don’t stretch or work on their mobility.  They don’t take time for ourselves to support their mental emotional health.  They don’t make sure that their brain-body connection is clear with the help of chiropractic adjustments.

Speaking as a mom and a chiropractor, I have the unique and humbling opportunity to work with a lot of families.  I feel that I resonate well with families.  I can relate to the stress and frustrations (and on the flip side, the wins!) of wanting the absolute best health for your family.  Ensuring that kids get exceptional health care, healthy foods, enough exercise, good sleep, support at school and home, good relationships, and all else that as parents, we want for our children.

But here’s the thing – sometimes we put all of our energy into our children and we forget to put any energy into ourselves.

One of the many concerns I hear is “I don’t have time to exercise.”  I’m fortunate in the fact that I have created a lifestyle that allows me to get into the gym three mornings a week as well as set aside time to walk and/or run two days a week.  I realize and appreciate that not all moms or dads have the ability to get to a gym due to special circumstances with family, work, and more.  But for the large majority of people it doesn’t mean that time can’t be carved out each day to get a workout in.

Last week was a little crazy.  On Friday we left at noon for a long weekend away.  I knew I couldn’t get to the gym that morning because I wanted to get the kids down to the park to let out some energy.  So, while the kids got their shoes on, I threw on my workout clothes.  Off to the park/gym we go. 

This is what I love about kids.  They can workout and have fun at the same time.

photophoto copy 2

While my kids swung, climbed, dug, slid, and hung around I got a twenty minute workout in.  Admittedly Caleigh was my photographer and I think that if I asked for “one more photo”, she might have lost it.  She kept going back and forth between taking pictures and making sand pies.  They were really good – both the pictures and the sand pies (chocolate flavoured, yum!).

Here’s how to fit in a quick workout at the park.  Warm up with a 2 minute jog/run around the park.  Then get down to business.

1.  LUNGES.  Do a specific number on each leg.  Start off small and add more each time you work out.

Lunges

Lunges – make sure your knee doesn’t forward of your ankle.

2.  SQUATS.  Keep your back up (my form is horrible in this picture).  I put my hands behind my head to help keep my form clean.  Try to get your bum as close to the ground as possible.  Start with a minimum of 10 and work up to 100 over a few weeks.

Squats.

Squats.

3.  PUSH UPS/PLANKS.  Women can do “mens” push ups as well as men can.  Focus on keeping your core strong and it will prevent arching of your upper back (see top photo).  A plank is holding the up position for as long as you can.  Work up to 2 minutes over time.

Push Ups & Planks

Push Ups & Planks

4.  SIT UPS.  Fun to do with a baby!  Put your little on in between your legs and play peek a boo each time you come up for a sit up.  Plant a kiss on the top of their head so that you make sure you’re breaking 45 degrees at your waist.

sit ups

Sit ups

5.  STEP UPS.  Pretty simple.  Step up onto a park bench.  Make sure you completely open your hips.  If this hard to remember, clap your hands above your head, which will automatically open up your hips in full extension.

Steps Ups

6.  JUMP UPS.  The next level up.  Jump up onto the park bench.  Start on two feet and end on two feet.  Remember to fully stand up so that hips are open at the end of the jump.

Jumps Ups

Jumps Ups

7.  TRICEP DIPS.  Keeping your legs slightly bent, bend at your elbows.  The deeper, the better.  Repeat.

Tricep Dips

Tricep Dips

8.  INCLINE PULL UPS.  Grab a bar at the park and pull yourself up over and over.

Incline Pull UpsIncline Pull Ups

There you have it.  If it takes you 20 minutes, I’d be surprised.  Kids can help by counting off the number of repetitions you do.  Or they can join in on the same moves.  They’ll have fun and the more they laugh, you’ll have fun too.  Promise.

March Madness

Basketball?  No way.  March Madness should truly be described as the feeling any mom has with three kids at home over March Break.  I can’t imagine what it will feel like after all three of them are at school and then at home for the week (or summer) but right now to have three at home during the week is crazy hectic.  I go between loving it and getting overwhelmed.  Loving the opportunities to be with all three of them, going on adventures each day, and spending quality time together.  Feeling overwhelmed at the insane energy of the two older ones (Maggie is pretty chill for the most part) who are off-the-wall excited over March Break.  I don’t even think Blake knows what March Break is but many a time I’ve heard the chant of “March Break!  March Break!  March Break!” wafting up from the basement as the two are playing tag.  Yikes.

