Stories of Change & Creativity

Sandra Mikulic - Big Fit Mom of 4 Runs

June 13, 2021 Sandra Mikulic Season 2 Episode 30
Stories of Change & Creativity
Sandra Mikulic - Big Fit Mom of 4 Runs
Show Notes Transcript

Show Notes

1000 Day Streak - September 24, 2021

Athlete Sandra Mikulic is an inspiration.  She's been running  or walking 5 kms EVERY DAY since January 1, 2019.  Sandra keeps MOVING and encourages us to do the same.

"I don't fear showing up.  I don't fear being seen." 

Sandra Mikulic is a mother of 4, a Plus-size Athlete, full-time banker and advocate for all size athletes.  She wants all size athletes to be "fairly represented in media to change the stereotype that only " thinner" people can run or be athletic."

She writes, "My mental health has drastically improved which is why I promote everyday movement for the improvement of mental health."

"I now have a mechanism to deal with the lows of life, whereas before I didn't."


I found my interview with Sandra to be inspiring and motivating. I've started my own fitness streak (biking as often as possible).

Sandra on Change:

"365 days is going to happen. Whether or not you like it. So 365 days from today is going to happen. But are you going to be the same person you were 365 days from now?  If you change one thing in your life on a daily basis, you will be different."

Follow Sandra on Instagram

You can checkout Sandra's blog here.  

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/storiesofchange)

Judy Oskam:

Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam. I'm a university professor, Gallup Strengths coach and Tiny Habits® coach. On this podcast, we feature purpose driven individuals who inspire, motivate and educate our guests, share the strengths and habits that help them transform. On this episode, I'm excited to share my zoom conversation with Sandra Mikulic. She's a mom and a runner. I found Sandra on Instagram and I love her body-positive message and strong spirit. Sandra started running in 2018 and has never looked back. It changed her life and she found her true self. This is a powerful conversation. Welcome Sandra Mikulic thanks for joining us from Canada. How are you today?

Sandra Mikulic:

I'm fantastic. Judy, thank you.

Judy Oskam:

Well, I wanted to kind of share you with, with my audience. We have listeners from all over the world and I found you on Instagram and I find you to be so inspiring. Um, your Instagram and your email is big fit mom of four runs. How did that come to be ? talk about that for me?

Sandra Mikulic:

Well, yeah, you know, it's funny. It is a bit of a story how that came to be because , uh, about three years ago when I started my Instagram, I actually used another name. That was a little bit more , um, shaming. So in my culture , uh, I'm , I'm a Croatian background. I actually had a cousin who used to call me elegantly filled. Um, yeah. And , uh , this is back in the old country. Uh, cause I , I lived in Croatia for about 12 years from 1996 to 2008. But , um, over there women are really , um, valued when they're thin and when they're slim. And so I've always been bigger boned. And so I have this cousin who, he and the translation, it sounds so much funnier in Croatian, but I , the only way I could have translated it in English is elegantly filled and he says, elegant Nopal Ponya now . And he would say to me, every time he saw me, he's like, Hey, elegantly f illed cousin, how a re you doing today? So when I started this Instagram, I was in a really kind of bad spot. And I took this picture of myself. I remember it was new year's day, January, 2017. And I thought, okay, I'm going to take this picture and I'm going to put it on somewhere where no one can see it and it's going to be private. And so that's how the Instagram started. But obviously that name didn't stick because in 20, u m, 18, I ventured outside for the first time ever in March and ran. And that was I think the start of something so amazing. And you know, how there's that, u m, picture of where it's like the stick figures, t he, t he, where they say how the skirt of the female stick figure. They said it was never, u h, u h, it was never addressed. It was always a Cape. And so I remember running in, it was sunny and I had tied a sweatshirt to the bottom of my waist and in the sun, it looked like I was wearing a Cape. And so I, this was March 18th, 2018. I had just turned 42, no 43. I just turned 43. And I remember, I couldn't believe I was running outside. All I could think was how people were staring at me. My boobs were like going up and down, up and down. And, u h, and then I signed up for like 10 races that year in 2018. U m, and, u h, at the end of 2018, I actually went to Seattle. So from here s addles about six hours, north or six hours south, I guess, down to the states and ran in the Seattle marathon. And , um, that was at the end of 2018. And obviously I changed my name as soon as I started running and my feed on Instagram. It's , it's amazing how your feed on Instagram can be curated by the things that you like. And so all these runners started appearing on my feed and , um, there was in particular one couple, which I, which I befriended in Australia and there John and Kate, not the John and Kate plus eight, but they're John and Kate, sorry, Justin and Kate in Australia. And they've been doing a streak for, I think the last time I looked on their feet, it was 1,437 days. And they started with 5k a day and they've gone. They've graduated to 10 K every day. And so on January 1st, 2019, I was like, I went out and ran on that day with a friend. And then the next day I ran again and I , and then I announced it on Instagram. I was like, I'm doing a five K streak every day in 2019. And so once you announced that you can't go back, but the traditional definition of a run streak is one mile every day in runner's world definition. But I decided to create my own streak. And my streak is five kilometers every day , but I alternate walking and running. So one day I'll do a run. The next day I will do a walk and today was day 880 .

