The reality about postpartum fitness at 40 is that it can no longer be a mad-dash-to-skinny like it was when I was 20. Then it was all about "losing the baby weight" but today it is about so much more. I have said it many times in the past year (and it's still startling true) that I would rather be 40 than 20 because of the maturity; the maturity which makes the difference between wanting to be skinny and wanting to be well.
I have been open here about my journey of healing which started about four years ago. It has come in stages of understanding and implementation and over and around the obstacles of life. So, where am I now?
I'm in a great place. Imperfectly.
Three months postpartum.
7 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.
Saying no to the good to make way for the better.
Feeling like "myself" again.
And all of this has come within one of the most difficult years of my life. I know what the difference is and I offer you the same encouragement that I have recently experienced...
I woke up this morning tired like I often am (8 kids will do that to a gal) and prayed an abbreviated morning offering as I stumbled out of bed. I was late to the day and feeling behind again. But instead of rushing out to the kitchen in a panic, I paused and stretched the way that Rebecca had encouraged me to stretch.
It was a moment of praise and worship. A restoration and integration of the proper order of the physical and spiritual and emotional and mental...
Body and soul. Body and soul.
I felt the panic subside. Greasing the elbows, greasing the soul. Yes, Jesus... it's all about You, after all. The endorphins kicked in at the same time that I remembered my purpose and I found the courage to go downstairs cheerfully.
And that has been the difference: The relationship of body and soul united to Jesus.
It is not the act of stretching that changes everything, but the intentional act of rising, moving, and giving it back to God like the natural movement of the ocean tide. It is an act of constant remembering in order to combat the constant neglecting and forgetting.
The relationship is what makes the difference. True Christ-centered wellness and fitness is about a relationship of love with the Creator and His created, not about pounding the cake off of my bones after overindulging! I've always known that intuitively, but the accountability of a kindred soul (who also happens to be postpartum Catholic mom and Olympian) has been a game changer; continually helping to restore the relationship to the Beloved.
EXERCISE IS NOT ABOUT PUNISHMENT
I used to look at exercise as a kind of punishment or a way of forcing my body to do what I wanted. Rebecca has helped me to recall that my body is an instrument of praise. The result of that has been that I have been doing far less "working out" and far more LIVING actively. She has been providing structure to my fitness goals through her lifestyle mentorship and I have been imperfectly following it. There have been many days where I was not able to complete the schedule. I haven't looked at my BeachBody videos in months. And yet...
I shed pounds anyway. And I was happier, more peaceful, more energized, and more connected to my God and my family.
I have a fitness plan that actually brings me back into the center of my vocation instead of drawing me out of the home and into a cycle of guilty frantic exercise. I feel younger... more like myself. And I have heard similar things from the gals who are in the current training group.
FITNESS IN THE STORM
My family was recently traveling for a week to drop my son off at school. It was a hard trip that required a lot of emotional and physical stamina. I had very little energy and we were eating out a lot, but I brought my fitness plan with me (because I can do it anywhere) with the hope that maybe I might be able to fit it in. What I learned from that experience is that fitness is no longer about "fitting it in" but about incorporating healthy living into each moment. I learned that I can be healthy even in a stormy season...
It is about taking the stairs.
Running with the kids at the park instead of warming the bench.
Strapping the baby in the carrier and walking the hills while they play.
Using the parking lot curb as a balance beam instead of bench sitting.
Doing a rosary walk and maybe lunges during the Hail Mary's.
Leaving out the sugar and offering it up.
Buying better ingredients.
Offering intercessory prayer during a scheduled workout.
Spending more time outside.
I'm happy to be fitting into more of my clothes again but even happier that there a sort of peace between the person I am and the person I wish to become. We are one and the same and I am gentle with myself and tough at the same time. Merciful but demanding. I am young and I am old. Weak and strong. Failing and flourishing.
And... I am no longer freaked out by the constant contradictions. I have spent the last year breathing through them like the waves of birth contractions; and even when delivering my son 3 months ago, I thought, "Isn't this just like the pain and joy of my entire life? I'm not afraid anymore."
You know what else? I played tag with my athletic 14-year old at the playground last weekend and caught him when he made an ill-advised turn under the yellow swirly slide. Sometimes, the victories in life are that beautifully simple. Thanks be to God.