If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may be wondering is this still a fitness blog or a blog about grief? My answer to you is yes and yes. Over the past few months I’ve been learning that the two are not mutually exclusive. I’ve always equated happiness with fitness and fitness with happiness. Look at any issue of Women’s Health and the woman running down the street rocking a six pack and $90 sports bra does not have tears streaming down her face. She isn’t even grimacing. She is beaming, beautiful, and happy. When I was pregnant with Eve I read as many fit pregnancy blogs as I could. My favorite were the ones that documented the pregnancy week by week. I loved scrolling to the week I was in and seeing what other moms had experienced, what types of workouts they did, even what they ate. Later in the pregnancy I had another habit of clicking on the “week 40” post which usually led to the birth story. I loved looking at the pictures of these proud moms holding their adorable babies. Staying fit throughout pregnancy had the most wonderful incentive: a healthy daughter. It was what drove me to get up early every morning for a workout even when I was huge (third trimester) and exhausted (first and third trimester…and some of the second if I’m being truly honest). It’s what made me, like a crazy person, reject a second glucose test and instead prick my finger four times a day to monitor my blood sugar so I wouldn’t have to ingest the sugary artificially colored beverage the test entailed. It’s what made me memorize the “dirty dozen” so I wouldn’t run the risk of poisoning my baby with insecticides from non-organic produce. It’s what kept me running up until the day I went into the hospital, swollen ankles and all. There is no greater motivation for eating healthy and staying active than having a tiny human growing inside your body, or so I thought.
As it turns out, grief can be a pretty incredible motivator albeit not nearly as pleasant. I was very worried that after losing Eve I would lose my motivation to carry on with the things that interested me in my old life like health and fitness. I had a super-healthy pregnancy, took good care of my body and Eve while she lived inside it, and now she is dead. I won’t lie and say I always feel like getting up and moving through another day, in fact most of the time I don’t. I will say after all I’ve been through these last few months I honestly believe in the healing power of movement. Fitness isn’t just for shiny happy people who always get eight hours of sleep. If that was the case there would be far fewer gyms and fitness studios in the world. Everyone has their s%*t. Exercise helps people deal with their s%*t. There is a little voice inside of my head that says “what good is being healthy in a world where crack heads and chain smokers go on to have living babies and mine lies dead in the ground?”. There is a louder voice that says “move”.
Our bodies are wired for movement especially in times of stress. We secrete hormones that are meant to help us fight or flee even when the stress we experience isn’t anything we can kick or run from. Exercise isn’t a magic elixir that can take away all bad feelings and fix all problems. Depending on how low you are feeling when you start it may not even make you any happier. What it can do is give you something to do during a tough time that simultaneously burns off stress hormones and strengthens your body so you can deal with the next stressor that comes your way. It may not make you happy today, it may not even make you happy tomorrow, but it can help you navigate through sadness to a time when happiness is possible again.
Maybe one day I’ll be one of those beaming, beautiful running women like those in the pages of Women’s Health (minus the six pack and $90 sports bra knowing my genetics and finances…) but for now I’ll settle for what I am: a grieving mama just trying to carry on.