Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The slow and boring fitness journey

Hi, I'm Jena.  I was asked by my friend, Jenn, to write about my fitness journey.  I was thinking, "who would ever want to read that?"  It's clearly a "slow and boring" fitness journey.  And she said, "Yes.  It is for all of us."  

So, it occurred to me that anyone who is in the process of getting healthy probably needs to hear the truth.  It is, truly, a slow and boring fitness journey.  So, as long as you realize that this is not even the "final product" of my journey.  It is just where I am now, I'm OK with you reading about it.  

So, these photos were taken this summer, out in the backyard.  Please forgive me if you don't like seeing a) yoga pants  b) workout tops  and c) middle-sized women wearing them.

It's what I wear, and it's what I look like.  Probably a year from now, I'll be wearing something similar and probably looking better, but that is besides the point.  

So, where to begin?  I am a 45 year old mama of 5 children.  I used to be a dancer.  I think it was about 100 years ago.. give or take.  I didn't even discover pilates until 10 years ago.  And that was only going to be a stop-gap until I could get back into a leotard.  But something happened.  I fell in love.  NO. not that way.  I fell in love with pilates.  It became the pulse in which I found my center, physically.  

My body was trying to get fat and out of shape and do the things that it wanted to do, but bit by bit, pilates helped me gain muscle control in areas that dance could have never done.  Like upper body strength.. what's that about?  I'll tell you what that's about.  It's about core work, form, placement, muscle balance and control.  (on a side note--  I don't particularly like the placement of my hips on this plank..) 

Most people start with cardio-vascular exercise when they want to get "back in shape".  I think we have all tried that.  Here comes January again, and the gyms will be filled with joggers.  And yes, it is really great to "get moving" in some way.  But if you are serious about getting it done in the long term sense, start with building muscle first.  Because I am a pilates trainer, I am going to suggest starting with pilates personal training.  But you could probably start with any type of personal training.  Basically, you want to make sure you are safe enough and strong enough to add movement to these bones.  A bunch of fat supporting the bones doesn't make for a great support system.  And you want to start from the inside out.  This means--the muscles that support the spine and the inner body get strong first.  

Sometimes those outer muscles will have to atrophy a little bit in the process of trying to find the inner muscles.  This is why I call it the slow and boring fitness journey.  For me, I didn't "look healthy" until a few years into the journey.  I just looked a little chubby on the outside--while I was slowly but surely training my body to do it correctly.    You see-- I can not afford not to do it correctly.  I have a pretty serious scoliosis.  Any weakness or imbalance shows up in pain in my body.  
It took me twice as long (or more) to "feel" pilates in my own body.  My head knowledge was stronger than my body knowledge.  

But that is O.K. with me.  I just kept plugging along. Soon enough, I felt strong enough to add (non-jumping) type of cardio-vascular exercises into the plan.  When you are strong and have good shoes, it really isn't that bad.  I have always like dance, so things like step-aerobics and zumba appeal to me. I'm not that great at either, but I'm thankful that there are plenty of fun people to encourage me in group fitness classes.  I love the instructors and group fitness.  They make it fun! But I always worked with my personal pilates trainer every week. (yes, I'm going on my 4th year of working with a trainer every week!)  I was also in the process of becoming a pilates trainer myself.  

In a way, I am really glad the process of getting in shape has been slow slow.  For one thing, I don't need to do anything different to change my lifestyle in order to maintain it.  Also, as a teacher/ trainer, I can see the long distance journey as a good one.  I think a lot of people give up too quickly.  They aren't seeing progress in their own bodies, so they just give it up.  It takes a long time to go from couch potato to fitness guru, and I just consider myself at the half-way point.  That's right.  Half way.  So, if you do not have a trainer yet, I work at Peak Sports Club in Rockford.  Look for pilates here!! (shameless  plug) 

And I haven't even mentioned food yet.  You can't expect exercise (alone) to get you healthy.  You really do need to change your lifestyle and eating.  There's a million articles already written about health and eating by people a lot more qualified than I am.  But, about a year ago, I got hooked up with Complete Nutrition of Rockford.  I just wanted some help getting rid of the last of the pesky belly fat.   So, I started taking their supplements/ vitamins, etc.  I really think it has helped.  This bottom picture is more recent than the summer ones.

I think I look ridiculous in this picture (above) , but the Complete Nutrition folks are always putting up challenges, and I play along.  They are trying to encourage all of their clients to be in a fitness community, and it really does help.  They have some really "buff" people.  I'm not really looking to be impressively buff.  I just want to be healthy.

But most importantly, even more than physically healthy, I want to be spiritually healthy.  No matter how much muscle gained or fat lost or strengthened core-- there is nothing like having Jesus at the center of your life.  He is the one who has helped me the most, and he continues to help me day in and day out.  I want to be strong enough to serve the Lord and my family for as many days as I have on this Earth.  

