When the doctor diagnosed Sheila Chester with infertility, she was devastated. She was in her 20s. She was at her peak fitness. She was in a loving relationship with her husband. She did everything right.
It wasn’t fair.
“My dream in life was to be a mom,” she said. “I received a degree in fitness in 2008. I chose that degree because I knew the flexibility of the fitness industry would work well with being a stay at home mom.”
Sheila and her husband tried embryo transfers and IVF, but still she couldn’t get pregnant.
“I used exercise to ‘punish’ my body for not getting pregnant,” she said. “I completed a half Ironman in 2010 (70.3 miles). … My body fought me hard during the entire training process. I ended up with Mono and anemia a month before the race yet I still finished what I started.”
For the next eight years, Sheila said her desire to workout came and went. She began infertility treatments, and with that came hormones and major body changes.
Throughout this, Sheila and her husband adopted two children, Nikolas, now 4, and Elli, 1 year old.
She’s still undergoing fertility treatments while juggling life with a preschooler and toddler. Here, she shares her story.
Strong Mom goals
I started lifting because: I was angry with my body for ‘failing me’ in the fertility department. Finally this year I decided to get my body back. I hired a personal trainer for a few months over the summer as a refresher course, then in September after another failed fertility treatment, I jumped hard into weightlifting. I loved the way my body responded. I wasn’t able to lose the weight I had put on but I could feel my body changing. I could actually see my body respond to the strength training. I was getting stronger every week. I looked forward to my gym time. I looked forward to my total focus time. It kept my mind focused on the weights and not my lack of control over so much that makes a woman. So in a way, lifting gave me my feminism back.
Other exercises I enjoy: I love bikram yoga, but cannot find the time (daycare) to get to classes very often. Yoga has been my coping workout for many years now. The core power classes build my physical and mental strength. Meditation and strength training in one! I would choose this workout everyday if I could find the time.
My goal for lifting is: My goal is to continue lifting heavier. Those accomplishments build my spirit and confidence like nothing else.
Since I started lifting, I’ve learned: Building my strength physically helped me build my strength emotionally.
Proudest lifting moment: Maintaining a lifting program for 65 days straight! (5-6 days of lifting per week).
Any PRs to brag about: I can squat 115. I know I can go heavier! I benched 95 one day, but know I can go heavier. Getting into the 100-pound mark in any of the lifts builds my desire to go further. Lift heavier. Get stronger.
Biggest lifting challenge I’ve faced: Not losing weight. I know my muscles are building, but that number on the scale frustrates me to no end. I’ve tossed the scale out of my bathroom. It has been banned.
On being a mom
My goal for being a mom is: Show my kids how to be strong. I want them to push through any challenge they face in life. Physically and emotionally. Be present, feel the hard stuff, yet persevere.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve learned: You can’t do it all. It’s ok if you miss a day at the gym. It’s ok if my house isn’t clean. It’s ok if the dishes aren’t done. Patience is key with my kids and with myself. Compassion for others and yourself is important.
Biggest mom challenge I’ve faced: infertility. Just becoming a mom has been the biggest challenge. Raising kids is the easy part.
How do you balance lifting and raising a family? Gym daycare! My husband is very busy. He trains athletes by night (and weekends) and works as an engineer by day. So he is gone by 5:30am on weekdays and home by 5-5:30pm. Then he still needs to get his workout in. I treasure those friends that will watch the kids for me while I workout but ultimately I prefer the gym daycare.
What activities do you like to do with your kiddos? In the summer we do a weekend hike as a family. In the winter we ski and snowboard. On warm days in the winter we will hike. We treasure our outdoor time as a family. We want our kids to grow up being active. We want them to build the habit now.
What is your favorite “active” memory with them so far? Teaching my son to ride his bike without training wheels this past fall has to be my favorite memory to date. His excitement was contagious. All the neighbors came out to cheer him on as I ran beside him. There is no stopping him now, which means I have to keep up!!
What is a fitness or activity goal that you have for them? We would like to get them into running races and triathlons as soon as they are old enough and ready. Ultimately, I want them to enjoy life long fitness in any capacity.
If you could do it all again, you would: Change nothing. I’ve done the best I could considering the circumstances. Live and learn. I have learned so much!
Favorite quote: Love Conquers All (I have this tattooed on my foot so I never forget what matters most) — Latin phrase from Eclogue X by Virgil
Or another one I’ve been quite fond of: A woman’s strength isn’t just about how much she can handle before she breaks. It’s about how much she MUST handle after she’s broken.
Favorite lift: Squats
Three words that describe me: Tenacious, Sensitive, Free Spirited
When I’m not in the gym, you can find me: squeezing in a nap, singing for Jesus, brewing kombucha or generally trying or researching something new.
Any advice you want to share to moms who lift or are interested in lifting? Don’t think of it as exercise, think of it as therapy.
Do you know a strong mom who should be featured on our site? Or are YOU a strong mom who’d like to share your story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.