Monday, April 30, 2012

Who is Cave Princess?

Two major roles dominate my life: mother to Brenden (six years old), Brielle and Bridget (twins gaining on four) and supportive wife to an extremely busy Army officer.  I happily immerse myself in each of these roles but recognize that a healthy lifestyle requires balance.  As a mother with the privilege to stay at home with my children, it is super easy to become identified by and solely associated with that one vital function.  I quickly learned to pursue personal interests, putting myself first on a regular basis, to define who I am as a complete individual- whole, real, multi-dimensional, someone my children can be proud to call Mother, and someone my husband still finds interesting and exciting after eleven years of marriage. For me that essential outlet has been physical activity and most recently nutrition.   I love being Brenden’s mommy; I love being LTC Morgan’s wife, but I also love being that kick-ass woman at the gym fueled by clean eating and determination.

My health and fitness journey began about twenty five years ago!  Holy crap!!! Yes…. I am talking about the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.  Going back all the way to middle school I was a relatively active child.  It was at this time that I experimented with team sports: basketball, volleyball and cross country.  Although I possessed some natural athletic ability, I was too insecure to embrace the truly competitive spirit necessary to excel in such activities.  (I hope to instill a fire in my children, so that they can embrace a competitive nature and all of the esteem building properties that come with such territory.  My little girls already flex their muscles and call themselves super hero princesses!)  Freshman year of high school I switched my focus to dance and made the Jr. Varsity dance/drill team….the Killeen High Kangarettes….Ha!!!! The Kangarettes may not have seemed hardcore, but we worked out _HARD_ and the foundation of my continued flexibility was built on that team.

My father, being active duty military, moved our family around the country (around the globe actually) quite frequently, so I had to transfer schools my sophomore year.  While trying out for cheerleading at my second high school I severely injured my right hamstring (an issue I still deal with to this day-my right hammy is always tighter).  Then I had surgery on my left foot followed by an eight week recovery.  As a result, I faced a weight problem for the first time in my life.  I had the body of a woman and could no longer afford to snack like a child while being incapable of participating in physical activities.  My mother tactfully recommended that I not gain any further weight, so together we embarked on the Richard Simmons weight loss plan.  From what I can remember you were given a series of cards representing the food groups.   Based on the portions of your meals you traded in your cards.  Don’t hate.  Don’t roll your eyes.  I lost fifteen pounds in a few months and felt confident in my appearance. Richard Simmons introduced me to the world of portion control!  Sweatin’ to the Oldies is mega fun too!  Don’t be a CrossFit snob!  One of my Facebook friends posted pics of herself at Richard Simmon’s studio in LA.  He looks great J

By my third high school I was totally burned out on attempting to fit in, making friends, trying out for teams, and discovering yet another new set of social mores.  Looking for a physical release I asked my mother to purchase me a gym membership at a small local club.  Ship Shape Aerobics.  SSA changed my life!  I worked out every day after school.  With my dance background I was naturally drawn to all of the step classes.  Senior year I started teaching two-three classes a day.  Soon I was teaching at a second location and subbing around the Houston area.  Did I wear bright thong leotards?  Hell yea!  Who didn’t?  Did I wear bike shorts, thong briefs, and mid-drifts?  Hell yea!  Don’t hate; you probably did too.  Did I wear long socks and scrunch them down my calves?  You know it!  Part of me still thinks that look is hot!

Freshman year of college I traded in my thongs for incredibly short shorts and cut off tank tops.  Class, class, class, was my motto!  I transferred to a ginormous gym filled with tons of testosterone laden muscle bound men.  What was I thinking wearing such apparel?  So na├»ve!  I ended up dating one of those bodybuilder types (don’t mention him to my mother-he wasn’t the nicest human being).  For all of his numerous faults, however, he did provide me with an incredible weight lifting knowledge base and introduced me to the concept of a low sugar lifestyle.  My fitness arsenal of tricks was continuing to grow.

The following year my parents offered me the opportunity to live in Korea for a year.  Eager to explore, I readily accepted their offer. While living abroad my fitness focus shifted.  Teaching aerobics was no longer an option, so I took up running to compliment my weight lifting regime.  I ran 40-50 + miles a week but in the process destroyed my left foot and right knee.  Living in Asia provided me with so many unique life experiences.  Korean “modeling” scouts took note of my physique (and long curly blond hair) and gave me “modeling” jobs from time to time, I was able to attend school with Korean nationals and made some fun Korean acquaintances, but most importantly I met my husband, Shane.  He was a young lieutenant crazy enough in love to risk dating the teenage daughter of a superior officer.  Ha!  There are quite a few tales of our dating adventures. 

Shane whisked me away back to the states where we lived in sin for a year.  Sigh……amore……good for the soul not for the waistline.  I attended school, worked full time, worked out most days, but my diet was atrocious.   I quickly became unhappy with my appearance.  I HAVE to watch what I eat.  Genetically, even in my late teens and early twenties, I am not the type of woman that can eat an unchecked diet.   Why did I choose to forget the lessons Richard Simmons and my freshman year meathead boyfriend taught me? 

