Once or twice a month, I want to start bringing you "real" stories. I want to pull back the curtain and put the spotlight on the real women and the real moms that put in all the hard work. These are the ones blowing me away. These are the ones that are learning, growing and changing their lives. These are the moms that inspire me, so I think it's important that their stories are shared with you.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriela. Gaby and I have been training together for nearly two years, and she is currently a member in the Strong Mommas Membership.
Let me tell you...Gaby is a Strong Momma! She would be shy and a little embarrassed to admit it, but this petite woman can lift with the best of them. Over the past two years, she has truly become an athlete and has learned a lot along the way.
Let's hear her story...
So tell us Gaby, how many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two kids, a 6 year old daughter, and a 4 year old son. They’re both in school.
Do you work outside the home or have a formal job in the home?
I’m a stay at home mom, and occasionally I work as a Spanish interpreter…I have a translator license. But this is seldom, maybe only 10 hours per month.
How long ago did you start training and changing your eating habits?
I began working with you back in May of 2015, so almost two years ago. Wow!
You're a busy mom, so how do you find the time to fit in exercise and healthy eating?
Because I don’t have a formal job, the workouts have become my responsibility, almost like they’re my job. I do my workouts as soon as I get back from dropping the kids off at school or very early in the morning before anything else happens. I try to make sure they’re done no later than 9:30 in the morning because the rest of the day just gets so busy. I’m usually able to workout five days per week.
Before you started this lifestyle change with Strong Mommas, what did your habits look like? Were you already fit and eating healthy or was this a brand new concept for you?
Mostly brand new. I had always tried to workout at least 3 times per week, but then it became hard when I was pregnant and then had the kids. So, 6 months before starting with you, I began doing Insanity (Workout DVD) 3 times per week and started counting calories.
I’ve always been really focused on the exercise side of things…but the nutrition part was overwhelming. I decided to just count calories. It was easy, since it was just a formula. The true nutrition overhaul seemed overwhelming. Eating was always more about calories than actual nutrition. So, with doing the Insanity DVD’s and counting my calories I lost about 10 pounds during that period.
How would you characterize your attitude toward your body before starting? And now...how is your attitude different, if at all?
Before seriously training, I was at a comfortable weight. I have a small frame so 5 pounds one way or another makes a noticeable difference, but I always hovered in a healthy range. However, I felt like something was missing for my body, and the Insanity (DVD) approach was becoming tiresome and monotonous. And with kids it was too hard to commit to going to the gym, which were annoying to me anyway. I felt like the gym was just a social club.
I didn’t really know that I wanted to feel stronger, but I knew I needed a new approach to working out. I didn’t need a complete body overhaul, but something had to change. I can now do things with my body that I couldn’t do before…I’m stronger, I have more endurance, and I’m way more flexible. Plus, the variety is so fun!
When you first started training "Strong Mommas Style", what were your fears and hesitations?
It was new, and the focus was on weights and strength training. I had always been focused on cardio, but never free weights, which was intimidating. I just never saw myself pushing weights around. I was nervous about what I was going to be able to lift! I still had the cardio mentality, and never really looked at weights in that way.
And of course, the nutrition was intimidating…I now needed to be really conscious about what I was eating. I just wasn’t used to cooking or eating in a healthy way. So the shift was challenging. I knew it was just going to take some time to retrain my mind.
Practically speaking, what can you do now that you weren't able to do prior to this?
I can lift a lot more weight now than when I started. When I began, I was using 8 pounders for everything, and now I do 20 or 25 pounders for most exercises. It feels awesome! When I go grocery shopping, I can now haul all of the bags in by myself in one trip!
Can you remember an exercise that was really hard when you started, but is now easy and natural?
I remember the physioball triceps pullovers being really hard…the movement is just really tricky and it feels uncoordinated. And another one was the side plank w/ hip abduction. Something about that one was just so challenging. But now I can do that plus more! All of a sudden I was just able to do it really well.
What has become automatic for you and what do you still have to work hard at?
The workouts are definitely automatic. I don’t necessarily struggle with the workouts. I love working out, so I just do it. Of course, some days I’m not into, but I do it anyway.
And my eating choices up to lunch and afternoon snack have become automatic, but dinner is sometimes a struggle still. I don’t like to cook, so when it comes to dinner time and having to feed a family, it’s tough. Around 4:30 in the afternoon and later is really challenging, because I might have something planned for dinner, but then I don’t feel like cooking it. And the dark winter days definitely don’t help, because at 7:00 or 8:00 I get another urge to eat. I’m home a lot, too, so the eating sometimes happens out of boredom and I find myself eating just for the sake of eating. So my eating habits are definitely still challenging.
Because healthy eating is the most challenging part for you, what happens when you get derailed?
Yes, the eating is the hardest, for sure. When I’m on track with something, I go all-in at 110%, which is probably a disadvantage. The “just have one bite” mantra, doesn’t work for me. I start to feel a lack of self-control, and then if I’ve already deviated, I feel like I might as well dive all in. I’m learning to recognize what’s happening in the middle of it. And I have to remember how I felt the last time I did this. But honestly, this doesn’t happen very often anymore. I’m proud of that.
Looking at your whole journey, what are you the most proud of?
Changing my eating habits, because that was hard for me. Eating healthy is just not that hard now, but it does get challenging when I look around and see people mindlessly eating. In our (Hispanic) culture there’s a lot of yummy food everywhere and parties are food, food, food. It’s a tough environment that doesn’t encourage healthy eating. But for me, I’m proud that I’m able to choose the right food in these situations, to have the discipline to say “no, I will not eat that”.
Has your fitness journey impacted your spiritual and emotional life at all? Have you noticed any crossovers?
I had never correlated the two before, but I can see now that working out and being healthy is definitely tied to my spiritual life. Often in the mornings, I find myself praying during the slower workouts. Even though I’m not necessarily kneeling down and praying, a lot of meditation and prayer happens during the workouts. The workouts have become a sacred space in a way…definitely some “me” time. And I can see that nutrition and exercise is more than just looking good. There’s a bigger purpose for sure.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
I would say to not feel guilty for taking this time for you. I know that this is a struggle for a lot of moms. Put yourself first and take care of yourself for once…just try it. We’re probably already doing things that are taking time away from our families, like being on our phones all day. These workouts are just 30 minutes or less, so there’s not much guilt factor anyway.
Also, don’t get intimidated or discouraged by the things you can’t do. It might be a little scary at first, but it’s just like starting anything new…like a new job or going to school. It’s going to take some time to learn, but give it a chance. It’s totally doable
I hope Gaby has inspired you. You can see that even for the moms that "make it look easy", it's not easy. She has put in lots of hard work over the past couple years - learning discipline, creating new habits, showing up every day - to get to this point. And it's was worth every minute!
Stay tuned for more stories just like hers...the quiet mommas that are doing remarkable things with their bodies and hearts from the sacred space of their homes. Simply beautiful. Their stories are worth sharing.
If you're curious about what Gaby's workout and nutrition program entails, click here to learn more. You can be a part of this, too!
Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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