This pandemic and the subsequent quarantine has left us with gaps, griefs, and yet I dare say a whole lot of goodness. Yes, there is hard. Yes, there are questions. Yes, there are unmet yearnings for friends and closeness and a run to Target to fill the need of the moment. But, y’all, I’m daring to say (not to minimize the dire circumstances surrounding us but in light of my own experience being confined to home) what a gift we’ve been given. Time. Space. Quiet. Springtime. In the middle of the day yesterday, my whole family traveled over four miles together on bike or on foot, with some Frisbee tossing at the halfway point. We enjoyed the surprising crisp spring air and radiant sky, we laughed, talked, and I tucked it all away in my mama’s heart. It was early afternoon on a Wednesday and my family was together, enjoying exercise, and relishing this life-giving time.

As I’ve written recently on how to have a healthy fitness focus amid a pandemic, I’ll culminate the discussion today by encouraging you to reintroduce exercise into your quarantined life in a joyful way making much of the time at hand. Here are some specifics:

Be joyful! I’m learning afresh the call for believers in Christ to be full of joy at all times. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” There is no category or boundary Paul gives for this joy. Instead, we are to rejoice in the Lord when the alarm goes off before we’re ready, when our muscles are screaming after 18 seconds in a plank hold, while we enjoy a socially distanced brisk walk with a dear friend, and even when we struggle to push play on our online workout. Am I sounding crazy?? Consider this… We must make sure our exercise is rooted in joy, not pride, not self-indulgence, not the standards of others. Joy should be at the core of why we are choosing to take good care of our bodies. We can be joyful over the invitation to move and to discipline our bodies. We can be joyful in the struggle of pushing for yet another mile and rejoice in the abounding good that will result. We can remember it brings the Father great joy for us to use the gift of the bodies he has created for his glory, our good, and the good of those around us.

If you are an avid exerciser, consider praying about where joy fits into your healthy habits. If you’re not, consider praying for the desire and direction you need to establish a fitness focus pleasing to the Lord. Starting with prayer turns our attention to where it needs to be – on Jesus – and it will likely turn the way you’ve always thought about exercise upside down. The truth is “when we put (our bodies) to work in his service, for our joy in Him and for the good of others, he delights in it. And when we put our bodies to work in the service of sin and selfishness and vanity, he does not rejoice in that.” (Mathis, Feel His Pleasure)Let’s choose the first option, friends!

Be Who You Are! Determining who you are is a critical step to becoming fitness focused during these quarantine days and beyond. Foremost, you are a child of God, made in his image, to glorify and enjoy him. Then, you get to build upon that primary identity. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says “the key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first…to change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.” So, decide who you are going to be during this quarantine…if you desire to say, “I am a healthy, fit mama even in quarantine”, then follow through by acting like it. As you prove this new (or existing) identity to yourself with little wins here and there with every healthy, fit choice, you’ll believe in your identity and desire to keep going. Each workout completed, each step taken, each peddle pushed, each nutritious snack establishes this fitness-focused identity in you to remain long after quarantine.

Be a Planner: In order to achieve the wins that line up with your identity, you need a plan. I find getting my heart pumping early most days sets the pace and a tone of accomplishment for the day ahead. Scheduling a solid workout 4-5 times a week gives us something to put on our calendars (remember those??) and check off with pride. Before Monday hits, sit down and schedule your fitness plan for the week (just like you would make meal plans, make a workout plan). Perhaps it is most wise to have a solid plan and then ask God for the strength to follow it, the willingness to be flexible with it, and the remembrance to offer praise for achieving it.

Right now, my plan looks like this with lots of extra, enjoyable walks mixed in:
Monday – stream a Barre workout (30 min)
Tuesday – interval run outdoors (45 min)
Wednesday – stream a Barre workout (30 min)
Thursday – rest
Friday – interval run outdoors (45 min)
Saturday – enjoy an extra long walk outdoors (60-90 min)
Sunday – rest

If you miss a day because you need the rest or you just missed it, pick up the next day. But, don’t keep missing days. That’s where you lose momentum. Mark off your exercise days in a visible place so you see your habits taking hold and your identity becoming more and more true.

Friends, giving our fitness focus over to the Lord, seeking his desires for our physical bodies, and considering the joy derived for us and to him in the process is a beautiful and timely gift of this quarantine. Are you willing to unwrap it and declare it your own? If so (and I pray so), take some time today to be joyful, to be who you are, and to make a plan for the week to come!