Then came the Great Schism.  Shane and I separated for a couple years.  We refer to it as my sabbatical.   During that phase of my life I continued to workout at various gyms, but my passion for fitness had waned.  For the first year of our separation, I lost a ton of weight by eating sporadically.  I did no cardio but lifted weights regularly.  Year two, I started eating again. I was vain enough to keep my calories in check and health conscious enough to keep hitting the gym regularly, but my heart was not working to my full potential.  I was being fueled by an unbalanced low fat/high carbohydrate diet.  I had no goals and limited drive.  This unmotivated attitude continued after Shane and I got back together.  Our wedding photos are a startling reminder of the fitness rut I remained in for years.  Looking at myself, I know I was just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until Shane and I moved to Alaska that I found a new passion!

Alaska is an amazing place to live, and Anchorage is an incredible town.   Often referred to as “little Seattle”, Anchorage just has this healthy, cool vibe.  With crazy access to the freshest wild fish- I mean you literally go fishing for the day and come home with King Salmon, Red Salmon, Silver Salmon, or Halibut. I was in paleo paradise (without even knowing it).   Such a culture begs for yoga studios.  I caught the yoga bug big time and discarded my weight lifting regiment for a time.  My body became so limber and my core strength improved greatly.  Continuing to run, taking yoga three times a week, eating superb food with proper levels of protein, I felt GREAT!  So great,,,,,,,,,, my biological clock went wild.  I wanted a baby _NOW_!!!

It took many months, almost two years of grief and multiple losses before I was finally able to conceive and carry Brenden past the first trimester.  Shane and I left paleo paradise (how I wish I had discovered the primal lifestyle while living there) and moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.   Moving from Alaska to Kansas = culture shock.  I must say, however, Kansas proved to be a positive experience.  We lived in a small community not too far from Kansas City, MO (which is a killer town).  I finally got preggers after living there for a year.  Paranoid from experiencing miscarriages, the faintest amount of spotting or the tiniest twinge in my belly sent me spiraling into a deep fear.  For the first few months I worked out tentatively.  During the second trimester my doctor discovered an abnormality in my placenta.  I was put on partial bed rest for a month then directed to avoid any strenuous physical activity.  At 37 weeks Brenden came into this world a healthy 8lb 4oz.  Muscle memory aided my delivery.  I was able to push my little man out in about ten minutes!  Shane told the delivery room staff, “You don’t understand.  My wife isn’t like most people.  If you tell her to push, she is going to push harder than you’ve ever seen.”  Pretty nice compliment.

Losing my baby weight became a huge motivator.  It was time to hit the gym again.  It felt great being so pumped!  I started back with step aerobics, kickboxing, Body Pump and yoga.  I was the person in the front row jumping, leaping, sweating, pushing herself hard each workout.  My yoga instructor even inspired me to start training to teach my own yoga classes.  Upon reaching a plateau of weight loss I decided to join Weight Watchers (it offers programs for nursing mothers).  WW enabled me to lose more weight, but it wasn’t until I went to a seminar on low carbohydrate lifestyles that my body truly changed.  The program called for no rice, no pasta, and no white potatoes.  No problem.  The weight fell off, I started teaching a few yoga classes, and I felt even stronger and leaner.

Another move. . . this time to North Carolina.  Shane and I decided to have another baby.  Once again we faced multiple painful losses, but we were rewarded with double Blessings.  TWIN GIRLS!!! The only downside, I spent the majority of my pregnancy in misery.   I _wish_ this was an exaggeration, but unfortunately it is accurate.  I projectile vomited the first few weeks, then remained nauseous until the third trimester when an incredibly uncomfortable heartburn took over.  Plus I had the pleasure of facing numerous bouts of sciatica-not the numbing of the extremities variety- the kind that is so painful it literally felt as if someone was stabbing me in the ass and dragging a knife down my leg into my perpetually numb ankle.  At one point during my second trimester I threw out my back and could only crawl.  I recall my friend, Jamie, coming over to take out my trash.  The last month of my pregnancy became even more awful as my whole body swelled painfully.  The skin around my ankles felt as if it had been stretched to the limit.  I couldn’t even wear flip flops!  You could push a finger into my thigh and a dent would remain for thirty seconds!  How much working out do you think occurred?  None!  And my diet,,,, oh my goodness,,, I was on a milk shake diet.  I couldn’t stomach much else.  Sleep deprived, queasy, grumpy… I faced all of this alone!  Shane was deployed at the time!!!   But, we are so very Blessed.  Brielle and Bridget were delivered by c-section at 36 ½ weeks (awesome for twins) at about 7lbs each (super awesome for twins)!  

