I’m a single mom of a 15-year-old teenage boy with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (which is characterized by severe seizures) and autism. I’m his main caregiver, and I have dedicated my life to his well-being (happily, of course!). But at points it has meant putting my own
When the pandemic hit in 2020, like for many people, it hit me pretty bad. I had more roles to fill than ever before, in addition to being a mother. I was a teacher, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, and an applied behavior analysis therapist to my son. (I’m also an esthetician.) Fulfilling all of those duties all while being stuck inside became too much. I let myself go—I was mentally and physically exhausted.
Before the pandemic, I worked out here and there. Sometimes I went to the gym and did kickboxing classes with one of my brothers (he owns a Karate Dojo). But I would only go for short periods of time, on and off. I never committed and I gave up very quickly because I did not have the right mindset, or the knowledge about the importance and benefits of working out and nutrition as fuel for the body.
I knew my lifestyle needed to change to better both my mental and physical health, so I started my strength journey in January 2021.
I didn’t want to get strong just to change my body. I knew I had lost my shine, and I wanted it back. I felt unhealthy, unhappy. I needed to carve out time for myself to be healthy and fit, too, in order to be able to take care of my son. It took me almost 12 years of being a mom to realize this, and I’m glad that I did.
It was easiest for me to work out at home because of my situation with my son.
A friend of mine invited me to join a fitness program—and I quickly fell in love with the community.
I signed up for a program via BODi by Beachbody, which offers a wide variety of on-demand classes and easy-to-follow workout plans. I really liked that within the program there is also an emphasis on personal growth; it was not all about aesthetics.
I’m currently doing Beachbody’s 12-week Beast strength program, which involves working out six days a week with one day of rest. It is a high-intensity, physically demanding home fitness program in combination with an in-depth nutrition plan. The program merges old-school bodybuilding with practices like progressive overload sets, drop sets, and more to exhaust the muscle and recruit more muscle fiber.
The program has days on which you work legs, chest, arms (biceps, triceps), back, shoulders, total body, and abs, with one cardio day per week and one day of rest. It is perfect for building and increasing muscle mass. The on-demand classes help take out all of the guesswork, and I can work out at home without any fancy equipment. I enjoy working out arms and legs the most.
The twelve weeks are divided into three phases: build, bulk, and beast. In each phase, you calculate your calorie target with a specific equation to help inform your eating plan based on calorie intake per day. I love it because I eat a lot!
When I first started, I did not have the strength to do even a single pushup–not even on my knees. Little by little, I developed the technique and I was able to build the strength to do them. Now, I can do 15 reps without stopping. I’m getting stronger every day.
This journey has taught me so much more about myself and my drive than I expected.
At the beginning, I can admit that my motivation was partially about losing weight—to see a specific number on the scale. But that quickly shifted. When I reflect on my journey, I realize how I now see food as a source of nutrition, of well-being, the source of health. I’ve learned how to live to fuel my body and my strength.
But most importantly, I’m finally making time for myself. My workout time is sacred. It’s me “me” time—and this strength-training journey has helped me solidify this self-care time into my life.
I remind myself that I’m working out to get better, to feel better, to get stronger and happy. I’m proud of my commitment to living a healthy and active lifestyle. I’m proud of the relationship that I have with food. I’m proud that I have kept my promise to take care of myself.
As parents, we too often forget about us and our needs. But we can only be quality caregivers if we care for ourselves first.
Being a mom-caregiver for a child with special needs means giving and dedicating your life to your child. Because of that, sometimes when we decide to do something for ourselves, we feel like we are committing an act of selfishness. As I mentioned before, it took me 12 years (!) of being a mom to realize that I needed to take care of me for him.
I’m now 42 years old—and I am proud. There’s a song called “Señora de las Cuatro Décadas” (which means “lady of the four decades”) by Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona. I sang it in my 20s, and now, I’m that lady! But now, I feel amazing. I love me.