Nancy Cole is a full-time mom with a full-time job and photography business. She is the definition of busy, but she understands that to be the best version of herself in all her roles, she has to make her own health and wellbeing a priority.
Like many new moms, Nancy gained excess weight during her pregnancy. And although she loved fitness before becoming pregnant, that changed while she awaited the arrival of her baby girl, Ashton. “When I got pregnant, I just forgot fitness completely,” she said. “That led to me putting on 60 to 70 extra pounds during my pregnancy.”
Post-pregnancy, it became clear to Nancy that the weight gain and lack of activity had dangerously impacted her health. She was diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension and had to be put on blood pressure medication. “That just crushed my pour soul,” she said. “My mother has hypertension, she’s a diabetic, and she has cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. I don’t want to do any of that, so if working out 30 minutes to an hour every day could ward off those diseases, that’s more than enough for me.”
Nancy began working hard with the goal of getting off her blood pressure medication. She started off by walking the neighborhood with Ashton in a stroller or doing exercise DVDs at home. When needed, Nancy’s mom would come to watch Ashton so she could exercise. “I knew I couldn’t let the excuse of having a child stop me from living a healthier lifestyle,” she said.
Nancy initially lost 102 pounds but quickly gained it back due to the stress of working and having a child. However, she didn’t give up. She joined the JRMC Wellness Center in 2017 and now attends classes four times a week. She has lost 15 pounds so far, taking blood pressure medicine is a thing of the past, and she said she plans to make this lifestyle change a permanent one.
At this point in her life, Nancy said making time to go to the gym isn’t optional. “I make my workouts nonnegotiable,” she said. “I think about it like this: if I’m going to gym, I’m there between 30 and 55 minutes. I might as well get it over with for the health benefits that those few minutes give to my life as a whole. Exercise can ward off depression and give you more energy, contrary to what people believe. I sleep so much better at night now, and it gives me more interaction with other people.”
Nancy said that since she has made living a healthy lifestyle a top priority, she sees it benefitting her daughter. “Working out has made me a better mom,” she said. “It allows me to de-stress, and I can tell that it has an impact on my daughter. She says, ‘Mommy, I want to go to the gym with you!’ I occasionally do a workout at home, and she’s right there with me working out. She loves it. It also allows me to be more present with her. I don’t always feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just got off from work, and now I have to pick her up from school, and she has dance today, and I’m just so tired.’ I remember more things now. I have mental clarity, because I’ve worked out and de-stressed. It’s impactful in so many ways.”
Nancy said she was first attracted to the Wellness Center because she loves the group exercise classes. “My first love is BodyStep, because it’s where I started,” she said. “I love BodyPump, because I feel like everybody should lift some type of weights. Women sometimes think lifting weights is going to make them bulky, but it’s not. I love the GRIT classes, because they’re 30 minutes, and you feel like you’ve been working out for an hour. I love all the classes for different reasons.”
Nancy has a strong message for other moms: don’t put yourself last. “If you put yourself last out of everything that you’re doing, you’re not doing yourself any good,” she said. “How can you perform your motherly duties or the things you want to do for your family at a maximum level if you’re putting yourself last? Working out is such a small percentage of your day, but it changes the rest of your life.”
Nancy said that although working out requires sacrifice, it’s worth it. “You might have to get your kids ready for school the next day, iron their clothes the day before, get up 30 minutes earlier or meal prep,” she said. “You could even meal prep on Sundays and make it a family thing. Just don’t put yourself last. Don’t burn yourself out by putting off fitness.”
Nancy encourages moms who took a step back from fitness during or after pregnancy to not be intimidated coming back to the gym. “I’ve experienced intimidation at chain gyms, but I’ve never experienced it at the Wellness Center,” she said. “Everyone here is on their own weight-loss journey. Everybody is so warm and welcoming from the minute you walk in the door. And anybody is willing to help you.”
Nancy has noticed that conversations surrounding pregnancy weight gain are filled with phrases like “get your body back,” and she rejects that idea. “You never lost your body,” she said. “Your body actually got better when you became a mom. You have created a miracle. Don’t think about getting your body back. Just think about getting healthy from where you currently are.”
Whether you’re a mom or just into fitness, Nancy said it’s important to know when to take a break. “Everybody needs a break, and I think it’s important to understand that it’s okay to take one,” she said. “Take a break when you feel burned out so that you won’t quit, but remember to think about your long-term fitness goals, whether you’re trying to ward off a disease or lose some weight. If you take that one-day break and it turns into two days and then months and years, you’re going to set yourself back significantly by two years. I’ve learned to say, ‘I’m going to take a day off,’ and then I’m jumping right back in.”
Nancy said she loves the Wellness Center staff and members, because they’re her encouragers and motivators. “The staff and members are a variety of ages, and I love them to death,” she said. “The older members encourage me, because when I get that age, I want to be doing exactly what they’re doing. The instructors pull you out of your shell. You can be an introvert, but the people are going to pull you out of it. I love it here.”
Nancy encourages other women to stop making excuses and start living healthier lifestyles. “You’ve got to get out of the fear of, ‘What if I’m not doing it right or people are looking at me?’ she said. “Nobody at this gym is staring at you. Please start now, because exercise has so many benefits. Get out of that fear, and don’t worry about that hair. I wash mine once a week and load it up with gel, so it stays decent. Find out what works for you and don’t be intimidated by what you see. Remember, if you love it and you can do it, do it.”