About two years ago while I was getting ready for my 20th high school reunion, I reconnected with my friend Nicole Preisler. I thought you might like to hear her story.
Tell us a little about yourself: I am a 39 year old, knocking in the door of 40, martial artist. I currently hold my green belt and working toward my black belt in kempo karate. I am a mother of three beautiful boys, ages 9 and 5 (yep, they are twins) and work full time as a real estate paralegal/manager for a national franchise frozen Dessert concept company. I have also been married for almost 13 years now.
Why karate? Why not!?! Just kidding. I had put one about 50 pounds within a year period and just felt so down about myself and stressed out. I had started a new job, my mom passed away a few months beforehand after a long illness and found out I had a small cancerous tumor on my thyroid and had to have surgery to remove about 70% of my thyroid. I was having a tough year. I was depressed and barely functioning as a wife, mother and employee.
Then one day in September I was sitting in the parent section of the karate school my oldest son attends feeling just sorry for myself, and I saw one of the owners coming out of her office (who has become a close supportive and completely awesome friend;) at that moment I realized: I need to make a change. I need to start working out on a regular basis and try to get in better shape or I would never make it to see my three boys grow old.
I was scared about starting karate, as it is well known to my family and friends, I am NOT the most coordinated person in the world. I previously badly sprained an ankle stepping out my front door, broke a toe stubbing it on a kitchen chair and, most famous of all, broke all 5 bones in the middle of my right foot falling down 4 stairs in my house. I now have a lovely steel plate and several screws holding that foot together (you should see me when I go through a metal detector) as a result of that fall. So, I was not sure it would be the best and safest for me (or those around me) if I started karate but thought, why not give it a shot? A few days later I had a lesson with a friend and another black belt instructor and I WAS HOOKED! I had so much fun just doing kicks, blocks and punches, I could not get enough!
Now, here I am 11 months later, taking class twice a week, training for my black belt, changed my eating habits and I have lost 40 lbs.!
How do you balance training, working and family life? It definitely is a balancing act! I realize that life comes with many obstacles. I can work long hours on conference calls or tight deadlines. In addition, my husband has a very demanding job, so we have to work toward balancing our job commitments as well as take care of our three wonderful young boys who need our love, support and carpool logistics as they all are participating in karate as well. Add training for a black belt, which means making it to class at least twice a week and finding time to exercise at home can drive you to insanity! I find the balance in my life and make everything work as best I can because I feel Karate is more than an exercise program. It has become a sort of journey into self-discovery. Without trying to sound overly Zen, one of the things karate has done for me at this point is helped me realize how important it is take care of yourself both physically and mentally and make sure you make time for yourself doing something you enjoy that helps you feel good about yourself.
So when I feel like quitting, when I feel like I have no time for anything, never mind 40 minutes for class or a half hour for running, I close my eyes, remember how awesome it felt when I completed 250 push-ups and sit-ups during one training session, and it motivates me to “Make it Work” (famous quote from Tim Gunn, American fashion consultant, and person I would totally love to meet one day – although I am sure my personal style would frighten him away!)
What is the toughest part? Physically, I would say it is the toll it can take on your body. You have to go through some vigorous conditioning to be able to achieve your black belt, and you can definitely feel it in the morning, but it is all worth it when you see the physical and mental changes that happen. Mentally, I would say the toughest part is to not allow fear of stepping outside your comfort dictate what you do or goals set for yourself.
A recent goal I set for myself is I am signed up to participate in the Mudderella race at the end of September. For those who are unfamiliar, Mudderella is a 5-7 mile long obstacle course designed by women to test your stamina and willpower. It is not about how fast you are, it is about people coming together to overcome obstacles and have fun at the same time. I was asked to be a part of an AWESOME team of women who wanted to step outside their comfort zone and try something that they would have never done before. Our team Captain told me all about the various women on our team and how we were all about doing the course together, supporting each other and never leaving anyone behind, even if it meant it would take all day to complete the course. I also had the fortune to meet a young woman recently who competed in the Tough Mudder Event (which is like Mudderella on steroids) and she shared what her experience was like and such the feeling of team unity and comerarade she felt after, as well as the overwhelming sense of accomplishment she felt having done the event. Even though I am scared to death of competing in Mudderella, and I harbor fears of injury or just being unable to complete the course itself, I just keep reminding myself that everyone on my team feels the same way as I do and, together, we can accomplish anything we put our collective minds too!
What was the moment when everything changed (breaking past mental blocks)? Around the time I earned my purple belt and started High Intensity Training for six weeks, I began to realize that I could actually do it. I could actually perform all the techniques required (they still need work, but I can do them) and that I could push my body to the upper limits of myself and actually come through it stronger. When I went to that promotion night and actually succeed in achieving two belts at one time, at that point I know that I could do this!!!
Do I have any advice to give? Believe in yourself. We as human beings have such amazing potential to achieve anything we want once we set our minds to it. I never thought I would ever be able to run a mile (unless I was being chased by a pack of wild dogs) or do a side kick or lose 40 pounds unless I gave up eating food. But here I am and I can’t wait for the next adventure in my training (weapons!) trying to accomplish running two miles without getting physically sick, and taking inches of my body. I am not saying that I can climb an actual mountain or find a cure for the common cold, but I do know that by stepping outside my comfort zone and believing in myself, I can achieve the goals I want to achieve. If I can do it than anyone can do it. I like to say that you will never know all that you can accomplish until you take that first step and try.
Nicole, I’m so proud of you!!! You can read more about Nicole’s quest for a black belt on her blog GoingforaBlackBeltMom.
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