Hello! I debated writing this and sending bc I thought maybe it was an over-share, but decided to send it anyway. This email originally started out as something giving comments about what I thought of The Pinnacle, because Ashley had asked the 10am class to email with our thoughts so she could include it in the launch of the trainer...and somehow as I was trying to wrap my mind around how I felt while doing The Pinnacle, this enormous saga vomited out. I just wanted to share with you all mostly to say thank you and that I am so happy I decided to come to ASD, because I was in a bad place before I joined, and now things are totally different. Disclaimer...this is long! haha.
A 14 week training program by Ashley Horner.
I have changed so much in the last 3 months, and it has a lot to do with the fact that I chose to walk through the doors of American Sled Dogs. I always played sports growing up--field hockey, lacrosse, cross country, and track, but I felt like I never lived up to my full potential. I had talent, but due to lack of discipline, maturity, and self-confidence, I never went after what I deserved, in both athletics and in life.
When I had my first daughter, I transitioned from active duty life in the Navy to stay-at-home mom all at once, and I felt like I lost my identity, body, and sense of purpose. I moved to VA Beach right before giving birth and my best friends lived hundreds of miles away. Running and playing competitive sports had been a constant in my life since high school, but once I became a mother, I decided that I didn’t have time to dedicate to training. With all of the weight I gained from pregnancy (75 pounds!) I began to see my best athletic days as a thing of the past. Running and pushing myself is part of who I am, but I lost sight of it in the blur of diapers, poop, and laundry.
My insecurities about going from the label of a Naval Academy grad to "just" a stay-at-home mom caused me to completely dedicate my time to becoming a perfect mom. The Navy had given me an identity and purpose for so long, so if I wasn’t LT Slye anymore, who was I? I wondered “Did I go to the Academy and serve in the Navy to just end up a stay-at-home mom? Shouldn't I be doing something more prestigious? Like law school?” I decided that I needed to be the best mom ever to prove to others that I didn’t waste my USNA education to change diapers and wipe butts all day. So I sacrificed any hopes of training for races in this busy season. Priorities like that seemed selfish. The same would go for any of the other pursuits I enjoy. My girls came first. Reading, writing, being creative, helping people--all these things make my soul happy. But I instead buried myself in scouring the internet for mom blogs and worrying about developmental milestones. I became totally one dimensional--just Mom.
Therein laid the problem. I put myself last and it negatively impacted everyone around me as a result. I had post partum anxiety, panic attacks, and hated being home alone with my daughter. I was a miserable mom, wife, daughter, and friend. I did, however, find a mom friendly workout group and it seemed like the perfect solution because it forced me to get out of the house, exercise, and connect with other women. I clung to this community for dear life. However, I still woke up dreading most days. My workouts and days didn’t have a sense of purpose other than to get out of the house and socialize. I attended to eat up the minutes of the clock and to try to avoid feeling lonely. I lacked the drive to accomplish anything for myself. My unhappiness and insecurities convinced me that I could not do any better because I needed the support of others to keep me afloat. And mostly I feared, “What would I do all day without this?”
I did not like this version of myself. I am not knocking this group, because it absolutely saved me the first year as a mom. It just took me three years to figure out I am actually the one who needed to find my purpose and make the decision to change, get uncomfortable, and grow--right now. I kept waiting for a "better" time. I had yearned for freedom from the Navy, but 3 years after getting out, I was still stuck. I had let myself plateau in limbo.
I blamed a lot of my unhappiness and stress on the Navy giving my husband a hectic schedule in the midst of our two daughters’ births. I became complacent in this miserable state, justifying my negative attitude by believing I deserved to feel this way. I had nothing but excuses for everything.
It’s funny how God sends signs and messages, because one day this past spring, a friend posted an article about Ashley doing her 180 mile run and I learned that she has 3 kids and a husband also in the military. I thought, “Wow, if she can do that, what am I doing with my own time?” I believed I could never fit in at her gym being that I was so out of shape and weak. Then, this fall at Great Neck Park, I recognized Ashley there with her son and thought, “Holy cow, she looks amazing. How does she do that?” But again, “I could never do that.”
Finally, I came to a breaking point because I could not stand just going through the motions. At the end of the day, I hated my body, felt constantly flustered and frazzled with my girls, resentful of my husband and his “free” time, and even though I surrounded myself with lots of other people everyday who supposedly “got” me, I felt extremely drained and lonely. I questioned, “What the fuck am I doing?”
