Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Two Things

One of the faithful seniors who comes to my Silver Sneaker's class every week took the time to talk to me after class and tell me that she started the class doubtful that she'd be able to do it, sitting for most of the workout, doing what she could, etc.  But now she can stand and work behind her chair for longer and longer periods of time, something she never thought possible.

Of course, I have noticed that she has been standing more often, but in order to be sensitive, I didn't point it out. Seniors can be especially sensitive about their weaknesses, I have found.  She was radiant in her joy over what she has accomplished. She looked so youthful in that moment and I was thankful to see that and be able to share in her joy.

This short conversation did two very timely and significant things for me.

#1- It put my own physical accomplishments and goals into perspective.

By that, I mean that what she has accomplished may actually be more significant than all that I've accomplished so far. I started my journey strong enough to stand and work out for hours if I wanted to, so compared to her, I've only ever given to God out of my strength.  Like the widow who gave a mite and gave more than all the others, this woman has come out of such overwhelming weakness, one can see how she has actually accomplished more. I'd like to lose all my belly fat and do all the tricep pushups in Bodypump 89 on my toes. :)  I'm still going to work as hard as ever and honor the Lord with the body I've been given, but my physical goals seem somewhat trivial compared to hers and I realized I already have a lot to be thankful for. 

#2- It taught me that I have this job for the people.

The reason I go to work instead of popping in a fitness DVD and working out alone is for the people.  I enjoy every aspect of my job- and there are many aspects of the work that don't involve any one else- the music, the choreography, the actual exercise- being used to facilitate physical blessing in peoples' lives and connecting and celebrating with her like I did today- that's definitely the best part of the job.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bodypump Initial Training Update

I took this picture after another round of Bodypump 89 in my home workout room yesterday.

What are my three kids doing while I am doing all this preparation for initial training? You wonder.

Why, they are going the whole day in their pajamas!


Isn't my youngest cute in her pjs, though?

She likes to come watch me exercise.  She's good about listening to Momma and staying over near the door, out of the way of the weights.

And I am letting my older girls watch Frozen as many times as they want while I study. I usually limit their media intake, but I have decided it is okay to let that go this week.

Don't worry, I am still feeding my kids and all that. I just haven't been fussing over their hair and faces as much as I normally do, so they may have sticky stuff on their cheeks and they all look a little more rugged and natural right now. That's also obvious from my baby girl's hair in this photo.

I think I've got a handle on the tracks I am presenting at my upcoming initial training, tracks 7 and 8- lunges and shoulders.

My main concern is remembering all the cues I have to say like "knees at 90 degrees."  It's easy to remember the really important cues when I am just running through the music.  But when I am actually doing the track with weight and calling out counts at the same time, it is much harder to remember the cues.

But I guess the best thing to do is practice, practice, practice, so that's what I am doing in the hopes that the really important cues will come to mind in the moment. 

I have started studying all the other tracks now, too, even the ones I am not going to be accessed on.

It occurred to me the other day that I will eventually need to know the entire release just as well as I will need to know my two tracks in order to teach it to an actual class since that's the ultimate goal.

But one step at a time.

The other tracks seem easier to learn, but I think they just feel that way because I am not so nervous about getting them perfect and I am more familiar with all the songs and choreography at this point in the process.

I've made a list of things to do everyday between now and Friday when I leave town for the training, right down to the exact time I need to do each thing so that I don't forget anything because I am nervous or distracted. My family will still need clean clothes and groceries while I'm gone, so there is a lot of regular stuff to do in addition to all the preparations.

I feel hopeful.  I am preparing as best as I possibly can and then I am trying not to worry about the rest.

As intense as this coming weekend will definitely be, I think it will be great fun to be with other people who love Bodypump, doing Bodypump together, talking about Bodypump, and then doing more and more Bodypump.

I am anticipating this weekend with excitement.


Monday, April 28, 2014

I Know How I Won

"The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" 

Judges 7:2

As I read my Bible this morning, this verse took my breath away, but I kept reading.

The Lord made Gideon pare his troops down from thousands upon thousands to three hundred.

All the while, Gideon's enemies were too numerous to even count.

The Lord was going to give them victory.  He had no doubts about that.

But how they managed to win was important to Him. Or rather, how they knew they managed to win was important.

The Lord gave Gideon and his three hundred troops a miraculous victory, of course.  They devoured their enemies.

So it is just as I thought. 

The Lord let me come to the end of myself before He helped me get healthy.

It was terrible to be that weak or rather, to realize I am that weak. 

But if God had given me victory before I knew my weakness, perhaps I would have thought I had lost the weight and formed healthy habits in my own strength. 

As it is, I am under no delusions.

I have no doubt my victory, my health, is a gift to me from the hand of God.

And now, best of all, I find that I can take the gift and enjoy it and turn and look the Giver in the eye and enjoy Him as well. 

What would health be to me without a right relationship with the Lord who gives it? 

It would be a mere fantasy, since there is no such thing.

We are flesh and spirit.

Now, here I am, spirit and flesh, and both are whole. 

