During this month, the faithful should take time to try to emulate Mary’s virtues and recall the important role she plays in Salvation History and in our own lives.
You can use these suggestions to celebrate the Mother of God this May in your own home and community:
A May Crowning is a traditional Roman Catholic ritual in which the faithful crown Mary with a garland or a wreath of flowers at the close of a solemn procession.
Many parishes host their own crowning for you to attend, but you can also organize one for your family and friends. Place a small crown on a Mary statue you already own or place flowers by an image of Our Lady in your home or garden. Sing a Marian hymn or offer a prayer to her.
Return to the Queen of Heaven throughout the month and ask her and her Son to reign in your heart.
Plant a Marian Garden
Place a statue or image of Our Lady in your prepared plot of land and plant flowers to honor her.
Many flowers and herbs–like roses, lilies, and rosemary– also hold a uniquely Marian significance that you might want to consider when planning your garden.
You can add a small bench to the area for prayer or other meaningful/decorative accents that honor Our Lady.
Read a book about Mary or Marian Spirituality
Many saints and scholars have written on the life and virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pick up their writings this month to help you grow in your relationship with the Mother of God. Looking for a place to start? Consider one of these titles.
Make a Marian Pilgrimage
For centuries, Catholics have undertaken pilgrimages as a sign of faith and devotion. Plan a pilgrimage this month as a sign of love for Mary.
While an international excursion might not be possible, you could possibly take a trip to one of these domestic destinations dedicated to the Blessed Mother:
Otherwise, you can create your own pilgrimage experience in your own town. Take a trip to a local parish for Mass (perhaps on the feast of the Visitation) and spend time in prayer before a Marian image. Invite some friends, pack a lunch, and make it a little do-yourself retreat.
Meditate on the life of Our Lady
The Blessed Mother provides an excellent example for anyone pursuing a life of holiness and a relationship with God. Take time to learn from her by meditating on her life.
You can pray the Mysteries of the Rosary or the Seven Sorrows Rosary as a way to meditate on the joys and suffering of Mary as she obediently followed the Will of God. You can also use Lectio Divina or Ignatian Meditation to contemplate the life of Mary as written about in Sacred Scriptures.
See yourself Temple of the Holy Spirit
The Blessed Virgin Mary gives us the most perfect example of living as Temple of the Holy Spirit; an example we are called to follow.
Here at Pietra Fitness, we strive to build up the Cathedral of You by giving you a strong foundation both physically and spiritually, which is why we have consecrated our mission to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We all know the feeling: 3 p.m. hits and the afternoon slump begins to take hold. You start looking for a snack that will get you to the end of your work day.
Instead of the processed goodies from the vending machine or donuts from the break room, a nutrient-dense, protein-packed snack will help keep you feeling fuller longer and keep you focused and productive
Try one of these delicious and easy-to-make snacks to finish off the day strong!
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Cookies
Protein plays a major role in helping you feel satiated; however, your body doesn’t store excess protein so you’ll need to eat it throughout the day.
If you are craving the satisfying crunch of a bag of chips, consider roasted chickpeas as a healthier alternative as chickpeas are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. The protein and fiber work together to slow digestion and help keep your appetite under control.
Trail mix is a classic choice for sustaining energy levels through the day. While you could buy a bag of trail mix from the store, you could easily make this snack in your own kitchen. Doing this will not only save you money, but will also help ensure that your trail mix doesn’t contain any sneaky additives.
Combine dried fruit and berries, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate chips in a large plastic bag. When stored in a cool, dry place this mix can last for over two weeks so it’s easy to prepare and perfect for storing at your desk.
Layer Greek yogurt and frozen berries in a jar. If you want a little more sweetness, you can add some honey. Top with granola right before you eat it for a bit of crunch (adding it too early will make the granola soggy).
You can easily prepare this snack the night before or even 2-3 days ahead of time so in the morning you can just grab and go.
Millennials have already embraced the power behind this nutrient-dense superfood. Avocados are especially high in healthy fats and fiber, and work as a spread on a variety of foods.