Judy Oskam:

Oh my heavens. Oh my gosh. Congratulations.

Sandra Mikulic:

Thank you so much. Um, well I can, yeah, go ahead. Sorry. Or how, how did, I mean, how did that, why, why was that important to do what, what led you to , so it's almost a case of did the chicken come before the egg and what I mean by that? And now I can actually say this because I feel like I'm a testament to my own not strategy, but to my own healings . Okay. So I, I had postpartum depression after each child. I had severe anxiety that I , um, grew up with. I had trauma in my childhood , um, you know, corporal punishment. My parents didn't know any better. They were immigrants. When we came to Canada, I was six years old. They didn't speak a word of English trying to survive. They came with me and my brother. He was four. And then my mom was pregnant with my sister and, you know, they did what they were taught. So anyhow, I grew up with very low self-esteem and low self worth, and always looked towards other people for some sort of acknowledgement and affirmation. So fast forward, you know, 20 years, four kids, four kids,. And I always did do some sort of exercise. It was, but it was always to like try and lose weight and all that stuff. So when I started this journey of the 5k a day, I so believe that things happen for a reason, but I was listening to a audio book. And let me just tell you, when I started the 5k every day, it was one of the most loneliest journeys ever because you aren't alone. There is not very many people who are going to do that with you every day . So there were times where I was doing it at 10 o'clock at night or in the middle of an airport because we were traveling or , um, I've 11 o'clock at night because , um , two years ago we had a flood in our basement and we were doing so many renovations and I was, you know, time got away from me. But anyways, so around every single, probably like in, you know , February and March, there were so many days where I was like, why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? Nobody cares. Like, what is the point of this? Why, why do you keep doing this? So then I was like, then I found audio books. And so one of the audio books that I found was The Body Keeps Score. When I heard that sentence that he said, so he, he talks about , um, there's three ways to cure trauma or three ways to heal from trauma therapy. Counseling is first one, second one is medication. So I had gone through all of those, and I have been medicated with my anxiety for seven years now, best thing that I had ever done it saved my marriage probably kept him out of jail. But , um, so he says, use the body to have use the body, to have experiences that viscerally contradict the helplessness and rage you feel. And I just, I stopped in my tracks when I heard that, because that's what was happening. I was so all of the runs that I had been doing, I felt like every time I moved my body, it was shaking off a layer, like a snake. It was shaking off a layer of skin, a layer of dead weight that , um, I was holding onto . And the second thing that impacted me enough first year was James Clear's book. And so James Clear 's Atomic Habits, the one sentence that stuck to me was , um, every time you complete an action, you are casting a vote for who you want to be. And so my whole life , um, I wasn't fortunate enough to believe in myself to complete a degree. I just wasn't. So my self-esteem was not because , you know, I, I truly believe that there's a couple of kinds of people in this world. There's the people who are fortunate enough to let's say complete some sort of degree. And so that first layer of self-esteem is built on top of that. And so you have this confidence that, you know, you finished your degree, you are this person now, and then there's the other people who don't. And so they're building their confidence maybe with other things and, and , and, you know, it's, it's, it's a , it's a matter of , um, uh, experiments and, and, you know, so I didn't have that. Um, I just