The Lord never doubted my victory.

He just brought it about in such a way that in the end, I would know how I won.

He does all things well.  


Friday, April 25, 2014

Preparing for Bodypump Initial Training- Keeping It Light

This is me- practicing Bodypump 89 over and over. My initial training is one week away.

And this is me- reading my choreography notes.

And this is me- watching my tracks (and eating to fuel all this good fun) when my legs just won't bend anymore.

But seriously, my quads are looking awesome.

But this is how my quads feel- when I stretch.  

I'm just kidding, you guys, just trying to keep it light. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Get to Present Tracks 7 and 8- Lunges and Shoulders!

I'm thrilled with the tracks I will get to present for my Bodypump Initial Training- 7 and 8, lunges and shoulders.  I love the fact that I will get to lead the class at the peak of the workout. I hope I am equal to the task!  I also love the rhythms and how well they go with the music and the lyrics, especially the lunge track!  "We gonna let it burn, burn, burn, burn!"    

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bodypump Initial Training- I'm Downloading My Material Now!


I am finally downloading all the materials for my Bodypump Initial Training on May 3-4!

The initial training I originally signed up for was cancelled due to low attendance. 

Luckily, though, I was able to transfer my registration to another initial training at a different location on the same weekend!

Guess what I'll be doing tonight.

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

And the next.

Spring Shopping From the Storage Room

It's springtime, so we went shopping in our storage room this week. We pulled out the Tupperwares that were labeled 10+, 5T and 2T and the girls tried on shorts, shirts, sundresses, and seasonal pajamas. Those items that fit got folded up and taken to their drawers.  Since then, I've been taking their winter clothes and pajamas out of their drawers and/ or out of the dryer (if they had been worn and put in the laundry) and I've been putting them in a large, empty Tupperware downstairs to be sorted later.

My kids love hand-me-downs and they especially love the days when we bring out the Tupperwares and try on their clothes for each other.  You can see my middle daughter posing in an old dress in the picture above.  My oldest daughter was actually whining because she didn't have a pile of old dresses like her sisters, because she has to go get new clothes.  Naturally, the oldest always has the least amount of clothes since we haven't been accumulating items in that size for years.

As it is, we have to buy our oldest daughter some shorts and at least a few nicer outfits for church, but other than that, we are basically done with our shopping for the coming season! And we didn't even have to go shopping!  If you are interested in how I organize and store our old clothes so I can use them again and again without having to search for the right sizes and dig through piles and piles, check out my lengthy post about it here

Monday, April 21, 2014


"Our model is Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions.  For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions."

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One would think that a great theologian, celebrated writer, and beloved speaker would have no time to fetch an old lady her hot tea or blankets or favorite periodicals. But, one of the most surprising facts about C.S. Lewis's every day life was that he did devote a large portion of his time, emotional energy, private life, and actual physical strength to caring for the common, mundane, even menial needs of an elderly woman. Her name was Mrs. Moore and she was the mother of Lewis's friend, Paddy, who had died in WWI. 

Lewis or Jack, as he was called, and Paddy become very close friends while they were soldiers and vowed to care for one another's family if anything happened to the other in wartime. Paddy did, in fact, die, and from then on, Lewis, true to his word, took Paddy's mother into his affections as if she were his own.  Mrs. Moorse was kind to Lewis, like a second mother, and her daughter, Maurine, Paddy's younger sister, was like Jack's sister. Lewis and Mrs. Moore and Maurine all had mutual affection, it's clear. But it's also clear from his letters and the letters of people close to Lewis who witnessed his private life, that age and infirmity made Mrs. Moore selfish and quite insensitive and her behavior tested even the most resolute and virtuous characters around her.  No matter how close his publishing deadlines happened to be, no matter how much prestige or success he had in his career, no matter how much of a real difference his work was clearly making in all of Christendom, Mrs. Moore expected Jack to do the simplest things to the strictest standards and he did, all to please and honor her.

I was so inspired by Lewis's words at the beginning of this post, but at first, I didn't think of his life with Mrs. Moore, though it must have been the catalyst for what he said about the connection between interruption and "the divine life operating under human conditions." When I read the words, I first thought of motherhood because I am constantly interrupted by my kids. When I am not engaging with them, I try and fill up every bit of spare time with significant work, reading, worship, prayer, study, hobbies, preparations, so many things. I am hardly ever just sitting there, dotting on my children, anticipating their needs, so they have to interrupt me because I am almost always, in fact, busy.

They need a snack, another snack, another.  I swear they're hobbits.  They see a bug. Of course there are bugs, it's summer. They fall. They want sympathy and a band-aide, a Dora the Explorer band-aide, that purple one, please. Of course, when I am thinking rationally, I don't resent my children for interrupting me.  But it has been quite helpful to read and reread the quote above and to be reminded that interruptions and perturbations and the like are, in fact, "the Divine life operating under human conditions." Lewis saw it that way way as he stopped writing about Aslan, left Narnia, and went upstairs to serve Mrs. Moore.  I see it that way more and more often now. If my children lead me away from one of Lewis' classics to a hug or kind word or a significant discussion, I realize it's those types of things that will make up the bulk of my ministry to my children. 

