The Wellness Spotlight Series highlights military spouses and their real world health and wellness journeys in a Facebook Live series. Below is an excerpt of Kesley’s feature.
Kelsey is an Army Spouse and Mom of two. She is a NASM-CPT, PES, YES, an ACSM-CEP, and is passionate about changing the narrative in women’s health and wellness. For years her focus has been on incorporating the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of well-being.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILITARY SPOUSE.
My husband and I went to rival high schools. We had mutual friends and then became friends for the longest time. He was always dead set on joining the military and it wasn’t until about a year before he was getting ready to leave to boot camp that we started dating back in 2012. Eventually, we married and I started my life with him at Fort Hood, Texas. It’s been a journey full of finding patience but also an experience that has opened many doors.
If you are a health or wellness expert, tell us about it and how it has impacted your wellness journey.
Growing up in athletics it wasn’t always about being healthy on the inside. Over the years, I have worked to change this narrative from an athletic standpoint as well as with women. When I had my son, it wasn’t the in thing to share your journey. You were expected to keep quiet and do what was needed. I realized that what many women had accepted as the norm was not okay with me. In fact, it was then that I decided I wasn’t going to just pee my pants while jumping or have painful sex because it was ‘normal’ for mamas. I knew we needed a change and that’s how I started the #momstrongmovement. I wanted other women to know that this transition into motherhood didn’t have to be hard. All you need is patience and the right tools. So, I shared workouts and other wellness related information with many other local mamas. I decided to jump full-in for my Master’s work and the rest is history!
Have you experienced any extreme highs/lows since becoming a military spouse? How did you overcome it?
I suffered from postpartum depression with both pregnancies, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I accepted it, let alone realized the severity of it. Rewind a bit, my husband deployed when our son who is our oldest was less than a week old. I remember having him and then two days later my husband had to leave. Being new to military life and having our firstborn all while my husband deployed sent me down a slippery slope. It also wasn’t popular back then to talk about postpartum depression, anxiety, etc. To top it off, we had just settled into a new home and area so I didn’t have the luxury of having many friends near, let alone family. I am definitely stubborn and refused to acknowledge the fact that I needed help. I eventually ended up going to stay with my parents and I turned to the gym. Having been in athletics my whole life, I needed an outlet, though at the time I had no idea I needed that space. Most people think the gym is good for physical gains but there is so much more to working out and actually moving your body. It’s freeing in so many ways and is so important for mental health. Flash forward a few years, we found out we were expecting our daughter in the middle of a PCS, driving from Florida to Alaska. I felt confident this go-around, but it’s always when we get comfortable that the Army seems to change up plans. Due to my pregnancy and Alaska not having the necessary doctors, I had to fly home to have our daughter. Luckily, my husband was able to fly down right before I had her, but he could only stay a few days and once again left. When our daughter was three months old, I was able to fly back to Alaska. By this point, my husband was gone again for various trainings and wouldn’t be back for a few months. If anyone has ever been to northern Alaska, then you understand the long hours of darkness that come with winter. We also had to wait in a hotel for six months before getting a house, so we had only just moved into our house right before I left to have our daughter. I was alone with a toddler and a three-month-old, in the middle of northern Alaska during winter trying to pick up the pieces. I was feeling sorry myself and I realized I needed to change. I needed to accept that it’s okay to not be okay, to need help, to not have it altogether all the time. When I had my son, I was doing Mommy and Me fitness and sharing it with other moms. I started that again after hitting the low with my daughter in 2016. I picked up what I found around the house (books, backpacks, water jugs, etc.) and just started making daily movements. Slowly, I was feeling better. I was sleeping better. I found it much harder this time around to get myself to normal, and I use that term loosely. I had diastasis recti (separation of abs), pelvic floor disorder, sciatica pain, and a list of other problems. At this time, I just entered a Master’s program and decided to dig deep into women’s health and fitness. I started applying my research to my workouts and that is how The Mom Strong Academy was born. It took A LOT. It wasn’t easy. I had to take one step at a time, focus on the 10-20 minutes of exercise I needed to do each day, be patient which is hard for me, and know that if I just drank that extra cup of water, chose a healthier snack, and pushed past those limiting thoughts, that I would come out on top. And that’s exactly what happened.
What is one personal habit that contributes to your success?
My success comes from so many factors that it’s hard to pick one. I am constantly envisioning myself as the woman I want to be. The woman I am meant to be. I lack severely in motivation, but I am dedicated and determined to finish what I start. It really is a mindset game and once you understand how to change your thoughts and dictate your future, you really can do whatever you want. This is why The Mom Strong Academy focuses on mindset first. You can spend hours at the gym but if you aren’t taking care of yourself from a mental health perspective, you will never find you’re looking for.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FORM OF SELF-CARE?
Self-care is waking up early to start my day right but also sleeping in. For me, self-care is different every day. Some days I need to hit my weights, go for a hike, or read a book, while others I dance. Maybe I need to stop and just play with my kids or take a long bubble bath. The point is, self-care doesn’t have to just be getting your nails done or soaking in the tub, it should encompass many little things throughout your life.
IF YOU COULD SHARE A HEALTH AND WELLNESS RESOURCE WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Definitely The Mom Strong Academy! This resource encompasses everything I’ve talked about just now. To really find yourself again, especially as a mama or military spouse, and I’m talking about being authentically you. Not just a mom. Not just a military spouse. But actually you. That’s what it’s all about. Health and wellness start from the inside out. Once you understand that, the possibilities are endless.
IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE BOOK AND/OR PODCAST TO MILITARY SPOUSES, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
It’s so hard to pick just one. Different seasons of life call for different things. One that I always love is Grace Not Perfection By Emily Ley. I am a perfectionist at heart and so making myself stop and choose grace, not only around me but within myself, is a huge accomplishment.
Kels is an Army Spouse and mama to two crazy kiddos (plus her 3 GSDs). She grew up active in sports and competed as a Champion Irish Dancer. An injury led her into the world of health and sports sciences where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. Recently, Kels picked up competitive Irish dance again and is working toward the ‘norm’ that mamas can still accomplish their dreams. Kels is a NASM-CPT, PES, YES, an ACSM-CEP, and is constantly working to change the narrative in women’s health and wellness. For years her focus has been on incorporating the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of well-being.