Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Doctors, health & nutrition experts, personal trainers, magazine articles, advertisers and celebrities have been telling us for years that if we want to be healthy, we have to work it. For me, that fact alone has done very little to persuade me to get up & move, or worse yet…step away from the chocolate. I realize that there are those among you who can honestly say that health is your primary motivator for exercise but when I look around; I can’t help but think that the majority of the folks at the gym are there because they want to look better. I used to be one of them.
I grew up as one of the scrawniest people alive. I was ridiculously skinny as a child & teenager. My first pregnancy, I weighed in at 5 months pregnant a whopping 88 pounds. I’m 5’3″ tall. The only concern I had with weight was that I had not acquired any. At some point, after a few kids and a desk job, I crossed the line into “normal”. All of the sudden, I was just an average, thin person instead of a commercial for starving children. I was in the middle of a disastrous marriage in which every flaw I had was pointed out & magnified. I became terrified that one day I would look in the mirror and it would verify what the voices screaming in my ear everyday were telling me…that I really wasn’t good enough. So I worked out. I became obsessed with every “trouble zone”. I worked out in the morning before starting my day and did crunches & leg work in front of the TV at night. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I wanted to be better, whatever that was.
After my divorce from my first husband, I got worse. I didn’t mean to & I don’t know if I even knew it at the time, but I stopped eating breakfast and lunch. I continued to exercise & added to that the responsibility of walking my ex’s dog, that weighed more than I did, three times a day. I dropped back down to below the 100 pound mark which I’d tried so hard to get up to as a teenager. It was lunacy.
When I started dating my husband, something in me shifted. He spent time at the gym, but his focus was totally different from what mine had ever been. He truly wanted to be healthy & fit for all of the right reasons, while I’d been striving to be good enough. He began to love me to life. I began to realize that I’d been enough all along and that no amount or lack of lunges would change that.
For a time, I stopped exercising altogether. I think I needed that time to come to terms with the fact that my body doesn’t define me. At times it’s been hard. I’ve gained 25 pounds in the last year. I probably needed at least 15 of them. Sure, I got aggravated when my size 0 pants quit fitting. I cried once or twice when I couldn’t fit into anything in my closet. Still, I feel completely satisfied with who I am and that is a victory for me so I refuse to feel defeated by a few extra pounds.
I think sometimes, we need to really grasp a concept before we can move on. I needed those pounds. Now I can work out for the right reasons. I woke up this morning and I didn’t want to crawl out of bed and start working up a sweat but I did it anyway. That for me is the greatest treasure of exercise. It’s in the ability to cause our flesh to submit to what we know it should be doing. Romans 7:14-15 talks about man’s struggle with sin. “14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” I think the same concept applies here. We know that in order to be healthy & fit, we need to exercise, yet we don’t want to, so we don’t. For me, when I put my flesh into subjection & let it know that it doesn’t get a vote here, it is so fulfilling. I feel powerful & strong. I also know if I can make my body submit to exercise, I can make it submit to the Lord in other areas as well. I love that!
I work out for me. I work out for my kids, so that I can have the energy and stamina to play with them & do what I need to do to be a great mom. I work out for my husband so that I can be around for a long time and enjoy the wonderful life we have together. I work out for God (yes that sounds strange) but I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to be a good steward and take care of it. I work out so that I have energy. Sure, I want to look good, I want my husband to have a beautiful wife to come home to. I want to feel good about myself, but I’ve learned that I am beautiful even if I have a little cellulite. I am perfectly designed just the way that I am and finally, I’m okay with that.