 I went into the operating room at 205lbs.  A long road lay ahead for me.  After my required six weeks of recovery the gym beckoned for me.  My back had been destroyed, so I was incredibly discouraged with yoga.  I couldn’t do a fraction of what I had previously been capable of doing just a year before, so I found yet another new passion.  Spinning!

Between spinning and hiring a personal trainer with my good friend, Jamie (also looking to lose baby poundage), the weight slowly started coming off once again, but I couldn’t get a grasp on my diet.  I reached another weight loss plateau.  I fell in love with spinning classes and once again became known as the girl that kicked ass in class (Now I kick my own ass-preferring my own style of HIIT intervals on the bike), but without that proper diet component a layer of fat remained over the muscles I was developing with my trainer.  My trainer called me She-Ra Princess of Power due to my strength, but my hard earned muscles were hidden beneath a layer of dough.  Story of this woman’s life! 

When the girls turned eleven months I stopped nursing to undergo a hernia surgery.  A piece of essential fat had escaped through the damaged fibers of my abdominal muscle wall.  That’s what carrying twins weighing about 7lbs each will get you!  Not classified as an umbilical hernia, the surgeon still went in through my navel (which is nice and stretched out now- many thanks) and repaired multiple tears in my abdomen with surgical mesh.  This resulted in another six week recovery for me.  Rest for a week; slowly add in low impact cardio; no jumping, running, or lifting for up to eight weeks.  My fitness pursuits took yet another hit.

Guess what???  We moved again!  This time to Kentucky.  You have no idea how much I did not like the idea of moving to KY; I literally threw a temper tantrum with tears and stomping feet, but I ended up truly loving it for the year we were there.  First of all Louisville is super cool- a very accessible city with all of the amenities this girl needed, but what changed my life ONCE AGAIN was the gym I joined… Energy in Elizabethtown, KY… I joined Energy because I needed childcare for my small brood of children; what I ended up with was a whole new perspective on diet and exercise.

The first time I saw Gary Esperaza I thought please don’t let that young, super cute guy be my trainer.  I had signed up for a series of personal training sessions and requested working with someone that would really challenge me.  The fitness director hooked me up with my perfect match.  Gary.  Gary rocked my fitness world introducing me to a whole new way to approach weight lifting- power sets, circuits, sculpting, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), CrossFit, power moves to build lean muscle and burn fat.  He also got me back on track with my low carbohydrate lifestyle.  I went from 135 lbs 23% bodyfat to 124lbs 15%bodyfat in a matter of months.  I was someone other people noticed at the gym; a regular sized woman throwing around impressive weight.  Gary referred to me as his Prized Pitbull.  A fire had been lit inside of me.  That fire is still burning!!!

At Energy I became friends with Laura and Amber- CrossFit chicks.  Both are the most feminine, lovely ladies you can imagine, and both rule the gym.  Amber is tiny, but she can throw around more weight than most men- not exaggerating, and Laura is tall, super lean with crazy foot speed and endurance.  These inspirational women introduced me to paleo eating, but I wasn’t ready for the transition just yet.   

After training with Gary for close to a year and achieving my bodyfat goal I was ready for a new challenge.  A group of fabulous mothers started training for figure competitions.  I thought my body wasn’t quite ready for that lofty of a goal, but I wanted to work for something, so I started training for the less muscular bikini division.  Big mistake. 



The judges thought I sucked, but I learned SO MUCH from the process.  I learned that I could function and perform well without grains.  I learned that my style of a CrossFit/sculpting weight lifting regiment rocks!  Much appreciation goes out to Gary of DPO Fitness, Jennie of Optimal Fit Jen www.youtube.com/user/OptimalFitJen (you have to check out her sight for truly unique takes on weight lifting exercises);  Valerie of, www.busymomgetsfit.com/ (another informative site); Christi; Cara and of course Dr. Randy.

That takes me to today, living in Virginia-right outside of DC and LOVING IT!!!  As I mentioned earlier, a fire is alive inside of me.  I work out _HARD_.  I’m constantly researching and experimenting with new exercises, still training in my sculpting/CrossFit hybrid style and yoga is slowly coming back into my life.  Most recently I took on the challenge of becoming a personal trainer.  People have been mentioning this career to me for years.  A trainer at my current gym, Laura, inspired me to take the plunge.  Many thanks Laura!  I’m so excited!  I’ve been studying for my certification and hope to complete the process in a few months. 

So where does all of this lead me. . .

It has led me to create Cave Princess.  A woman FUELED BY NATURE- a strong woman ready to embrace a natural, “back to the basics”, predominately organic lifestyle.  This is the most logical choice for my health and fitness goals.  Combining all of my life experience and research has led me to a primal approach to nutrition.  I LOVE being FUELED BY NATURE.  I can’t wait to share what I have experienced and learned with all of you!  Thank you for reading!   Please come "like" my Facebook page Cave Princess for more recipes and info!