Fit Thrive

Live Vibrantly

Shelley's Story: Mother of Five, Strong as Ever

Tell us a bit about you.

I am in my late thirties. I am married to the most amazing man and we have five children. I work part-time at my own consulting business. Although I was involved in sports as a kids and teenager, I don’t consider myself to be naturally athletic. My interests have always been in activities that involve nature, such as canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, etc. and fitness was more of a means to an end for me. Until I discovered lifting, of course.

Shelley Transformation

You started training with me in December 2012. At that time, what was your fitness level and what did you need help with?

That was six months after the birth of my fifth child. Due to some complications, I wasn’t really able to exercise during the last half of that pregnancy. I felt like that, combined with 4 other pregnancies, had taken its toll. While my fitness level wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t great. I was heading into the later half of my thirties and felt like I was at a tipping point where I had to take action if I didn’t want things to go downhill rapidly. I really needed help with where to start. In the past every time I had gone to a new gym I said that I wanted to learn how to lift, and every time the women trainers would look at me like I had two heads and then send me off to the cardio room. The thing is, I have never liked cardio. I loathe it and it has never given me results. The weight room always intrigued me and for years my husband had been encouraging me to take up lifting. The problem was I didn’t really know how to go about starting a lifting program and it seemed like my husband and I could never get time to go there together for him to help me set something up. So I started doing some Internet research. I came across your blog and decided it was time to get in touch with someone who could help me get started.

Fast forward to 18 months later and what have you achieved?

It’s hard to even know where to start. I feel like I have achieved so much in so many areas. I have made a lot of strength gains that I never thought possible. I can now hip thrust and glute bridge into the 300’s. I can do 4-5 chin-ups, 10-15 feet elevated push-ups, weighted push-ups. Due to a previous back injury I never thought I would deadlift more than my body weight. I just pulled 175 the other day without aggravating my back at all. I think I have also finally achieved balance in terms of health and fitness. Previously, working out (i.e. cardio) was something that I felt like I had to do to avoid getting fat. Now I don’t even worry about my weight and I love my workouts. It’s been very liberating.

What hurdles did you have to overcome during this process?

I think most of the hurdles have been psychological. At one point I realized I had a lot of self-limiting thought patterns. Early on I remember seeing a video of you glute bridging over 300 pounds and my first reaction was, “I could never do that.” Over the past year I’ve learned that rather than telling myself I can’t do something that someone else can, I should be asking myself, what steps has that person taken to get there? I also used to be afraid to fail at a lift because I would feel embarrassed. I’ve come to realize that there’s no shame in missing a lift. You don’t know how much you can lift unless you try.

Did you have a sort of ‘ah-ha’ moment when everything clicked? If so, tell us about it.

I think there were probably two moments. One was when I realized that cardio wasn’t necessary. That was great! The other moment was when I realized I needed to leave my emotions at the door and be more objective. This was pretty early on and I decided I was going to treat my journey more like a scientific study. I started collecting data in various forms so that I could really figure out what was and wasn’t working.

What inspires you to keep pushing the limits and taking on new challenges?

I’m always inspired by what the other women in the Get Glutes community are doing. They are so dedicated and encouraging. Seeing how strong they are is really inspiring. We love canoeing and wilderness camping. We recently did a two-week backcountry trip with all our kids. It felt so great to be portaging huge packs easily. I love that I have found an activity (lifting) that then allows me to take my outdoor pursuits to the next level. I also get really motivated when I go through my logs or look at my graphs (yes, I’m a geek). It’s great to see the improvements and seeing the areas that are lagging has inspired me to step up and make more of an effort in those areas.

Your strength gains are pretty impressive. Did you ever think you would be this strong? How has it improved other aspects of your life?

Never thought I would be this strong. I feel like lifting has added a lot of balance to my life. Lifting is something I look forward to and a huge stress reliever. My diet has always been pretty good, but it’s gotten even better since I started lifting. I can really feel a difference in my workouts if I’ve been eating junk, so I’m a lot more motivated to keep my diet clean. I feel better about the way I look and I think that has had a positive impact on my marriage.

What do your kids think about their superhero mom?

I think they probably wish I would stop talking about lifting so much.

Has fitness changed your family life? If so, explain why.

We recently put a gym in our house so that my husband and I can work out together in the evenings. Now my older kids are starting to get interested in it as well.

If we just look at your scale numbers and nothing else, we might think you didn’t make much progress—which is far from the truth. At any time did the scale affect how you perceived your progress? If so, how did you change your mindset?

For most of my life I have weighed about 135 lbs, but felt I looked best at 130 lbs. It took awhile to get over the mindset that I would look best at 130 lbs. At one point I decided to do a cut and limited myself to 1500 calories per day in an effort to get rid of some fat. I got down to 132 lbs, but I didn’t look as good. I was losing muscle and my strength hit a plateau. Eating that little didn’t feel healthy and by that time strength was more of a priority for me, so I decided to stop giving so much value to the scale numbers. When I took my last progress pictures I was pushing 140 lbs. I couldn’t have achieved those changes if I freaked out and starved myself every time the scale went up.

Your body is incredible, if I do say so myself. You’ve definitely gone from “you look great for having kids,” to “you look off the charts amazing!” Your transformation has defies so many myths about being a mom and about fitness. What advice can you give other women when it comes to overcoming myths and stereotypes?

Thanks! There are a few things.

1) As a mom, I think the first thing you have to ask yourself is, “Would I want my child to treat themselves the way I’m treating myself?” I wouldn’t want my children to starve themselves, so I’m not going to starve myself. I wouldn’t want my children to bombard themselves with images of unrealistic physiques and then beat themselves up emotionally when they don’t attain those physiques, so I’m not going to do that.

2) You can’t have it all. If getting into shape is a priority, then you may have to give up some other things in order to fit it into your schedule. For me it was a matter of cutting back on a number of hobbies.

3) It doesn’t have to be that hard. You don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill and in cardio classes. Just lift heavy for 30-40 minutes three times a week following a progressive overload program and eat whole foods most of the time.

4) Be patient – there are no quick fixes. On the Get Glutes forum we’re always reminding each other that it takes two years to build a physique. It takes time for your body to build muscle.

5) Break your long-term goals down into small attainable steps; tackling one thing at a time. For example, when I started working with you my long-term goal was to have a good physique. In order for that to happen there were a lot of things I needed to do, the most obvious being working out consistently. So I set one attainable goal – to work out three times per week consistently for 3 months. That was it. By the end of the 3 months working out was a habit and then I could move on to the next thing. Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to make too many changes at once.

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