I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and feel disgusted at the excess weight staring right back at you. I know what it’s like to feel so frustrated and hopeless in the face of your own inability to get active and get healthy. That’s why I wanted to share this journey with you – a story of how God transformed an area of my life unexpectedly….here goes!
Gym class and those mandatory fitness tests. I don’t even have words for how I much I despised them.
I hated the mile run we had to do twice a year as part of some state requirement. Running long-distance was such a dreaded experience. Burning lungs, tired limbs, built up pressure in my ankles, it was awful!
To make things worse, we were timed and everyone had to wait until the last person was finished. As with everything in high school, it felt like a competition and if you weren’t in the cool crowd that could run a mile in 6-7 minutes, you felt inferior (or at least I did). Needless to say, one of the things I was really looking forward to when I went to college was not having to do it EVER AGAIN.
In reality, that probably was one of the major losses when leaving high school. When you’re not scheduled to participate in physical activity and when you no longer have dance classes or a tennis team to play for; you have to make a conscious effort to incorporate exercise into your life. During college, I ate terribly (surprising, huh?) and although I exercised at the gym, it was not something I did regularly. My habits got even worse after college when I started working. (Speaking of which, there are cookies in our office that are calling my name right now and I’ve already caved :\).
By the end of my first year of full-time work, I’d reached an all-time low. I was disgusted by my body on a regular basis. I turned into that person that didn’t want to be in pictures because it was too depressing to see myself in them. I’d probably gained about 15-20 pounds since high school.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t struggling with my weight/body image issues and I also can’t remember a time when I wasn’t asking God to help me with it. However, like I said, I’d reached new lows. The summer after my first year of work, I decided to join some coworkers in free outdoor yoga and pilates classes twice a week. As the summer wound down, we learned about a $5 dollar hot yoga class. I decided to try it out.
My first class was a disaster. I stopped about two-thirds of the way through and literally just lay on my mat for the remainder of the class. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe and my head was pounding on my commute home. I thought to myself – “Not doing that again!”
But I ended up giving it another try. We went to a different type of hot yoga class and I fell in love. Ok, that’s obviously an exaggeration but it was an amazing feeling. Yes, it was difficult but I felt so good after the class! That sense of accomplishment and the relaxation of being bone-tired was addictive. That was over four years ago; I’ve been going to that hot yoga class ever since.
It marked a turned corner for me. I started focusing more on making healthier choices and my prayer changed too. Instead of asking God to help me lose weight, I started asking him to help me change my attitude toward food (I love food way too much) and help me build a healthier lifestyle, one that I could model to my future children (yes, I just said that).
Last year, a friend of mine emailed a group of us about the Color Run. This was like a dream come true. I’m Indian and I’ve grown up watching movies where they play Holi (a festival of colors to celebrate spring). Our group of friends have always wanted to play but seeing as how we live in America, you can imagine how limited the opportunities are to do so.
As you now know, I hated running. Coworkers had tried to get me to start running and my response was always “Never! I hate running! I don’t know how you can do that voluntarily!”. So, I emailed my girls back and asked if we could volunteer to throw the colored powder instead of “running/walking” the 5K. Everyone protested and I gave in to peer pressure, a good thing in this case. We signed up for the run and because it was just for fun, I didn’t feel particularly threatened by it.
Months passed during which I was working full-time and also experiencing an incredibly heavy course load in grad school. After a grueling semester, I think I was feeling overly ambitious and optimistic. In those heady post-spring semester days, I decided to actually train for the 5K I had signed up for in August.
As I worked through the logistics in my head, I realized that realistically the only way I was going to have time to do this was to (1) have some sort of schedule and (2) run during my lunch hour.
So, I brought up the idea with my coworkers and was met with a rather unenthusiastic response. I didn’t know how long I would be able to stick to a schedule for exercising on my own during my lunch hour when everyone was talking and enjoying each others’ company. Still, I decided to try.
So, I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app on my iPod and I got started. My first day, I had one coworker join me and I struggled through that series of 1 minute runs and 1.5 minute walks. But I kept going with the schedule and I was surprised to find that we had a regular group of coworkers going out during lunch to train.
Every step was daunting and I literally prayed my way through when I didn’t feel like I was going to make it. Running for 3 minutes straight felt like climbing a mountain! And then 5 minutes would surely be impossible! Week by week, we crossed what we felt were huge hurdles. At the end of 9 weeks, we were running for 30 minutes straight; it was incredible! And now, almost a year later, we’ve kept those lunch-time runs going. I’m training for a 10K in June and this past Saturday I ran 5 miles. 5 miles! Less than 10 years ago, I was struggling through 1 mile and hating every minute of it.
I won’t lie, for me running doesn’t really get easier. I don’t particularly enjoy it while I’m doing it but the feeling of having accomplished a run is worth the difficulty of actually doing it. I can’t believe where I am right now. As part of my training, I now exercise 5 days a week. I’ve still got quite a few pounds to lose and areas to tone up but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Those days of looking in the mirror and feeling disgusted rarely occur. It’s an amazing sense of freedom that I thank God for giving me.
I know that God’s hand has been in it from the beginning. Those hot yoga classes helped me believe in my ability to do something truly challenging. Then the opportunity to participate in a no-pressure fun 5K with my friends forced me to consider something different. God gave me a group of good friends at work who I felt comfortable training with. They weren’t intimidating pro runners, they were just as anxious about running a full 3 minutes as I was. God also gave me a work environment that allows me to use my lunch hour for exercise. And he was there with me during my runs; there were literally moments when I felt God’s presence.
I think the biggest message here is, literally nothing is impossible with God. Never in a million years would I have thought I would actually choose to run. Look at where God brought me!
It took quite a long time but not only did he answer my prayer, he transformed me. Running helps me de-stress and calm down. It gives me a break from my day. It helps me manage my emotions when I’m feeling overwrought. I still don’t like the number on the weighing scale but I feel so good about myself that I’ve chosen to ignore it and focus on the incredible feeling of choosing fitness.
Whatever area of life you’re struggling with, invite God in. He’s listening intently and his answer will surprise you.