So, for dinner tonight (because it’s Wednesday), I had this:

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Just kidding.  Kind of.  I did have a glass as I prepared dinner (after taking 45 minutes to put Maggie down…totally unlike her but likely due to two 5 minute naps today).  And now I’m enjoying a second glass as I am writing this post.  🙂

But in all honesty, what was for dinner was something much more filling.  An incredible grilled steak (with a dry rub of salt, pepper, parsley, cumin, cayenne pepper, chill pepper, & tumeric – Tom’s amazing concoction that we use regularly), sweet potato fries (tossed in olive oil, salt, & fresh garlic), and a fresh salad topped with avocado, red onion, tomato, and roasted slivered almonds.  I made a really light homemade salad dressing of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part rice vinegar with a sprinkling of spices – oregano and basil.  Really simple because the steak was unbelievable and I didn’t want to take anything away from it.  This is the final dish and it was awesome!

Love BBQing in the winter.

Love BBQing in the winter.

This week had some amazing plusses.  I was back at CrossFit on Monday for the first time in three weeks.  I’ve had some really angry trap muscles that were overworked 3 weeks ago.  As a result, spasm.  And lots of them which kept me out of the gym and working on strictly mobility and restoring the brain body connection with chiropractic.  Adjust, adjust, adjust.  🙂

Being back at the gym on Monday and Tuesday was hands down awesome.  I MISSED feeling strong.  This is something I’m not willing to compromise on with my health, up there with all of Life by Design.  I find that if I drop out of my routine of working out, eating well, my morning power hour, or getting adjusted – the rest of it all unravels.  I truly do have to do all the right things at the same time in order to see the benefits.  My psyche just tanks.  And for the last three weeks, even though I’ve been uber careful with how I eat and how I think, my physical health was making me frustrated.

If you remember from a previous post, I am not a lover of sit ups.  I think it’s probably because my basic core strength is building back up after having Maggie.  She was born as a gentle cesarean but being it my third cesarean birth, it did take a toll on my body.  I’m happy to have that toll – it’s an amazing reminder of the incredible kids I have.  And while I can sometimes feel anxious of the lack of core strength I have NOW, I realize that it will build back up and I need to be patient and supportive of my body in getting back into shape.  Tuesday’s workout included 100 sit-ups (between double unders – jumping once but bringing the skipping rope over your head twice- and push jerks – basically taking a 40 lb bar and lift it over your head multiple, multiple times) and when I sneezed earlier this afternoon,  I winced from the strain on my abs.  Grrrrrr.  Must.  Work.  On.  Sit-Ups.

Prior to those bloody sit-ups, we had some walking lunges to get through.  Have baby?  Must train.

Me & Mags.  Working the "walking lunge".

Me & Mags. Working the “walking lunge”.

To all the moms and dads out there who think that their health isn’t a priority.  Please think again.  You are enough of a reason to put a priority on working out, eating well, and focusing on your purpose in life.  I love this picture.  It’s a picture of a strong mom who is doing her absolute best to be healthy for not just herself but also her kids.  I’m proud of this picture.  Because it represents the vision of a mom I want my kids to be proud of.  A healthy, energetic, fun, inspired, and awesome mom.  And each day I make choices to create that vision I have for myself.  It’s coming along….slowly but surely.  But that’s the fun part of goals.  It’s a constant, never-ending process that will always be in a state of evolution.

Coming on like Gangbusters in 2013


Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a belated Merry Christmas.  We spent some family time down in New York, visiting Dr. Tom’s family.  If you have had the pleasure of being adjusted by Dr. Tom, you’ll have picked up on his New Jersey accent.  The way he says “car” and “drawer”, it’s a dead give away.  While I was in NJ, I took the opportunity to train at CrossFit Ignite on Christmas Eve.  If you’re familiar with the people of CrossFit, you will know that they are a committed group of ridiculously energetic people (check out my blog post on it here).  Add the NJ accent and all that is good about the NJ attitude (and I DO mean that in the absolute best definition of the word, I’m married to the best thing ever to come out of NJ), and you’ve got one crazy amount of energy in a CrossFit box.

2013

I am 100% amped up for 2013.  There is something refreshing about starting a new year.  My basic lifestyle honestly doesn’t change that much – I am already adjusted (powered up!), I eat by design, I move by design, and I think by design – but regardless I am internally programmed to be excited about a new year and the possibilities it presents.  It’s a comparison mark to the year before.  2012 was a great year.  We had some incredible growth in our office welcoming Dr. Kara Hoffsuemmer, DC and Becky Brenneman, RMT.  We elevated our Life by Design message in Barrie both in our office at our monthly seminars and in our community to many different businesses, organizations, and groups.  And most importantly we welcomed Maggie into our already amazing family.  So considering 2012 was…well, kind of awesome…I’m pretty stoked at the expectation that 2013 will be even better.

