Hey SLAM Nation! My name is Elizabeth Hepp, but you can call me Lizz. I’m the new boss in town, and I am excited and honored to be at the helm of S.L.A.M. Sweat Like A Mother San Diego (SLAM Diego!). I am a Colorado native, but in 2007 I moved to Oregon to earn my bachelor’s degree from the University of Portland in Portland, OR. Shortly after graduation, I married my high-school sweetheart, Simon, and since we have followed his career in the US Navy across several continents and grown our family to include two little boys, Lochlan (3) and Alistair (1), and our trusty side-kick Gunner, our dog.
In 2017 we moved to Monterey, CA, and I was expecting our first son. While in Monterey, I served as the Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Birth Network of Monterey, a non-profit that provides education and resources to birthing people and their families in the community. During a birth network event I was chatting with a few other moms and board members and I learned about a pregnancy and postpartum friendly fitness group called “SLAM.” In that same conversation I learned that a friend from the University of Portland was also in Monterey and was involved with SLAM. We were re-acquainted and shortly after that meeting I had our first son, Lochlan. I immediately knew that I needed to find a positive community to help in the tough transition to motherhood. I texted Laura around my 6-week postpartum visit and she graciously agreed to pick me, my infant, and our entourage of gear up and drive us to our first SLAM class. I was really nervous. My stroller felt cumbersome, heavy, and awkward. Will I fit in? Can I keep up? My postpartum body still feels so foreign to me. Maybe two sports bras would’ve been a good idea? Many of my nerves were calmed immediately. When we arrived at class we made quick introductions and got to SLAM’n. I felt included without feeling watched, I loved the format of class, and even after class several women came up and introduced themselves again, took time to get to know me a little more and asked if I was coming back. I had found the welcoming, uplifting and FUN community that I had always hoped for as a new mom.
Over the coming months I slowly but surely attended classes more regularly. I learned that despite my most negative self-talk, I am an athlete. I began to believe more in myself and my athletic abilities. My SLAM sisters were there, pushing me and encouraging me, every step of the way. One day a coach said to me “you’re a really strong runner,” and I thought to myself ‘I never would have told you that about myself, but I’m beginning to believe that it’s true.’ Beyond getting in the best physical shape of my adult life, I made some of my closest and dearest friends and grew as a mother, spouse, and individual. I found a community that welcomed moms in all stages of motherhood and life. We built each other up, our kids made friends, we laughed, cried, and sweat together.
Perhaps one of the most pivotal S.L.A.M. sisterhood moments came during the annual Climb out of Darkness event. Hearing other moms share their mental health struggles in a truly safe space gave me the courage to be vulnerable about my own mental health and postpartum struggles in a way that doesn’t come naturally to me. Following the climb, I was inspired by another SLAM sister’s photography work to bring moms together for a passion project in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and the International Wave of Light, which occurs each year on October 15th. Bereaved parents worldwide are invited to light a candle at 7pm in remembrance of the babies they’ve lost, thus spreading a ‘wave of light’ around the globe as each time zone joins in. It was scary for me to take the lead on a project like this and to share my own story of loss and the grief that followed, but in the end we came together, found vulnerability, shared our stories, and created some beautiful images to commemorate the International Wave of Light, the babies we’ve lost, and spread awareness of the International Wave of Light for parents to remember… no one should go through loss alone.
I will be forever grateful to the women of S.L.A.M. Sweat Like A Mother Monterey for welcoming me into their community with open arms and for enriching my life – they taught me venerability, and that setting aside one hour for myself ultimately makes me a better mom, friend, wife, and athlete. When we departed Monterey for Newport, RI in early 2020, I knew I wanted to share the community I’d found to be so transformative in my early motherhood at our next duty station by bringing an affiliate of S.L.A.M. Sweat Like A Mother with me. Our family grew by one with the birth of our second son, Alistair, in October, and although our move plans have changed more times that I can count in the last 18 months, S.L.A.M. remained a constant for me through the worldwide community in Virtual S.L.A.M. I am so excited that I finally get to announce that the SLAMily is growing once more with the opening of a second California affiliate of S.L.A.M. in ‘America’s Finest City’, San Diego, CA! There’s a place for you here mama. Be brave, come as you are, and see how you can grow as a woman, mother and athlete. I promise, motherhood is better together.