I am never going to get off this couch. That was my thought as I breastfed newborn twins while watching a 2-year old daughter, and a 3-year old son; waiting for my husband to get home from work. I was tired. I thought my body had undergone irreparable damage. My biggest concerns seemed to be that my kids were flushing Hot Wheels® down the toilet and turning the blender on without a lid while filling it with red grapes. I would never again have a moment to myself, or for myself. This was it.
To save my sanity, I realized that I once again needed physical activity, a break from my responsibilities, and some me-time. After the birth of my first child, I had joined the YMCA and attended regularly. Thank goodness for their child-care service. I looked forward to that each day. It got me out of the house and let me focus on myself. I’ll admit there were times I only showered and visited with other moms. Regardless, I created a healthy routine. I did it before; I could do it again.
I was a runner for many years prior to becoming a mother. I recalled how important goal setting was. It kept me accountable. Eight months after having my first child I completed a marathon. I felt exhilarated and proud of myself, not so much for running 26.1 miles, but for committing to a goal, putting in the work (when it would have been easier not to), and sticking it out. I wanted to feel that again, despite having three additional children.
I needed another goal. I decided to move my body every day, one day at a time. Seemingly this was not a lofty goal, but getting the kids fed, dressed, and into their car seats or strollers for a trip to the gym or a walk was a major challenge in itself. Regardless, this was the beginning.
Before long I was running again, and setting new goals. I began to feel like an athlete again. First, I committed to a 5-mile race, then a half-marathon, then a full marathon. I was getting faster. In 2010 I qualified for, and competed in the Boston marathon. I was a 40-year old with four kids between the ages of 7-11, yet I had accomplished something I never would have thought possible.
Goal setting in health and fitness is so important. It makes me accountable to others and myself. Making exercise a priority helps with my self-discipline; I move my body whether I feel like it or not while telling myself that something is better than nothing. I also found that when I’m active I eat well, and when I eat well I feel like being active. Sadly, there have been times when I have learned that the opposite is also true.
My husband is also very active. When we first became parents, we discussed and decided that one of our governing strategies was to parent by example in all regards, including self-care, nutrition, and physical fitness. I think this commitment has had a positive effect towards each of them finding their passions. Our oldest son now plays in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for Drayton Valley Thunder with the goal of a NCAA division 1 scholarship. Our daughter also plays hockey, enjoys snowboarding, and just completed a Jasper-to-Banff bicycle tour with my husband. Our youngest plays Bantam Prep hockey for Okanagan Hockey Edmonton while his twin attends the Royal Winnipeg Ballet professional division.
I have enough obligations in life, so exercise is my recreation. I keep it fun. To learn new things, and to be challenged, I hired a Personal Trainer. One day while working with my trainer Robbie (Alligator Alley personal training) he suggested I try training towards a powerlifting competition. I have to admit, I had no clue what powerlifting was, but the very thought conjured up images of less-than-feminine women with large muscles and facial hair, presumably from anabolic steroid use. I did my research and found a diverse, inclusive community of athletes, dispelling my fear that lifting heavy weights would lead to large, unattractive muscles. Rather, I found a new venue to challenge myself physically and mentally. I found my passion.
Powerlifting is a strength sport consisting of three main lifts including bench press, squat, and deadlift. Competitors get three attempts at each lift for maximum total weight achieved. Competitors are classed accordingly to age and body weight.
My first powerlifting meet was the Oil Cup in May 2016. I loved it! The powerlifting community was like nothing I had previously experienced. Athletes were supportive and encouraging. I qualified for Nationals at that meet but had to compete in Regionals and Provincials first. I achieved “Best Overall Masters Lifter” and gold in the Masters I -57 kg weight class division at Regionals. I currently hold the Alberta provincial records for all three lifts in my age division and weight class.
I will be competing at the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships this February 2018 in Calgary as a Masters II lifter (I will be turning 50 in 2018). I am now coached by Avi Silverberg (Team Canada Powerlifting Coach). Avi provides me with my training plans each week. Due to lifestyle constraints, I train four times a week at home by myself in my basement. It has become common place to be squatting over 240 lbs. benching over 135 lbs. and deadlifting over 300 lbs. I also still see my trainer Robbie once a week for a fun workout and usually a welcome break from the lifts!
Avi feels that I am poised to the lead the charge at the National Championships in February, as being on the younger side of the new age bracket brings an advantage. My goal is to achieve gold. If successful, I will earn a spot on the Canadian National Team and have the opportunity to compete at World’s in June 2018. Representing Canada, with my friends’ and family support would be a fantastic 50th birthday present!
By Jody McPeak