How old are you?
Where you active as a kid?
I played a lot of sports until midway through High School. Then all the distractions came!
When did start working out?
In my early 30’s, I would work out for a few months, right before our annual beach vacation, and when I returned, I would go back to eating junk and being inactive. I didn’t even learn to cook until I was almost 40. Haha
What does a normal week look like for you? How often do you exercise and what type of exercise do you do?
Right now, I work out 4-5 days a week in the morning before work. I mostly lift weights. During our short summers, I often do some races and short triathlons just for fun.
Do you follow a certain diet philosophy (if so, which one and when did you start) or do you just try and eat clean?
If anything, IIFYM. I’m all about flexible dieting. However, most of the year I try to just eat mostly clean with some pizza and a few beers mixed in!
In 2011, you had days when your were so depressed you couldn’t get out of bed some days. How did you get overcome that time in your life?
There were many contributors to my period of depression. I had quit my job, sold my home, and moved away with my longtime boyfriend.
I felt very isolated there. I struggled with the grey skies, what path I wanted to take in my career, making new friends, etc.
My depression had led to poor health and greatly contributed to the break up of my 8 year relationship. I had no job, no money, no real place to live. I couldn’t keep living like that. I packed up my cat, and what I could fit into my tiny hatchback and moved over 600 miles back to my home town. Having my people around me really helped. I found work and a place to live. After an initial stage of letting my hair down, I decided that I was tired of being out of shape and unhappy when I looked in the mirror. I started learning how to cook and bought a few things that I could use for at-home workouts.
Does exercise play a role today in your mental health?
A major part! It’s really changed my life and how I manage my stress. It’s the one part of the day that’s completely mine. Where I can leave all the crappy stuff on a pile of sweat on the floor.
How did you learn to love yourself through it all?
At first, my depression turned into obsession. I couldn’t be lean enough. I was critical of everything and didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. As I kept at it, I started to feel more confident in myself. My goals changed from wanting to look a certain way to wanting to FEEL a certain way. I started focusing on things I DID like about myself (which wasn’t much at the time!), while I improved what I didn’t. I also realized that I had a lot of work to do on the inside. I basically did an asshole check on myself and didn’t like what I found. I started examining poor behaviours and what caused them. If I was acting negative or petty to others, I’d ask myself why and how I could do better on a daily basis. Every time I found myself engaging in negative self-talk, I’d envision myself saying those things to someone I cared about. It’s a real eye opener! I worked (and still am) to be a better listener, have empathy, tell others when I appreciate them. I found through that, I also was kinder to myself. We are all just works in progress and deserve to cut ourselves some slack.
You are a stroke survivor. Will you share your store story with us?
I came home after a family dinner on December 26, 2018. I wasn't feeling well, and went straight to bed. Unfortunately, my stomach had other plans, and I was up the entire night with, what I guessed was, food poisoning.
My parents who were visiting, set off to return home in the morning, and I finally fell asleep for a couple of hours. I awoke with a sharp pain in my neck, but wrote it off to being up all night with my head bent over a bucket. I tried to get out of bed, and immediately fell back, dizzy. I was confused, but assumed I was just dehydrated and needed fluids.
When I stood up again, I fell on the floor, unable to move my left side, and realized something was really wrong. After an unintelligible attempt at calling my Mom for help, I hung up and dialed 911.
After a couple of nights in the stroke ward, and all the tests, they determined that I had a cerebellar stroke caused by an arterial dissection. Basically a random, fluke injury. Being 43, and extremely active and healthy, I never imagined this could happen.
How long did it take you getting back to working out?
I basically wasn’t allowed to put any stress on my neck, no pushing motions or have my arms above shoulder level. After 3 months, a MRI showed that the artery was healing normally, and I was allowed to start light workouts.
How are you doing today?
I’m doing great! My balance issues are gone, and I’m almost at the strength level before my stroke.
Do you have any challenges today from the stroke?
I definitely tire easier now. I had some memory issues, but they’re getting better. My left side still has numbness and tingling which likely won’t ever go away. There’s a few little things, like not being able to use birth control anymore, being on Aspirin therapy for the rest of my life, having to pass a medical for my license renewal. All in all, I think I was very lucky!
What have you learned about yourself since your stroke?
It’s a weird feeling to think that you’re dying! It was nice to know I didn’t feel like I had any regrets when that happened. I also found that the self-work I did after my previous depression helped me avoid it post-stroke. I had some bad days, but was able to manage it well. Once you accept your “new normal” instead of being frustrated about what you used to be able to do, you can start improving from there.
What would you change with how women approach their health if you could?
I wish more women would look after themselves and their health first. I think many women are natural care givers and put others ahead of themselves. We need to know that we deserve to spend time on ourselves.
What should women know about strokes?
Women are at higher risk during pregnancy, menopause, birth control and as we age. It’s important to know the signs (FAST - Face, Arms, Speech, Time) and call 911 RIGHT AWAY.
What advice do you have for other females over 35 wanting to start their own fitness journey?
Be consistent! That’s the most important. Also, be realistic. You don’t get out of shape in a week, so you won’t get into shape in that time. You don’t need to look like or compete with 20 year olds you see online. Set goals for your own life and go for it. Whether it’s to run a race, enter a bodybuilding competition, or just be able to play with your kids without being winded. Also, take pictures! Even if you bury them out in the yard where no one can find them, they are important! I really wish I had taken more. On those days where you feel like giving up or you haven’t made enough progress, pulling those out can really remind you how far you’ve come.