Here’s why.

I’m making 2013 my best year yet both personally and professionally.  Part of defining my purpose in my life is to define my values.  My values define who I am as a human being and also help me define my goals daily, weekly, monthly, annually, and years out (2,3, 5, 10+).  Taking a clear look at my goals, I’ve established my plan over the next few months.  To give you a taste (because honestly, the list is extensive….it’s in my purpose book that I read and re-read each morning to gain even more clarity), here are some of the goals I’ve set out for myself.

Power by Design – Weekly adjustments to keep my brain-body connection clear.  Plus, quarterly chiropractic re-assessments to make sure that my weekly care plan is meeting my functional needs.

Think by Design – I have twelve books chosen to read over the next twelve months.  One per month, at the very least, with the hopes of more added to the list when I run out of books to read this June.  I’ll be putting aside 60 minutes a day to read (think that’s tough?  Turn off the TV at night, folks) They are, in no particular order:

  • The Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Branden (I’m re-reading this one, it’s a tough read but a good one)
  • Influence by Cialdini
  • The Monk who Sold His Ferrari by Sharma
  • Outsmart by Champy
  • Steve Jobs: A Biography by Isaacson
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey (another re-read.  I need a reminder)
  • Purple Cow by Godin
  • Made to Stick by Heath & Heath
  • The Four Hour Work Week by Ferris
  • E-Myth by Gerber
  • Think and Grow Rich by Hill
  • The Message of a Master by McDonald

Eat by Design – I eat by design 90% of the time.  However I want to become more inspired and organized in the kitchen.  Monday becomes my new food shopping day to get ready for the week.   Meals prepared the week ahead of time, food purchased and prepped, and better recipes to keep my family and friends inspired when they eat with us!  I’ll be checking out these websites regularly for meal ideas:  PaleOMG, Civilized Caveman Cooking, Balanced Bites, NomNom Paleo , Health Bent and stocking my kitchen with their cookbooks in order to get excited about food without going online.

Move by Design – If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I have three kids.  One of the common excuses I hear from moms is that they don’t have time to work out.  This is the part where I call moms on this excuse.  Sorry, ladies, but the “I have kids” card isn’t going to cut it.  We’re talking about priorities here – and so I have one question for you.  Is your physical health a priority for you?  If so (and it should be), make the time to work out.  I have a few goals for myself this year:

  • Deadlift 200 lbs
  • Do a handstand push up
  • Participate in Tough Mudder (I registered for this last year prior to finding out I was welcoming a baby and would be 5 months pregnant when the event was taking place, this year, I’m in)
  • Yoga once a week

There are more.  Many more.  The most important thing to take away from these though is that each goal has a plan in order to achieve it.  I’ve spelled out to myself how I will go about getting to the goal, given them a time frame, made sure they are attainable and realistic (it’s the age old SMART acronym for goal setting – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time frame).

In a couple of days I’ll be ringing in the new year with Tom.  We are spending a quiet evening at home, making fondue (starting with a broth for the meats and followed by a dark chocolate one for fruit….mmmmm, I’m drooling at the thought of it), reminiscing over the last year, and most importantly looking forward to the excitement of 2013.

Day 4 & Getting my Body Back

I’ve been pretty good with my 30 Day Challenge.  In reality, it’s only day 4.  But often, it’s the first few days that are the hardest.  It requires dedication and a lot of effort to change the habits we’ve had for weeks, months, and years.  For me, it was the small things – the elimination of sugar – that has been the hardest.  I didn’t even eat a lot of sugar going into the challenge however it was the small things that I picked at here and there that made me realize I wasn’t eating as by design as I should be.  The Hallowe’en candy, the chai tea latte from Starbucks (truly, that deserves it’s very own post and I promise to write one within the week), the addition of honey to my tea, and so on.  But it’s coming, and while my body has crashed a little since going to over 90% eating by design, I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel a week from now.  By “crashed” I mean my immune system was taxed over the last few weeks and as I clean out my body, my immune system is rebelling just a little.  Headache, the chills, exhaustion…all signs that my body is tired and it needs some extra support right now.  It definitely doesn’t mean to come off eating by design, taking my supplements (vitamin D, fish oils, and probiotics), getting movement in some form every day, and focusing on my purpose right now.

