Natalie and I met several years ago because she and her then-fiancée contacted us to do their wedding photos. I instantly knew there was something about Natalie that I just adored, and I’m happy to say we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years, thanks largely to social media. Her fitness journey and consistent, heartfelt Instagram posts have motivated me and inspired many a smile.
Natalie is a wife, mother, and health and fitness enthusiast whose serene presence and sincerity mean so much to anyone who meets her.
“My goal was never to ‘be a runner’,” Natalie says. “It became way more than I ever could have imagined… yes, I finished a 5K, but I also received so much support in so many other areas.”
Natalie is an introvert and didn’t know many people in her city or where to start, but she was interested in maybe training to run a 5K when her daughter Aubrey, now two and a half, was just a little baby. Her previous supervisor encouraged her just to go for it, and that there were groups that helped you along the way. Natalie decided she should just go for it and signed up through Fleet Feet in her city of Bloomington, Illinois for a “Strolling Moms” running group.
“I never would have gone out of my comfort zone if it wasn’t as easy and upfront as clicking a button,” Natalie said. “But I’m so glad I did… you’re out there with these other moms, sharing your struggles, good advice, and form these real, strong bonds with these women. We’re all still friends, and now Aubrey is friends with a lot of their kids.”
What started as running short distances three times a week evolved into a 5K and Natalie is signed up for a half marathon in the fall. “You get to know people so well on the runs… you develop good friendships, because at the end of the day, all of you have the same goal of the next mile, the next race, whatever it is you’re going for. There’s a natural high in running you all come to love.”
While running is somewhat new in Natalie’s life, fitness routines are not. She has been doing Tone It Up videos and routines since 2012. “I really love all the routines where you jump right now,” Natalie laughs. “Jumping squats are so fun! But really, I’ve always loved any strength training and using weights… I just love to feel strong.” And Aubrey is noticing. “She knows mommy works out, she will sometimes do part of workouts with me, and has even completed a fun run that she did have so much fun doing.” Natalie says that if Aubrey notices she hasn’t done a workout yet that she’s seen, she’ll ask her what video she’ll select that day. “She’s extremely motivating,” Natalie said. “I like finding that balance… of keeping Aubrey entertained, but still getting workouts in and having time for myself.”
“I love making space to read after my workouts in the morning,” Natalie said. “Especially if I’m having a rough day, I will revisit the books I’m reading throughout the day… it’s something I do to re-ground myself and say ok, it’s not that bad, your to-do list isn’t THAT important.”
“I bought myself a notebook and that’s really helped to jot down my random thoughts and help process things, getting myself back to the place I want to be.” But a physical notebook isn’t the only place Natalie uses to gather her thoughts. “I began using Instagram as a journal, especially for food, as I’m finding I really do love to cook and find healthy things… I love that I can save things and go back and revisit those quotes I saved to collections, re-read thoughts I’ve had to re-focus on what’s really important.”
“Light is huge for me in the morning… I’m such a morning person,” Natalie said. “If I’ve got my mornings to refocus, I can re-center on what’s really important to me.”
Natalie’s favorite mornings are those where she can get up before everyone, and while she likes to be active in the morning, it’s a slow, easeful kind of activity — “After my workout, I love to just sit and relax and read. Those mornings are golden.”
She’s recently found out terminology for what she has always known about herself — that she is a highly sensitive person. “I always try to take that quiet time for myself — but it’s not new. I’ve always needed this. I was an only child until I was 16, and I have always craved that quiet and stillness… alone time, daily, is vital for me… it’s taken a lot to get to a place where I can admit that I need this, but I do, and my husband is always so great about coming home and just jumping in. And when Aubrey naps, sometimes I’ll just sit and take in the silence… I used to feel like I had to be productive every minute to feel ok… but now I know it’s really, truly ok to relax.”
Natalie uses essential oils every morning, a calming blend of lavender, balance and stress away. “I’m a creature of habit… I love doing those things that allow me to re-center. I’m always finding the balance of who I am… I don’t feel like I learned who I was until I had my daughter, and I’m so thankful for every day, taking it one moment at a time, to find that balance.”
You can find Natalie on Instagram at _natalietom_.