Pair with rice cakes, whole wheat/sourdough toast, or even bell peppers for a snack that will leave you satisfied.
Apple Nachos bring a little pizazz to your afternoon snack break. Place sliced apples on a plate, drizzle with warm nut butter, and finish with your choice of toppings. The Simple Veganista suggests chocolate chips or cacao nibs, cinnamon, and/or shredded coconut.
Cacao nibs and coconut are both good sources of fiber and healthy fats that keep you feeling fuller longer.
Leftover nachos can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days; use lemon juice to keep the apples from browning during storage.
Vegetables and Hummus
Nutritionists love hummus (and with good reason!) Made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice, this dip is full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. You can buy it at your local grocery store or even make your own.
You can enjoy your hummus with non-starchy vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, and celery for a snack that will keep you energized and satisfied all afternoon.
While a pre-packaged string cheese would give you an extra boost of protein, why not opt for something a little more special for your afternoon treat?
A Charcuterie board is made up of sustaining (and delicious) foods that will give you a boost when you start to feel sluggish. Plus, treating yourself to a fancy snack might also boost your mood.
Arrange your favorite cheeses, fruits, nuts, veggies, meat, and/or crackers on a plate, or you can place it on a platter and share with the rest of the office.
Whether you’re caring for a newborn, chasing after a toddler, or driving your preteen to extracurriculars, you probably feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to do everything, especially exercise.
So, how can a parent squeeze a workout into an already full schedule?
While you could get a membership to an expensive gym with childcare services, you can also follow these tips to easily incorporate fitness into your daily life.
Prioritize it when planning your week
Sometimes, getting in your weekly workout is truly just a matter of prioritization.
First, think about your “why.” Why is exercise important to you? Why is it something you want/need to prioritize in your schedule? If you consider exercise as a foundational part of your life, like prayer or date night with your spouse, you need to choose to set time aside for it.
Find a consistent time in your schedule for your workout (like in the morning before the kids wake up or during nap/quiet time) and write it in pen on your calendar. This time is non-negotiable so you need to treat it as such.
Find an accountability partner
Firstly, you and your spouse can serve as an incredible resource for one another of help and support in pursuing your goals. Communicate with your spouse and see how you can help one another make time for exercise.
You can also reach out to another parent to be your fitness buddy. You could offer to trade off babysitting to ensure you both have an opportunity to workout each week, or maybe schedule a playdate for the kids while you work out together.
Shift your mindset
Getting rid of an “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to exercise can really help you feel empowered to succeed in your health journey. You might not get in a full hour workout all at once, everyday but you can squeeze in exercise in 5-10 minute increments throughout your day.
Do squats while cooking dinner, take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, or park a little further away from the store or library to encourage a brisk walk. Even ordinary household tasks, like gardening or vacuuming can count toward your overall goal.
This mindset will help you see all of the opportunities throughout your day to move your body in healthy ways.
Join in the fun
Children have a natural inclination toward physical activity. They love to walk, run, jump, climb, dance, and play. And there’s no reason you have to sit on the sidelines while your kids have all the fun. Hop up and join them!
Playing with your children not only encourages daily movement in your home but also provides another opportunity to bond with your kids.
Workout with your kids
Similarly, you can make your workout time, family time! Invite your children (and your spouse) to join you in your fitness routine.
Studies have shown that children are more likely to enjoy and continue to pursue physical activities when they get to do it with their parents. Again, it encourages family bonding when you are all having fun and working out together.
And now, Pietra Fitness offers an exercise program specifically designed for kids! This unique program combines physical exercise, Christian prayer, and meditation, offering an enjoyable and meaningful way for kids to move their bodies.
Parents can use Pietra Kids at home with their children, helping their kids build confidence, get some exercise, relax, and develop a meaningful relationship with God. It’s a win for both you and them!
Recently, a good friend of mine agreed to exercise with me and we enjoyed an invigorating hour together. The workout went well but at the end she picked up her mat with a frustrated sigh and said, “Ugh. I hate working out because it reminds me how weak I am.” I was surprised because I thought it had gone well. I was also feeling pretty weak but had arrived at a different conclusion: “I love working out because I can identify my weaknesses and will know where to focus my efforts next time.”
