Ever crawl out of bed with a stiff neck and aching back and then offhandedly blame your mattress or the way you slept? I know I have, many times. But what if your mattress really wasn’t to blame?
And what if the cure was not only cheaper than buying an expensive new bed set, it was literally free?
About a year ago, I was already making strides to improve my diet. I was drastically reducing sugar intake, increasing water consumption and generally making an effort to eat clean. But my body was always achy and my joints felt inflamed and painful. I was aging rapidly and I blamed everything from the bed I sleep on to the eight babies I’ve carried over the course of 17 years.
And while I’m not going to say I wouldn’t love a better mattress or that my pregnancies didn’t leave an indelible mark on me, it turns out neither were actually to blame for the way my body was feeling so broken down.
How do I know? after all, you’re no doctor, you may be thinking. And you’re right, I’m not. But I am the one responsible for taking charge of my own health and that makes me the only expert on my own body. The same goes for you.
So I determined to take measures to figure out how to feel better. Because we all want to feel better and nobody is seriously attached to their aches and pains. What I found, almost by accident, was that simple exercise was the medicine I’d been looking for.
In fact, there is a global health initiative spearheaded by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) that has adopted the tagline Exercise is Medicine (EIM). It’s focus is on encouraging physicians and health care providers to incorporate physical activity into their patient’s treatment and wellness plans.
Christians have known for centuries that our bodies are “a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…” and that we “…have been purchased at a price…” and as such we should “therefore, glorify God in your body.” Because it just doesn’t make sense that He would have placed Adam and Eve in a garden, giving them dominion over the land and the ability to cultivate it, if He didn’t expect them to use their bodies. And it also doesn’t make sense that He’d want a worn and rusted Temple when it was possible to have a strong and powerful one.
But now even the secular world is realizing that exercise is good for more than just aesthetics. It isn’t just for weight loss, or bathing suit season, or to attain the kind of body one can proudly put on display. Our bodies are for His glory, not our own. But a healthy one makes living sooo much more pleasant.
I’ve always loved fitness and I’ve always dabbled in it, intermittently at least. But since having children, somehow consistent exercise wasn’t happening. I’d do well for awhile and then I’d give in to my excuses (like i’m too busy or i’m being selfish taking this time or it hurts and i don’t like it) and fall back into sedentary habits.
But last year I hopped back on the wagon and made the decision that even if I had a bad few days or even a week, I wasn’t going to waver from my new (old) habit. Because “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” according to James 1:8. Clearly God is calling us to stability and wavering where my health was concerned, out of convenience or lack of motivation, just wasn’t going to cut it.
The results were amazing.
I started with walking. I’d walk a mile and call it good. And it was, but quickly I realized I could do more. So I increased it to two miles. And then three. It felt great and I immediately noticed I didn’t feel as sluggish during the day. I was taking my kids with me most of the time, so nobody was being neglected. Things were off to a great start.
Of course, as I rediscovered my love for movement, I wanted to incorporate other things into my routine. So I added in a few bursts of running. As in, about 30 seconds at a time scattered between 3 or so minutes of walking. And then I increased the running by a little while decreasing the walking. Soon I was running without walking, which was something I thought my body could no longer handle. My husband joined me and we’d go for 5 mile runs without problem and then walk it back. It was great to spend that time together, working our bodies and getting a chance to talk. (We’re blessed with older kids who would keep an eye on the little ones while we went out together.)
I also added in some resistance work, because muscle loss is hugely common as we age. And it’s why 130 pounds as a 30 year old looks very different than 130 pounds as a 60 year old. Unless, of course, that 60 year old has intentionally worked to maintain muscle.
And muscle does burn fat, so there’s that added incentive. 🙂
I remember when we first started added spurts of running into our walks. I noticed (and complained) that my joints hurt, especially my knees. And even before starting to run it would hurt when I would kneel down. I seriously thought I was just getting old. And, for the record, I am. I’m 40 now, which is ancient to some of my kids.
But after a few weeks of consistent walking, stretching and resistance I suddenly realized I had no more knee and joint pain. As in ZERO. It was entirely gone.
I’m sure it helped that I was simultaneously cleaning up my diet and increasing my water intake. The first few pounds had begun to come off and less weight means less strain on your body. But it was that day when I realized I could walk, run and kneel without pain that I knew I’d found that elusive fountain of youth. And it hadn’t cost me pills or creams or surgery or even a gym membership. I was hooked.
Next week, I plan to share with you how I built up and progressed, what apps I’ve used (and am currently using), how often and for how long I exercise and how I stay motivated. But until then, I hope you’ll grab your tennis shoes and get moving.
I promise you a month from now, you’ll be thanking yourself.
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