I still shudder when I remember the refrain “Red rover, red rover, send Kelly right over!” While playing a game of Red Rover in fifth grade, I got the wind knocked out of me and, humiliated, landed flat on my back. I simply wasn’t strong enough to bust through the linked arms on the other side of the field. A cartoon rendering of the moment might include little birdies flying around my head and a finger-pointing crowd of amused classmates looking down at me.
A skinny bookworm as a child, I dreaded recess and PE class. I lacked speed, strength, and coordination. My spindly arms and legs made me an obvious target in games like Red Rover and Dodge Ball. I loved the competition of a spelling bee, but my academic confidence didn’t transfer from the classroom to the athletic field. Activities requiring physical coordination or strength left me feeling awkward, incompetent, and inferior. I preferred the world of books. A big guy and a lifelong athlete, my husband often laughs with me about how we would have hated each other in elementary school. Back then, kids like me were easy prey for kids like him.
But that story is over. This year, at fifty-three, I finally made up my mind to get strong. As is often the case when we step outside our comfort zone to pursue a dream, the lessons I’m learning in the weight room translate to every area of my life.
The first step to change is making up my mind.
A commitment to regular exercise is not new for me. Through the decades of adulthood, battles with migraines and too-tight jeans forced me to get out of my chair and move my body just enough to stay reasonably healthy. Yet I always harbored a secret dream to someday change the narrative for that spindly-legged Dodge Ball survivor. Someday I would set aside my fears and the names I called myself and see if a strong girl was hiding somewhere within. Before I could begin the process of becoming stronger, however, I had to make up my mind that becoming stronger was a goal I was willing, able, and ready to pursue—for real, no excuses, no kidding.
Making a change in any area of our lives—physical, emotional, or spiritual—begins with believing we have the power and resources to make change happen. While not everything in our lives is under our control, building healthy habits and working toward worthwhile goals often is. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul reminds his spiritual son Timothy of this truth: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT). We are not powerless. We can do hard things.
Being a beginner requires a willingness to be vulnerable and teachable.
Building strength in my middle-aged body isn’t something I have the expertise or experience to do alone, so I had to ask for help and then follow the advice of my teacher. As a beginner, I had to be willing to do things poorly, awkwardly, and incorrectly before I learned to do them well. In this case, I had to experience just how weak I was at the beginning to celebrate my slow and steady progress now.
Being willing to be a beginner in any area of our lives is a vulnerable choice. Turning to experts to learn a new skill can be uncomfortable when we believe it’s something we should already know how to do. In our spiritual lives, growing our faith muscles requires submitting to our all-knowing God and learning from wise mentors who are further along the path we’re on. Remaining teachable is the path to growth in all areas of our lives. Remaining teachable is the path to growth in all areas of our lives. Click To Tweet
Sometimes you must go backward to move forward.
Early on in my strength training, I pushed too hard in my eagerness to see results. As my coach and I got to know my abilities, we had to go a bit backward for a period to heal, build up, and strengthen areas that needed special attention. As I learn to listen to my body and communicate concerns to my coach, we’re becoming a better team, and I’m seeing results.
Self-awareness and asking for what we need is part of any journey worth taking. I can’t get what I need to learn, grow, and change unless I admit I need help and do what it takes to get it. Whether reaching out to a trusted friend, pastor, or therapist, or calling a time-out when the process is moving too fast, we are each responsible for speaking up and taking ownership of our own growth. We are each responsible for speaking up and taking ownership of our own growth. Click To Tweet
Show up and trust the process.
Some days I love going to the gym and doing the workout scheduled for that day. Other days I simply show up and get through it. I show up regardless of how I’m feeling because I believe showing up and doing the work is making me stronger. Because I trust my coach, I believe following her recommendations will help me reach my goals, even when I don’t see immediate results.
Getting physically stronger is helping me build momentum in other areas of my life. Although the process was slow at first…
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