As a busy mom of 8 children, I struggled for years to exercise consistently. My two biggest obstacles were motivation and time. Over the past two years, I’ve finally found ways to overcome my obstacles and push past my excuses. I now enjoy the benefits regular workouts so much that motivation is no longer a problem and I make the time to exercise consistently. I want to pass on what I’ve learned so you can reap the rewards of staying fit too.
What’s Your Motivation?
Nobody is born fit. Every fit person has to work for it both in the gym and in the kitchen. (Unfortunately, we cannot depend upon our success in one area to counterbalance our neglect of the other.) The biggest difference between people who are fit and people who aren’t is to what extent they’ve believed or rejected their own excuses.
Here’s the truth. Exercise is hard. Being unhealthy is hard. It’s difficult either way. Choose your hard. Do you want to continue to battle the health issues that wage war against you, or do you want to fight for a stronger body? That’s what you have to decide.
And you don’t just decide once and call it done. You have to KEEP CHOOSING to live strong. Just like a garden untended grows mostly weeds, the body uncared for produces more sickness than health.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV
Taking care of our bodies and exercising them well is important, but let’s not get so obsessed about our bodies that we overlook what is most important.
Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8 NLT
Godliness is much more rewarding than fitness in every way. In our quest for better health, we must always remember to keep first things first.
Sadly, some people make fitness itself (or even their own body) their god and miss the point of physical training altogether. Unfortunately, fitness magazines, websites, and DVDs are full of superficial motivations like flaunting a half-dressed body, winning a contest, seeking revenge, making someone jealous, or attracting a man.
I just want to encourage you that although some people may judge us by how we look on the outside, God never does.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature (or the firmness of her abs), because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
Just to be clear: I added the part in parenthesis. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about flat abs. I’m just trying to help us ladies apply God’s eternal truth to our modern situation.
You are beautiful in His sight girl, and you are His Beloved. He rejoices over you with singing. God isn’t concerned about what you look like nearly as much as He is concerned about what’s in your heart. Our goal is to strive for a body that’s strengthened for service to God and the people He loves. Not for a body that looks like the photoshopped girls we are bombarded with.
Benefits of Exercise
There are many great reasons to exercise consistently that have absolutely nothing to do with our outward appearance. Here are a few that keep me motivated.
Truth be told, I exercise for what it does to my mood more than what it does to my body. Exercising frequently is the best remedy I have found for combatting my depression and anxiety.
Being anxious or even just stressed can put your body’s systems into a constant fight-or-flight mode. Your body can physiologically get “stuck” in fight-or-flight mode, but there’s nothing to fight and nowhere to run. Exercise can help the body drain off the pent up energy and release the necessary chemicals to bring you back to a more physiologically relaxed state.
I especially like doing mixed martial arts for this reason. Even though I’m just kicking and punching the air, it feels good to combat the thoughts that plague me in an outward physical way.
“Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America,
and exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant.”
~ Bill Phillips
It seems counterintuitive, but studies have shown that exercising actually increases your energy levels. You’d thinking working out would make you more tired, but the opposite is true. Your body will rise to meet the demands you place on it and you will become stronger and more energetic over time.
If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep, you know how frustrating insomnia can be. Not only does exercise build more energy for your body to work with, but it also helps you sleep better at night. Double win!
Train Your Cravings to Work For You
Exercise increases the production and release of endorphins and serotonin which are hormones that have been scientifically linked to better moods like happiness and well-being. This actually makes exercise addictive.
I have discovered that I crave more of what I do. When I work out, I crave more exercise. When I’m eating healthy, I actually crave more vegetables (weird, right?) The reverse is also true. When I eat junk food and unhealthy carbs, I crave even more of it. When I neglect the habit of exercising for too long, it’s hard to get started again.
It’s all about inertia. Bodies at rest tend to stay that way, so get up and get moving!
Maintain a Healthy Weight
We all know exercise burns calories. That’s a no-brainer. But here’s the cool part. After you exercise, your metabolism continues to stay revved up for several hours, so you burn more calories even while you’re not exercising.
But that’s not all! Muscle eats fat. What? A pound of muscle burns more calories just to exist (sitting at rest) than a pound of fat (which is always at rest). It’s not a huge number of calories (probably less than 10 calories per pound), but hey—I’ll take whatever assist I can get.
Detox Your Body
Your body has several ways of “taking out the trash” when it comes to ridding the body of unwanted waste and toxins. The often under-appreciated lymphatic system is one of those mechanisms. It’s closely related to the circulatory system, except there’s no pump for lymph fluid. Your heart works hard to pump your blood all over your body even if you don’t move. Your lymphatic system however, is dependent on your movement to flow right. What would happen if you only took the trash out of the house on the days you exercised? There’s a great mental picture for why you need to get up and move around!
Regulate Your Blood Sugar
A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, which, as I understand it means I’m prone to becoming diabetic, but I’m not there yet. This surprising jolt of reality has also been a major motivator for me. My diet counselor told me that exercise has immediate positive effects on blood sugar. She told me that even something as simple as walking around the block once can help counteract an undesirable spike in blood sugar from something chocolate I ate.
By making changes to what and how I eat and by exercising consistently, I have been able to bring my A1C levels back into the normal range and I have shed the label “pre-diabetic”.
However, regardless of what doctors write in my file, I know that the decisions I make about what I put in my mouth and how I move my body directly affect my health and longevity. That’s great motivation for me!
With a lot of things in life, the biggest part of the battle is what goes on in our heads more so than what goes on around us. I have found a lot of the motivational sayings used in the fitness realm are applicable to the rest of life outside the gym.
Give it all you’ve got.
A little stronger every day.
I am stronger than my excuses.
Your only competitor is yourself.
Think tough and you’ll be tough.
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
Be better than you were yesterday.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
A year from now you may wish you had started today.
Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret.
When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get it done.
I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.
You can feel sore tomorrow or you can feel sorry tomorrow. You choose.
A strong body and a strong mind are connected more than many people realize. Through challenging yourself physically, you learn you can do more than you think you are capable of doing. You can push beyond what you thought were your limits.
And then you realize this applies to the other areas of your life as well.
The Need for Self-Discipline
You don’t get all these great benefits from just thinking about exercising. All the wishing and good intentions in the world will not build a stronger body. If they did, we’d all look like the Incredible Hulk (only nicer and less green). You have to work for it and that requires self-discipline. Work hard to get the prize of a stronger body and better health.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
Self-discipline is simply giving up something now to gain something else you value more later.
Don’t give up what you want most in life for something you think you want right now.
~ Richard G. Scott
So get up and get your body moving and remember,
“No matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everybody on the couch.”
Every little bit counts and anything is better than nothing. You can do this!
Now that you’re motivated, join us next time to learn how to fit exercise into your already busy schedule.
Click the image below to find the links to all the posts in this series.
Next post in this series:
Week Four: Exercise Consistently
Part 2: The Busy Girl’s Guide to Working Out