When you think of exercising, what emotions and thoughts begin to surface? Do you feel guilty? Hopeful? Excited? Or does it stress you out to even consider it? In the previous two posts we’ve established that self-care is about more than making ourselves comfortable. It’s about getting ourselves ready to keep going. To keep carrying the responsibilities, meeting the needs, and pouring out as the nurturers and caregivers to our families (and anyone else who has been placed in our path).
So when you think of exercising, is it an adder or a subtractor to your self-care?Is exercise an adder or a subtractor to your self-care? - @_alisanelson Click To Tweet
Your body has 206 bones that are joined together by muscle and connective tissue. The head of your femur fits snugly in the acetabulum of your pelvis where it glides around giving you 6 different directions of movement. This is astonishing and praiseworthy. And that’s just one joint. You were designed to move — to respond to stimuli, produce force from within yourself, and effect change to your external world.
Somewhere along the way, this design was distorted. When we consider the link between movement and self-care, we have to address the messages we receive from media and advertising in order to make sense of our current beliefs. Only then can we pivot toward a more biblical approach to the way we treat our bodies and how we use them to interact with our environment.
Based on the products available and the number of times we are bombarded with the message throughout our day, moms are typically in pursuit of their pre-baby body (I’m staring at yet another article in Parents Magazine right now). Exercise and health become a right as we search for that piece of ourselves that feels familiar and a moment to call our own. Mama, these are not bad things. But please, as I write and pray, hear these words and feel the call of freedom: you can be yourself – familiar but new, comfortable but different – without the end result being your pre-baby body. The two are not equivalent. And those women you see who are thriving and thin? Don’t assume the former was born of the latter.
Movement has many benefits. The most relevant at the moment is that when we steward our bodies well, all of our systems work together to function as they were designed. Activity induces our energy systems to work more efficiently and creates a ripple effect throughout our physiology. Resulting in fat loss for many. Other results that I’ve come across in my life and the lives of my clients are:
- increases in energy, self-confidence, and engagement in life;
- better focus and decision-making throughout the day;
- better perspective on the body;
- the establishment of a rhythm to the day; and
- increase in self-awareness
Pastor Tim Keller says, “The main problem our heart has is not so much desires for bad things, but our over-desires for good things.” How we take care of our bodies is no different. Desiring health, ease of movement, or a slimmer waist are not inherently bad things. But when we step onto the yoga mat, throw on our running shoes, or set up for a deadlift, we are going to be operating out of our beliefs about our bodies and our lives. Is it a gift or a right? Are you a slave to your performance or are you free?Are you a slave to your athletic performance or are you free? - @_alisanelson Click To Tweet
As important as breathing, our time of intentional movement is an inhale and exhale of Truth. The inhale – a slowing down to savor it and breathe it into every joint and tissue. Rising up in strength coupled with perseverance and hope.
And what about pain? It is the exhale. When the weight feels too heavy or the miles too long, you get to practice the physical manifestations of spiritual principles: Grace and Trust. As light penetrates the corners of your fear and doubt, you breathe out who you are in Christ. More than the number on your scale or on your clothes. A being clothed in the image of God called forth from the dust to bring glory and honor to the one who knit you together. That body that is too spent to go one more round is sustained by a Spirit than never wavers. He will carry you and he will fulfill his work in and through you.
The work you do will reveal your weakness. And if your physical activity is about feeling ok about yourself and getting the results that make you feel worthy, that weakness will devastate you. Or, could it be that your weakness is grace? Given to push you toward the Spirit? The apostle, Paul, tells us:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
The way you think about your body and your reaction to weakness and to strength are not isolated events from your identity in Christ. It is also not an area of your life that only brings in ideas of self-discipline and deprivation. Jesus as the Bread of Life and Living Water is for every crevice of who you are and how you spend your time. Let it be Him who fills you and defines your worth. Let it be Him who drives you to keep going.
To begin using your daily movement as another everyday approach to self-care, consider one of the following ideas:
- Write down ALL the ways you move your body right now. Then write down all the ways you enjoy moving your body. How can the second list make up more of the first? What is in the first that you honestly really don’t enjoy. (This is where I stopped attempting to be a runner).
- Choose something FUN and make it a new goal to either gain a skill or just do it more often. Handstands or tricky balance yoga poses, intramural sports, rollerblading, whatever makes you feel slightly silly but makes you feel that smolder of life in your heart. Giggling and playing around is not just for our daughters. Practice grace (because it is hard to be playful sometimes) and intentionally release any expectations that this has to produce a specific outcome other than pure pleasure.
- Invite a friend along as you go for a walk, try out a yoga (or Zumba) class, or hike through your local woods. Anything really, just do it with a friend. These are called active dates – coffee is great but there’s something about moving together that changes the tone of your gathering.
- Use that friend to start processing your current view of movement and of your body. That might sound a little scary but one of the necessary steps to changing your mindset is to realize that you aren’t the only one struggling. It’s actually all of us. You might have to make the first move but speaking truth over each other’s pain and insecurity and laying them at the feet of Jesus together brings unity. Love drives out fear – let yourself be loved.
Just like with Alisa’s last post, if you sign up for The Peanut Post you will receive a pdf printable with worksheets to go along with her posts. These pdf’s include action steps and encouragement to keep you on the right path to a lifetime of self-care. If you are a new subscriber the file will be emailed to you immediately after you sign up. If you are a current subscriber you can either resubscribe with this link to receive the file immediately or it will be delivered in the next issue of The Peanut Post.
As a list maker, I’m excited to print out this week’s worksheet and write down the ways I move now just so that I can then cross off the ones I want to get rid of! Does anyone else do this? What forms of movement are you looking to take on or get rid of this week to take better care of yourself? Tell me in the comments!