Life was like that for Jesus, too.  We know from his biographies, the Gospels, that Jesus was constantly interrupted. Some of His most significant works started as interruptions. A man breaks through the crowd, falls at Jesus' feet, and begs him to come, heal his daughter, quick, before she dies. Jesus stops going the way he was headed and heads toward the man's house, of course, immediately.  But, the crowd is pressing on him and He can't make good time and if that weren't bad enough, he stops dead in His tracks because someone has touched Him, healing power has gone out from Him. He must find out who was healed.  A woman in the crowd is compelled to come forward now, realizing she can't remain anonymous.  Jesus is waiting for her to explain herself, kindly, but persistently waiting.  So she admits in front of everyone that she has an issue of blood for years, has suffered many things under the hands of many doctors, has spent all she has to be healed and just wanted to touch his clock, believing if she did, she'd be healed. And she was healed!

I imagine this was a significantly long encounter.  It would not have been easy or quick to explain such details to strangers. She needed time and Jesus took the time she needed.  In fact, it took so long that by the time Jesus blessed the woman and let her go away in peace, a messenger had arrived from the man's house with the news, "Your daughter is dead. Don't bother the teacher anymore."  Jesus tells the man not be afraid and he goes on to his house anyway. The woman's interruption, the delay she caused, ended up showing God's glory even better. Instead of merely healing his daughter on her death bed, which would have been impressive enough, Jesus shows His total power and authority over life and death and this world and the realms beyond it even more clearly by bringing the girl back from the dead.

Thousands of years later we have this tremendous record displaying Jesus' glory that inspires us to worship Him and love Him and it is all because of how gloriously He handled His precious, perfect life's interruptions.   As a mom, as a Christian, as a Christian mom, I know I am also leading a "Divine life under human conditions" of my very own. Every single interruption in my life really could be that significant if I handle them right.  We love C.S. Lewis and we celebrate his works. But truly, when God tells him, "Well done, good and faithful servant." it may not be in reference to his books. It may be for how well he honored Mrs. Moore.

I want to remember that interruptions are nothing short of divine opportunities.  And, as if to illustrate the point, the back door just squeaked opened and the girls are running in bare foot from the yard, breathless and quite filthy. They have something to tell me.  But I asked them to wait a second, so I could get their photo. They barely waited.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two Weeks Until My Bodypump Initial Training

It's exactly two weeks until my Bodypump Initial Training!  I was anxious to get the email that'll give me instructions about downloading Bodypump 89, tell me which tracks I'll be presenting, etc.  I hope there isn't a problem.  The website says I am supposed to get an email two weeks before my Initial Training date, but my guess that's just an approximate time and they're going to send it on the next business day.  It's a holiday weekend, so I am not too concerned about a delay right now.  If I don't get it on Monday, I'll try and give them a call.  I was hoping to do the release today, but instead I just did two of my old Pump DVDs that I purchased through Beachbody, one with my husband, and another on my own.  I doubled up in preparation for the training where I'll be expected to do Bodypump several times in a two day period.  My Pump DVDs made a huge difference in my journey to fitness.  They're still very effective, even after doing them for so many months, since I can just keep putting on more weight.  Tomorrow's a day of resting and stretching with Cathe's Yoga Relax. I'll be ready to lift again on Monday, so I hope by then I'll have gotten the email and I can do the new release in order to start learning it.       

Matching Aprons

My sister sent my kids a little care package for Easter that included these adorable matching aprons.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Preparing for Bodypump- Reality Check

This is humbling to admit, but I've been unusually tired and unmotivated the last few days which isn't like me. 

I've spent several hours on the couch the last few days which also is very unlike me.

I have an ache in my arm which is also sometimes a burning pain and I know it's probably from over training.

Our bodies are so glorious. 

They were designed to communicate these kinds of things to us and they do so so effectively.

I've known for some time that I only have so much time and money to go around, but it turns out I only have so much energy to put towards all my goals as well.

Perhaps I need to adjust my training schedule to leave energy to accommodate some of my other priorities like homeschooling my kids everyday.

Their education is so important to me.

With respect to the training plans I made, I think I may need to scratch out some of those extra Bodypump classes and write in the word "rest" or better yet "stretch." 

I'm not superwoman after all. 

Bodypump can definitely make a woman believe she is superwoman which is why I love it.

I am definitely capable of so much more because I've added Bodypump to my life which is also why I love it. 

Between now and my initial training, I am going to focus on the quality of my workouts and start cutting down on the quantity since I am starting to see signs over training.

Here's to living and learning (and lifting.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Andrew Peterson's Songs That Celebrate Marriage and Family

Recently, I got to go to an Andrew Peterson concert at the Community Coffehouse in Danbury, CT.

My dear friend and I didn't realize the show was sold out when we arrived.  But luckily, the lady at the door showed us pity, let us pay for tickets that didn't exist, and go in. We were willing to stand at the back, but we were able to find space on a bench at the back of the hall.

