It’s Not Only About the Kickboxing

By Kara Exner – September 24, 2014

Kara Exner

I remember well the golden years of my young adult life — after finishing my university degree and before starting a family — when hours and hours of free time just stretched in front of me every evening and weekend. Today I’m living a different version of golden years: my husband and I are raising two little boys, I run my own business, and I volunteer in a global leadership role.  I feel incredibly grateful every day for my beautiful life. And… time doesn’t seem to stretch anymore; it’s more of a blur. 

So like many other women, self-care just hasn’t been a priority. And why would it? I have nothing to complain about: I love my work, I have a great family, we take vacations – so all of that must count as self-care, right? And anyway, where in the world would I find time for anything else?

So it was very interesting to me that this past spring and summer a number of different people started asking me about my hobbies. Right out of the blue these questions kept coming: “What do you do in your spare time?” “What do you do that is just for you?” “Yeah, but besides your work, Kara, what are your interests?” After getting the same question from a variety of sources, I realized this may just be a message from the Universe and that I ought to pay attention.

Kickboxing gloves

First of all, it turned out that I didn’t know: I honestly couldn’t say what my interests were anymore. It was embarrassing to admit, and also a great wake-up call at the same time. So what to pursue? Art class? Music? University course? My very wise husband helped me realize that my brain was busy enough already and that maybe I could give my prefrontal cortex a break and do something physical. I found a remarkable kickboxing coach and I now go for personalized, one-on-one training sessions, once or twice a week. This is my radical self-care breakthrough.

And I have learned that my kickboxing time is about more than just the kicking and punching.

  •  It’s about realizing that I’ve got all the support in the world and that it was my own martyrdom or excuses or justifications that stopped me from pursuing something just for me. It’s only me that can grant myself permission to pursue my own interests.
  • It’s about learning that the sky does not fall when I take a few hours out of each work week to look after myself. In fact, I am much more productive during work hours now since taking up a structured physical activity.
  • And it’s about shifting my perspective from thinking that I’m not a good mom if I take some time away from my boys in order to do what I love. Rather, they are learning that it’s okay to look after oneself and that it is possible to have a life that includes work and family and other interests.

Radical self-care is a curious thing, maybe because we all define “radical” and “care” in different ways. May we each rise to the opportunity of our own definitions, and support other women – and men! – to do the same.


Kara's family skiing March 2013
Kara’s family skiing March 2013

Kara Exner is a Radical Self Care Retreat guest facilitator and participant.  

She is a professional certified coach, specializing in leadership coaching and leadership development training and holds a particular interest in positive psychology and its application to her works.

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