Thank you for reading this.  I hope you are encouraged to stay the course.. or get started.. or whatever your next step is.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to be an old married couple

I was telling my daughter about the nice trip that her daddy and I had this past week.  We only took two days--actually not even two full days-- to go and visit her brother at college.  Doesn't it sound romantic?  no.  And it wasn't.. really.  But in a funny way, it kind of was.. if that makes sense.

You see, perspective has given me appreciation.  In our younger years, everything had a deadline, a justified expense v.s. importance ratio to be calculated.  I know.. sounds kind of stressful, and it was.  But it was also how we survived.  Five kids. One income. not a lot of wiggle room for "extravagant" trips like going to see ONE child have one concert for one day in a far away city, especially during the holidays, with all final projects for grad school due in a week.

But we did it.  And despite all of these factors, I saw my husband relax, enjoy himself and just "live in the moment" of whatever was going on with Hudson, his school, the concert, the overnight accommodations at the home of someone we barely knew.. etc. etc.

In a word, Daddy has mellowed.  And Mommy has become more accepting.  Daddy is starting to see life more than just a list of responsibilities and obligations and expense reports.  Mommy is trying to graciously accept her role what it means to love her husband and children at. this. stage.

When I explained this phenomenon to my daughter, she joyfully exclaimed, "I want to start out as an old married couple!"

O.K. then.

Here's an easy way to become an old married couple.

Start by marrying a guy who is in his 20's--or around your age, whatever that is.

As the days pass from the honeymoon into regular life, you may be primarily concerned with how "ungodly" your spouse behaves at times, but the real work going on here is within your own heart.  Of course, that is only if you step back and realize it.  You could, however, get all caught up in what they are doing wrong.. rather than how much grace they are exhibiting to just be in your presence..  and love you.. despite all of your wrong-doings and misgivings.

Now add that frame of reference to a few of life's mishaps.  You can just add  the basic things like: small, inconvenient or dingy living places/ homes,  children--many or few, miscarriages or not, unemployment or not, money or lack thereof, in-laws who love or hate you,  cancer or other health issues, hurt or troubled relationships in the church,  and any number of crazy, unplanned things.

Now.. the statistics tell me that very few couples (Christians included) survive these mishaps.  And it may take me a lifetime worth of research to learn who and how and why people do or do not survive such craziness.  And yet, some people do.  And when they do, it is so sweet.  They look up to the sky, and say "thank you, Lord!" rather than give themselves any credit.

And just about the time the man has hair growing out of his ears, nose, toes and pretty much everywhere except the top of his head.. and you can almost fit an ax handle across the width of the rear-end of the woman.  that's kind of when....

 you can become an old married couple.

Easy peasy.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When our trials don't benefit others

I have this expression that I heard from someone once.  It goes something like this: never waste a good trial.

It's been my life's adventure to continually find the good in the basic trials as well as the ups and downs in life.  Let's be honest here.  Life is filled with big crises, sprinkled with little trials.. stirred in with happy moments and punctuated by great big joys.  It's all snarled in together like a great big green smoothie.

I ordered a green smoothie at the Red Mango yesterday.  I know. I know.. most people get ice-cream there.  I can't eat ice-cream.  It's probably the only reason that I don't weight 800 pounds.  But I digress..

I ordered the smoothie on purpose.  I actually wanted something healthy.  I wouldn't just throw a mouthful of spinach into my tummy--without doing something to it first.  So, I was out-- far away from home-- and got my nutrition.

But if I were to think of the spinach part of the smoothie as the "trial" in the smoothie of life,  I would say this much: without the spinach, I would have just had  refreshment rather than nourishment.

The other ingredients add value to the smoothie, but they primarily help get the good stuff down.

So it is with a good trial.

When you have Christ, he supplies the grace, the joy, the needed rest in the midst of it.  It's the trial that teaches us the lesson, no doubt.  But the part that we can not explain.. the part that baffles others.. is really what gets us through it.

God provides comfort, resolution, peace.. in his way and in his time.

And the most important part of the trial.. is not the trial itself.  It's what God does in the process.

And just like we wouldn't suggest that our friends who want to embrace nutrition a little more probably would not enjoy just eating a mouthful of raw spinach.. randomly..  (instead of french fries, for example)..  we don't need to rush them to the conclusion of their trial before it has done its work in their lives.

It's O.K. if they cry.  It's O.K. if they are confused.  Sometimes there are no answers.
Let God work his deep work in them.. as you hold their hand and be with them.

Our trials (big and small) teach us one thing.  God is able.  He is always good and kind to those who trust in him.  Giving them a glimmer of hope is maybe all they need.

Let them taste the stuff that surrounds the spinach..  at least what you already possess.  It's hard to give what you don't have.

Finish your own trials well.  If you can't or won't, you've wasted your trial.  Whatever it is, learn it; embrace it; own it; and give it away.

God will use it.  He always does.