I’m a competitive person when it comes to sport or physical challenges, and so it has generally been easier for me to lean into my physical weaknesses and turn them into motivation. But I have other areas in my life that are not so easy for me to expose and surrender to the light of change. I admire her for being willing to move forward in spite of her discouragement and I told her so. I also encouraged her to see her weakness in a different light. Even while I did so, I was aware of the uglier areas of my life that I would rather keep a lid on… where action exposes my ineptness and fraudulent veneer of strength.
We all have some weakness which plagues us and from which we are tempted to run. Saint Paul even wrote of his particular “thorn” with which he battled and which the Lord did not remove:
...to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12)
We may not know what that thorn was but we do know how Paul responded, and that gives us some insight into our own response to weakness, to frustration, and to a feeling of futility. Even while I happily enjoy my own generally positive attitude towards weakness of fitness, I just as willingly brush aside my less comfortable flaws and weaknesses.
Ugh. I hate facing this task because it so often results in my failure. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to see myself that way. And I don’t want anyone else to see me that way either.
The truth is that to be equipped to be fully responsive to God’s call on our lives we must be continually engaged, attentive, renewed, and healthy in mind. The Lord’s words to Saint Paul illuminate how we are to embrace the thorn, the weakness, and the crosses which are revealed to be the very solutions to our problems.
My legs shake when I do squats. I will strengthen them.
My shoulders cannot hold me in plank. I will be attentive to them.
My back is stiff from sitting over my desk. I will make changes to my habits.
My anxiety is high when I do not pray. I will pray.
My love is tepid. I will spend time with my beloved.
My body is lazy. I will take the stairs.
My mind is wandering. I will delete some apps.
I cannot do it. I cannot do it now… but I will work and grow.
Instead of feeling defeated in the presence of our weakness, we should grow accustomed to delighting in the opportunity to grow into a better version of ourselves. There will still be that twinge of pride when we see ourselves in an unflattering and weak light, and yet that is the moment to surrender it to the Lord, lay it down at the foot of the Cross, and ask Him to help us rise with energy and courage.
It is easy to stay at the edge of our comfort and to move ourselves away from challenges which expose our faults. But without those challenges we would never grow. So it should be with gratitude and a measure of cheerfulness that we step onto our exercise mat, or in front of our unbalanced checkbook, or into a hard discussion, or hold a to-do list, and say…
Ugh. I’m feeling uncomfortable right now. Embarrassed and ugly. But the full truth is that I am capable… I’m just out of shape. Without this moment, I will not grow. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me this weight to lift. Help me grow strong in Your grace.
Part of the beauty of the Catholic Church comes from the richness and significance of our traditions, especially in the days leading up to Easter.
During Holy Week, the Church helps the faithful enter into the very heart of our faith by inviting us to more fully and tangibly experience the events of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection through unique prayers, special liturgies, and ancient customs.
Whether you’re a Cradle Catholic or just recently begun attending mass, this guide will walk you through the events of Holy Week.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday in which we recall Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem before his death. So at mass, palm branches are blessed and are carried in procession. You might choose to fashion these palms into the shape of a cross and bring them home as a reminder of your faith in Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of all.
This day is also called “Passion Sunday” because during this mass, instead of a traditional Gospel reading, the whole congregation participates in a “reenactment” of the Passion Narrative.
You may also notice the sacred images in your Church (like the Crucifix, saint statues, etc.) have either been removed or covered in a purple cloth. Monsignor Elliott in Celebrations of the Liturgical Year remarks, "The custom of veiling crosses and images ... has much to commend it in terms of religious psychology, because it helps us to concentrate on the great essentials of Christ's work of Redemption." ¹
Ways to Celebrate:
-Cover the sacred images in your home with purple cloth
-Process around your home (or your church) with the palms
-Wear red in remembrance of the Lord’s Passion
During Holy Week, bishops bless sacred oils in the cathedral at a special liturgy called the Chrism Mass. Three types of oils are blessed during this mass and are afterwards distributed to the parishes for sacramental celebrations throughout the year.
