This is the second in a three-part series about my 2016 journey to wellness. In the introductory post, I mentioned the three pillars of wellness (in addition to the foundational spiritual element) that hold up the structure of health:
A couple things to note before beginning with "Movement":
- I am not a doctor and have no professional authority. These are simply my personal plans, goals, and encouragements.
- Our bodies are different. Learn about yours!
- There may be affiliate links in these posts which means I earn pennies if you click and buy. But I don't link unless I love and use the product and would recommend it to you over a cup of coffee. Exceptions will be noted.
Above all, remember to submit everything to Christ... so that any perceived failures, sufferings, or victories will all be for His glory and your sanctification.
Let's get started!
I almost titled this post "Exercise" but that doesn't quite cut it. Our bodies are made to MOVE not just exercise at a specified period of the day (the "desperation hour"). If that's all we can do, then we should do it. But our bodies are designed to thrive on the regular and healthy movement of the joints and muscles throughout the day. That movement lubricates joints, regulates hormones, strengthens posture, and releases endorphins that contribute to a feeling of well-being.
The other side of that coin is that inactivity leads to:
The typical method of American movement is the "desperation hour" in which we practice lousy physical habits all day and then expect that one hour of spin class to fix all of our problems. We need a more holistic approach to healthy movement... one that honors God's design of our bodies and makes us fit for service in our vocations. We need an approach that is purposeful and draws our bodies AND our souls closer to our purpose... our eternity with Christ.
Now... I say all that from my couch. My pregnancies are rough and I usually emerge feeling like a hibernating slug. But even through those many rough months, it is possible to increase wellness. Even if it is just setting down a soda or taking a slow walk around the block. If we need baby steps, then we take baby steps....
But the goal must be to keep moving forward.
Is it possible to get stronger during pregnancy? During chronic illness? During a sedentary workday and a taxing schedule? Is it possible to increase endurance, flexibility, and energy when we got nothin' in the tank? Yes! We all know we want to get there...
So let's address the obstacles and put them in their place.
Following each obstacle section, I've included a GOAL RESPONSE that gives me a quick way to remember my plan for overcoming them (and I'll summarize them in a list at the end)...
4. FITNESS RESOURCES
5. BED REST
I know this obstacle all too well. After 9 pregnancies and being almost 40 years old, I know it really well. My perspective...
If you're eating candy bars to keep your energy level up, you're just shooting yourself in the foot. Get back to real food and you will see your energy stabilize. Read the first part of this series for more information on how I have successfully cleaned up my diet.
Very common in women and in pregnancy. I never would have believed that I needed help with this. I thought that I could just push my way through with sheer will. I was wrong. If you are finding that you can barely walk across the house without wanting to lay down on the floor (after getting enough rest and eating well)... you might want to look into blood work and supplements. See my previous post for links to my favorite iron resources (under "supplement").
You need this like you need air. If you're pregnant or post partum, you may need a LOT. To moms of big families who haven't seen a nap in 10 years... I get it. Sometimes just knowing that chronic lack of sleep can mimic disease symptoms really can help you not feel crazy when you hit a rough patch.
Find a way. There's no magic pixie dust for this. Be open with others about your needs and say YES when they offer to help.
It is common for adult women to struggle with deficiencies and adrenal fatigue. Runners may find that running several miles further depletes them... no endorphin rush... No increased energy the next day. Nothing but fatigue. It may help to explore new options such as shorter weight workouts, Crossfit, or interval training.
MY STORY OF "SURVIVAL EXERCISE" (with no time or energy)...
I battled severe anemia and fatigue all the way through my 6th pregnancy. I hadn't figured out yet how my diet was making me sick but I knew that labor was coming and that I needed to MOVE for health and sanity. So I started what I called "survival exercise"...
The only reasonable time of day to exercise was late at night after the kids' bedtime. I would brush my teeth, walk with my husband up and down the street, and fall into bed immediately at home. It was brutal. But by the time I reached full term, I was walking a brisk 4-6 miles most days of the week and spending a lot of time with my husband. Not ideal. Felt horrible. But worth it.
GOAL RESPONSE TO THE OBSTACLE OF FATIGUE:
Purposeful Self Care
Sickness... It can be overwhelming to even get out of bed let alone figure out when to eat, what to eat, when to rest, and when to push it. The key is just to keep moving even if it's just a little at a time. Be deliberate... be purposeful.
Imagine that you are "oiling the machine" each time you move something. Your limitations might not permit even a short workout, but it is still important to find a way to keep the joints and muscles active.
I once sat behind a 50-something woman at an NCAA volleyball tournament. She swayed her arms over her head, back and forth like a palm tree... and then stretched them high and low and around, flapping and twisting. I laughed at her "bleacher yoga" at the time but have come to appreciate her actions as more time passes. Sometimes you just have to move.
GOAL RESPONSE TO THE OBSTACLE OF SICKNESS:
Deliberate Movement and "Oiling of the Machine"
Modify! If that pregnant belly gets in the way, choose a different exercise. If the sciatica is kicking your can, do an upper body workout. If the discomfort isn't actual pain, it's okay to push yourself a little bit. If you've got pain or any other concerning things going on, stop and ask your doctor. Common sense. But even if you have limitations, find some way to keep moving.
Do you know what people with arthritis are advised to do in spite of their pain? Yes... exercise! Because even though it may be painful in the moment, the active use of joints and muscles is a healthy and healing action... even with a debilitatingly painful disease.
Living a sedentary lifestyle does not properly use my body. It does not follow its design and unless medically indicated, does not heal. So my goal is to sleep and rest as truly needed... and to spend the rest of my time in healthy movement.
