Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Smockity Frocks author, Connie Hughes, on the Role of Fitness in the Life of a Homeschooling Mom

I have been friends with Connie from the Smockity Frocks blog for over a decade.  Throughout the years, I've watched as she's journeyed through pregnancies, deliveries, babies, toddlers, homeschool, relocation and job loss. I've laughed (and respected!) as she's worked through library, llama, and scorpion fiascos.   Now, as a mom of 8, she still balances young children, school at home, business ventures, and two kids in college.

There are many things I admire about Connie, many questions I'd like to ask her.  She's a successful woman in so many ways...maintaining a positive and consistent blog for so many years is one of them.  Someday, I'm going to show up on her doorstep, and see if she'll answer all of my questions.

Today, however, I've focused on one of the more recent successes I've watched play out in Connie's life.  She's one of those people who will never announce that she's trying out a new health routine.  Modest about her achievements, she'll just never mention it.  Every so often over our years of friendship, I'd send her a note, saying, "Are you doing something different?  You look great!"  Maddeningly, she'd write back with just a simple "yes," as if she didn't have time to reply with all of the kids and school and animals and business commitments....

This was not enough for me.  I wanted her to TELL me all about her top secret, magic elixer.  She was aging backwards, and I wanted to know HOW!  Why was she looking like a schoolgirl again?  That's not really how it is supposed to work when a woman has birthed 8 children (with no epidurals...she is TOUGH.)  Everyone knows that children age you, that repeat pregnancies are hard on a woman's body. (I know this as I have nine children, myself.)  

This summer, I noticed that Connie began to casually mention "CrossFit."
"This is new," I thought.

Connie and I had always said that the hard work of raising a family was enough to keep us active.  "Who needs a gym or regular workout?"  Had something changed?

I wondered if she would be willing to grant me an interview.  I asked and she agreed, happily for me! Connie continues in modest appraisal of her success, but that is one of the things I love about her.  In the interview below, she shares the philosophy of health which keeps her going.  I suspect it's the same philosophy which fuels many aspects of her life.

Holly:  Connie, I know that you do quite a few things to stay healthy.  Most recently, you have joined CrossFit.  Would you tell me a little bit about that?  What got you started, and how long have you been going?

Connie:  My 20 year old daughter, Madison, had been talking for a few months about how fun it would be if the two of us joined CrossFit together.  Honestly, that sounded like the opposite of fun to me for a few reasons.

I have never been athletic.  I was always the last one picked for kickball teams.  I am not known to be strong or fast.

But Madison was relentless, and she finally reeled me in with the admonition, "I bet you are afraid you CAN'T do it and that's why you won't try it."

That girl knows I can't resist a challenge!

We signed up for 2 free trial days, and it was EXCRUCIATING!  I have never sweated so much!  I have also never laughed so much with my daughter.  Madison couldn't stop talking about how fun it was, and she was home from college for the summer and pleaded with me to sign up for the summer program with her.

I realized that I had a rare chance to spend time each day with my adult daughter doing something she enjoyed, and just couldn't pass that up.  I was keenly aware that very soon she will be focused on her own life, her own career, her own family.

We spent that sweaty summer laughing and getting stronger together every morning before the rest of the family awoke.

When she went back to college in another state, she joined a CrossFit Gym there, and my gym offered me a discounted rate to sign up for 6 more months.  I looked at my arms, a little stronger than they were before.  I considered my energy level.  I was a little less sluggish than I had been in years.  I realized, to my astonishement, that I had actually been enjoying CrossFit!

I signed up for a 6 month contract, and I now go every Monday through Friday at 7:00 a.m.  I am not the strongest, or the fastest, and I expect I never will be either of those.  But I am proving to myself and the rest of my family that I can do hard things!  I am proving that trying hard at something for an extended period produces results even if you start out having never done that thing before.

My 15 year old daughter recently decided she would like to play varsity basketball for the local Christian school (which accepts homeschooled students in their sports programs).  Even though she has NEVER played basketball in her life, she set out to practice every day until time to try out for the team.


I am so proud that she is willing to try something new, something hard, something that requires dedication to see results. I want to be an example of those things.

Holly: My next question is from a personal place, because I find this type of consistency so difficult.  You know that I have a lot of children, too, and I am so tired, Connie.  How do you keep getting up morning after morning?  How do you find the energy, or at least the "want to?"

Connie:  There are many mornings I don't want to get out of bed.  There are even many mornings when I am getting out of the car that I think, "I DON'T want to do this!"

The thing is, I know deep down and with a certain sureness that if I didn't do all the things I didn't feel like doing, the laundry would never get done, the dishes would never be clean, diapers wouldn't get changed, Algebra wouldn't be taught, and so much more.

I consider going to Cross Fit every morning part of disciplining myself to do things because those things are GOOD, not because they are EASY.

I hope that by doing this, besides reaping the health benefits, I am showing my children this very important concept.  I hope they will always be willing to do hard things.

Holly:  Well, you're a great example for *me,* even long distance, and for many others as well.  I am confident that your children are watching and your example will be deeply instilled into their lives.  I must also say that you are looking stronger all of the time.  You are climbing ropes and doing pull-ups!  Could you share with us some of your results?

Connie:   When I first started, I could not even do the daily warm up of running 200 meters.  I HATE running, and I really dreaded this daily warmup.  Each day I was totally winded, heart racing, staggering in minutes after the last runner finished the 200 meters.

Now?  I can run the distance with no problem.  No stopping, no gasping for breath, and sometimes I am not last!

Today, we did our usual warm up run and then our workout included 5 ROUNDS of running 200 meters, flipping a tire 5 times, and 10 (14-pound) med ball cleans.  I managed to do this workout in under 15 minutes.  That's not any kind of record for anyone but me.  But for me, it is phenomenal progress!

Holly:  Sometimes we truly get so discouraged that we can't see any way around our circumstances.  What would you say to the woman who says, "I am too old, or my body is in such bad shape, I can't possibly do anything with my circumstances of life?"

Connie:  I would tell her there are grandmothers at my gym who come to workout every day.  There is one in particular who has recently lost 120 pounds.

I am 49, stretched out, creaky, slow, tired and weak.  BUT...I am getting less so!  Slowly I can see and feel that I can run farther, lift more, and last longer than I did the first day.  I am constantly striving to be better.  Isn't this our goal in all of life?

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

We are not called to be better than everyone else.  Just better than we were yesterday.

I admit this is sometimes an issue my pride struggles with.  I don't like to be last or weakest.  Sometimes on certain weight lifting exercises, I have to use the tiny 5 lb metal plates while everyone else has the giant rubber plates on their bars.  But I remind myself that I am not competing with any of them.  I am getting stronger daily.

Today, I added 10 lbs. to the push press for a new record for myself.  EVERY SINGLE other person in the gym had more weight on their bars, even the grandmas.  BUT I BEAT MY OLD RECORD.  I am improving!

Thank you, Connie, for taking the time to share with us about fitness which is successfully working for you.  More importantly, thank you for being open about what drives you to continue pressing toward your goals:  Hard work, persistence, and a desire to be a good example for your children.  Best wishes, and I look forward to watching you progress throughout the years!