Over the last couple years, I have gone through what I like to think of as a break-up with workout culture. I’m still actively pursuing my health and fitness but have been reframing my thought processes around it.
I’ve seen so many young mothers struggling to breastfeed as they seek to “gain their bodies back” and lose any of their fat sources. I’ve seen so many beautiful women broken by unattainable standards and I’ve cried for the battle ahead of my two-year old daughter. She is young,courageous, full of life, and the prettiest little girl alive…in my thoroughly biased and totally accurate opinion. But she is not immune from the standards of our culture, as much as I want to protect her.
The shape of a woman’s body is weighed against the nature of her soul in such a barbarically unfair measure. We have to eat a certain way, squeeze into a certain size, carry our weight just so, and make plenty of time to exercise “so we can be better mommies.”
I am very pro-fitness and see the ways that our sedentary lifestyles in the U.S have caused heart and auto immune diseases to sky rocket. It is unhealthy and it hurts. Could the same thing be said, however, of obsessive diet and workout culture?
One fad diet after the other, millions of self-help books, the rise and fall of different exercise techniques. Apparently, cardio is out the window now because it isn’t the most effective tool for weight loss…but it still is good for your heart. Have we lost track of the why?
I’ve been searching to find a place for my exercise routine and every part of me wants to get it done in the morning. I am such an anti-procrastinator, I want to get everything done in the mornings. My devotions, my exercise, my chores, my writing, etc. I want it all crossed off the list in the morning so I can enjoy my day without the weight of undone work hanging over my head. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember and it served me well in school and in the work force. Here, in the life of motherhood and playful interruptions, however, it isn’t always the best choice. My children need me in the mornings as well. That seems to be when they require the most direct attention. Yet, another morning task…even if it is an enjoyable one.
“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus”
….give me Jesus, and coffee, and snuggles, and chores, and waist trimming exercises.
The morning goes much too quickly and I’m left with the scraps of children who needed an emotionally present mother. I’ve been restructuring and seeking engagement with them earlier; counting our time jumping, dancing, and playing as more of my cardio routine. I am seeking to be fit in the way I was well before exercise became an item on my to do list, back when I’d swing on monkey bars or jump rope for hours, when I’d race friends for fun or choose walking or biking over a car ride.
The pursuit of a healthy, active lifestyle has encouraged me and helped me include my children in a health journey that is more about breathing air into our lungs than sculpting a Hollywood appropriate body. There is one thing, however, that I need to focus on daily. During my last pregnancy, my abdomen separated and I’ve been working towards closing the gap and gaining more core strength again. There are certain exercises that are more therapeutic than sculpting and I need to do them regularly to keep my alignment. As soon as these exercises start falling to the wayside, my lower back aches, my belly protrudes, and I’ve lost all the progress I have made. I need to fit at least 10 minutes of therapeutic exercise into my daily routine, but it doesn’t have to be in the morning.
When I’m laying the foundation of my day, it is tempting to place all the emphasis on the first brick. How my morning starts, what I accomplish first thing…but all the bricks are required to build the wall. The bricks added in the afternoon still support structure and alignment.
I struggle with this in structuring my time. I struggle with scrapping something simply because it didn’t happen on the proposed time line. I want to start my day with my body and soul in proper alignment. I want to breathe air into my lungs and God’s word into my soul at the onset of the day, so I can walk in holy step with Christ all day long. This is a good longing and I work hard to seek that structure, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes one or both children, or perhaps myself, wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and the morning begins with a bang. There is no quiet sipping of coffee as I take in the word, there are no gentle ab exercises without a child jumping on me, there is no calm time writing in my prayer journal. The morning begins “ready or not”, with an arrow prayer for wisdom shot up to the Father and a chance to seek alignment with my children and reclaim my peace later on.
I did this the other day. Our morning flew by with feeding and care of children, settling disputes, engaging in correction and teaching moments, preparing the home, and before I knew it the day was half over. The kids went out to play and I sat on the porch, soaking in the sun, and reflecting on the promises of God.
Because, it is worth re-aligning even when the day begins out of step. The process is ongoing and one day off shouldn’t shake me. I ran with my children that day too, around the house like mad men with water guns and felt my heart beat fast as we laughed together. I found time to strengthen my core while they played a game, just five minutes of training and correction, just 5 minutes to reset. It could be better, it could be clearer, but I’m not throwing out what I did accomplish in pursuit of perfection.
So often we give up and throw away the progress because it doesn’t look exactly as we hoped or fit our perfect structure. Give yourself time, mamas, set it aside and then reclaim it when tantrums steal it away. Walk towards the prize and don’t be surprised by the detours.
Sometimes it is procrastination, sometimes it is making space for your calling. Remaining in step with Christ is a heart posture and He can meet you where you at and take you to the next level.