Getting my body back is a huge priority for me.  I was damn strong before getting pregnant and up until 37 weeks pregnant, I was still training at CrossFit Barrie 2-3 days per week.  It was a modified workout so that I wasn’t stressing out my pregnant self, but ultimately I was still doing push-ups, burpees, pull-ups, Olympic lifts, skipping and more.  It wasn’t necessarily a pretty training session but it was   being done.  So, now, other than a daily walk with my kids around our neighbourhood, I’ve started doing some simple body work to re-train my body on how to properly squat, do push ups, and more.  The physical changes of my body during the last few months really altered how one properly moves with Olympic lifts.  My centre of gravity was off and in order to not fall over in squatting moves, I really had to throw my upper body forward.  Until my posture and body position is good during the movements, I don’t want to add any heavy weights into the workout.  (Also, let’s be honest, having a cesarean birth 3 weeks ago, I do have to respect my limitations as my body heals from the inside, out)

Next week, the plan is to actually get back into the gym.  Those 5 push-ups are calling and I’ve got 26 days to get my strength back up.

The Fun Feeling The Morning After a Good Workout

You know what I’m talking about.  That feeling you wake up with the next morning, as you roll out of bed, and find that the muscles that felt great after yesterday’s session are now screaming at you.  It hurts to take a full stride.  It hurts to sit down to use the washroom.  And after you dress and brush your teeth, you look into the hallway and remember that you have to negotiate a flight of stairs.

Yes, the morning after a good workout can hurt.

Good thing though it can easily be remedied.  Your muscles are hurting because you worked them.  It’s a “good hurt”, if that is a phrase I can use without causing you to throw something at me in annoyance.

So that you understand the “why” behind the “ow”,  muscles hurt 24-48 hours after you workout because of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Basically, you have tiny muscle tears that are being repaired.  Your muscle cells are laying down stronger muscle cells to replace the previous ones – in essence, your muscles are growing and getting stronger AFTER your workout.  So, you can use that as solace as you take those first steps down the flight of stairs.  Use a railing, it helps.

“But it still hurts!”  Yup, it will.  And it will upwards of 3 or 4 days if you don’t do something about it.  So, this is what I suggest:

1)  Foam roll.  Before your workout.  After your workout.  And in the days afterwards.  I foam roll about 5-10 minutes a day regardless of whether or not I have worked out.  I use it simply for good soft tissue health in between massage.  For a great video on how to foam roll, check out our video HERE.  Does foam rolling replace stretching?  No, you can do both.  I just prefer foam rolling as it is a deeper, more concentrated approach to muscle health and will help to reduce muscle “knots”, whereas stretching will simply stretch the healthy tissue.  Foam rolling can also help increase range of motion of a muscle therefore it does have added benefits.

2)  Lacrosse Ball.  This works in collaboration with the foam roll.  It is used to target the smaller muscles that the foam roll can’t get at.  Great for muscles like the traps (“ow! I did a lot of overhead work yesterday!”) and the calves (“Those uphill sprints are killing me!”) and the piriformis (“I don’t know what muscle in my butt that I pulled but wow, it is sore!”).   Not sure how to use the lacrosse ball?  We have a video for that HERE.

3)  Drink lots of water and eat protein.  Yes, we’ve heard this for decades but it still holds true.  You need water to help those muscles repair themselves.  The saying “it flushes out the toxins” isn’t true but water is an essential component of muscular health so re-hydrating is important.  Eating a protein meal after a workout will help though as it replenishes you with amino acids you need to help repair muscle tissue.  I personally like a protein shake as it goes down easily within 15-20 minutes after a workout and requires minimal effort on my part to prepare or consume (sometimes after a good workout, I find digesting solid food can be tough, hence the liquid meal).

4)  Move.  You have to get moving when you’re sore.  Sitting on a couch and “babying” the muscles isn’t going to help you.  The more mobility you get into the muscles and the joints they support, the better!

5)  Exercise regularly. The more often you exercise, your body becomes conditioned to the new physical “rules” you are placing upon yourself.  Your body will be less sore over time, although as you progress through a training regimen to get stronger, you will be working harder, more intensely, and adding in new muscles each day so you will inevitably have sore days in the future.

First and foremost, please don’t use the excuse of not liking the muscle soreness to deter you from training hard.  Lifting weights is such an important part of your health, it cannot be substituted with cardio or eating well.  (Just as eating well cannot be substituted with exercise – you have to do it all!)  It will build strength, build support, improves bone density (which helps protect against osteoporosis), improve balance, increase your metabolic rate (read: helps you lose weight), and reduce your chance of developing metabolic syndrome which has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.