I knew a few of the songs he sang that evening, but many of them were new to me because I have a hard time with new music.  I'd rather sing a song I already know by heart a hundred more times than hear a new song through even once.

I know it is a problem that I need to work on if for no other reason than for the sake of my poor husband and daughters who have to hear the same albums everyday for a year.

No, really.

A year.

At least.

I have been giving myself permission to buy new music for this reason.

So I came home that evening or maybe it was the next day and I purchased three of his albums so I could hear the songs I heard that night again.  I have so enjoyed listening and learning the songs.

I think the lyrics of Peterson's songs are so powerful for everyday Christians (like me.)  I believe they represent the thoughts, hopes, fears, etc. of so many of us regular saints.

I especially like the fact that Peterson celebrates the mundane things of life, things like marriage and family, that we, even as Christians, don't really esteem like we ought to all the time.

I'll try and link to three of his songs that celebrate marriage and family, in particular.

This song "Planting Trees" celebrates marriage and raising children and all the other good, lasting works that we human beings have the privilege of throwing ourselves into while we live.The portion of the song that says, "Sit down and write that letter.  Sign up and join the fight..." is especially powerful, in my opinion.

This song "Dancing in the Minefields" has been one of my favorites for years.  I listen to it every year on my wedding anniversary.  It reminds me of the beautiful thing I am building by remaining faithful to my husband and nurturing my family diligently.  It actually causes me to hope to grow old and wrinkled and slow next to my dear man in the sight of the generations of children (and grandchildren and great grandchildren) who will surround us (and laugh at us, probably).   

This song "World Traveler" was obviously written by a man and I bet men can relate to it well.  But even women, when they chose to get married, have to chose that relationship over other adventures they might have.  Obviously, the larger part of a married person's free time is spent with their spouse in common pursuits, etc. etc. (Anyone who is under the impression that they will be able to have a strong marriage and everything else at the same time and in the same proportion is probably not going to stay happily married long, if they stay married at all.)  Of course, you can be married and pursue your other dreams and have other friendships, too.  But the song makes the point that we do chose a new dream, a new adventure, when we marry. And that dream and adventure is often the marriage itself.  

I hope you take the time to listen to these songs.  Andrew Peterson is a gifted songwriter and musician who so often manages to express my heart about things and I am sure many other common saints like me would feel the same way, if there is such a thing as a common saint...  Peterson's songs, especially these three, make you wonder if there even is such a thing as common Christian in a common marriage, doing the common work of raising children with just a typical, everyday, old fashioned purpose after all. 

Our 13th Anniversary

Dwayne and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary yesterday.

He brought home thirteen roses, one for every year.  You can see them behind us in the photo above.

The plan was to go for sushi at Miso in downtown New Haven.  When we arrived at the restaurant, we were given a seat at a lovely, private table. But when he saw the sushi bar, Dwayne suggested we move over there and I loved that idea. We were able to watch three Itamae prepare the orders that came in while we ate.  It was such a treat to watch them work, especially since we've been rolling our own sushi at home.  Of course, we can't do anything close to what we saw them do! But we were able to better appreciate their skill and artistry.

Here's a photo of our order (after we had already eaten a few pieces). It was sooo good. It's only been one year since I had sushi for the first time; Dwayne took me out for sushi for the first time on our twelfth anniversary. I am absolutely addicted to sushi at this point in my life.  If I could eat it everyday, I would, without question. 


We laughed a lot.  We laugh a lot on regular days, but it was different because we were able to relax and talk without interruption. I was reminded how much we really like each other and how well suited we are and have been from the very beginning. (I tell people and it's true that I knew that he was meant for me after just a few minutes.  He wasn't even talking to me at the time I made that discovery. I was merely overhearing a conversation he was having with someone else as a large group of us sat around a lunch table at college.)

After dinner, we went for a stroll around New Haven.  We popped in on a free concert being given by a group called the Shades of Yale. Then walked some more, ordered coffee at Starbucks, and sat and chatted till we needed to start home.

It was a terrific evening that I won't soon forget. (And the sushi we ordered, oh my!  I'll try and stop thinking about it, but I really doubt that's possible. There was this roll wrapped in deep fried seaweed... Oh! And there was a roll with salmon and cream cheese!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Walnut Hill Easter Run/ Walk 2014

I ran in the Walnut Hill Easter Run Walk today. 

Running this 5K was a very significant goal for me last year, but I wasn't sure I wanted to run it again this year.

However, I think I'll be asked to run at least a few miles outside during my upcoming Bodypump Initial Training in May, so I thought it might be a good idea to put myself under some pressure and see how well I can do.

And I think it was also a nice way to mark any improvement from last year. I haven't been running that much, so I didn't know what to expect. 

My official time was 28:37 today.  That means my time has improved almost ten minutes since last year! (Last year I ran it in 37:54.)   

