WHO SHE IS: Courtney Wyckoff, CPT/CES, founder of MommaStrong, writer

LOCATION: Houston

SUCCESS STORY: Creating a global brand from the ground up… and never giving up

WORK SCHEDULE: Monday through Saturday, full time, work from home

KIDS: Ella, 7, and Wren, 2

SANITY VICE: Movies that make me laugh and documentaries that remind me my problems are actually a first-world privilege

BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Egg Timers for your extensive to-do list.I set a specified amount of time for dedicated work on ONE thing and then take a 15-minute break in which I do something that feels indulgent.

GO-TO TECH: Wi-Fi

WORK-LIFE BALANCE? (1-10): HA! 6. It’s a scrappy life, but my girls and I end each day laughing and talking about how to do tomorrow better

5 Questions for Courtney

1. Tell us about your journey to Momma Strong.

To be totally honest, Momma Strong came out of a vulnerable place. It stemmed from a need to make a living from home, to heal my physical injuries, and to recover from postpartum depression. I remember the day I decided to start using my former life as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Personal Trainer, years and years of research into human anatomy and core conditioning, on myself. The combination of physical and mental activity lifted the fog of depression and of pain bit by bit. And, so, I started creating little postpartum recovery workout videos for myself and a few other close friends. And that’s when everything started to shift in my own body, which eventually led to an urge to start a movement that would help lift women like me out of their hiding. Now, almost two years later, the movement has grown to thousands of members all over the world and has allowed me the privilege of bringing on a partner, the brilliant Barbie Atkinson, as Chief Brand Ambassador.

2. Your workouts are online via video, so home-based. How do you encourage moms to show up for the work out? In some ways there’s pressure to workout if you actually get yourself to the gym. With your model, the motivation is easier and harder all at once!

This might sound strange, but I actually do not love working out at home. I find it isolating and, like you mentioned, hard to find the self-motivation. With that said, exercise has proven essential to my own psychological health and physical vitality as a momma. The problem for me was that getting to the gym for a class or a workout required an orchestration of to-dos from childcare, to work scheduling, to school pick-up, etc. I found myself spending a lot of wasted, angst-ridden mental space saying, “I need to get to the gym,” or “I need to get to that class,” OR just convincing myself to do an at-home workout video. Neither one worked for me. So, I asked myself, “how can I create a workout that slips into my life like brushing my teeth does?” The answers came quickly — it needs to be quick (efficient); it needs to be intense (effective); it needs to be new and varied every single day (engaging); it needs to treat/prevent chronic pain (intelligent); and it needs to be led in a way that is not too serious, but like working out with a friend (THE REAL DEAL).

3. You recently went through a divorce and have two children. How did you stay “Momma Strong” though all of this?

I don’t think I always did stay Momma Strong, actually — something I gave myself the space to experience. The process of divorce is a process of destruction and rebirth. It’s muddy and gritty, but also at times very vibrant and oxygenating. I made a choice to view it as an opportunity to look at the darkest places within myself and do the work necessary to be congruent with my values and my basic needs and wants. There was a book I read during the unraveling of my marriage called, The Dance of The Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. In it she talks about attaching yourself to your “Golden Thread,” which she described as being a tether to a “voice” you have felt all along, this whisper of who you are and what your best life can feel like. And she said that even in the darkest of times, that Golden Thread glows – you just have to hang on to it and develop a little faith that it’s got your back. In my case, it did. Things are settling into a new normal now and while I may be juggling some intensely stressful logistical aspects of single motherhood, it’s all been worth it. In terms of my kids, I believe that when we as moms step up congruently, children receive the gift of stability and security even when they simultaneously experience pain and discomfort.

4. Let’s talk about your workout pose, “The Hook,” and what it’s supposed to be. It looks very hard to do!

Ha! The Hook is definitely a very intense challenge, but it’s also a very doable one. It’s a structured 30-Day Wellness challenge that Barbie and I lead together, designed to install physical strengthening into your life as essentially as brushing your teeth is to basic hygiene. Participants get access to daily (and new) 15-minute High Intensity Interval Training, a wellness lesson focused on warrior versus victim behaviors, accountability tools, injury prevention tutorials, extra classes on specific body parts, and membership in a closed Facebook group of other amazing women in the program. Along with creating physical strength that matters and massive changes in muscle tone and overall health, The Hook is designed to help women identify their own self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way of showing up for themselves every day. And, as a result, we’ve been finding that women start taking worthy risks — physical and emotional — that get them a step closer to an empowered, un-hiding life.

5. What’s the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?

The media is intent on focusing on how hard us working moms have it, instead of focusing on how to create a social support system for working moms to do the work they need to do in the world. I think even the baffled question we hear so often in the media, “How does she do it all?” is not helpful. It perpetuates the idea that what we do is “too much,” which perpetuates the idea that we as women can’t handle “it” and that our role in society as professionals is somehow extraneous. Instead, I contend that the media ought to shift the attention from the shock of how hard it is to “do it all” to how much we change the world at large by being leaders in our families and our communities. By doing that, we could usher in incredibly effective social support systems like affordable/accessible childcare options, maternity leave that rivals every other industrialized country, and flex-time opportunities that allow us to be moms and professionals without such personal strife.

5+. What advice do you live by as a working mom? (could be advice someone gave you, or could be something you learned along the way)

Win ugly. It’s the only way. Drop the pretense. Ask for help. Drop the expectations. Forgive yourself. Begin Again. Move away from perfectionism. And get on with merely showing up.

Win a workout with Courtney! Details here. 

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