didn't, you know, I quit my college when I had gone. I quit. And , um, so anyhow, when I had heard James Clear's statement about , um, how you cast a vote for yourself every time you complete an action. And so it is now, today was day 880. Um, yeah, on January 1st, 2021, I added another habit, which was 21 burpees every day. So I've been chewing 20 today is day 149 of the 21 burpees every day. And another amazing , um, person who I heard, which kind of solidified all of this for me was because my mom, you know, unfortunately she just, you know, my parents had like this grade six education, I was born on a farm with chickens running around. And when we came to Canada, they were just trying to survive. So Huberman lab, I don't know if you've heard of him. So he is a Stanford professor of neuroscience, and I listened to his interview with Rich Roll. And this was the second week of January when, after I had started the burpees. And he said that the nervous system controls the brain and that the nervous system will send signals to the brain. When it senses that you're doing something that might be dangerous to the body, or that is unknown and is not automated. And so I, I can't describe to you what my body was doing when I started the burpees. It was absolutely fascinating how it was wanting to reject physically reject me doing the burpees. It was, I was me. I, my brain, I don't know, was saying things to me. Like, why are you doing that? I mean, okay, you're doing the 5k. We'll give you the 5k. You've been doing it long enough, but you're not doing the burpees lady. Right . And nothing is enough. Who do you think you are? Oh, and you're going to start making your bed every day and you're going to start journaling. I don't think so. Uh I've I stuck to the burpees, but what got me through that was hearing that willpower is not a flaw willpower. It has nothing to do with willpower. It , it has to do with the neural neuroplasticity of your brain and how you formed it over time. So it's just so fascinating, all those things with, you know, how our first impressions and how we keep most of our identity, it's from our mother and what we saw up until we were six years old. So if you were around a mother who complained all the time, well , chances are, you're going to freaking complain all the time. So yeah, it's just, it's just so fascinating. And I feel like there's this small little group of people in this world who know these little secrets, and if you never come across them, well, then, you know , um, yeah, you need to, you need to discover all this and you need to not need to, but when you do, when you do discover these things, life is just so much easier and there's less pressure on yourself. There's like when you, when you find out that keeping a habit is not a form of lack of willpower, that it's actually a form of , um, consistently doing something over and over again, until it's automated, that you can actually form any habit you want.

Judy Oskam:

Um, and , and I think that's, that's exactly right. Um, I asked you about your strengths. I'm a Gallup strengths coach, and I always liked to find out what your strengths are. And I love your last one. You, you mentioned the five kilometer walk run. You mentioned that 21 burpees, the final one you listed. Cause I only asked you for three and I'm sure you have many more aligning myself with my passion and who I truly am no more hiding from that. And that's what you wrote. And I think that's, that's amazing. And that comes through in a simple thing, like an Instagram post, which is what attracted me. And I will tell you if you , you, you, you know, you mentioned Stanford, Stanford researcher, BJ Fogg, and study of tiny habits. And that the A-B-C model of tiny habits is exactly what you're talking about. There's an anchor moment, there's a behavior. And then the rewiring of the brain comes in the celebration and we must celebrate those tiny, we break down an activity. So small. Now you took on a lot, in my opinion, with the five kilometer.

