I remember the first time I felt it. I was on a run with my sister-in-law. It was one of those perfect Minnesota days where the sun was warm and the air was cold. But my legs were tired and my lungs were burning. We had set out to run 4 miles, and we had plans to go out for a big supper, so I knew I couldn’t skimp out on burning any extra calorie.

Reading my mind (or simply picking up on my dramatic, labored breathing 😆), my sister-in-law told me to think of my favorite worship song.

“We’re less than a half of a mile from being done. Whatever song connects you the most with God, blare it in your mind and don’t stop until we are home.”

As the song “Hosanna” played over and over in my mind, my tired legs and burning lungs turned into tears and my labored breathing turned into trying to catch my breath from how overwhelmed my spirit felt.

Exercise had always been a part of my life. However, it was a punish/reward cycle that robbed me of experiencing any benefit from this good thing I was doing. Exercising was always about me. Burning off the extra pizza I ate the night before. Burning enough calories to indulge in a nice meal that evening. Clearing my mind so I don’t feel stressed anymore. Escaping my responsibilities, if just for an hour, and allowing my mind to shut off. These are benefits of exercise! But they weren’t sustainable. I connected deeper with God at that moment than I had in so long. And while this was obviously a natural thing for my sister in law, I had never seen or felt or connected exercise to my spirituality. And it truly changed my whole approach to exercise and caring for my physical body.

All the should’s and must’s of exercise slowly started to turn into get to’s and want to’s. And that’s when I started to experience the real benefits. I was appreciating what my body could do. I was listening and feeling when my body needed rest. I looked forward to runs where I could pray and think and focus. Exercise stopped feeling like an escape and a punishment and started becoming something that I looked forward to and was encouraged by.

I have a lot of fun ways I incorporate exercise into my daily life as a mom with young kids, who works, is active at my church, is intentional with my friends and family, and has hobbies. It is possible to fit exercise into a busy routine! However, I think the most important part is to figure out how exercise can be part of loving yourself, connecting you to your Creator, and honoring how He made your amazing body.

~ Ali Hofmeyer

Photo by Nathalie Désirée Mottet on Unsplash