The oil of chrism is used during baptisms, confirmation, ordination and the consecration of altars. The oil of the sick is used to anoint people during the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. And of course, the oil of catechumens is used at the Easter Vigil to welcome the newest members of the body of Christ.
Traditionally this mass took place on Thursday morning during Holy Week but now many dioceses opt to off the mass on an evening earlier in the week to accommodate more attendees. Check with your diocesan cathedral to determine the schedule for this year’s mass.
The Wednesday of Holy Week is often referred to as “Spy Wednesday” because on this day, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver. Matthew’s Gospel says of Judas: “And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”
Traditionally many churches offer a Tenebrae service on this day, though similar to the Chrism Mass it may be moved for the convenience of the laity. Tenebrae combines the chanted prayers of Matins and Lauds from the Divine Office, as well as a centuries-old mourning ritual.
During this liturgy, fifteen candles are placed on the altar and slowly extinguished until the church is in complete darkness. Then, there is a loud clash symbolizing Jesus’ death and the earthquake that followed the Crucifixion.
Ways to Celebrate:
-Attend a Tenebrae Service (or perform one at home)
Holy Thursday kicks off the Triduum, or the three most sacred days of the Liturgical calendar, with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On this day, we remember Christ instituting the Eucharist during the Last Supper with His disciples. We also remember His agony in Gethsemane and the betrayal of Judas.
The priest, in imitation of Christ at the Passover, washes the feet of twelve parishioners. At the conclusion of the Mass, instead of the traditional recessional, the Eucharist is carried in solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, where it will remain 'entombed' until the communion service on Good Friday². You are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament here, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony.
On Good Friday, we remember Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross. It’s a solemn day on which the Church tells us fast and to abstain from meat.
No sacraments are celebrated on this day; however, many parishes offer a communion service for the faithful to receive the Eucharist consecrated in the night before as well as an opportunity to venerate the cross.
Ways to Celebrate:
-Attend the Good Friday service at your parish
-Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
-Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3pm (Good Friday also begins the Divine Mercy Novena!)
-Pray the Stations of the Cross
On Holy Saturday, “...the Church is, as it were, at the Lord's tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.³” It is a day of quiet meditation. No morning or daytime masses take place and the faithful spend the day looking in anticipation toward the Mother of All Masses–the Easter Vigil.
Ways to Celebrate:
-Fast from social media or other distractions
-Pray Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings
-Meditate on a image of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary
-Prepare your home to avoid unnecessary work on Easter Sunday
The entire liturgical year culminates in the Easter Vigil. Through his Death, Christ frees us from our bondage to sin; through His Resurrection, He brings us the promise of new and eternal life.
This mass consists of four unique parts that differ slightly from the formula of an ordinary mass.
The first part is called “The Service of Light.” For the Vigil, the Church begins in darkness and the priest begins outside by a large fire. From this fire, the Paschal candle is lit and processed into the Church. Slowly, the light is passed to each member of the congregation by the lighting of their individual candles.
The second part is of course, the Liturgy of the Word but instead of the standard amount of readings your Mass may have up to nine readings from Scripture. The Gloria is sung just before reading the Epistle, and just before the Gospel, the Alleluia is sung for the first time in forty days.
The third part is the Liturgy of Baptism. If your parish has any new members coming into the Church this is the point of the mass where the sacraments of initiation occur. You will also renew your baptismal promises and chant the Litany of Saints before finally reaching the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Ways to Celebrate:
-If possible, attend the Easter Vigil at your parish.
-If you are unable to attend, consider doing your own “Vigil” at home. Light a candle, read from the Scriptures, and sing the Alleluia.
-Host a Resurrection Party after mass to celebrate Christ’s victory over death (and the newly baptized Catholics)
Easter is the high feast of the liturgical year; it is at the very heart of our faith as Catholic Christians. Easter Sunday kicks off the fifty-day season of Easter as well as the Easter Octave, 8 days of solemnities to keep the party going.
