When my youngest son was born three years ago, I felt normal (whatever that means),
but by the time he was three months old, I was in pain. I couldn’t sit or stand for long periods of time without my abdominals muscles (and sometimes my pelvic floor) aching. I couldn’t carry my children for very long, couldn’t push a shopping cart at the grocery store, couldn’t move without thinking about how it would impact my sore, aching midsection.
I felt absolutely overwhelmed--I had three small children under the age of four, and I was managing marketing part time for a booming business. I had never successfully been able to make a diet change or exercise routine that stuck, and I was terrified that I would feel like this for the rest of my life.
Pain as Literal Motivation
The terror helped--I finally hurt so much that I made an appointment with my OB and got a referral to a physical therapist. I did a ton of research online. I knew without question that I could not handle a total life change, but I knew I had to face all the fears that were holding me back, or things never would get better.
So, I started walking for twenty minutes every day. It was January and it was cold, none of my clothes fit well, I felt like a giant cow, and the small exercise hurt so much that I (literally) iced down my hoohaw after every walk for the first week. I cut out processed sugar and gluten from my diet. It. Was. Hard. I failed at both things, a lot--there were many days when I did eat sugar, and many days when I did not walk, and sometimes whole stretches of time when nothing was going right.
Glimpses of Victory
But little by little, things begin to get better. I began to walk without pain. My hernia (I had an umbilical hernia!) stopped presenting. I started to lose weight. Mostly, I just felt better. I have a long way to go in my fitness journey (more about that later), but I DO NOT HAVE PAIN ANYMORE!
I can hike short distances without hurting! I can hold my babies for as long as I want! I don’t pee on myself when I sneeze anymore! Frankly, those things are fantastic, but what stunned me was what I learned about failure and (especially) what I learned about myself through my journey.
When I talk to other women, some who work and some who don’t, what I realize is these are universal issues we all struggle with. We all face failure--and we all have to wrestle it down if we want to get to the (beautiful) other side. Here’s what I learned:
1. I Can Do Hard Things
I was always somebody who was naturally good at a lot of things, but I think that actually instilled a deep fear of failure in me. In the last year or two, I've found myself with new opportunities--writing, starting my own business, new areas of ministry and serving--but I’ve been floored by how deeply my fear of failing runs.
The truth, however, is that anything worth having is hard won. The beginning of my fitness journey was a lightbulb for me, a kind of beacon of hope reminding me that hard things are worth doing. I can now almost literally taste how much sweeter the victory of better health is, because I had to work so hard for it.
2.Tiny Changes Have Big Impact When Done Consistently
There is so much science behind this now, but what we know about routines and triggers and changes that last is that they need to small and accessible and plug in really naturally to our daily routines. Walking around the block every day felt so silly and pointless.
It wasn't a massive lifestyle overhaul, it wasn’t a significant schedule change, and it wasn’t an hour of intense working out every day. But when I kept at it, and walked more days than not, and the days and the weeks and the months started to add up--that's when I started to see some changes.
3. Do Not Despise Small Beginnings
I have put off so many hard things because I feel like I'll look stupid, or I cringe at how unprofessional or just not good my beginnings look. But what I disservice I to do myself! A beginning is only one step, and the only reason it's important is because if you don't take the first step, you'll never take the step where it gets good. I do not want to miss out on something really precious in ten or twenty years because I was afraid of my humble beginnings today.
New Victories to Win!
This fall, I have some more winning to do. While I feel light years better than I felt three years ago, my fitness level has plateaued. The old exercises I've done are boring, I don't have a consistent routine anymore, and I don't have a community around fitness. My kids are starting to get a little older, and I want to be able to take some awesome family vacations where we hike, canoe, and camp.
I want to get to the point where I could say, I could train for a marathon now without injuring myself! I can go rock climbing or kayaking all day with my husband and love it! I just know the power of listening to my body now and nourishing it and strengthening it and that's a really exciting place to be, and it's great that I'm not peeing on myself anymore, but I know there's a lot farther to go.
For the first time in my life, however, I'm not intimidated or scared. I know it will take time and I know I will need to give myself a ton of grace--but I can't wait to get started!