Updated: Jan 31
There is a memory from my childhood that has always stuck out to me. My mom and her three sisters were sitting in the living room in Dayton, Ohio, having a “grown women” conversation. To pass by the living room, it looked as if they were catching up on each other’s family and good things going on in their individual lives. But no!!! I can’t remember why I stayed near where they were, but it was long enough to hear something that has stuck with me for over 40 years.
Their conversation had to do with what meds they were on, the aches they had, and diagnosis from the doctor, who else in the family had the same issues and what happened to them, and even talks about how often (or not) they went to the bathroom. Indeed not a conversation for the sensitive ears of a child. In the years to follow, I would hate hearing people talk about being sick. Not that I thought they didn’t have faith, but why spend your time talking about things they didn’t have control over. My immature thought was, get over it!
Well, as we all know, history has a way of repeating itself. I’ve caught myself talking to my girlfriends in the same manner: our medications, doctor diagnoses, the pain we felt when trying to get out of bed, or talking to each other on our phones while frantically looking for it! We would even have those “bathroom” talks, too! Yes, I also fell victim to the incurable (at least one I don’t want one) condition of AGE!!!!!
When I was younger, my mom told me I had asthma, but grew out of it and arthritis at an early age. Those two conditions kept me from doing many things in sports or extracurricular activities growing up. It wasn’t because I couldn’t physically do them, but because I had that diagnosis hanging over my head, I didn’t even attempt to go out for sports or cheerleading. I don’t remember how either affected my quality of life as I got older.
It wasn’t until 2002 I began to deal with pain throughout my body that would later be diagnosed in 2009 as fibromyalgia, a long-term or chronic disorder that causes widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness, and general fatigue. The crazy thing about it is that it would come and go with no warning. There were days I had to take off work because I couldn’t walk or wear a sling because moving my arm was unbearable.
With the diagnosis, my doctor gave me two options: medication or weight/resistance training in addition to changing my diet. I worked out but didn’t change my diet until I was also told I was borderline diabetic.
Because both my parents were/are diabetic, I was told I was predisposed to eventually having it as well. By this time, I worked out regularly, but I had to take it seriously and adjust my diet after this blow.
My desire never was to have a six-pack or body definition but to not be in pain or depend on medication for the rest of my life. This is something I have control over. Many illnesses are learned behaviors or lifestyles passed down from generation to generation – bad eating habits and unhealthy life choices. I grew up on fried, high-fat foods, and both parents smoked. Those learned behaviors predisposed me to diabetes and heart disease, not my genetic makeup.
Now, this is where the faith part of the blog comes in. Those I work out with know I ALWAYS wear my hat. Some thought it was to keep my hair in place or keep me focused because I would pull the brim down to almost covering my eyes. While those reasons were valid, the main reason is that I would be in tears as I worked out. Just imagine, when I wasn’t in remission from the fibromyalgia, the pain of lifting weights was beyond words, but I knew this was what I needed to take control of my health.
Yes, as a woman of faith, I prayed and asked God for healing, but the response I received (not saying this is the case for everyone dealing with a health challenge) was, “Today, I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”. Illness is a curse and not a blessing, so I choose life!
For this blog post, I asked my trainer, Tony Williams, a few questions on fitness, health, and faith. Tony has been a personal trainer since 2010. I started working out with him in 2012.
MJ: How do you encourage people to manage pain and push past it to work out?
TW: You're asking about managing pain; I would always try to get you guys (our workout group) to push past your pain. To sum it up into a quote, "you are what you tell yourself" or according to what God says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" (Proverbs 23:7)
So, you can believe the pain you feel, which becomes your reality, and you have it. The thing about all pain is that it's mostly temporary; you manage it regardless. I remember going to the doctor regarding pain in my leg. He said I had two options: I can take medication to alleviate the pain or learn to live with it. I had to decide to live with it or take pills for the rest of my life.
When I learned to declare God's word against it, the pain subsided, which gave me the mindset that you are what you tell yourself. Because I wasn't telling myself I was hurt, I just kept living.
People need to live and learn to push past the pain and keep telling themselves what they are going after, and that is the thing they shall have.
MJ: Why do you think people would instead take medication over working out for conditions that can be managed through workout versus medication.
TW: I would say it's not because of fear, but because people are emotional. People eat or overeat because of emotions, and they want to feel a particular way. To add, I would also say a lack of discipline.
Most of us are not disciplined in anything anymore; most people can't sit still for more than 10 minutes to read a book without getting distracted. We allow ourselves to be pulled away from something we know is beneficial for life that we put on the back burner. If you think about it, is it easier to eat a bag of chips over an apple? This is something everyone must ask themselves. Do you want temporary satisfaction with damaging consequences, or choose the apples EVERY time on purpose to live!
I would also say we have to look at our "why." Why do you feel taking medication is better than exercising? The biggest excuse is that "I don't have time." Yes, you do; you must make time for it. We choose to believe what the doctor tells us rather than using that information to create a plan to take charge of YOUR LIFE by combating the illness naturally when possible. The body was made to heal itself!
Medicine only masks the issue; it is not a cure. When was the last time you heard of a medical cure? There have been only two: recently with hepatitis A and Polio in the 1950s. Medicine does not cure; we must take our life into our own hands. You are responsible for your life, not the doctor.
While preparing to do this blog, the occasional pain seemed to last much longer than in the past. I went to the doctor and was told I have mild osteoarthrosis. This made me remember what my mom told me.
The first thing that came to my mind was a video I created two years ago when I took part in the 22-day 22 push-up challenge. You can see the full video on my Instagram IGTV feed at mj_foreverthankful. As I did the challenge, I was reminded of the life I led before the challenge of routine workouts. Even though it seemed effortless for me to do the push-ups, it was the life of working out consistently that enabled me to do 22 push-ups every day for 22 days. I will admit the challenge was challenging because I kept my two-hour/four-day-a-week workout routine as I did the 22-day challenge.
With my regular workout, I had to make sure I ate properly, stayed hydrated by drinking half my body weight in water daily, and consumed at least 70 grams of protein daily. While doing the challenge, I realized to get through it, I couldn’t slack on my diet, water, and protein, but I had to increase them. During the challenge, I could not change my lifestyle because it was hard.
What a perfect example of life! As we have challenges, the life we lived before the challenge dictates how we get through it. If I live a life of eating whatever I want, not exercising, consuming alcohol, not getting adequate sleep, the product of that will be diabetes, which became my challenge. Once I did a lifestyle change with my diet, I’m no longer a borderline diabetic. I took control of my life BY FAITH!
With this new challenge of osteoarthrosis, I don’t plan to change the lifestyle that has blessed me by keeping many of the symptoms under control. I plan to increase my workout, targeting ways to strengthen the weak areas. I plan to add more healthy food options to combat inflammation rather than taking pills.
My “why” is to lead a long and healthy life. I’ve seen too many family members suffer with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, COPD. Whatever I can control, God has given us wisdom and the ability to do it. Do I have faith? Yes, I do! Faith knowing that no matter state I’m in (with or without pain), “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13)