This season of Lent provides us with an opportunity to contemplate God’s mercy, most perfectly revealed and made present to us in Jesus Christ. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Christ reveals God’s great love for humanity and restores man’s identity as a child of God.
We respond to this great outpouring of love, not only by frequent reception of the sacraments (especially confession), but also by offering God’s mercy to others through the Works of Mercy.
The Works of Mercy–both Corporal and Spiritual–go beyond mere service activities, they offer opportunities to share in the mission of Jesus Christ and to serve Him in those who suffer:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” –Matthew 25:34-36, 40
Take some time during these remaining weeks of Lent to respond to God’s mercy in one or more of these unique ways:
Feed the Hungry
Serve a meal at a Homeless Shelter
Contact your local homeless shelter and see if they need volunteers to cook or serve a meal for their residents. While you're there, don’t forget to take some time to get to know the people you are serving.
Treat someone to lunch
Is there a friend you haven’t caught up with in a while or someone at your parish who could use a new friend? Invite them to lunch, your treat! Sharing a meal provides a moment of connection with another person and an opportunity to encounter God.
Organize or participate in a Meal Train
Know someone that recently had a baby or is recovering from illness/surgery? Bring a meal to them or organize a group of friends to help keep their fridge stocked during this season.
Give Drink to the Thirsty
Carry extra water bottles
Keep water bottles in your car or in your bag to offer a homeless person your may encounter.
Donate baby formula to local pregnancy center
Help a new mother (and their sweet baby) by donating formula to a nearby pregnancy center. Or if you are a breastfeeding mama, consider donating some breast milk to another mom who needs to supplement or a family with a recently adopted infant.
Help bring clean water to a poor country
Water is critical for maintaining life; it’s needed of course for drinking, but also for helping livestock and crops thrive. However, many people around the world lack a clean and readily available water supply. Donate to one of the many organizations, including Catholic Relief Services, working to improve the water supply in poorer countries.
Shelter the Homeless
Volunteer cleaning/maintenance services to a homeless shelter
Help create a beautiful and safe place for those experiencing homelessness by volunteering your time to clean or maintain a shelter.
Support an foster family/adoption fund
Approximately 400,000 children are in the foster care system in the United States and are in need of a stable place to live. If you personally know a foster family, you can support them in caring for the child(ren) entrusted to them, or you might also consider becoming a foster parent yourself.
If you have friends looking to adopt a child, you can help them bring this child home. Offer to host a fundraiser for them, make a donation, and/or share their efforts with your friends and family.
Millions of men, women, and children have fled their homes in recent years because of war and violence. Donate money, supplies, or even your time to support these individuals and families seeking out a new home.
Clothe the Naked
Donate your new/gently used clothing
Do you have any clothes (in good condition, of course) that you no longer want or need? Donate them to a local thrift store that supports the poor. You can also donate your clothes to another organization that can get your clothes right into the hands of those who need them most. If you have a lot of business attire, a local homeless or women’s shelter could give them to people interviewing for jobs. If you have maternity or baby clothes, a crisis pregnancy center can help give them to new mothers.
Host a clothing drive
Organize a clothing drive at your parish, office, or within your community and collect clothes for those in need. Research local organizations that can benefit from these donations.
Make clothing for those in need
Put those sewing/knitting skills to good use by making articles of clothing, blankets, hats, scarves for others. Donate handmade baby blankets and hats to a local pregnancy shelter or winter weather wear to a nearby homeless shelter.
Visit the Sick
Volunteer at a Nursing Home or Hospital
Do you have any special talents you could share with others? Maybe you are musically inclined or love calling Bingo games? See if the hospital or nursing home needs volunteers to bring a little cheer to their patients.
Send flowers or cards
If you know someone who has been struggling with illness, send them a little pick-me-up of flowers or a handwritten card. You can deliver them in person or, if you live far away, can have them sent directly to their home.
Hospitals rely on donations of blood to help patients survive surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Giving blood doesn’t take much time or effort and is a truly life-changing way to reach out to someone fighting illness or injury.
