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Smiling at Hills: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The midmorning sun beat down on me as I stole a few quick sips of water. It had been a challenging Stroller Strides workout – too many squats, lunges, and rows to count. But I felt strangely energized as I listened to Abby describe our last cardio burst.

“See that hill behind me? I want you to run up it and back. Really push yourself. This is your time; make it count!”

I smiled as I looked up at the grassy hill. A decade ago, a year ago, even a month ago I would have grimaced. But something was different today. I wanted to run up that hill. I wanted to feel it. And I knew I could.

When I reflect on all of the times I have been faced with physical challenges, I realize that I didn’t want to run up those hills because I didn’t think I could – at least not very well. Just like so many of my former middle and high school students who didn’t put much effort into their schoolwork, I chose to opt out because I didn’t believe in myself. I was stuck in a fixed mindset in which I thought that some people are strong and athletic and others – like myself – just aren’t.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that every single person has the capacity to learn and to create beautiful things. Each student I worked with confirmed this belief; whether through a poem, an academic essay, or a lively class discussion, I was continually delighted by my students’ thinking. Often it took multiple revisions and lots of hard work, but every student who put forth effort ultimately succeeded. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t apply this understanding to my fitness. I perceived physical challenges to be something different.

A decent metabolism and a profession that isn’t very physically taxing allowed me to be quite complacent about my health. But then I got pregnant. Suddenly, my health wasn’t just my own anymore. I started to become more intentional about what I ate and I tried to take nightly walks. I also signed up for a six-week Fit4Baby class. Thirty-two weeks pregnant and barely able to tie my own shoes, I honestly did not look forward to moving my body in ways that initially seemed impossible. But I went and I met other pregnant ladies who were committed to preparing their bodies for the challenges of labor and motherhood. Each week I became a little stronger – even as my belly grew larger and my body swelled.

Since I had begun to prove to myself that if I worked hard I could get stronger, I decided that I wanted to continue my fitness journey. I joined Stroller Strides a few months after Asher was born. Twice a week I meet with amazing women and our children to work out. They all inspire me with their dedication to being healthy and modeling positive behaviors for their kids. When I am at home on the treadmill or trying to follow a workout DVD, it’s easy to give up. But when I am with other mommas, I keep going. This is why I was so interested to learn about the Body Back program. Starting this evening, I will meet with a small group of ladies to set goals, learn about nutrition, and work out together. We will meet twice a week for two months. (This is in addition to my two workouts each week with Stroller Strides!) We will also stay in touch, support each other, and hold ourselves accountable through an online group. It’s a big commitment and I worry about the time away from my family, but I know that I need to do this for me as well as for Curt and Asher. They need a wife and a mom who believes in herself, who challenges herself, who does hard things. I always want to smile when I face hills – and I hope my little boy will too.