I love fall. Some reasons are obvious: changing leaves, crisp morning air, the smell of spice in the kitchen, cozy sweaters, evenings out by the fire pit. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”
But my favorite part of fall is Thanksgiving. Yes, the food is a bonus, but what could be better for the soul than a day set aside to express gratitude? Lest you think I’m getting all Pollyanna on you, I don’t spend my days counting my blessings as I should. It’s far easier to note the negative, and I’m in crowded company. Have you looked at social media?
It’s interesting to note that the holiday season begins with a day of thanks and ends with a resolve to do and be better. While these two traditions seem like polar opposites, I dare say they are intertwined, especially as they relate to our physical selves.
We don’t show gratitude with words. We show gratitude through action. We don’t show appreciation for a meal by not eating it. We don’t recognize a gift by leaving it wrapped under the tree. We can’t love a novel without cracking its spine and digesting the words.
Likewise, we can’t ever come to love our bodies and realize how great they really are if we never use them. Bodies weren’t made to sit and be still. They were made to run, jump, dance, lift and play. The wonderful part is the more we use them, the more we love them.
It’s after we run that first mile that we realize our legs are powerful pistons that can move us forward and upward. Only when we load up the barbell for bicep curls will we realize how much those arms can carry. It’s when we don our swim caps and swim those first 100 meters that we understand the beauty of the heart and lungs working in sync.
It’s when I go for a brisk walk in the cool autumn air that my senses come alive. The orange on the trees is more vibrant. The smell of a woodburning stove is more intoxicating. The sound of the geese flying over the lake is a symphony of fall. You can’t get that on television.
Even physical setbacks and injuries are opportunities for thanksgiving. After my bike crash last year, I separated my shoulder and broke my hand. Six months later I had a hysterectomy. That extended forced time off from lifting helped me appreciate my strength workouts, something this cycling/running lover doesn’t always look forward to. I missed those weights when they were no longer an option. I missed the fatigue in my arms after a tough tricep set. I longed for the fatigue in my shoulders after overhead presses. I even looked enviously at my class as I coached them through proper form during push-ups.
And when I was cleared to lift again, I marveled at how quickly my body responded. My recovery time was much shorter because of the strength I’d already built up. I bounced back faster once I started lifting again and regained my strength sooner than anyone expected.
If we recognize the miracles our bodies perform on a daily basis, our focus shifts away from the pooch in our belly or the saggy skin under our chin. Instead we see strong arms that can lift and carry others physically and emotionally. We see the gift of a beating heart that can withstand the intensity of a Zumba class and the heartbreak of a loved one lost. But we will only see these gifts if we use these gifts.
It’s easy to spot our limitations. Most people see only what they can’t do, be, or become. Don’t be like most people. Focus on the possibilities. Write down what your body allowed you to do today so you have a visual record of what you have. This Thanksgiving, express your gratitude for the health you have by using the body you have in whatever capacity you can.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor, marathoner, and Feetures! ambassador. You can follow her running and fitness adventures at www.kiminthegym.com.