I mentioned to my husband that I had a crazy idea and wanted to check out this gym called American Sled Dogs. Knowing I would probably never go there myself, he made me get in the car that moment to check it out. We chatted with Courtney and I was so overwhelmed and out of my element there. I left feeling super nervous but joined the next week and haven’t looked back since.
In the first few weeks at ASD, I felt guilty of depriving my girls of a more “enriching” experience in the mornings, that perhaps they would benefit in the long run from me taking them back to our old routine and seeing other kids every day, or filling up our days with activities like the zoo or aquarium instead. I thought, “What are they getting out of watching me lift weights?” The answer is: they get a happy, balanced, present, driven mother. And that is what they need more than the zoo or other kids to play with at the playground every day. When I am truly happy, they are happy. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past 3 months. Society wants moms to be everything all the time, but it’s not possible to be the best parent unless as a person you are feeling fulfilled and secure in yourself. Whatever it takes to make you feel alive, that is what you have to put at the forefront of your days and everything else will fall into place. I no longer yell all the time, I am not a grumpy wife anymore, I enjoy the time I spend with my girls, and honestly mean it. We are a team. I think that is definitely why my oldest daughter behaves so well and helps me while I workout, because I tell her how happy it makes me and both of the girls can see it.
I am morphing into a different person, and it excites me since this is just the beginning. I’m not going back to the pre-baby days Chris, the rail-thin 105 pound version of me. I am molding myself into a stronger, better me. I will always be a runner, but lifting heavy things is teaching me so much I didn’t expect. It has, in a huge way, transformed my life. I don’t see many of the people from our old workout group anymore, but that is okay. Everyone is on their own journey, and I totally respect that. I used to believe I needed the support of tons of other moms to "make it through" this season of my life. And then when that safety net disappeared after I joined ASD, I felt a void and wondered, “Am I going to be able to make it alone now?” I’d remained a part of that group for so long because it had pulled me out of PPD, and I was terrified that leaving would send me spiraling into a dark place again. Sounds cheesy, but now that I can see clearly, I KNOW the answer is “hell yes!” I know I am capable of doing anything because I’m not merely in survival mode anymore--I am looking forward to and enjoying everyday, which is not at all how I felt the previous 3 years. I used to be looking in all of the wrong places for strength. I couldn’t depend on finding strength from other people--I had to be able to look within myself and discover it first.
Since coming to the gym and accomplishing these challenging workouts, I have a new spark in me that makes me view my days positively. I used to take part in a lot of random chatter throughout the day via texting and social media, because I could not stand to be present. I couldn’t see how even though I surrounded myself with people going through similar experiences and struggles, I was not being challenged physically or mentally in a way that built confidence or gave me independent goals to feel successful. I had lots of conversations very narrow in scope--about kids not behaving, complaining about botched nap times, lamenting about lack of sleep, etc., which all dragged me away from what truly matters. It prevented me from seeing the positive and wonderful things I am blessed to have in my life. Now that I have reawakened this part of who I am, I’m excited to chase down goals like running a Boston Marathon qualifying time this year (sub 3:35) and to start finally writing again. I am now prioritizing what actually makes me excited and pursuing that over anything else.
When I go to the 10 am class, it fills my cup completely up and I can handle anything the day may bring me. Toddler tantrums, sleepless nights, husband being gone--it doesn’t matter. I am not nearly as fazed by it anymore. Class is my therapy. I love having people there and the coaches to push me harder, and I think it’s amazing my girls are growing up watching people lifting heavy weights and pushing their bodies to new limits. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I walk out of class is incredible, and my husband says I am a totally different person.
I can now see how putting yourself in the right environment and mentality can make all the difference. I saw the quote the other day, “You can’t do epic shit with basic people,” and it made me laugh. I am glad that I’m at ASD, where it makes me want to tackle epic things. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m moving forward. I am constantly inspired when I see people like Ashley fulfilling her purpose and every single one of the awesome coaches at ASD. It makes me want to do more and be better. It’s incredible how physical strength manifests in all areas of life, as I am feeling stronger mentally and spiritually as well.
Anyways, this was a SUPER long rant and if you made it this far, I just wanted to say thank you all. And thank you for what you guys do, because American Sled Dogs has been a total life changer for me.
American Sled Dogs
Hybrid training facility with locations in Virginia Beach, VA and Coronado, CA.