Sandra Mikulic:

I had to Judy, I had to, I don't , and I didn't know it at the time. It was almost like I was trying to save my life and I needed to do some things . I didn't know it at the time. Like I had no idea what I was doing. I did not know on January 1st, 2019, that even, even one year later that I would be, I would not be the same person as I was before. I don't know who that person was. I don't know who that person was. Um, I had to do something so drastic to find myself and to let go of what I, what I thought, who I thought I was before. And I used to be afraid of being alone. Like I would always try and like plan as many things as possible to , um, you know, be busy and to be, and to have acknowledgement from other people that if they made plans with me, then I was worthy. Um, and I don't do that anymore. I'm so happy to be by myself. I'm actually, you know, and then from this whole thing, I started a blog where I just write down my thoughts and usually it's something to do with, you know, maybe whatever happened that week. And what I have found also in this journey is that there's lows , you know, there's, there is always going to be moments of something testing you. But what I have found with this is that the lows no longer stay as long as they did before they go away much faster. And whereas before the lows would stay for a long time. And so your mechanism for , um, I now have a mechanism for dealing with the lows of life, whereas before I didn't, so I don't even know how all this happened. I have no idea, but I guess it was meant to be well.

Judy Oskam:

And I think you have to be ready and you have to be open to the change. Right? That's part of what I think is fascinating is change. And a lot of what you're talking about is behavior design. You're just, re-engineering your behavior. And then I'm glad you mentioned the neurological part of that because the fact that it's all connected. I mean, you know , what advice do you have for, for those of us out here watching and listening and wanting to make changes?

Sandra Mikulic:

Um, I can only speak for myself, but when you do something over and over and over and over again every single day. And I think that , that I think as humans, we were meant to move. So for me, it's gotta be movement. And I think it's healthy. And I think that the problem with today's society is that everything is built around us so that we don't move. We are, we're in a society of convenience, but something happens with the brain when we get up and we move. So, you know, I know that sometimes movement is not easy. It's actually harder putting on your running shoes than getting out the door because it's that subconscience it's that it's , it's that inner mean girl talking to you or inner mean guy talking to you and , and , and it's going to keep talking to you for a long time until one day it goes away. So my advice to anybody is, is start small, right? Don't do 5k. You don't have to do five K , but you know what, if you wanted to do 5k , why can't you take an hour for yourself every day? Because a 5k walk is an hour for me. If I K run is , is, you know, 40 minutes, but you will not regret it. You will not regret it because it's like planting a seed and the fruit of your labor. Once you plant that seed, what's going to come out of that is absolutely magical. You won't know it at day one. You won't know what a day 100 and even day 200, but you know what? 365 days is going to happen. Whether or not you like it. So 365 days from today is going to happen. But are you going to be the same person? You were 365 days from now. If you change one thing in your life on a daily basis, you will be different.

Judy Oskam:

And couldn't, we do a streak with a very small activity.

Sandra Mikulic:

Absolutely. So we could, we could build a tiny habit and then streak it or whatever you call that. Right. Cause you know what, your life, your rules, my life, my rules, I decided to make my own streak and that in my, by making my own street , I , um, fed into my own thought like, what do I want to say?

Judy Oskam:

Power?

Sandra Mikulic:

I fed into my own. Yeah. I fed into my own power. I was like, you know what? There might be days where I don't feel like running one mile, which is the definition of the runner's world streak . But you know what? I can walk a mile a day. I could walk whatever you could do a kilometer. If you want to do the Canadian, I can do one kilometer, which is 0.6 of a mile. Right? Yeah . I think, I think one kilometer sounds better than a one mile, but you know what I mean? It's right. Cause yeah . Um, but anything, you know, you could start with one burpee. Judy, I can't tell you how amazing I feel doing burpees now at 140 days. Versus when I started, I feel like I'm flying some days. Like I I'm , I 'm just like wonder woman, what do you need a s t unt woman?

Judy Oskam:

And Sandra, what does that, I mean, what did , how, how have other parts of your life changed because of that or , or they have?

