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jennifer Alex | jenniferalex65

My healthy life: Judo mom

Feb 17th 2014 at 8:41 PM

I heard somewhere that having her first child is the closest thing a woman gets to experiencing a midlife crisis. Not only does she have to redefine herself in her new role as a mom,

but she also has to come to terms with her changing body. Before giving birth to Kale in November 2001 at the age of 35, I had no problem keeping in shape by religiously walking on the treadmill twice a week. Once he was born, though, exercise became a low priority. After a year of pampering the baby and neglecting myself, I was ready to mourn the firm, fit body I used to have -- until I took up judo.

While attending the Spring Festival at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, my husband, Mark, who is Japanese, and I happened to meet Gerald Okimura, a slight, muscular

moustached black-belt instructor in judo. He mentioned that he was starting the first female-only judo class in Ontario. What perfect timing: by then, my muscles had become weak from inactivity. Anxious to get fit again, I signed up right then and there.

Our teacher wasted no time
The following Sunday I showed up at the dojo (a martial arts training room that's covered with a floor mat). Our sensei, or teacher, wasted no time. He led a warm-up of somersaults, cartwheels,

mat crawls and other tricky exercises. He explained to the seven women in the class that each exercise would help us gain the necessary skills to execute judo techniques. I thought,

There's no way I can do this. Judging by their nervous looks, the other women were just as hesitant. Our group ranged from a math professor and a psychologist to a housewife and student. Our ages were as divergent as our shapes and sizes.

When my turn came to do a left-handed cartwheel, I froze. I was so terrified of hurting myself that I actually started laughing nervously. But the girls cheered me on. I felt their camaraderie that first day when I plunked my hands down and clumsily kicked my legs over. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to get through the class, so when I did I was on a high. I left feeling invigorated.

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