GOAL RESPONSE TO DISCOMFORT:
Modify to Accomplish My Daily Movement Goals
4. FITNESS RESOURCES
Can't get to the gym? I can't either. I have become a connoisseur of exercise videos and a collector of weights and fitness doodads. Even if it takes a little out of pocket cash, it doesn't come close to annual gym membership fees.
We don't have the funds for a home gym but 20 years has given us time to invest in a little equipment (affiliate links below)...
I love and use our set of dumbbells all the time. It is mismatched and has taken two decades to build, but I don't need tools that are posh... just useful. A good jump rope is nice to have. And I'm rather fond of a soft exercise mat. I really liked my Bosu ball before a kid tested a pair of scissors on it (have I told you how much I love balance exercises?). A medicine ball and balance board are also among my favorite fitness tools. A great essential oil blend for my aching bum knee (reconstructive surgery after a teenage hurdling accident). And hello, foam roller... where have you been all my sporting life? But...
Stuff costs money. And stuff isn't necessary.
Financial obstacles in fitness are similar to frugality in other areas... Craig's list. Ebay. DIY it. Just keep moving. You don't need any money or trinkets to begin now. Just your body and a commitment.
GOAL RESPONSE TO LIMITED RESOURCES:
Invest Wisely. Use What I Have. Be Content.
5. BED REST
You may not be on prescribed bed rest but find that you have to spend a lot of time sitting or lying down for one reason or another. This section applies to anyone who has frequent periods of necessary inactivity.
I see you, my bed rest sisters. It's rough and I'm sorry. Recent studies and statements from the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) have indicated that bed rest is not as beneficial as previously thought. MORE HERE. That information has contributed to a decrease in bed rest prescriptions but certainly not all. But I believe that any mom can make little choices that keep her moving forward toward health, even if the big stuff has to wait.
There are different levels of bed rest. Ask your doctor what you can do and definitely take advantage of the yeses that you are given. Studies show that immobility in bed rest increases the risk of blood clots and pneumonia so modified movement as you are able will be an important part of your overall health.
If you are immobile for safety reasons, movement workouts like this one will keep you moving forward... so just do what you can.
GOAL RESPONSE TO PERIODS OF INACTIVITY:
Keep Moving Forward... Focus on the Yeses.
"I sometimes wish that I had a clear diagnosis that would keep me motivated to stay on track." I've heard variations of that wish many times. The truth is that most of us do have enough symptoms to keep us concerned (weight, fatigue, pain, etc.) even without a diagnosis, but we have simply learned to accept a lack of wellness as normal. We have chosen to take up our aches and physical burdens as a permanent cross... and keep plodding along because fighting it seems far more difficult than bearing it.
This may be perhaps our biggest cultural obstacle. Mainstream culture is unhealthy... and "health nuts" are considered... well... nutty. In Catholic culture, we sometimes put a different spin on it: "It is selfish to focus so much on myself. I am busy serving. The saints suffered... shouldn't I?" But I'd like to extend an invitation to you...
I invite you to dream bigger.
Ask the Lord how HE desires you to care for the gift of your body. Consider how better health would contribute to your vocation. What crosses do you carry that you don't have to carry?
DREAMING BIGGER FOR FITNESS IN MY VOCATION
Sometimes I take a time out and lie still and quiet. And I dream. I remember what it felt like to race with strong legs and to jump and swim without counting the cost. I remember the feeling of real hunger with no baggage or regrets and exhaustion that only came after a day of hard play.
I dream about the eternal future when the limitations of this earthly body will pass away and I will dance before the throne of God... and never stumble. Sing His praises... and never go off key.
I dream about tomorrow... about what I hope to do. What I would do if I had the energy and the strength. How will I serve? How far can I run and stretch?
And then I give thanks. I can't go back or forward or change my limitations instantly; but I can take a moment to remember and to dream and be thankful. To let go of those things over which I have no control. And to examine where in my life I am carrying crosses that I don't have to carry.
Then I pray...
GOAL RESPONSE TO LACK OF MOTIVATION:
Here are a handful of resources that I have enjoyed and modified in the recent past. There are many good resources out there but blog posts need to end somewhere... I would love to hear your input in the comments!
*Fit Catholic Mom
I didn't know about Fit Catholic Mom when I first wrote this post but had to come back to update. Fit Catholic Mom is a ministry/business run by Catholic mom Olympian Rebecca Dussault. Her approach is the overall healthiest I have ever seen from a mind/body/soul perspective. I have never incorporated so much of my faith into my physical day before.... and I haven't lived such a physically healthy lifestyle since I was a kid. Please check out her free ebook, her monthly W.I.S.E Gals online group training sessions, and her personal training offers on her website at FitCatholicMom.com.
SoulCore is a Catholic exercise series that is like yoga but NOT yoga. I love it. I love how it draws the mind, body, and soul to focus on Jesus Christ and into prayer. My review is here: Fitness Meets Faith
*Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain
A family member bought this book for me when I was struggling with chronic hip pain. The pain was all day, all night for months on end. It was interfering with activities, fitness, and also causing pain in my knee as I made awkward adjustments for pain. After a couple weeks of faithfully following the hip pain protocol in this book, I was free of that pain and it hasn't returned. But the methods are unusual and the exercises are passive to a degree that they don't seem at first as if they will be effective. If you borrow or buy the book, make sure to read all of the beginning material that explains the method and principles. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects is the author's treatment of the need for movement and proper gait and posture. I became much more intentional about my own after reading... and again, my pain was relieved. Quote from the beginning of the book:
"...Eliminating the pain symptom is only the first step. Without going to the next one, the muscles will continue to tell the bones to move in ways that violate the body's design...
The only product that's worth investing in is a fully functional musculoskeletal system. It's no luxury but a basic necessity that's within everyone's reach."
Do you have questions, comments, or want to share what you love? Bring it on! We're in this together for the long haul and the exchange of information is a great way to grow!