Sandra Mikulic:

I, I, I 'm happier. And the people around me see that I'm happier. U m, and I react to things better. I react to, u m, like stress a t my work is better. U m, dealing with my kids is better. U m, I have so many plans for things that I want to do. I want to write a book. I want to continue with my blog. U m, and I don't fear. U m, and I don't fear, u m, not failure, but I don't. Oh, I don't fear showing up. I don't fear being seen. Yeah.

Judy Oskam:

And I why do you think so many people do? Why do you think so many people do?

Sandra Mikulic:

I think people fear being seen and heard because , um, they're holding onto so much. Um, they're holding onto so much , um, what's that called? Um, luggage, baggage, you know, that shame they're holding onto shame, which they don't need to hold on to because half the stuff that happened to us is not our fault. It's not my fault that my parents were immigrants and didn't have , um , a lot of choices when they came to Canada and had the pressures of feeding us. And it's not my fault. And I have forgiven, my , my mother has apologized to me and I have forgiven her. Um, you know, it is what it is and she did the best she could with the tools that she got. And so I could have repeated that with my own children, but I have access to better tools and we have access to better tools. Life is not the way it was 20 years ago, you know, so it's, you know, and it honestly comes down to choice. You have so little time on this earth and how do you want to live today? Like this morning? So the other thing I committed to in 2021 is to do a half marathon every month. So today was my half marathon day. Gosh, I feel a lie . Like I feel, I can't explain to you to the, like, I'm a slow runner. I'm a plus size woman. I'm a slow runner. I'm 250 pounds. I don't care. Five 11 big woman, but I feel like an Olympic athlete. Sign me up for the Olympics. Y ep.

Judy Oskam:

And you are an athlete. So, so the idea of owning that reality is something you have learned through this path, right?

Sandra Mikulic:

Absolutely. Absolutely. It would not. And it's a , it goes back to that. Did the chicken come, did the chicken or income first? What is it? So it's, it's asking yourself, do I have trauma or do I heal first? And then realize that I have trauma or like it's, it's, it's all a cycle. It's all mixed in together. It's all like a pool of mud. Um, and you can choose to sit in that or you can get out. Um, and the beauty of releasing all of that, you know, sometimes you see people on TV and they like are talking about love and light and, and you're just like, wow, they're crazy. But crazy people know you can feel it now you can see just like , yeah, I got you. Like, you know, those people will run through the trails in the forest and they're living their best life. That's yeah. It's just amazing how I'm never in a million years. Did I think two years ago that I would have this much content in my life. Never, never. I'm telling you.

Judy Oskam:

And as a mother, what are you hoping that shows your children?

Sandra Mikulic:

I hope the only thing I show my kids is that I hope they find the tools that I have found to deal with life because life is not going to get any easier. Life is not going to get easier. Life is going to get harder for them, especially with technology nowadays, and this instant gratification that you have, you know, and dating isn't even the same. I feel so bad for my kids now at dating because, you know, when I, when I met my husband, I had to wait by the phone. If I miss the call, I missed the call. Now, now you can track them. Now you can track your boyfriend. And, you know, if you open up his , uh , or, you know, if he's opened up your WhatsApp or your instant message that you can see that it was seen , like that is just, they have no chance these kids none. So the only thing I hope for my kids that I have , um, given them is tools so that they can manage their stress is, is tools that I wish I had the superpower Cape. Yeah. Yeah.

Judy Oskam :

I love it. I love it. Sandra. Thanks for joining us today. I really appreciate it. Great advice. Great story. I can't wait to read the book.

Sandra Mikulic:

Okay. Thank you .

Judy Oskam:

I told you this was powerful stuff. Well, thanks for listening to stories of change and creativity. Check out the show notes for more information about Sandra and her journey. And if you have a story to tell or know someone who does reach out to me at judyoskam.com, Thanks for listening. [inaudible] .