“I love learning lessons from other people. I don’t think that we all have to live the same tragedies.” ~Priscilla Irvine
Priscilla and I both roamed the halls of Boston Latin Academy in the city’s Roxbury neighborhood with over 1,000 other wide-eyed, yet ambitious teenagers. She was one grade my senior. However, we didn’t meet until, totally by chance, I took a position in the office where she works.
We worked together for over three years. During that time, I was able to witness her transition into motherhood (Priscilla has twin four year old girls). I became especially enthralled and inspired by her pursuit of herself. While striving to be an amazing mom, she also sought to be curious about, and make significant investments in what really matters to her. Priscilla’s goals and visions for her own life never languished.
I selected this interview as my first post of the decade because it highlights a woman choosing to be remarkable. She has clarified what’s important to her; put forth the time, creativity, money, and energy toward pursuing it, and has remained focused despite competing priorities. She is a professional, wife, mother, and friend among many other roles. Below, in my interview with Priscilla, we dig into her aspiration to be healthy, fit, and fabulous and how she balances that while keeping all of the plates spinning in the other areas of her life.
I’m honored and excited to share Priscilla’s story with you. Enjoy!
Janine: When you discovered you were going to be a mom, did you decide beforehand how you were going to balance motherhood with your own aspirations?
Priscilla: I thought about it, but didn’t come up with a specific plan because there were so many unknowns. I was open. Once I became a mom and got a taste for the experience, I knew it would be trial and error to find the right balance. There were assumptions I’d made as a married woman. I assumed that my husband and I would naturally tag team, but the reality of parenthood was vastly different. We were both in shock with the extent of work that comes with having children. As a mom, you don’t have the luxury of opting out. However, after a few months I was able to be more intentional about making and executing a plan that worked for all of us.
Janine: Describe the significance of fitness in your life. How did it come to be so important to you? How did becoming a mother change that significance?
Priscilla: It was only about ten years ago that I started to take fitness seriously. When I turned 30 I wanted to be intentional because I had heard so many people talk about their metabolism slowing down with every decade starting at 30. I love learning lessons from other people. I don’t think that we all have to live the same tragedies. So if my friends who care about me are telling me, “look this is what I experienced,” then I will take that lesson.
Around my 30th birthday I started running (and sometimes walking) 5ks, and eventually ran a half marathon. I didn’t train for the half marathon and struggled through, but it was a good experience. After several months of running, my fitness journey started to evolve. I ended up joining a gym, and taking group classes. Over the years, my body began to adjust to those workouts, and needed something different. My body’s changing needs coincided with a major change in my schedule. I no longer have time to go out and run 8 miles, so I now focus on efficiency. I opted to join a gym that offers childcare and I focus on getting the best workout within a two-hour time frame. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to stay fit and I’d have to find ways to find my fitness happy place and make it work.
Janine: When you had the girls, how did the role fitness played in your life change?
Priscilla: I don’t think it changed. I was just tweaking more for efficiency because my time was far more stretched than it was prior to having children. For example, I joined a gym after having the girls called Nine Round and it’s a 30-minute kick boxing gym. You start with round 1 and you get through that whole circuit in 30 minutes and then you’re done. It was very intense for 30 minutes; I got my burn and then I left. I did that for a year. Then the next year I got a personal trainer. Our sessions were longer. I felt that the 30-minute workouts were no longer challenging me. I was with my personal trainer for a year and I was still not really thrilled with what I was seeing in my body after all the time and money spent.
What I do on social media is maybe 20% socializing with friends, but most of it is following groups that pique my interests. On Instagram I follow lots of people who are into health and fitness, people who inspire me, like Jennifer Lopez. As a fabulous mother of twins who takes her health seriously, she inspires me to stay focused, even when I do fall off the wagon.
Recently, I hired a nutritionist. The results that I saw from 6 weeks with the nutritionist far surpassed what I had seen with the personal trainer over the last year. I found my answer: I needed to get my nutrition together. I got a workout plan from the nutritionist who is also a fitness coach. I’ve been using the fitness plan consistently, and as a result I have saved a ton of money from not paying a personal trainer. I now go to a gym where I can take my children, and they have fun with other children while I’m working out.
Janine: I admire so much that Priscilla is still there. Of course being a mom is the most important job that you have, but the essence of you and the energy you want in your life, and things that are important to you have not faded away. You’ve made motherhood and your goals a complement to each other.
It seems like your commitment is deeper than someone who just wants to be healthy in her forties and it’s driven by something else. Can you dig a little deeper and explore that a little bit? What’s driving this commitment to fitness and looking fabulous?
Priscilla: I want to be here. I want to live and I want my life to be full. I want to show up a certain way. I don’t want to just exist. I want to be healthy and strong. I want my clothes to fit well. I want to feel good in my clothes. It’s kind of like that saying “when you feel good you look good”, but I think when you look good you feel good as well. It just all complements each other.
One of the things that is always ringing in the back of my mind when it comes to health and fitness, and happiness in general is if I see or feel something I don’t like and it’s bothering me, my question to myself is always what are you going to do about it. So, if I’m in a job that I don’t like, what am I going to do about it? Am I going to suck it up? Am I going to make the place where I’m working a better place, or am I going to leave? But I can’t just stay and endure the suck. I have to do something. I feel that way about my body too. It’s just making the choice. I know that I have choices. I have to make the right choices to get what I want.
