I was born strong.
Don’t get me wrong, I was your typical dark-haired, extra chubby marshmallow, but from a young age, I showed a natural gift for physicality. I tried and played almost every sport, but gymnastics became my childhood passion.
Many people enjoy the grace and beauty of gymnastics. But, for me, it was all about the power. The feeling of pushing my body to go higher, to last longer, to endure more. That was the part of gymnastics that spoke to me.
Long hours training and conditioning turned my young body into rock hard muscle. Other seven year old girls were flexible and lithe whereas I was walking around with biceps and an eight pack. Simply put, I was born with the enormous potential for physical strength.
As I’ve grown up, life has taught me that ‘strength’ is much more than being fit and muscular. Emotional strength. Mental strength. Spiritual strength. These were weaknesses that I’ve had to fight to improve.
Like everyone else, I have experienced my share of hardships and challenges. My past involves a teenage pregnancy, being a young mother, an unhealthy marriage, divorce, losing a brother to suicide, and in the midst of it all, battling my own anxiety, self-doubt, and depression.
For a few of these tough years, I mentally checked out. I was going through the motions of being a mother, I laughed when things were supposed to be funny, I said the things I was supposed to say. But, I was just a shell. A shell of the person I knew was inside. How does a person break through the fog? How does someone find life again?
Finding fitness again
About 8 years ago, I felt inspired to try a figure competition. Growing up I saw a fitness pageant on TV. I had always wanted to try one. My gymnastics background and that old connectedness with my body made me think fitness could be right for me. Little did I know, that these fitness pageants were fading out, and figure competitions were taking their place. I found a trainer and started to put in the work. Remember, I was born strong so putting on muscle was my forte. Trying to stay lean and not get too bulky took work!
I made it to Nationals and felt content with my efforts. At the time I didn’t realize that fitness was helping more than just my body, but in retrospect, having a goal and working hard built me up as a whole person.
Round two of life came out swinging.
In the middle of a painful divorce, my little brother, my incredible younger brother, took his own life. I was devastated.
If you’ve experienced any kind of grief, you know it’s emotionally, physically and spiritually derailing. I didn’t have the inner strength to deal with so much distress and I became numb. But, fitness had given me a foundation, a path to work my way out of the fog.
I had two daughters to take care of. I couldn’t let myself wallow.
I felt a strong pull to get back into kickboxing. Previously I had used Tae Boe and fitness kickboxing classes to get back in shape after pregnancy. This time, however, UFC was on the rise, and I kept seeing fights on TV.
So, this time, I wanted to find a gym with real bags, mitts, and possibly some sparring. I found a fight gym, started learning true technique, mechanics, strategy, and just a general understanding of the sport.
It was like the heavens opened, and the fitness Gods gave me my own little miracle. The workouts were just what I needed. Learning combinations was stimulating for my foggy mental status, the physicality of it was producing endorphins, the speed of it required concentration and focus.
The full body workouts sculpted and leaned out my body. I built confidence and found myself feeling more upbeat and hopeful. I would leave each class dripping with sweat and exhausted, but feeling stronger, more like myself, and less burdened.
I kept at it, and as I improved, I started to spar lightly. Learning to take a punch, and keep going is empowering. With every workout, with every new skill I learned, I found more of me.
Nothing is more cathartic than having a horrendous day, feeling full of turmoil and grief, and then going to the gym and taking it all out on a bag or a mitt session. All of those emotions, all that self-doubt, all that pain instead of letting it fester inside of me, I left it to die at the gym.
The first fight
Taking that step to fight an actual person is a big decision and I’ll be honest, my first fight did not go well. I was nervous and jittery; my mental game was way off. I was embarrassed and disappointed how it all played out. My whole life I’d been the strongest and the toughest but on that night, in that ring, that was not the case.
I had a choice. Wither up. Turn inward. Give a voice to the doubts in my head. Let mental weakness cripple me again. Or, keep training, improve, bust my ass, and get my head in check.
My second fight went much better. My whole family, my closest friends, my kids –they were all there to watch me. I came out with the win and was very happy with my how I performed.
If you passed me on the street, you would never guess that I am a fighter. I’m not just talking about MMA, I am talking about the war I have waged with myself, to become a better, stronger, healthier person. Fitness and fighting gave me the tools to strengthen my body, and in the process, I found the will to fight for myself.
Is every fight a victory? No. Do I come out on top every day? No. But I know how to pick myself up and keep going.
If you haven’t tried a kickboxing class I highly recommend finding a gym and getting to work. You don’t have to actually fight or become the next Rhonda Rousey or Paige Van Zant but, it might be just what you need to become the champ of your own life.
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