Visit the Imprisoned
Volunteer at a Prison
Prisons, with the help of volunteers, often offer educational and spiritual support to incarcerated people. If you have a skill you can teach, like a trade/vocational skill, resume writing, financial smarts, or if you are interested in leading a Bible Study or retreat, reach out to the closest prison to see how you can get involved.
Write to a prisoner
Many incarcerated people feel immense loneliness during their time in prison. Letter-writing is a safe and easy way to alleviate some of their suffering and to allow them continued communication to the outside world that many will one day rejoin.
Bury the Dead
Attend a wake/funeral of someone you knew
If a family member, friend, or even another member of your parish community passes away during this season, take the time to attend the wake or funeral to remember their life and to pray for their soul.
Help with funeral expenses
Donate to an organization that helps financially with Catholic burial expenses for families unable to afford it. Pray for the soul of the person who will be buried thanks to your financial donation.
Visit the grave of a loved one
Bring flowers or take the time to clean up the area where a loved one is buried.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with PCOS, you’re not alone.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome affects 1 in 10 women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. But even more than that remain undiagnosed.
With this hormonal condition, a woman’s body produces an abnormally large amount of androgens, often called the “male hormone.” It can also affect your body’s ability to react to insulin (often called insulin resistance) and manage your blood sugar, as well as your ability to produce progesterone.
PCOS puts women at risk for developing more serious health problems like infertility, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and uterine cancer.
Diagnosing the Problem
Unfortunately there isn’t one singular test that can diagnose Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is why paying attention to your symptoms and bodily signs is vital to understanding your health.
Many women with PCOS experience symptoms like:
Irregular menstrual cycle
Anovulatory menstrual cycle
Cysts on ovaries
Excess facial and body hair
Acne on the face, chest, and upper back
Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp
Weight gain/ difficulty losing weight
Darkening of the skin and skin tags.
However, you might not experience the traditional symptoms of PCOS even if you have it. Yes, despite what the name suggests, not every woman with PCOS will experience ovarian cysts. ¹
Charting your menstrual cycle can help you gain a more clear understanding of your health on a hormonal level. If you suspect you may have PCOS, talk to your OBGYN or a NaPro physician. They can help diagnose your condition through physical exams, ultrasounds, and blood tests.
Treating PCOS Naturally
Treatment of PCOS depends on your age and your symptoms.
Doctors often prescribe hormonal birth control to treat women with PCOS who are not actively trying to have children; however, this solution fails to get to the root of the problem and in many cases, may even worsen the underlying condition.
Some doctors may prescribe metformin to lower insulin resistance, regulate ovulation, and help with weight loss; however, you can also manage PCOS through lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
Researchers have found that exercise, specifically moderate-intensity exercise, can effectively help women manage PCOS by lowering stress (which worsens symptoms), improving ovulation, and improving insulin resistance.
If you want to help manage your PCOS symptoms, consider the following types of exercises:
Cardio exercises can help manage symptoms of PCOS. It can help you lose weight, lower your risk for diabetes, and decrease anxiety. HIIT workouts in particular can increase insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS.²
Low intensity workouts like walking can be done as often as possible but you should limit moderate and high intensity workouts, that increase stress levels in the body, to 1-2 times a week and for 30 minutes or less for maximum efficiency.
Strength training involving resistance bands, weights, or your own body weight can help women with PCOS in a variety of ways.
Researchers have found that resistance training significantly reduced testosterone levels in women with PCOS. It helps you build muscles and strengthen your bones, improve metabolic health, and maintain a healthy weight.
Studies have shown that women with PCOS have an enhanced bodily response to stress, which can worsen symptoms of PCOS.
When you experience stress, your body produces cortisol which not only helps you deal with stress, but also plays a significant role in blood sugar control, metabolism, and other necessary functions. Chronic stress can cause inflammation, increase insulin resistance, and influence weight gain.
I sat on the cold bathroom floor working up the courage to go downstairs and prepare lunch. The kids’ exclamations told me that an unexpected guest had arrived and I sighed a deep deep sigh. Through no fault of her own, our cherished guest was sitting in the home of a woman who could not function… could not leave the bathroom. “I cannot do this,” I whispered to no one. Grief sat like a refrigerator in my gut. It didn’t fit inside. I couldn’t get it out. It just kept me pinned to the floor, seemingly purposeless and brutally painful.
