Hey everyone! I am so excited to bring you this month’s edition of Finding Fitness! This month I am happy to introduce you to Allison from Waking Up Thirty. She has so much wonderful information to share about herself and her fitness journey! From becoming an instructor at her local gym to how she regains her motivation, there is so much to learn from here! Enjoy!
Background: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I just turned 33 and am now primarily a stay at home mom, however this wasn’t always the case.
I am the youngest of seven children in a blended family. Growing up with that many siblings was super fun, sometimes annoying and taught me how to be strong and to stand out.
In 2002 had my first born when I was just 18 years old and fresh out of high school. It was unplanned, but probably the most defining moment of my adult life. Having a child that young left me feeling like I needed to focus on building a future for the both of us, so after working some various jobs for a couple of years I enrolled in a Radio and Television arts program in college in 2005. I am very artistic, so I felt an arts program with some real concrete job positions in my area was a great avenue.
I met my now husband right before school started and thankfully in my second year of college landed a full time position in television production – so things seemed to happen really fast at that point.
We got married in 2010 and in 2014 had our second child. Once I returned to work after my maternity leave, the schedule just didn’t work for our family, so we made the decision for me to be a stay at home mom.
How did your fitness journey start? What motivated the change? Along with that, what has kept you interested?
I was always the one in my family who complained about not having enough healthy food in our house. I was always concerned about my Dad’s health as he has had Type II Diabetes since I can remember.
What made the biggest change for me was seeing my wedding photos and feeling sad that I was as big as I was. The pictures are definitely bittersweet to look at. It was such a great day, but I wish I could have been more comfortable in my own skin at the time – regardless of my size.
I started counting calories and going to the gym and managed to lose about 35 or 40 pounds in a year or so. I began researching more and more about dense nutrition and what foods affected me negatively. I really enjoy learning and gaining knowledge, so it was natural for me to read articles and spend time figuring things out.
After this year and a half my husband and I decided he was going to venture out and work away from home. This would mean he was away for three months at a time. During this time I got my Zumba Instructor License and began teaching classes in my rural area. I ended up leaving my television production job while my husband worked away.
I also began working at the local gym and got my Fitness Instructor Specialist Certification through Canfitpro and began teaching other formats other than Zumba. I was teaching about nine or ten classes per week!
During this time I didn’t lose many pounds, but my body composition changed so much. I was stronger, had more muscle and less fat. I felt fabulous.
Then it was decided my husband was going to come home. Working away from home was really hard on him and so it was also decided that I would go back to work at that same television production job.
Then, “TA DA!”, I was pregnant. Surprise, surprise.
Pregnancy this time around was not easy on me and I developed Hypothyroidism. I knew being tired was a common pregnancy symptom, but I was really tired, hurting and generally feeling not like myself at all. After giving birth I gained weight (one of the lucky ones who gains weight while breastfeeding) and felt so terrible all the time.
When I went back to work I still hadn’t figured out my health issues and my husband and I decided that with the stress of my night shifts and weekend work, me being home with our kids was the best solution for our family.
I felt pretty groggy for almost a whole other year until I started taking Bootcamp classes near my house. I hadn’t really been eating well as I was so tired all the time, so I also had to relearn to focus on eating those whole foods again. I could have wasted away in misery with the brain fog, fatigue and general depression I was under, but I was determined to get back into shape physically and mentally.
The Bootcamp classes helped me so much. It started with me noticing my physical strength coming back and then I really felt like my mental strength was returning back to its normal place too.
At the end of that year of Bootcamp classes, the instructor announced she was leaving and the classes would not continue. I decided to reinstate my Group Fitness Certification and to keep these essential classes running in our community.
So, here I am. I am teaching classes just twice per week. It is a great balance for me and I love my people that come to class.
I have also started really focusing on my mental health and mindfulness. I meditate, I work on mindfulness exercises like letting go of anger and keeping positive thoughts flowing. Being mentally fit is a huge part of my life as I suffered from depression and anxiety for years.
I finally feel like I am becoming myself again. It feels amazing.
What has been your biggest challenge in your fitness journey and how have you dealt with it?
Have you had any setbacks since starting your fitness journey? If so, how did you deal with them?
These questions are definitely going to have the same answer. My biggest challenge and my biggest set back has been pregnancy and the resulting hypothyroidism diagnoses. I have had to reevaluate everything about my fitness knowledge. Just cutting calories does not work for me. I have to focus on foods that cause my thyroid to flare up and inflammation in my body. I have to exercise differently and what some would consider more intensely. I do less cardio now and focus a lot more on strength training and lifting weights. I also had to do so much research on what general doctors advise vs. naturopaths or those with experience when it comes to overcoming thyroid issues. I almost felt like I was completely starting over again and it was depressing. It took me months and months to make small changes again and it was so humbling. Never again will I ever assume someone is not working towards goals just by the way they look. We have no idea what other people are struggling with.
