Hi, I'm Jena. I was asked by my friend, Jenn, to write about my fitness journey. I was thinking, "who would ever want to read that?" It's clearly a "slow and boring" fitness journey. And she said, "Yes. It is for all of us."
So, it occurred to me that anyone who is in the process of getting healthy probably needs to hear the truth. It is, truly, a slow and boring fitness journey. So, as long as you realize that this is not even the "final product" of my journey. It is just where I am now, I'm OK with you reading about it.
So, these photos were taken this summer, out in the backyard. Please forgive me if you don't like seeing a) yoga pants b) workout tops and c) middle-sized women wearing them.
It's what I wear, and it's what I look like. Probably a year from now, I'll be wearing something similar and probably looking better, but that is besides the point.
So, where to begin? I am a 45 year old mama of 5 children. I used to be a dancer. I think it was about 100 years ago.. give or take. I didn't even discover pilates until 10 years ago. And that was only going to be a stop-gap until I could get back into a leotard. But something happened. I fell in love. NO. not that way. I fell in love with pilates. It became the pulse in which I found my center, physically.
My body was trying to get fat and out of shape and do the things that it wanted to do, but bit by bit, pilates helped me gain muscle control in areas that dance could have never done. Like upper body strength.. what's that about? I'll tell you what that's about. It's about core work, form, placement, muscle balance and control. (on a side note-- I don't particularly like the placement of my hips on this plank..)
Most people start with cardio-vascular exercise when they want to get "back in shape". I think we have all tried that. Here comes January again, and the gyms will be filled with joggers. And yes, it is really great to "get moving" in some way. But if you are serious about getting it done in the long term sense, start with building muscle first. Because I am a pilates trainer, I am going to suggest starting with pilates personal training. But you could probably start with any type of personal training. Basically, you want to make sure you are safe enough and strong enough to add movement to these bones. A bunch of fat supporting the bones doesn't make for a great support system. And you want to start from the inside out. This means--the muscles that support the spine and the inner body get strong first.
Sometimes those outer muscles will have to atrophy a little bit in the process of trying to find the inner muscles. This is why I call it the slow and boring fitness journey. For me, I didn't "look healthy" until a few years into the journey. I just looked a little chubby on the outside--while I was slowly but surely training my body to do it correctly. You see-- I can not afford not to do it correctly. I have a pretty serious scoliosis. Any weakness or imbalance shows up in pain in my body.
It took me twice as long (or more) to "feel" pilates in my own body. My head knowledge was stronger than my body knowledge.
But that is O.K. with me. I just kept plugging along. Soon enough, I felt strong enough to add (non-jumping) type of cardio-vascular exercises into the plan. When you are strong and have good shoes, it really isn't that bad. I have always like dance, so things like step-aerobics and zumba appeal to me. I'm not that great at either, but I'm thankful that there are plenty of fun people to encourage me in group fitness classes. I love the instructors and group fitness. They make it fun! But I always worked with my personal pilates trainer every week. (yes, I'm going on my 4th year of working with a trainer every week!) I was also in the process of becoming a pilates trainer myself.
In a way, I am really glad the process of getting in shape has been slow slow. For one thing, I don't need to do anything different to change my lifestyle in order to maintain it. Also, as a teacher/ trainer, I can see the long distance journey as a good one. I think a lot of people give up too quickly. They aren't seeing progress in their own bodies, so they just give it up. It takes a long time to go from couch potato to fitness guru, and I just consider myself at the half-way point. That's right. Half way. So, if you do not have a trainer yet, I work at Peak Sports Club in Rockford. Look for pilates here!! (shameless plug)
And I haven't even mentioned food yet. You can't expect exercise (alone) to get you healthy. You really do need to change your lifestyle and eating. There's a million articles already written about health and eating by people a lot more qualified than I am. But, about a year ago, I got hooked up with Complete Nutrition of Rockford. I just wanted some help getting rid of the last of the pesky belly fat. So, I started taking their supplements/ vitamins, etc. I really think it has helped. This bottom picture is more recent than the summer ones.
I think I look ridiculous in this picture (above) , but the Complete Nutrition folks are always putting up challenges, and I play along. They are trying to encourage all of their clients to be in a fitness community, and it really does help. They have some really "buff" people. I'm not really looking to be impressively buff. I just want to be healthy.
But most importantly, even more than physically healthy, I want to be spiritually healthy. No matter how much muscle gained or fat lost or strengthened core-- there is nothing like having Jesus at the center of your life. He is the one who has helped me the most, and he continues to help me day in and day out. I want to be strong enough to serve the Lord and my family for as many days as I have on this Earth.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you are encouraged to stay the course.. or get started.. or whatever your next step is.