That complicated day fell during the middle of the 2020 quarantine, which I thought of secretly as “the grieving year.” Wave after violent wave of grief hit our homes, communities, in the nation, around the world. Every day brought another blow. It was my practice to pour out my own sorrow at the feet of Jesus and would find the will to rise again and share His eternal hope with those who would listen. But on this particular day, the grief was paralyzing, and in spite of doing all the right things, I felt I could not rise.
One of my avocations is writing about healing and natural health care, but I know as well as anyone that proper care of the body does not end suffering. Grief comes to all through various means of losses and sorrows, and yet it also opens the door for consolations of our loving Father. It is by His design that, in the midst of grief, there is both spiritual and physical healing to be found in moving the body forward. I knew this intellectually…
And so I blew my nose one more time, wiped my eyes, picked up my internal refrigerator, and opened the door.
Instead of going downstairs, I went to my bedroom and pulled out my tennis shoes. I have no control. I am afraid. I am shattered. But I will not lay down and let this grief suck the hope out of my life. I haven’t run in a decade but I’m going to do it now… because I still can (maybe). I want to feel alive.
I believed it though I didn’t feel it, and I made the decision to act in accordance with that belief and take a step forward.
Science tells us that physical movement causes a chemical reaction in the body which elevates mood, promotes healing, and brings a person to the door of possibility again. The mountain of research includes many technical terms like “neurotransmitters” and “endorphins,” but on that day, I didn’t think about the science…
I’m going to run a mile because I can. Well, maybe I can’t but I’ve got to move. I have to fight. Fight this virus and the injustice. I’m going to run because I am physically capable and will offer it as a prayer for those who cannot, the sick and the isolated, the hopeless, the defeated.
At about the half mile mark, my fight song would turn into a canticle of joy… but I didn’t know that yet. All I knew was that I needed to move. The little crowd that had gathered in my kitchen would have to wait a little longer for lunch. “I’ll be right back,” I said. And out I went, taking the first steps of the first mile of the rest of my life.
I remembered clearly a time (only a couple years earlier) when I was too sick to leave the house and when I wasn’t sure whether my prison of chronic illness would ever let me go. When I was finally able to move forward, I was like a baby learning to crawl. Then like a scared little girl walking down a dark hallway to reach the light. A few months before quarantine, I was able to start serious exercise for the first time in years and spread my wings beyond my home. When public health orders shut down my gym, I refused to sink back to where I had been, and on this day, even when it all felt like it was too much to bear…
I put on old shoes and ran a mile that I wasn’t supposed to be able to run, at a pace that was a little too fast. I felt the fire in my lungs and I cried as I ran. I fought for hope. I fought for life. And I changed…
Thank you, God! For these legs that move and burn with this effort. Thank you for the freedom to move about. For the function of my lungs. For the crowd waiting in my home.
I started out that day almost in despair which turned into a fierce and angry desire to fight something. I returned home with peace, hope, and a renewed understanding that the smallest movements and breaths of my day can become an act of praise, and that my grief does not have to be a festering pool… but can become a deep cry of love.
That experience didn’t turn me into a regular runner–though I do enjoy it seasonally–but it taught me in a concrete way about the gift of movement in a time of trial. It is often the times of deepest sorrow which keep us sedentary, and staying sedentary which can keep us chemically in depression. Exercise cannot bring back our loved ones or restore our losses, but it can help us restore hope, function, and even find the courage to once again approach the throne of Grace.
We don’t have to run like a fool in old tennis shoes (though it did turn out well for me), but perhaps we can start with a little stretching, a little breathing, a little working of the muscles… like a slow unfolding from a long sleep.
God loves us so much that He wrote His plan for our healing into our very cells and body chemistry. Grief is an extremely physical experience. In His benevolence, He has built that reality into our design. He doesn’t ask us to fix ourselves, He only asks us to crawl to the door of possibility where He will take up our burden and lead us in hope.
“So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:20