I don’t have before and after photos to show, but big change is happening in the way I am thinking about my body, my reason for exercise, and to be honest, my life, these days. And, it’s long overdue.
As a young girl, I spent most summer mornings at swim practice at 7AM and afternoons on the tennis court or the softball field. It was before the days of the year-round commitment of travel athletics which now starts way too young, in my humble opinion. I was able to play and enjoy multiple sports without burnout or injury.
When I went to high school, I focused on tennis, played doubles one season, singles the next and played an occasional weekend tournament out of town. When I went to college, and my physical activity decreased as my social activity increased, I gained the proverbial freshman 15, lost it over the summer, gained it back, lost it, gained it back, and so the cycle began.
As an adult, I have gone in spurts, exercising because I thought it would help me lose weight, and then quitting because other things took priority. A few months ago, a friend took me to an exercise class that is surprisingly changing the way I think about exercise and my body. And I love it. Here are three things I’m learning:
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Whether it’s holding a pose long enough to really feel my muscles work for it, or feeling my body shake as I ask it to endure a little longer, I’m learning that I’m stronger than I think I am and that I can do things I didn’t know I could do. And, the same is true in real life. I’m in a season of growth in my career right now, doing things I never thought I could do, and it’s important for me to embrace uncomfortable, not run away from difficult and stay focused on learning something new. Strength and new life come out of discomfort.
- Do it because it’s good for me. Not because I think I should lose weight. While I would love to wear a smaller pant size, I need to be honest with myself and my priorities right now. My workout is time for me to relax after work, take my mind off my to do list and be kind to myself. I describe my new new workout as “hard but gentle.” It requires focus and mindfulness and deep breathing. The stretching alone is worth the time and money. As I stretch my muscles, I’m reminded that I’m stretching in life, trying new recipes because I love serving my family and hearing their delight, learning new skills on the job and increasing my capacity to add value to others. While being healthy is certainly important, the reason I exercise is not to lose weight. This is a game-changer for me.
- Find strength in your core. As we held a pose the other night, the instructor said, “I’m going to give you a balance challenge. We are going to add movement.” I already struggle with balance, physically and in my real life. So this was scary for me. But as I began to add movement as I held an already difficult pose, I had an internal “ah-ha” moment. This is so true in life. We think we are holding it all together and then something changes, a health crisis, a financial emergency or someone we love requires more energy than usual. And I’m out of balance, life is requiring more focus in one area than the others. “Find strength in your core,” she said. And as I drew in my breath to focus on my strength and my balance, I was reminded to do the same in life. My strength is in who I was created to be, the purpose I was created for and ultimately my creator. When I get out of balance, I need to go back to center and remind myself of these truths.
Do you need to rethink your exercise program? Are you in touch with why you’re doing what you’re doing? Are you aware of how strong you are and what you’re learning as you go? Find your strength. Be kind to yourself. Take it deeper.