This year, my oldest daughter did the fun kid's fun run, too.  The photo above shows us in front of the finish line.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I Am Preparing for Bodypump Initial Training

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training..."  1 Corinthians 9:25

I have about a month before Bodypump Initial Training.

To prepare physically,  I am teaching my regular group classes and doing my regular workouts every week. This includes-

one 45 minute tabata bootcamp that really helps to condition my cardio/ respiratory capacity

an hour long cardio/ muscle class

a senior's muscle class

and an hour-long freestyle barbell class similar to Bodypump.  I plan to use my regular amount of weight on the bar.

I usually also take one hour-long step class once a week.

And I have been running 5K (a little over 3 miles) once every week to get ready for a race.

But it turns out this running is still going to serve me well, since what I have read online about the initial training says that we may be asked to go for a run during training, so it's a good thing I have been conditioning myself for that possibility.

I plan to add two things to this already pretty full list-

One, two, or even three official Bodypump classes every week, depending on how my body feels, with as much extra weight as I can handle during those classes.

I've heard the master trainer makes you load on extra weight, so I want to get used to how that feels, too.

and two extensive stretching sessions per week.

I just did Cathe's Yoga Relax DVD. It was uh-mazing! I almost fell asleep on my mat! 

I have been neglecting stretching like I know I should.

But with the extra weight training and anxiety, I think I really must be diligent to stretch so I can do my best to keep myself from getting injured and too uptight.

 Once before the training, I have considered doing my own Bodypump Bootcamp, something I've read they are doing during training.  I think I'll set a timer, load on heavier-than-usual weights and try and do the same exercise until the timer goes off.

I am scared of that Bootcamp, so I figure the best way to handle that is head on.  I think doing my own might help me get over it (a little).

Once I get my Bodypump release in the mail, I'll prepare mentally by doing the release at home with and without weights, again and again, so I can focus intensely and really learn it. (I bet I will skip some of the Bodypump classes to make this physically possible.)

At work, I have also been turning around, teaching while facing the people in my classes, mirroring them, etc.  So when I say "right," they go right, but I actually go left.  It's been tough to teach this way since our group fitness room is full of mirrors and I was trained to teach with my back to the class.  But I have to teach Bodypump facing the class, so I want to start getting used to that.
Of course, I am increasing my calories in proportion to the extra work I am doing. I'm still eating healthy, just giving myself more fuel. 

I always drink tons of water.  I have heard that helps with alleviating soreness.  That's what they say.

I am also getting to bed as soon as possible every night, usually between 9 and 10pm, so that I have a long block of several hours to sleep and let my body recover and rebuild. 

I usually visit the chiropractor at least once every other week and I just realized that I have a gift certificate for a massage that I think I am going to use in between now and training.

I'm taking my vitamins.

Oh, and prayer! Lots of prayer! 

To prepare myself spiritually,  I have been making a notebook with inspirational quotes in it.  I plan to take it with me to training and look through it if and when I need a mental, emotional, spiritual reset at any point.

But even if I'm too busy to stop and look at it during the training, just meditating on the words now is helping me stay motivated and keep the proper focus.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

"The joy of the Lord is my strength."

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit," says the Lord.

And my favorite right now,

"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!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Signed Up For Bodypump Initial Training!

One of the group fitness classes I teach is a freestyle barbell class. "Freestyle" means I make up my own choreography, counts, pick my own music, etc.

I enjoy teaching that class so much. It's pretty much my favorite class to teach, though I do enjoy all my classes for various reasons.

I have also enjoyed every. single. one. of the official Bodypump workouts that I've ever done at home on Pump DVDs from Beachbody or at gyms that have the official Bodypump program.

Therefore, I am totally convinced I will enjoy teaching official Bodypump classes.

So I've signed up to take Les Mills Bodypump initial training in May of 2014.

I have also talked to a local gym that has the Les Mills Bodypump license and they are willing to consider working with me and giving me a shot to prove myself and teach Bodypump at their facility.

I am so very drawn to the excellence of Les Mills programming!

I think I will enjoy all the benefits and challenges of being part of their community of fitness instructors.

Benefits- I don't know what all the benefits will be, but I do look forward to two things- using their excellent music and their awesome choreography in the official Bodypump classes I teach. (Obviously, I can't use the music or choreography in my freestyle classes and I don't plan to.  Integrity is very important to me.)  

Challenges- Someone else is designing their super-challenging workouts, someone who can, apparently, do a lot more push ups and overhead presses than I can do! So I can't cheat and design a workout with only sixteen pushups because that's what I can do easily.  Instead, I have to deliver on every new release, trying to do the thirty-two or even more pushups, whatever is in that release, etc.

(When I do design my freestyle barbell classes, I really try not to design it so that it is easy for me.  I always try and make sure I am challenging myself and the people who come to my classes. But I digress...) 

I will definitely enjoy the physical challenge of having to try and master their awesome routines.

So, hopefully, I will be able to pass muster, get my Bodypump certification and earn a spot teaching authentic Bodypump classes at a local gym somewhere, sometime in the coming months.

