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When Your Mind Needs a Workout

by Vimbai Mutinhiri

Getting my body in good shape was only part of the reason why I started working out again. My main drive was that I woke up at some point earlier this year and realized I was feeling extremely mentally weak - it was so difficult for me because I have been emotionally low before, but I had never experienced what it feels like when you feel like your senses are crippled.
I was born a fighter (my mum claims the first thing I did when I was born is to put my thumb in my mouth - thats her story and she's sticking to it). From leaving the comfort of my parents' home in Zimbabwe to start a life in South Africa with nothing, to taking on Nigeria with little to no support system - fighting is instinctive to me. So when I woke up this year feeling lost and unable, I went straight to my Bible (it has all the answers, trust me), because I knew something was very off. Before I opened it, I prayed. I said, “God, everything in me is so blurry right now I don’t even know what scripture to go to. Please reveal yourself to me”.
That’s how I opened my Bible randomly and it fell open on 1 Corinthians 9 - and in my particular Bible (Joyce Meyer; Battlefield of the Mind), the key lesson written next to the scripture was DISCIPLINE. It talked about the spiritual journey being like an athlete’s journey. Hmmmm. I almost got frustrated asking myself what it was exactly I was meant to do with this information. I prayed about it, and felt God was pushing me to literally “discipline my body and make it my slave” as the scripture read.
So I begrudgingly headed to the gym (I have learnt to never waste time with following God's instructions, even when they seem strange). When I started working out it was so hard. My body felt heavy and I was exhausted and out of breath in under 5 minutes. I started with an elliptical (easy enough right?). But before I knew it I was interested in the treadmill. I was convinced I could only run a few minutes, but after watching so many people around me working out and pushing themselves - I thought, what will happen if I push myself? What if I when I felt tired I told myself it was all in my mind and could keep going?

It’s been 6 weeks, and yesterday I cried tears of joy when I did what I thought was a lazy session - but it was a 3km run!! Yes, I said it was a lazy workout. And that’s when I stopped to reflect; I hadn’t even noticed it but my head was in a better place. I was fighting again, and problem solving, and brainstorming, and feeling creative!!
I’m sharing this story because I know we’re all striving for our minds to be in a strong place - and the impact of disciplining my body had an enormous effect on my mental strength. So many people are in the gym to build their ideal bodies, or to burn calories (which is also amazing by the way) - but I strongly recommend you go in there for balance! If you are disciplined and committed, I guarantee you will feel the results
Clueless about how to get started in the gym? Here are my tips:
  • treadmill and elliptical are great starting points; try selecting one of the pre-programed options on your machine and increase either the intensity level or duration with each workout
  • Start with 15 minutes on level 2 or 3, then add 2 minutes every session
  • Fitbits and smart watches are amazing to track your calorie burn - sometimes the number of calories you want to burn is s good enough target to get you motivated 
  • Get some cute workout gear; you will look forward to wearing it and feel good working out too
  • Don’t let anyone pressure you! It’s your race at your pace; do what feels right, but push yourself
PS There's a reason why fitfam people always seem annoyingly chirpy even when they're eating rabbit food for dinner.

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