STRONG Australia recently teamed up with Happy Way to ask our Instagram community what STRONG looks like to them. Interior Designer and mum-of-three April blew us away with her response. She covered everything from mental and emotional strength to juggling multiple responsibilities – all the while feeling the pressure to keep in shape, get enough sleep and stay calm. Ultimately, ‘we are strong for placing one foot in front of the other,’ she says.
This is her journey.
SMFA: How did you first find your love for fitness?
April: I was quite active as a child and did ballet from the age of seven. When I turned 16, I stopped dancing to focus on my schooling, and my health became less of a priority. Years later, I had three pregnancies in three years, and after having my little girls, I no longer recognised my body. It looked and felt different, and I felt tired, unfit and weak. So I decided it was time to make some changes.
SFMA: What’s your definition of strong?
April: Strength refers to being physically, mentally and emotionally strong. Being human takes strength in itself.
SFMA: What has been your greatest challenge?
April: In the last 10 years, there’s two periods that have been the most challenging. The first was when my daughters were babies and my husband was doing FIFO (fly-in fly-out) work and he was often interstate two to three weeks at a time. While I had family around me, I spent a lot of time at home alone. It was difficult having nobody walk through the door at the end of the day to give me a hug or to help with the girls during the night. It was a testing time but it has made my husband and I stronger.
In 2017, my beautiful sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly. It was a shocking and heartbreaking time for our family. I was grieving while trying my best to support those around me.
We are tested and pushed to our limits throughout our lives and our ability to keep going is what defines ‘strong’ to me. Everyone has their own challenges and you never know what’s going on behind the scenes, so it’s important to always be kind.
SFMA: Social media leaves many of us comparing ourselves to highlight reels of other people’s lives. What advice would you give to women to help to combat feelings of self-doubt?
April: In my experience, taking action toward self-improvement is key. Set goals – no matter how big or how small – that are meaningful and important to you, then create an actionable plan that you can stick to.
Accomplishing the goals you set and knowing what you are capable of is motivating. But sitting back and thinking about all the wonderful things you could do without taking any action is a setback. Not fulfilling your true potential can generate negative feelings of self-doubt and comparison.
Here are a few examples of healthy, actionable goals:
- Drink three litres of water per day (one glass every hour starting at 8.00am)
- Hit 10, 000 steps per day (5km in the morning, 3km on your lunch break and 2km after dinner)
- Do 15 minutes of stretching (every evening before bed)
- Meditate for 10 minutes (before breakfast)
- Eat five serves of vegetable per day (three serves of vegetables at lunch and two serves at dinner)
SFMA: How do you maintain good work-life balance?
April: I think it’s important to set realistic expectations of what can be achieved each day. I used to write enormous to-do lists every day and feel disappointed at the end of the night if I hadn’t crossed everything off. Now, I schedule my ‘to-do’ items into my diary over a week or two. I try to prioritise the most important tasks first and break down larger tasks into smaller, more achievable ones.
SFMA: What are your top three tips for enhancing overall wellbeing?
1. Be willing to be flexible, especially with your routine.
Changing my morning routine has helped. I used to stay up late, mindlessly watching TV, and then wake up the next day feeling exhausted.
I now wake up two hours before my kids, which allows me to start my morning slowly. I eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea in peace and quiet, then I exercise, shower and get ready for work before my kids wake up.
2. Concentrate less on being on a ‘diet’ and more on finding better alternatives.
I love food and I don’t ever want to feel restricted or hungry.
On the weekends I allow myself a few treats in moderation, and during the week I try to stick with healthier options. For example, home-baked banana bread instead of processed cakes and biscuits and air-popped popcorn instead of greasy potato chips.
3. Balance it out!
If you live a very hectic life (like me), try to incorporate activities that are calming, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, outdoor walks and getting extra sleep. If you have a desk job, work up a sweat with a high intensity workout to burn some energy.
SFMA: What does your weekly training schedule involve?
April: At the moment I’m training more than usual because I’ve taken on a mental toughness challenge by Andy Frisella. I’m doing two, 45-minute workouts per day! One workout must be outdoors and the other is usually a resistance workout in my backyard, an evening walk or an online yoga class.
When I’m not doing a challenge, I usually train four times per week and I like to do a mix of gym workouts, home workouts, reformer Pilates, yoga and walking.
SFMA: What is your typical ‘day on a plate’?
Breakfast: Overnight oats and a cup of tea or eggs with toast, sautéed spinach and mushrooms.
Snack: A piece of fruit, air-popped popcorn, a soy latte and a protein ball.
Lunch: Rice or quinoa with salad or mixed vegetables and lean protein such as chicken, tuna, a boiled egg or chickpeas.
Snack: A smoothie with frozen berries, banana, spinach, almond milk and whey protein.
Dinner: Vegetables with meat or fish and salad.