If I do become a Bodypump instructor, I know that I can't use any of the Les Mills music or choreography in my freestyle classes like the barbell class I teach at my current gym that doesn't have a Les Mills license.

But I am confident that everything I learn from being a Les Mills instructor, if I pass and get to work as one, is going to make me even better at teaching my freestyle classes, too.

Now to prepare as well as possible for the training, I have twenty five days and counting...  

Note: You may be asking, "What's Bodypump?!"  Here's a short video, a "sizzler" of their latest release #89, that will give you glimpse of what Bodypump is like.  This is actually the release I will be tested on!


Monday, April 7, 2014

My Weight-Loss Journey

My weight-loss journey begins like many other weight-loss (or weight-gain) stories. I got pregnant with my first child and I put on a lot of weight.

This is a photo of my husband and I with our first daughter. She was already two, but I hadn't figured out how to lose the weight I put on during pregnancy.

But even though the weight started increasing with kids, I know that's not really where my story begins.  And that's not really where it begins for most people, I think.  My story started a long time before that, when I was a kid, eating Ramen noodles, canned ravioli, and going through the drive through for fast food several times a week, eating food because of how well it tasted, not how well it nourished me.

Not to disparage my parents because they don't deserve that. I have kids now and I am busy, so I know how difficult it is to prepare healthy foods and try and make them appealing for little people.  My two year old wants to live off graham crackers and milk. 

But I definitely carried the processed tastes I developed as a child into adulthood and I know now that it was only a matter of time before the consequences of eating such dead, non-nutritious, calorie-dense foods started presenting themselves. Other people deal with sickness because of their diet. I wasn't sick, but I just kept gaining weight. I couldn't get the weight off, no matter how much I tried.

I wasn't lazy.  I was always active, an overachiever in many ways.  I took my kids to the park. We hiked.  I have natural coordination, an outgoing personality, and teaching abilities, so I even got a group exercise certification through AFAA and taught fitness classes for a few years during this time of my life. I lost some weight doing that, somewhere between ten to twenty pounds, maybe going as low as 175 at one point. But I didn't change my diet.  I would leave work at the gym and go to lunch at Wendy's or Taco Bell because after all that exercise I was starving. And it's no surprise that with a diet like that, no matter how active I was, I remained overweight.   Once, when a person found out that I worked part-time as a fitness instructor, they asked, "Do you actually do the classes?"  That was a blow, needless to say.

 This photo was taken April of 2012. It shows me leading my oldest daughter and some friends through field day activities.

At this point, I got pregnant with a second child, delivered a healthy baby girl, recovered from the pregnancy and went back to teaching fitness classes.  But within months, I was injured at work because of over training (and lack of proper nutrition, I'm sure), tearing a muscle in my leg that required a cast, then a boot, and then a very long time to recover regular strength, balance, and coordination in my leg.  I also had a nagging pain in my navel that turned out to be a hernia that needed surgery.  Between the hernia and the injury to my leg and the weight, I was terrible physical shape for a thirty year old.  During those weeks that turned into months without exercise, I gained so much weight. But I was just focusing on what I felt was most important at the time. I was working hard on my family and my home, serving the people I love and doing the best I could to develop discipline in other areas, like childcare, housekeeping and cooking every meal at home. The meals I made at home weren't the healthy meals I cook now, but we did stop going out to eat so often at this point.

This is a more flattering photo taken on Easter 2010.  Even though I was teaching exercise classes all the time, this is as thin as I could ever manage, eating such unhealthy food. 

I tried other things to get the weight off during those years. I thought that other people had success with programs. I tried Weight Watchers and had some success, ten or fifteen pounds lost. Again, I never got past 175-180 pounds. But any weight loss was fleeting because I didn't change the kinds of foods I was eating and once I quit the program, the weight came right back.  I just did my best to manipulate the points system to have as much unhealthy, processed food as possible. And the program was so expensive, and the results weren't substantial enough, so I always ended up quitting. The basics about eating a diet of healthy foods still remained a mystery to me.

 I didn't know what I didn't know about food, so I just kept coming back to exercise thinking that if I exercised enough for a long enough time, I could lose the weight.  I decided to start training for a 5K. I went for a few runs and I was so out of shape, I felt hopeless.  I cried out to God.

My faith is a fundamental part of who I am and all that I do, so I often pray my frustrations and my goals. I did then, too.  God began to slowly change the way I thought about physical fitness.  I didn't realize it before, but I didn't really value my physical world and I think that was the root of why I had neglected my physical body.  I had always believed that I was a soul with a body and that the world of the supernatural was more important than this one, so I believe I subconsciously favored my soul and neglected to take care of my earthly body. I began to believe that it wasn't just vanity to put effort into training my physical body. My physical life and my spiritual life are actually connected.  Bible verses like "I beat my body and make it my slave so that I myself will not be disqualified for the (spiritual) prize." illustrated this truth to me. I had an incredibly spiritual experience with God after going for a run and I sensed that He really wanted to help me lose the weight.  I was thrilled. But as it often happens, within just a few days, something happened that would delay my plans and test my faith.  I started feeling off and come to find out, I was pregnant with my third child.