Janine: It’s clear that you have a sense of personal agency. You know that you can make things happen, that you are powerful and you’re the main star in your life.
Mothers are one of the most scrutinized groups. Have you experienced criticism for your choice to prioritize your health and fitness goals? If so, how did you handle it?
Priscilla: I actually have. The criticism typically looks like: “It’s OK, you don’t have to do all that. You’re fine, you’ve had twins, just relax. Eat what you want, be happy.”
Janine: So people assume you’re not happy when you’re striving for your fitness goals.
Priscilla: Exactly, I don’t think it’s necessarily coming from a bad place or a place that’s intending to sabotage. I think in our subconscious; misery loves company.
Janine: Mmmm, can I amen that five times!
Priscilla: (laughs) Amen! I think sometimes people use what you’re doing as a mirror and it really has nothing to do with you, but they see that you’re putting in the effort and that comes out. They say “Priscilla, its OK if you have a Buddha tummy because you’ve had twins” I typically respond “so does J-Lo.”
Them: “J-Lo has a personal chef and a personal trainer, and she doesn’t work 8 hours a day.”
Me: You know what? When all is said and done she’s making choices to eat the right foods and to go and work out and those are the choices that I’m choosing to make and these are my results.”
I just have to live my best and let people do what they are going to do with their lives. It’s totally judgment free. Everyone has their own path, their own journey.
I’ve seen enough people get sick and die from illnesses that are totally preventable. I want to count myself out of that number. I’m not interested. If there is anything that I can do to be here for myself, my family, my children, my friends, my life; that’s what I’m going to do.
Janine: Raising four-year old twins must be incredibly demanding. How are you able to invest the time and energy into eating well and committing to a movement practice?
Priscilla: We all have the same 24 hours in the day and it feels like its not enough time, so it just comes down to priorities. What are you going to make happen? I still have two Christmas trees up in my house (laughs). That’s not a priority right now, but I know that I need to meal prep, I know that I need to get out to the gym. Those are the things on the top of my list. Not everything is going to get done and I just have to be OK with it; and as long as I’m continuing to make progress I just make it work.
When I do go to the gym, sometimes I only have about 45 min to work out. The work-outs that I get from the trainer easily take me two hours. Depending on the day, I may not have two hours because I have to pick the kids up from school. Rather than eliminate a whole day of exercise, I’ll squeeze in an abbreviated workout. It helps to just remind myself that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. Sometimes there are compromises in terms of still getting things done, meeting that goal of getting to the gym, and not just letting it fall by the wayside. You just find ways to make it work, but falling completely off the train is not an option.
Janine: Many women I’ve spoken to have said that they’ve “lost themselves” at some point during their motherhood journey. Have you had this experience? If so, how were you able to move beyond it?
Priscilla: That resonates; especially when the girls were infants. There was a level of anxiety that came with the early days of motherhood. That was the first time in my life that I ever experienced anxiety. Having two infants meant that there was literally never a break. Both babies wanted me to rock them to sleep for every nap and every bedtime. I would have one and I’d be soothing and cuddling for a good 30 or 40 minutes. My husband would hold the other one and she would just be waiting up, playing and having a good old time until I was done getting baby number one to sleep. It was literally all consuming. Not necessarily by choice. There were very few other options.
I had to make a tough decision, and decided to sleep train my daughters. I know there are plenty of people who are against sleep training, but I needed to do what was best for my entire family. I found support groups on Facebook, read books, and ultimately decided that I was going to do what was necessary to ensure that the entire family was well-rested. When they were about four or five months old, it went down. I had to listen to the girls cry a bit, but within two weeks we were all sleeping like babies.
Janine: It’s really a mindset and really about who you want to show up as in life. That’s what I’m hearing through your example.
Priscilla: You can’t be there for them and for your own life if you’re not functioning.
Janine: Any words of encouragement for women who have found themselves in a fitness rut, but believe they are too tired to pull themselves out?
Priscilla: I totally get it, but it’s ok to start small. Carve out some time for yourself. If it’s a 30-minute walk everyday, go on that walk. It’s really ok; it doesn’t have to start with a personal trainer or a gym membership even. Get your sneakers, put them on, and go outside and walk. One thing I’ve found is that you never regret a workout, whether it’s a walk or time in a gym, you’ll never regret it, you’ll never wish that you hadn’t done it. You will always be happier at the end of it.
Another thing I recently discovered as a result of my work with the nutritionist is that it’s been incredibly helpful for me to take pictures and send them to him every Monday. Having that week one, day one picture and being able to compare it to the week two, day one picture, and seeing how much progress I made and would have taken for granted was really motivating. Watching my body change over time in ways that aren’t always reflected on the scale, but are hugely reflected in my face and body and my stomach has made an incredible amount of difference. So I encourage anyone who feels like this would be a tool that’s helpful for them, by all means take pictures of yourself and watch your body change, it will definitely motivate you.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/