What achievement are you the most proud of?
I am definitely still proud of the fact that I previously lost 40+pounds. But, really I am more proud of the fact that I have bounced back after such a regression. No one else can understand or see the effects but myself, so it is often hard for me to convince others how well I am doing. I may not look like their ideal person, but I am pushing myself and setting and achieving goals that are not necessarily physical and it is so important to me to acknowledge it.
Outside of the physical, what have been some significant changes brought on by your fitness journey?
Mental fitness. I had no idea really how much my mental health would be affected by physical activity and properly fueling and hydrating my body.
I’m a completely different person than I was pre-2010. I used to have so much anger, frustration and a low patience level. Myself and my life are so different now and so much more positive that I can never go back to that dark hole again.
What are you working towards now? What are your goals and dreams, fitness-wise?
I would still like to lose a few pounds, but not just because I want to look good. I’m interested to see if it helps my hypothyroid symptoms and I also want to avoid getting Type II Diabetes. I’m not even on my doctors radar for having Diabetes, but my family history is not in my favour. I would prefer if I can just avoid the possibility altogether.
I also have a goal of getting my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction certification in the next two years. If I get this certification I would offer workshops in my area that would focus on mindfulness, stress release, and so much more. It is a bit of a pipe dream, but I have been looking into it more and more – and actually touch on this in my blog quite often.
What does a typical training week look like?
I try to be active at least four days per week. This might not be your traditional hitting-the-gym type of active, but even going outside for a walk or run, hiking, riding a bike, swimming etc. are my ideas of active. Then on Mondays and Thursdays I do my one hour Bootcamp classes. The Bootcamp classes are always some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) cardio and a larger portion of strength training. The classes are tough, brutal sometimes, and I love it.
What does an average day of eating look like for you?
Right now I am primarily following a Paleo diet. This causes the least amount of inflammation in my body and makes me feel full and satisfied. I have almost entirely cut out sweets, however you can see me slipping a handful of chocolate chips or a medium double double into my mouth. I feel like as long as I eat paleo 80% of the time, I am good. Wheat and grains definitely affect me negatively with a lot of bloating and IBS symptoms.
Breakfast – I often have 2 eggs fried in olive oil, then make a veggie stirfry with mushrooms, onions, peppers or eat some spiralized zucchini with a diced tomato to go along with the eggs. I usually have a handful of almonds as well. I also discovered that making an omelette with banana and unsweetened coconut is a really awesome way to get that sweet breakfast we have been conditioned to crave without all the nasty ingredients like those sugary cereals we all grew up with.
Lunch – I eat my own version of nourishment bowls sometimes. This might be a couple slices of bacon or maybe leftover turkey, half an avocado and some fresh veggies and some nutritional yeast sprinkled on top. If I have any leftovers from the supper the night before, I will eat those. Sometimes I start my supper early and eat it for lunch and save the rest for the family supper – especially something like chili. Paleo chili is so good.
Supper – Suppers are basically the same as they have always been here except instead of white potato I will have sweet potato. In place of pasta I will have zucchini noodles and I do eat a limited amount of rice pasta if I am feeling like I need pasta or I might die, but I make sure it is a treat and limit it to once a week or so.
I don’t really snack unless it is an apple and some nuts. You might see me munching on some cheese too because cheese is so hard to give up. I limit it as well and reserve it for my 20% non Paleo items. Baking for my husband’s lunches leaves me craving those cookies or cakes, so I try to make small batches and store them in a large tupperware container so they are out of sight.
I am also limiting my coffee as I find it does dehydrate me and can flare up my digestion issues. I may have one coffee per day for four or five days and then not have any coffee at all for a few days. At home I drink it with just a bit of full fat milk, out and about I prefer a little sugar so I make those treats.
I also focus on drinking 3 litres of water per day. On days I have a really intense workout planned, I tend to eat a bit more carbs and drink more water. It helps give me energy and keep my body fueled. I always have a protein snack of some sorts after my workout as well.
Do you take any supplements? If so, could you tell us a little about what ones and why? If not, why not?
