I've kind of always hated strenuous physical activity. I used my asthma to be virtually excused from most running-related PE classes. When I got to high school and we got to choose which sports we'd do for our PE classes, I chose things like played doubles tennis (you only had to cover half the court), badminton and bowling (I can still keep score without using the computerized scoring system.)
Eventually I all but gave up the "E" word (exercise). I don't know who first said it, but I heartily agreed with the sentiment, "Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes."
Once my school days were past, I figured I was home free—no one would pressure me to participate in sports or to "exercise." I fell well within the normal/healthy weight range for my age. I could walk the half-mile or so down the street to get an ice cream cone or a muffin without any trouble, and how strong did I need to be to work at a computer, anyway?
Apparently, I needed to be stronger than I was! When I began to have chronic neck and shoulder pain both on the job and off, I was sent to see a specialist. He confirmed that I had tendonitis and was on the verge of carpal tunnel syndrome. I hoped (and expected) his first recommendation to be to change the configuration of my workspace, which I suspected was the source of my trouble. But the first thing he said when he saw my poor grip-strength was that I needed to be stronger.
"Exercise." he said.
"Work with weights." he said.
"WHAT?!" I thought, "I work at a computer!"
I left that job a few months later, and most of my pain went with it, so I kind of forgot about needing to be stronger.
Until I had my first child, that is.
It doesn't take too much strength to carry around an eight or ten pound baby, but they don't stay that small. As Bug grew, I noticed how weak my lower back was. I was a little concerned about being one of those women who threw my back out lifting my son and initiating a lifetime of back troubles.
When Bug was just over a year old and I could no longer put off trying to get rid of the rest of my "baby fat," we purchased a coupon book that had lots of local services. Mixed in with the free oil changes and haircuts was a month's free membership to a women's-only gym that I'd heard good things about.
When I told Hubs I wanted to go, I know he held his breath for fear I'd snap back to my senses and put the notion out of my mind. (As gracious as he always is, I knew it bothered my athlete husband that I never shared his passion for working up a good sweat.)
My first day, I got to the "pull-up machine"—a simple bar that you grasp with hands together and pull up to shoulder height, then push down as hard as possible to maximize the resistance. I couldn't believe when that same old weak shoulder resurfaced! I hadn't worked at the injury-inducing job for almost eight years, and didn't do anything else I could think of to hurt it. But it was clear with each pull and push that my dominant right arm was struggling to carry its share of the weight!
I faithfully worked out four times that week though, and the second week my right shoulder didn't bother me a bit! (I guess the good doctor knew what he was talking about after all.)
After just a couple weeks I dropped one size and reduced my body fat percentage. But I was especially happy to see the increased flexibility and general strength, which was important for being able to sit cross-legged on the floor for assorted toddler activities. I have to admit that since Boo came along, I haven't managed to make fitness a priority; I need to change that.
It's easy for me to feel that it's more important to focus on inner strength rather than outer strength. And it probably is. But if I see my body as God's dwelling place and an important aspect of being ready to serve, then I need to put my external well being on par with other qualities I focus on.
"She girds herself with strength,
And makes her arms strong."
How do you keep yourself strong? Is it a challenge or a priority to you?