I wasn't disappointed over being pregnant. I was happy to be having another baby. But any serious plans to work on my body through exercise were going to have to wait till my body was my own again. My energy was totally sapped. It felt like I was sea-sick for months and months.  I couldn't drink water without throwing up.  High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables also made me vomit.  But I could manage to eat pastas, cheeses, and meats.  So I did.  And since I was already so overweight when the third pregnancy began, I was in even worse shape as it progressed.  But I focused on getting through the pregnancy, having a healthy baby, nursing her, recovering, caring for my other two kids, and serving my family.

This photo was taken in May of 2012, weeks after my precious third daughter was born.

When the baby was about a year old and beginning to wean, I sensed it was time to try again.   But, by this time, I was convinced that my diet would be the key to lasting health.  I had read enough, seen enough evidence here and there, and had my own experience over the last few years to know that I wouldn't get healthy by exercising alone.  I had to figure out what to eat once and for all.  So I prayed about it and as I was listening to Dave Ramsey's radio show one day, he said, "If you want to win, surround yourselves with winners."  That gave me the idea to reach out to a particular friend who I knew to be healthy. She was thoughtful about her health and gracious and kind, so I felt comfortable telling her about my situation and asking for advice.

My friend's diet was what I would have called radical back then. She was one of those people who I labeled as a health nut.  She avoided toxins, ate organic meats, tons of vegetables, some of which I had never even heard of. She told me about the book The Maker's Diet and said it would give me some basic guidelines to go by.  I read it right away and what the author said about food sounded reasonable to me, even wise, so I decided to try applying the principals to my own diet. 

I was praying often during this period of time and I sensed that God wanted me to start applying wisdom to my food choices and practice self-discipline to get my physical appetites in check. I felt like a slave to sugar, processed foods, caffeine, etc. and I wanted, needed to free myself.  Like many Christians, I believe the Lord's Holy Spirit lives inside me now and compels me to act in certain ways. I felt compelled to change my eating habits.  And, for me, there would have been no peace in my spirit or mind if I had ignored the voice of the Lord, even over something as simple as my diet.  I knew I would have to force myself to swallow so many fresh greens and vegetables and keep eating them until I was done with every meal.  I ate vegetables before that, but only a few times a week.  I didn't relish them and I didn't have an appetite for as many of them as I knew I would need to start eating to help myself. 

I didn't know if I could do it. Physically, my body was so undisciplined and I craved unhealthy foods so strongly, I was very conscious of my weakness. So, for me, it was not only a physical struggle, but it felt like a momentous, spiritual battle as well. I had to apply spiritual force to win this battle.  I had to decide to submit every single meal, every single bite, to the healthy principles that I felt like my Lord was leading me to apply.

This photo was taken in November 2012.  This is the heaviest and most out of shape I had ever gotten, approximately 225 pounds.  

So with all my doubts and weakness, I began anyway.  In December 2012, only days before Christmas, I cleared my pantry of all our processed foods, made a healthy meal plan, and filled my cart with whole, organic produce. There wasn't even one box or can in my cart that first trip to the grocery store.  And I spent at least twice as much on groceries. Processed foods are much cheaper. But I made the sacrifice and did it anyway. 

After the first terrible week, I stopped craving sugar and caffeine. That was the biggest hurdle.  After another week, my friends started commenting about how bright my eyes were, that my skin was glowing, etc. My energy level had gone up and was staying constant, even between meals. I started losing weight almost immediately.

This was taken in February 2013.  It's hard to tell, but I had already lost twenty to thirty pounds since I started eating right a few months earlier in December.
Before, when I was eating a ton of processed foods, I would eat a meal and be hungry again within thirty minutes to an hour, so hungry that I'd often eat something again. But once I started eating whole, nutritious foods, I could go for hours and hours without eating and I had much more consistent, level energy. I know now that by giving up the processed carbohydrates and replacing those foods with densely nutritious, fresh vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats, I was finally balancing my blood sugar and giving my poor, neglected body the nutrients it needed all along.  My body was healing itself and the weight was just falling off. I had to shop for new jeans every few months!  Praise God.

I took this photo because I was so thrilled that I was finally able to button a jean jacket that I had since before I had kids.  I hadn't been small enough to button it, even when I was teaching fitness classes.  At this point, I've actually had to give the jean jacket away because it is way too big!

After the first month or two of eating differently, I did decide to start exercising again.  I began training for a 5K again. I used the Couch to 5K app and we bought a treadmill because it was the middle of winter and I couldn't run outside.  In the afternoons, instead of relaxing and watching television, I put on my workout clothes and got to work.  I kept worship songs playing as I ran and I just prayed and prayed for strength to keep honoring the Lord and applying wisdom to my diet, my body, my exercise, my self image.  I worked through a lot of things mentally, spiritually, emotionally while I exercised and now I have fond memories of those times.

