I remember when my first daughter was born I had this funny idea that I would be able to wear my normal, pre-pregnancy clothes on the trip home from the hospital. After a traumatic birthing journey that spread across Memorial Day weekend, I was sadly mistaken. I was torn up, sore, struggling to breastfeed, and there was no-way-in-heck I was going to get those jeans over my middle section. I cried, and I wore my trusty, velvet, maternity/yoga pants home.
This was the beginning of the battle with my body.
I learned that the sacrifice of a mother is emotional, mental and physical. There was a huge learning curve ahead of me. As a former athlete and working woman, spending hours in a glider feeding my new baby girl was more difficult than I expected. Not only did I feel relegated to the chair, but I also had to reckon with my broken and bruised body.
The doctor said it would be a couple of months before I could run again. He was right.
And when I started walking, the journey was hard – full of starts and stops, weeping, self-loathing and learning to love my body again in all of the transitions, in all the various clothes sizes I would have to wear. That season served as a crucible for me in which God grew a passion for coming alongside women in their fitness journeys.
A year after I had my first baby girl, I found myself standing before a group of women from my MOPS group sharing about my journey. My husband, who was a physical trainer and coach, joined me and encouraged the women to reframe the way they thought about health and fitness.
He preached what he had preached to me through my hardest days. We are called to health and fitness not as a means to lose or gain weight or to look good in the latest fashion. We are called to steward our bodies well and to use them for God’s glory.
He discouraged diets and talked to the women about “functional fitness” that builds strength for mamas to function in their everyday lives of lifting babies and running after toddlers at the park. Together we encouraged the women to start somewhere. He provided a few exercises they could do at home with their kids.
I passed around a clipboard after that meeting for women who might like to gather at our house weekly with their kids to exercise together. My husband offered to train us for free. The Go Mama Workout was born.
We really had no idea what it would look like but we knew we wanted to provide a safe gathering place for mamas to exercise and encourage each other. Wednesday mornings looked a little like this: There were typically 8-10 mamas in stretchy workout clothes with twice as many kids roaming around the yard, crying for snacks, stealing each other’s toys and climbing on our backs. My hubby would craft the workout, which usually included a warmup, 20-minute CrossFit-style challenge and a cooldown. We would attempt to conquer that workout in between breastfeeding babes, running potty training toddlers to the toilet and running ourselves (with our own after-birth bladder issues) to the bathroom. It was chaotic and crazy and fun! We always included prayer, and sometimes potlucks or birthday parties.
These women became my tribe. We lifted each other up when we didn’t feel like working out. We encouraged each other through parenting challenges, marital trials, adoption journeys, and recovering from births. The Go Mama crew showed up at my house even after my husband’s surprising cancer diagnosis and cooked meals for me after his funeral.
They were and are my people. We collectively learned a lot of lessons about pushing beyond our mental and physical limits. We discovered achieving fitness goals is always easier in community.
The core of us went on to chaser bigger goals and dreams. One friend started her own version of the Go Mama Workout in her neighborhood across town. We ran half marathons and 10ks together. We raised money for a non-profit benefitting school children and orphanages in Haiti. Even today, we continue to meet regularly to run the mountainous trails of California and cheer each other on to new finish lines.
The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 continue to reach out to me even now that I am beyond the baby and toddler years with a little more time for exercise and self-care:
“Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”
These words challenge me to put my self talk in check. If my body – in whatever season or shape – is a sacred place, I need to view it and treat it that way. I need to watch the way I talk about my weight, my food and my clothes in front of my three growing daughters. Their body images will be largely influenced and shaped by their mother’s model.
Beautiful Mama, let me encourage you to take a minute to examine how you feel about your body. What are the things you are saying to yourself? What are your children hearing you say?
Then ask yourself how you might chase your fitness and goals in community. Pick up the phone. Send that text. Invite that mama from preschool you’ve been wanting to get to know. Gather some women from church or the play group and make some goals together. Today is your day. Now is your time.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore lives in Fresno, California with her new husband Shawn and three daughters. She is a published children’s author, poet, journalist and blogs about chasing God’s glory through every day at www.DorinaGilmore.com. When she isn’t writing, you can find Dorina running marathons or in the kitchen creating a new recipe. Connect with her on Instagram.