My family is full of runners. My dad ran numerous marathons. My brother and sister and I ran cross country and track in high school. My sister was a rock-star runner and even still holds a state record at our old high school.
Exercise and outdoor activities have always been a part of my life. I can remember going on long bike rides as a family while my dad would run. I remember hiking together on vacations, taking swim lessons, tennis lessons, going for family runs every Thanksgiving, and having weights and fitness equipment in our garage.
I never intended to be a runner. In high school I actually tried to be a softball player to be something different than my siblings, but my coach finally pulled me aside and told me I was a terrible softball player and that I belonged on the track. I am so thankful for his blunt honesty!
Finally, I gave in and decided to run.
I was “okay” at running. Not bad, but most certainly was not the fastest.
But the teammates…oh, how I loved the teammates. And I loved the coaches. And I loved the workouts every afternoon, and how we got popsicles from the team parents after practice. I loved the deliriously funny conversations we girls would have while running mile after mile together. I loved the way we’d practically collapse after the workouts were finished and we’d chit chat while we stretched. I love how we would laugh at how bad our blisters were, and vote on whose shoes were the dirtiest, and make fun of the person who had the bright, new, clean, unbroken in, running shoes. I loved the camaraderie of cheering one another on and Saturdays filled with races. I actually hated the competing part…I would get so nervous I would literally throw up before every race…but aside from that, I’ll treasure forever the memories of being on a team.
When it came time to pick a college, I chose to pass up a full ride scholarship running at a smaller school because I wanted to go to a bigger university at a place that felt like home. My parents both went to the University of Oklahoma. My sister, a year older than me, was already there. I could have walked-on to the team at OU…instead, I joined a sorority. 🙂
I worked at a couple of gyms throughout college, and I would casually run here and there, but relationships, and classes, and the fun of the college years overshadowed what fitness goals I had…errrrr…I should say what fitness goals I didn’t have. It honestly just wasn’t much of a priority to me then.
Fast forward 5 years…shortly after I was married, I decided to run a marathon. It was on my “bucket list,” so I gave it a shot. I trained for 3 months and pushed through a bum knee and some hip trouble…but I did it! All 26.2 miles of it! My brother ran with me too. And it was right at mile #20 when I decided that I no longer enjoyed running. At all. In my mind, and out loud to my brother for the last 6 miles, I swore that after I finished that race I would never run again!
Soon after the marathon my husband and I began trying to get pregnant, which eventually led to working with a fertility clinic. Limiting exercise was one thing the doctors requested of me, and I was far more concerned about having a baby than I was about fitness goals.
Fast forward again…I endured a combined total of 3 years of fertility treatments, followed by 6 pregnancies, including a miscarriage, and five live births in 6 1/2 years time…
To say my body has been “through it” is an understatement. After the birth of our fifth child, I remember thinking that I have this amazing family, yet I look and feel horrible.
I knew I needed a plan. I knew I needed to do something serious.
Now, let me pause the story here….
I know that there are people who would wish for me to now tell about the “how.” “How did I lose the baby weight?” “How” do I do what I do. “How” do I make time for the gym, “how” do I do my workouts, “how” do I eat, or “how” do I keep going when the needs at home are so demanding. If I’m honest that is THE one question I am most frequently (for sure daily and sometimes dozens of times in a day depending on what errands I have to run) asked. “How do you do it all?”
And hang on!!! I promise, I’ll get there, and I’ll be as practical and simple in explaining it all as I can in the near future!!!
I need to first address the “why” before the “how.”
Why do I do what I do? What is my motivation?
Do I simply want a hot bikini body? Do I want others to notice me? Do I want to stand on a stage for a contest? Do I want to win an award? Do I want to be able to fit into my pre-children clothes? Do I not want to have to stand in front of a mirror for inordinate amounts of time trying on every bit of my wardrobe over and over again because nothing fits right anymore? Do I simply want to look and feel better? Do I think that others will like me more if I just looked better? Do I feel that I would be accepted or wanted or loved more if I had a different shape?
