INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN – SANDRA GROENING
In 2017 I started my “Inspirational Women Series” where I featured women in my life that inspire me and others by just being themselves.
On the 9th of August in South Africa, Women’s Day is celebrated. A day to commemorate and remember the strength and courage of the 20,000 odd women who took part in the march in 1956 to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The march, a protest against by laws requiring individuals registered as black by the government to have a travel pass in order to roam the land within the borders of South Africa. The protest was lead by strong women like Lilian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph to mention a few. These women wanted South Africa to change.
I met Sandra towards the end of my high school years. For as long as I can recall Sandra has always been a determined individual. Someone that’s always known what she wanted out of life. I’ve always thought of her as an individual that planned, and I’m glad to learn that it’s true. Although we now live in different countries, our paths continue to cross from time to time. She is an amazing individual, a doting mother and friend to her kids, and a loving wife to husband S.
Sandra for me is an individual that personifies the word independent. She’s determined and sure of who she is, and what is required to get her to where she wants to be. Sandra isn’t a follower. She’s a trendsetter with a developed taste for a healthier lifestyle.
Thank you for taking time off your hectic schedule, and you weren’t feeling 100% too, to share your story and inspire others to follow their dreams regardless of what other’s may say or think of you.
With Sandra, we’ve gone the Q&A route. Be inspired.
WHO IS SANDRA GROENING (nee du Pont) WHEN SHE’S NOT WORKING OR BEING MOM OR WIFE?
These roles have become so intertwined in my life it’s hard to separate them. When I’m neither of these, the alter egos step out. Sandra the ‘Beast(ess)’. I turn my beast mode on in the gym. There’s Sandra the creative – I enjoy scrapbooking and doing puzzles. These help me calm the over-active thinker I am. I also enjoy taking photographs because it is not only a means to capture memories but also a way to explore and further express my creativity.
Another passion of my is travelling. Seeing new places, different people and their way of life. Although I’m not someone adventurous, I do enjoy the odd adrenaline rush brought about through canoeing, hiking, canopy tours. I’m always surrounded by family, friends, clients so I do enjoy my own company from time to time. Alone and quiet “me time”. I use this time to catch up on my novels (aka reading) or go through my social media feed and maybe even catch up on the latest movies.
I am a pre-planner, an emotional and sensitive over-thinker who likes order and making lists. I believe if you are going to do something, it must be done properly and with 200% effort, or don’t do it at all. Yes, I’m tough on myself.
I believe in goals, so I have a bucket list and try to make sure I tick off at least one item a year.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE MOTHERHOOD, WIFE ROLE, FITNESS AND A CAREER?
Balance? LOL, I don’t think so!
I juggle these roles, that is the best way to put it!
When my daughters were younger I had a routine which was to train early in the morning (whilst the entire household was still asleep). My Mom morning duties included making school lunches then school drop-off. Then I would head to the office until the afternoon when my mom taxi duties resumed. In between half preparing dinner I would fit in afternoon gym session, then finish off preparing dinner whilst checking homework. My girls were in bed by 8 pm, this way I still had 2 hours wife and family time before calling it a day. In my head this routine worked smoothly, the reality is that it was a whole different game. There was always something that would pop up and disrupt the routine. That was then, today my girls are much older (20 and 15 years) with the eldest at university and my youngest one at boarding school, but guess what! My mom duties are still there even though we’re now kilometres apart.
These days I’m at the gym at 5 am for my first session. I get my own training out the way before going into instructor mode and take a group of ladies through their gym routine. Next is time for some gym admin, we just can’t avoid admin in life I promise you, shower then I head to my office job for the rest of the day before heading back to the gym until closing time. These days I’m normally home around 8 pm just in time for my last meal and prep my meals for the next day and head off to bed.
Rest and Repeat the next day. This is my current life now, interrupted by mom duties of course.
Currently, my phone is also my PA. Besides my phone, I survive thanks to a few of my handy-tools like my diary, a pen and notebook always in hand and ready to take down a note or reminder or two. I keep a shared family diary so everyone is informed and will get reminder notifications (EKL – I’d heard of this, now I know it’s a thing for real 🙂 ). I have found that having a routine, diarising planned activities, family trips, outings, school happenings and events, helps me cope easier with this juggle.
I cook my meals on a Sunday so that in the evenings I just pack the next day’s meals.
YOU’VE RUN 7 COMRADE MARATHONS, THEN STOPPED. NOW YOU’VE TRANSFORMED INTO THE SWAN OF THE BODYBUILDING WORLD. WHY THE CHANGE? WAS IT AN EASY DECISION AND JOURNEY TO THE FIRST COMPETITION?
From Comrades runner to bodybuilder.
I have always been passionate about both. During my period I wasn’t training for my marathons and I would become a bodybuilder for 3 months. I’d lose all the muscle gained during bodybuilding when I started training for my run races. This though wasn’t the reason I stopped running comrades, I stopped for medicinal reasons. I still hope to complete another 3 Comrades and earn my permanent number. That’s the goal!
Why the change? I’m goal driven. I needed to set a goal to work towards. Bodybuilding was the next step for me and, I had it on my bucket list too. I enjoy training, challenging myself, working towards and reaching a goal. So the decision to start bodybuilding was easy, besides I had no set competition time frame to chase.
