Let's face it. Between working, raising children, housekeeping, cooking, and last but not least, being a pastor’s spouse, it can be challenging to take care of our bodies like we ought to. Our long Michigan winters don’t help either.
While there will always be ups and downs when it comes to maintaining an exercise routine, here are a few tips that I’ve found to be crucial in my physical journey to be who God wants me to be.
1. HAVE THE RIGHT MOTIVATION.
Right motivators are timeless. Wrong motivators are temporary.
Right motivators include: obeying God by taking care of our bodies, being healthy and having a clear mind, promoting good mental health, destressing, and being a good example to our children. Wrong motivators include: trying to lose weight, trying to fit into a certain dress or outfit, making wrinkles or acne go away, or looking more attractive.
As time goes on, we may or may not reach our ideal weight and look, but our desire and motivation to be fit and healthy should still be there! We should always care about our bodies because our mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being depends on this.
2. CHOOSE AN ACTIVITY THAT YOU REALLY ENJOY.
It’s your choice, and you have so many options. Don’t try to run as your main form of exercise if you hate running. If you enjoy what you do, the likelihood of your sticking with it will be much greater.
You have tons of options: exercising outdoors or in a gym, with a buddy or alone, with a club or from the comfort of your living room. As time goes on, what works for you may also change depending on your spouse’s or your children’s schedule, your increasing fitness level, and the changing seasons. Bottom line: Find something you like, and when you don’t like it anymore, change it up and find something new.
3. SET GOALS.
Make them clear and attainable.
Now, this is different from what motivates you. Our motivation is what helps us achieve our goals. Goals are meant to be temporary benchmarks and should periodically change. For example, if your goal is to lose 3 inches off your waist, once you reach that, you celebrate and choose another goal!
Sit down and discuss it with your spouse or a friend. Sometimes it helps to set goals together. Goals can range from finishing/ competing in a race to lowering your BMI or blood pressure to improving overall mood/ attitude, strength, stamina, and endurance. I would suggest incorporating weekly/ monthly “weigh-ins” to see how close you are coming to your goal. Give yourself a realistic time to attain each goal, and make sure you celebrate each goal met.
4. MAKE A PLAN.
It’s all about scheduling. Especially for pastoral families, it’s imperative that you work with your spouse’s sometimes irregular and unpredictable schedule to find a good time for you. If it takes waking up extra early or staying up late, do what it takes to give you uninterrupted time when you don’t have to worry about watching the kids or the next thing on your to-do list.
Have a family meeting. Decide what time of day and which days per week are ideal. Protect that time, and make sure that if you have kids, your spouse or someone else can watch them during that time. Pull out everyone’s calendars and choose a start date and end date. It’s best to start when there is a good stretch of time when the schedule is predictable. For example, starting a workout schedule right before camp meeting pitch wouldn’t be the best idea. Decide how long you think the exercise routine should work for. Whether you plan for a month or for the year, make sure you take the time to tweak how things are going from week to week to ensure that things work.
If you find it helpful, give yourself breaks and cheat days to avoid burnout. Knowing you have a family vacation coming up may help keep you on your exercise routine in the weeks leading up to it.
5. MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE TO SOMEONE.
Tell someone besides Jesus.
Unless fitness is already a reliable part of your lifestyle, you may need extra help to keep going from time to time. This is when it helps to tell someone. Tell Jesus, of course, because we need His strength to keep us faithful, but this is one case where it’s a good thing to tell others about your business. Tell your spouse. Tell your friends. Tell your parents. Tell Facebook. Do whatever works for you. If you are motivated by money, put down money for a race, a gym membership, or an exercise class.
6. REWARD YOURSELF.
Find ways to make it worth your time.
Endorphins are the natural reward for a good workout, but sometimes other rewards help too. Take time to make a workout soundtrack with your favorite inspirational songs. Treat yourself to new shoes or workout clothes. Soak in a long, hot bath after long workouts. Plan delicious, healthy meals after your workouts. Reward yourself positively for being good to your body, and then you’ll want to keep doing it.
7. MAKE GOOD LIFESTYLE DECISIONS.
Little decisions each day go a long way.
As you make little decisions each day to be healthy, you will feel motivated to make other healthy choices. Drink more water. Stretch in the morning and at night. Take the stairs. Park farther from the entrance of the store. Play outside with your kids. Choose the vegan option. Skip dessert or juice at potluck.
Let’s ditch the excuses and make it a priority to take better care of ourselves. Not only will our bodies thank us, but we’ll also be better spouses, happier parents, more effective thinkers, stronger ministers, and a clearer example of God’s ideal for humankind. That is my heart’s desire. How about you?