My fitness goals have sometimes had some hidden reasons that took me awhile to admit, sort through, and throw away. I once dated someone in college that broke up with me numerous times because of what I looked like. He clearly wanted a “trophy wife,” and I just didn’t fit his standard. He once ended our relationship because he had the fear that I might one day have kids and not be “in shape” anymore.
And here I was…I’d had a lot of kids. I was not in shape anymore.
(Thankfully, I did not marry him!)
At the time my ex-boyfriend’s comments marked me and left wounds in my heart. What he said was hurtful and the fact that our relationship changed so dramatically because of his negative opinion of my appearance was painful.
The temptation was to become frozen with discouragement or overactive and attempt perfection.
Either response is wrong, though. Either way would be unhealthy, and will most certainly lead down some very self-centered, self-focused, and self-deluded paths. I’ve had to learn to openly talk about these things and intentionally, consistently reset my thinking with truth.
If my identity is wrapped up in what I look like, if I am striving toward fitness so that I can show off to others, or if I have fears about not being accepted because I’m not at my best, then it is time to stop looking in my mirror and start looking to Jesus.
I no longer have a team or friends cheering me on. There is no coach, there is no one checking on me to make sure I went to practice, there’s no one at the gym waiting for me to sign in, and there is certainly no team mom buying me popsicles after I workout every day!
So, where does my motivation come from?! How do I stay consistent? How do I create fitness goals that do not define me? How can I remain steadfast in my determination?
And WHY? WHY do I do it all?
Fitness is a matter of stewardship.
I believe I have been entrusted to use not only my body, but whatever gifts, talents and strengths that I may possess to care for myself, my home, as well as the people who reside in it. The role of a wife and mom is not to be taken lightly and I truly believe marriage, motherhood and fitness, go hand in hand. If I could be so bold…I do not understand how I could possibly separate them.
“How do you find time to get your workouts in?” is the wrong question.
My reply is always the same, “how could I not?”
I make time because it is worth my time.
The time I spend at the gym is an investment in something far more important. Yes, I will happily admit, it is my one single hour each day that is all to myself (well, so long as I don’t get a call from the childcare room asking me to come help with one or more of my kids…which happens uhhhhlot!). At the gym, I can listen to whatever music I desire (in mom world that is a BIG deal!), I can go at whatever pace I want (with no one tugging on my leg or asking for goldfish), or I can even listen to a sermon or maybe a webinar (two birds with one stone, right?).
The gym is my kind of safe-haven, short-release, small-retreat, getaway each day.
But…what I value, even more than it being some “me” time, is that exercise and strength training are crucial for me to do what I do every day as a wife and mom, to do it WELL, to do it to the absolute best of my ability.
When I am strong and healthy, I am far more alert, far more disciplined in how I spend my time, much more focused, have significantly increased energy (without any added caffeine), and I have more strength and endurance to be able to handle the pace and stress of my day to day obligations.
Fitness is a whole lot less about what I look like and a whole lot more about what I can offer others.
At times, I confess, I begin to notice my thinking or my mindset beginning to shift back toward the reasons listed above. I will notice that I become frustrated when I can’t make my workouts happen or I get bothered at how much time and effort my family requires of me. I will begin to over critique myself or over manage the things I eat. Those are HUGE red flags that my heart is not right and that I need to not delay in resetting once more. It is at that point that I must choose to admit it, speak openly about it, repent of it, and come back to “home base.”
If I boil it down very simply…I am responsible for myself and for my family. I must steward well what I’ve been given. I make fitness and health a priority, refusing to “let it slide,” because it is my job to care well for those who depend on me.
If you are conscious about health, fitness and exercise, have you considered the reasons as to why you do what you do?
If you are not concerned about health, fitness, and exercise, have you considered the reasons as to why you’ve chosen not to?
Comment below, I’d love to hear your stories.