When I eventually decided to enter my first bodybuilding competition, the journey to the competition was an amazing experience. As I was already disciplined with my training and meal plans from training for Comrades, this was the easiest part. Getting closer to competition date when training intensified and meal plans got stricter, that’s when it became very testing and stressful for me. What made it testing was that it was taking place during the holiday season. Experiencing, peak week for bodybuilding was challenging, as the process is completely different and opposite to my experience with Comrades final week preps.
I loved watching my body change and transform. Realizing I was stronger than I thought and getting in tune with my body and new muscles are all personal positives. This new found love also has its own share of negatives. It can be a tough, mental, physical and social challenge. Worst, it’s a lonely journey.
My circle suddenly wasn’t as large as it was when I was training for Comrades. It suddenly became very small.
I had to learn that my main focus had to be on myself first. I began to socialize less and less, as I needed to eat my meals when it was time to eat, irrespective of where I was. I’m focused and wasn’t willing to compromise on my goal. A lesson I have learnt is that many people are misinformed and have misconceptions about what bodybuilding is about and because of this, I endured negativity and discouragement from both men and women.
YOU RUN A GYM NOW AMONGST ALL THE OTHER ROLES. WAS IT A NATURAL PROGRESSION IN YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY? AS IT’S RELATIVELY NEW, WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
The gym was another bucket list item.
I aspire to encourage, motivate and inspire everyone into a fit and healthy lifestyle. Hence my brand, FitSwazi. Fitness Factory is a functional training and Crossfit gym, so it is suitable for everyone irrespective of age, gender, sporting discipline, fitness or strength level. (EKL – it’s true Sandra even recruited her mom)
I kept waiting for the perfect time to open the gym but realized that there would be none. There is no such thing as the perfect time, as everything is changing every day. For that reason, I believe this is was the right time and at this point, it was the next step in my fitness journey. After the initial shock of the cost of gym equipment, I looked forward to meeting new, different people, with different personalities and backgrounds, but all with the same purpose.
Fitness Factory 9 months later, feels like a mom who has just given birth and is finally meeting her newborn. We are meeting our ‘new-borns’. Seeing the members transform, not just their physical features but in strength, confidence and fitness. So far, I have loved every moment and day of this experience. The gym has two male trainers who are also my support team, we all share a passion for fitness so we ensure we all get our respective training and rest time.
DOES YOUR FAMILY SHARE THE SAME PASSION FOR FITNESS AS YOU DO?
I come from a physically fit family and my siblings have always been fit and into one form of sports or another, although not so much anymore oddly enough.
I have always encouraged and nudged my daughters to participate in some sort of physical fitness or sporting activity. Now that I own and run my own gym, they don’t have much of an excuse not to train. Alas so far, none of them shares my level of passion for fitness.
Guess we can only have one crazy per family.
They think I’m an extremist but are nonetheless very supportive in my fitness adventures and I am grateful for that.
DO YOU HAVE MOMENTS OF GUILT FOR TAKING TIME OUT FROM THE FAMILY “ME TIME”, FOR COMPETING OR TRAINING?
Honestly, it’s very rarely!
I try to schedule my ‘me time’ outside of family time. Having my daughters in two provinces means I travel between them for regular visits and make sure that I get my “me time” early in the morning, and that we have planned activities for the rest of the day to spend some time together.
When I was running, my family would travel to the races for support but it was also an opportunity to see a new town, city or place. Comrades race day was always a big family weekend and an opportunity for sibling and cousin bonding.
Moments of guilt are when I have to miss out or decline attending family social functions either because I had a race, a coaching session or wasn’t allowed a ‘cheat meal’. Yes, I’m that strict with my diet.
My family have always known that I train so I believe that they have come to terms that this is part of who I am.
“I WOULD QUIT …BUT THE WAY MY AMBITION IS SET UP” – unknown
ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER MOTHERS FINDING IT CHALLENGING TO BALANCE FAMILY, FITNESS, WORK AND ME TIME?
There is no balance, it’s a daily challenge.
You need to find time to squeeze all these activities in somewhere in your week. Not everyone has the opportunity to work flexible hours, allowing for daily training, access to a gym or a fitness facility. Especially if you have young children it becomes more difficult. The trick is in finding the best fit for YOU. I have always tried my best to incorporate my family in these activities so that it makes the balance easier or better manageable.
Wake up earlier.
Go to bed a little later.
Pre-cook and pack family meals for the week.
Make lists and tick off as appropriate.
Schedule shopping times for the weekend.
If you struggle to find time to eat, juice your veggies, make a smoothie, plan, prepare and pack your meals in advance.
If you can’t get to a gym facility, exercise at home and involve your baby or kids. You could deadlift your toddler. Join your nearest Parkrun, take the kids along, strollers are allowed.
Lastly, always keep Rescue Remedy on hand, its handy on those hectic days!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
My biggest challenge has been growing into the strong, determined, independent woman I am today whilst still trying to remain true to who I am. It can be challenging to maintain my personal beliefs and values while remaining the best role model for my daughters I can be.