I was taking Synthroid (synthetic thyroid that is a man-made version of thyroxine T4) for my hypothyroidism, but I felt almost no affect from it. My hair and skin were still dull, I was having fatigue, inflammation, weight gain – basically all the symptoms of hypothyroidism that Synthroid is supposed to mask – so I switched to a raw thyroid supplement instead. The raw thyroid is desiccated thyroid from pig (sorry vegetarians) and therefore contains both thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine. (T3) which are the two hormones our thyroid creates. It has made a huge difference for me, but I recommend definitely talking to your doctor or naturopathic doctor before venturing into replacing Synthroid or other synthetic thyroid medications. My version of raw thyroid also has some kelp added for iodine purposes. iodine works in conjunction with the T3 and T4. It also contains other desiccated tissues like the adrenal gland and pituitary glands – all of which work with the thyroid to maintain balance.
I am currently taking a strong live cultured probiotic that is meant to optimize gut flora. I have four doses left. This is a short term probiotic of 50 billion, and I will then change to a daily dose that has less active cultures for maintenance. I take this as I have digestive issues and have been on antibiotics so I want to make sure my gut is happy.
I take maca root often to help with my energy levels. It has been toted around the “Hypothyroid Community” as a great help for fatigue.
I also take a B12 dissolving strip – again for energy levels and general health.
And I take selenium tablets to aid my immune system and cognitive function – as hypothyroidism can cause brain fog. Selenium is also noted as helping metabolize carbs. Since my metabolism is slower with hypothyroidism, this is an added bonus.
What is your favorite exercise? Your least favorite?
My favourite exercise by far are deadlifts and squats. You burn mega calories whenever you use your large muscle groups. I also want a nice butt, so…
My least favourite exercise used to be pushups, but I am loving them now! I feel so strong doing them. So now my least favourite exercise is running. I am not a natural runner, but for some reason I force myself to enter partial marathons nearly every year. Silly me.
What do you do if you find your motivation lacking?
This happens to everyone. All I am going to say is that self motivation is such a mental struggle, just overcoming that devil on your shoulder is a fitness test all on its own. So I look to myself for motivation by practicing positive affirmations. If I tell someone out loud how I have accomplished something or hit a mark, I get even more motivated. When I am in a slump, it can be rough, but then I find that one workout or that one moment where I made it through something tough and I am like, “Yeah, I got this.” It can only take one positive fleeting moment to turn everything around again.
How do you balance fitness with work/life/social/etc? How do you “find the time” to workout?
I am a stay at home mom. The luxury of that is I sometimes have a lot of time to do my own thing… with my kids in tow. I will take them to the playground and run some laps, do walking lunges, get some other girlfriends to bring their kids and do a workout etc etc. Yes, this seems so lavish and great, but it isn’t always easy. I might get a 5 minute run in and my kid wants me to push her on the swing or look at a bug crawling around. Luckily, just being active with your kids can be a workout all on its own. During the winter can be harder, but online videos help.
I teach my own Bootcamp Classes 2x per week, so I try to make those classes an opportunity for me to workout as well and do the entire class with my participants. Often, I end up doing 1/2 or 3/4 of the class as I do take the time to correct form or give cues, but I always feel like I got something out of them.
I am thankful that during the months where we have more daylight my husband is happy to watch the kiddos while I run the block and work on my partial marathon training plans or want to go take a random class elsewhere.
What are your top 3 tips for someone just starting their fitness journey?
Start somewhere. Ignore almost all the people telling you what to do and find something you enjoy doing first. It might be Zumba, it might be running and weight lifting – but you have to find something you want to do and eventually it will give you some results.
Stop stepping on the scale so often. I much prefer measuring my body and checking myself on a body composition scale if I have the opportunity. I stayed at 180 lbs and dropped 2 dress sizes at that weight. The scale is not the only thing that determines your success.
Keep going. Being active and eating well are not temporary solutions to a temporary problem. Staying active and having a healthy diet are parts of a healthy life that includes so much more than just how we look – if you live this way, you will get to experience so much more in life. Trust me.
Anything else you want to share?
If there is anything else I want to express is that I really believe that you have to love yourself always. Love yourself through the process or journey you are on. Love yourself when you are feeling low and love yourself when you are feeling high. If you focus on making yourself a priority, you can’t imagine the positive effects that may have on the rest of your life. It is ok to love yourself – it is not selfish – it is essential to your well-being.
Allison, I just want to say thank you for joining us here on the blog today and sharing so much about your journey! It really is an inspiration!
Allison lives on the East Coast of Canada and brings Bootcamp style classes to rural areas in her community.
She used to work a sedentary job in television production, but has found her passion in helping others achieve their physical fitness goals. She is also hoping to offer mindfulness classes in the future.
Her blog titled “Waking up Thirty” is a look into the mind of a 30-some-year-old who is trying to figure out her purpose after having some major life changes. Her posts are relatable to anyone who is finding themselves wondering why their life doesn’t quite look the way they expected it would.