by Karen Pullano
The following is a blog entry originally published by Hard as Nails Ministries, a fantastic blog geared towards young adult Catholics. Its inspirational and insightful reads makes this the perfect destination for young Catholics who need a spiritual boost!
Back in another lifetime, when my husband and I had just our four little girls, I was working at the YMCA as a personal trainer. I had always been drawn to the world of exercise and nutrition, and after ten years of marriage and having babies I was finally ready to make my big break away from motherhood to do something “useful” with my time and talent. I guess that statement gives you a clue as to where I was in my spiritual life.
“For so many years it had felt it important to be physically fit and active.” In college I rowed on crew at the University of Pittsburgh, running for hours every day. I took yoga, Zumba, and step aerobics. After school, I got proficient on the nautilus circuits with the moms and on the free weights with the dads. Two weeks after our first daughter was born via cesarean I was back at the gym. I remember clearly having no time to waste with a family wedding in three short months and a dress to fit into! Counting my calories in and calculating calories out was a driving force of my life. I read every book and tried every diet, always tweaking the plan and figuring out what worked best. I didn’t know how to live any other way. Without fully realizing it, my worth was largely defined by the size of my clothes.
Becoming a trainer was natural and easy since I had been conscious of my fitness for years. Staying in top shape was always my goal, and I wanted to help others achieve that goal too.
I likely would have persisted down that path and was planning to pursue a degree in nutrition to add to my BS in business, when the Lord offered me an opportunity for a course correction. Not that I had any idea at the time of course!
Just a few months into my new personal training career we found out we were expecting baby number five. A year after that came baby number six. Eighteen months after that we were expecting baby number seven. I was still desperately hanging on to the hope of getting myself back to the gym and finding my worth again, but I sure couldn’t think about helping anyone else do it!
“Little did I know at that time how my world was about to shift.” Our first born son Michael, baby number 5, was diagnosed with a rare and deadly brain tumor at the age of 4. Suddenly my personal fitness just didn’t seem important. In fact many things in my life lost their flavor as we became embroiled in a battle of life and death. My focus necessarily shifted away from myself and more and more toward what was really important. What was the purpose and goal of my life? What was I living for? Who was I living for? The months of agonizing fear of death and the things that are totally out of our control brought perspective and proper order and the realization of truth. I had been seeking the temporal but longing for the eternal. “To whom shall we go Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” (John 6:68)
As Mikey approached his final days with us here I was filled with peace beyond rational understanding because I finally possessed all. What greater gift had I ever been given than that of my children? What greater honor could I have than to cooperate with God in His creation and the caretaking of that creation? And what greater sword could ever pierce my heart than the death of my own son?
Through those long months of suffering, cancer, and death the Lord had been making me His own.
After Michael died, I retreated from the world for a while, growing in relationships with the Father, Son and Spirit, before I gradually emerged His new creation. He taught me who I really am; His. And my worth never had a thing to do with the size of my clothing.
What did remain from my personal fitness training was all that I had learned about health and the importance of caring for our bodies as temples of the Spirit who dwells within us.
My personal training days taught me more than I ever realized at the start; hard work, perseverance to attain a goal, suffering for gains, and offering it for even greater gains. If we are willing to suffer and sacrifice for the body how much more should we be willing to sacrifice for the spirit?
I continued to exercise and sometimes even go to crazy lengths to care for my body. With the birth of each of our 10 babies I had to start over again, and I’m certainly not getting any younger. Pilates, swimming, biking, intermittent fasting, keto, paleo; you name it. I learned it and tried it. I have learned that my body is not something I will ever conquer or even own the way I’d like, but it is a tool I can use to glorify God. The workout is a prayer. The diet is an offering. My health and well-being come from Him alone.
“Exercise and nutrition are certainly good and important, but like all worldly pursuits the end goal cannot be rooted in the world. It must be ordered to true life in the eternal.”
Original Article: https://www.amazingnation.org/Blog/n/How-My-Fitness-Became-a-Prayer