Feb 10, 2011

Love Yourself This February!

By: Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

It’s a cruel irony that the annual deluge of chocolate hearts comes hard on the lazy February heels of broken resolutions. All those good intentions are smothered in rich chocolaty layers of guilt and next year’s promises.

This year, however, I’m eating pure, guilt-free chocolate. I kept last year’s promise. I got into shape and in October 2010, did a triathlon with two friends. It might be fun to gloat a bit, but I can’t do that. It is not as daunting or impressive as it might sound. All 3 of us are busy 40 something moms with careers and an interesting collection of flat feet, bunions, extra pounds, and assorted other challenges. We don’t look like the athletes you might picture beside the word ‘triathlon’. Our goal was a “civilized triathlon”. We wanted to go the distance without hurting ourselves or competing. In that spirit, we set up our own day, place, and distances and trained according to our separate schedules. When the day came, we swam 750 m, biked 20 km, and ran 5 km. We all finished with smiles on our faces.

Reflecting on what it took to get in shape, I remember difficulties that could have been stoppers for me. Sore feet, a bad ankle, back pain, and laziness were real, but to my surprise, my biggest obstacle was simple guilt. Time set aside for swims, runs, and biking felt self-indulgent. I worried I was stealing time from family, my work as a pastor, and even from cleaning the house. The fee for swimming twice a week added up, and I second-guessed the worth of my goal. I wondered if my priorities were skewed, if I was selfish.

Some things have happened, however, that have eliminated my guilt complex. The first was 6 months into training. I was swimming twice a week, running once, and biking whenever my destination was close enough. I started to feel good. My hip, achy since I got thrown from a horse in 1997, stopped hurting. My back and knees felt better than they had for years. I was sleeping well and I had lots of energy. The second thing occurred recently, when snow threatened to bury Edmonton. Our neighbours needed help, and I enjoyed the physical work. Even on days when I shoveled for 3 hours, I had no sore muscles.

All that shoveling and feeling good was an epiphany for me. I was there for my neighbours because I had spent time on myself. The same principle applies as I look forward to the next 40 plus years of life. When I take care of myself, I am prepared to take care of others. I’m happier and more effective in my work. In fact, I’m starting to see fitness as an unselfish long term investment in my family, my church, and my community.

This Valentine’s day, I’m going to love myself a little and go for a swim. The chocolate always tastes better minus the guilt.

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