One of the songs that meant the most to me was "Fill Me Up" by the band Jesus Culture. The lyrics are a prayer to God, saying to Him, "You provide the fire. I'll provide the sacrifice.  You provide the Spirit. I will open up inside. Fill me up, God. Fill me up, God.  Fill me up, God. Fill me up."  It was the perfect song and prayer for what I was going through. I felt like I was offering my body as a living sacrifice, letting more and more of it literally burn away with the help of God's fire stocking me on in my spirit. And since I was giving up so much food, asking the Spirit to "fill me up" and satisfy me instead was also very appropriate. As I ran, I felt like my unhealthy body was finally beginning to catch up with my healthy spirit. My body and spirit were finally beginning to run together!  I ran my first 5K in April of 2013 and it was very satisfying and healing to finally accomplish that goal after all that time.   

Toward the end of my Couch to 5K training, I had decided that I couldn't focus on cardio forever.  I needed to build muscle by doing weight training, too. To do that at home, I ordered Les Mills Pump DVDs from a friend who is a Beachbody coach.  I had been to one Bodypump class while I was visiting a YMCA in Florida years before and I hadn't forgot how amazing it was, so I knew I'd enjoy the program at home.  Appropriately, when I pulled up to my house after running that first 5K, UPS had delivered my DVDs and I was able to start doing Pump at home right away.

This photo was taken after running my first 5K in April 2013.

I followed the Les Mills Pump training schedule that came with the DVDs religiously until it was done.  I increased my weights as quickly as I could and had to order more and still more.  And instead of walking for cardio like the schedule recommends, I just kept running on the treadmill.  When I had done the whole calendar of workouts, I ordered the cardio DVDs that go with them and started the cross-training hybrid calendar, doing that entire schedule a few times over.

By this time, I had decided to contact the Greater Waterbury YMCA, where I taught fitness classes years before.  I had rediscovered my love for group exercise through the Pump DVDs at home, I thought I'd like teaching fitness classes again, even if they weren't Bodypump classes.  The Pump DVDs had put me in the best shape of my life, so the Y welcomed me back and by the fall of 2013, I was once again certified to teach group fitness classes and teaching a few classes.  But this time, I was not just doing the job, I was also looking the part.

 I had gone from approximately 225 to 160 pounds, the goal weight I never really thought I would ever get to, in one year. I'd gone from being soft and out of shape to leading group fitness classes. With God, all things are possible.

This photo was taken in August 2013. I was teaching fitness classes again, this time doing the job and looking a little more like it.

I have continued eating healthy, losing even more weight (albeit more slowly), and working to build more and more muscle.  I am putting my best into my fitness classes and enjoying other workouts, too.  I feel as if the Lord had me lose so much weight not just so that I could enjoy the personal benefits of health, but that so I could fulfill what I didn't realize was a call on my life- to teach excellent group fitness classes, blessing the people who come to my classes with a excellent, uplifting workouts.

This photo was taken a few days ago after working at the Y. 

I'm still working to glorify God with and in this body, still hoping for even more improvement.  But I am thankful and I give Him all the glory for the changes He was brought about in my life on this weight-loss journey.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Miracles and The Black Stallion

I finished Miracles by C.S. Lewis late last night.

Finishing this book was a miracle in itself.

It was so difficult to understand in places.

I imagine that I will be able to come back to this book in the future and be more equal to it.

If I had to use an analogy, reading this book was like riding a stallion when I am really only ready for a healthy, full-sized mare-of-a-book.

But the things I did understand on this ride were glorious.

For instance, Lewis compares the bodies we will have in heaven to horses and our using them there to horsemanship.

This quote was especially meaningful to me because we've been listening to the audio of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley all week.

(The Lord speaks in coincidence.) 

If you know this book, you know that Farley doesn't romanticize horses and riding like other authors do.  The horse in his story, The Black, is such a wild, magnificent, powerful horse that he is also impossible for a human being to ride without risking his life.

Once The Black is let loose to run as nature allows him, the horse always goes so fast that any reigns cut deep into the boy-rider's hands, causing him to grasp the horse's mane for dear life sometime during every ride until the horse grows tired enough to slow down.  The boy usually finishes each ride with clumps of horse hair mixed with the blood and cuts on his hands.

You would think this story would cause me to fear horses and riding, but in fact, it compelled me to tell my husband just a few days ago, "You know, I'd really like to learn to run on horseback..."

So that's why this quote by Lewis struck me so.

About the bodies we will have in glory, Lewis says, "Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even a physical one?  These small and perishable bodies have been given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys.  We must learn to manage: not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that someday we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining, and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King's stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King, but how else- since He has retained his own charger- should we accompany Him?

Jesus' physical body ascended into Heaven we know. And somehow, we will be there with Him with solid enough arms to embrace Him and solid enough legs to stand before Him.

I want to be ready to take the reigns of that glorious, heavenly body, equal the task of taking my first steps on Heaven's grass, my first stroll with Jesus.

We also know this life prepares us for the next somehow.  So I take the reigns of this humble life again.  It's just an old pony, but with it, the Lord teaching me to ride. No. Not just ride, The Lord will teach me to run!