Much of my youth and young adult life, gymnastics training and coaching dominated waking hours when I wasn’t studying to maintain an Honor Society status. No less was expected. And as hard as I tried to deliver, there was always a feeling of “falling short” coming from some internalized, elusive standard of perfection. After becoming a mother, those previously held standards, especially with regards to staying “fit and trim”, fell by the wayside. I no longer chose to keep food journals, count calories and submit to weigh-ins, although there remained an unspoken desire to achieve and maintain a degree of health, whether or not a coach, judge, athletic trainer, or internal voice of condemnation approved. I was free of it –for a while at least.
Less punishing forms of recreation, like gardening, hiking, walking my dogs, or horseback riding filled the spaces once dominated by the vigilant and unforgiving voices ingrained from my youth. For years it had been a deliberate choice to reject organized groups, exercising to please others and earn a particular body-type to be considered “good enough”. So it was an unexpected curiosity, while walking my dogs at a park, to be intrigued by a small band of women with state-of-the-art strollers designed for walk/run outings. On more than one occasion, I’d seen them jogging around the park’s field and pond, pausing intermittently to follow a leader prompting specific muscle group workouts. They were all tuned-in to fun music with words of affirmation and encouragement as their guide. It was easy to appreciate their efforts and wonder: “Where was this kind of group when I was managing with four small children?!”
Granted, a few decades ago I had been involved with a wonderful home-schoolers collective, —an essential part of my support system at the time. I had also made a conscious habit of loading up children, accessories, and coolers to go on day-adventures to parks or for field trips, if not simply taking long walks with four small children, who rotated between available backpack or stroller space, if not running alongside our little parades. However, this group of ladies seemed particularly dedicated to the process of “taking back” their bodies after having had children, and they seemed to be having fun doing it together. I found myself drawn to them and their mission, while challenging my own sense of well-being.
(As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I’ve found joy as a professional in sessions with pregnant women, as well as new parents coping with new stressors. It is a sacred trust. An affirmation. An investment in a new generation. I‘m continually amazed by the beautiful and unique atmosphere created by women bearing and caring for formative lives; or young parents learning to be selfless and other-centered, while maintaining their own identities and adult relationships.)
Giving in to a prompting on one of these dog-walking-at-the-park-days recently, I asked to join one of the smaller groups to test my presumed level of “acceptable” fitness. “Just for fun”, I’d thought. Let’s just say finding a place in the shade to tie off my all-too-ready-to-take-a-break-from-the-heat dogs, was the easier part. After an hour of trying to keep up with these “FIT4MOM” ladies, I was ready to find a place in the shade next to my furry children and stretch out for a long afternoon nap! The take-home lesson for me was not to stop moving until I could shower and recline for a while before work! Also, not to drink a “Bullet Proof Coffee” concoction before exercising in the outdoor heat. (It was the first time I’d ever felt nauseous since early stages of pregnancy, decades ago! Empathy – 1 Reality check – 1 )
In retrospect, part of the reclaiming-fitness motivation came in the form of being able to laugh out-loud at myself, as I tried to keep up with a group of women half my age or younger. Perhaps the most freeing part was knowing my effort wasn’t being judged by anyone else’s score or approval. They laughed along with me and only had words of encouragement in response to my participation attempts. As one of the ending meditations suggests, it’s about creating space to let go of what no longer serves us, leaving room for what inspires us to grow.
Yes, I signed up for a few more get-togethers with these inspirational Moms, as my work and budget allow. Why not? I am the mother of 4 young adults, and I’m still trying to keep up with them! What better way than to pursue a fitness advantage?! I guess you could say I’m taking advantage of the youthful energy in a new “Village”, trying to navigate a “More than Middle Aged” Mom ‘s course. Be patient with me, Ya’ll! I’m coming from behind! Keep moving forward! FIT4MOM is one on our side!
Anyone interested in more information regarding FIT4MOM programs may reference/contact:
Rebekah Coates, Space Coast (franchise owner)