Thursday, April 26, 2012

When no one shows up

My first group of ladies in the Casita after working out
Back by popular demand are my women´s exercise classes. When I first arrived here in Costa Rica I was all obsessed with my exercise classes. That was back in the days of the Casita. I would walk down the hill several days a week in my exercise clothes carrying DVD's of Jillian Michaels and Zumba and a scale to check our progress. I would pop them into the TV that was on top of the fridge in the little 12X15 cement block room that is the Casita and 5 or 6 women and I would shake out groove things to salsa and aerobic music. Those were the days. Then the flood happened. The Casita was turned into a temporary storage place for the stuff of misplaced families. But by that time we were renting the Casa Nueva, where we have church. The TV was brought up there. Classes resumed, but in a smaller room that got hot quickly. Then the DVD player broke. Bummer. I started hauling the projector and bass amp and laptop computer and cables and wires down from the house to have our classes outside. And then the rainy season started. At that time the Casa Nueva had no roof out back. Attendance was low. So low, in fact, there would be times where there was just, well, me. Alone. With a projector and a bass amp and a laptop computer and cables and wires trying to dance, well, alone. Dodging rain drops. It was such a pain to carry all the equipment down and then have no one show up that I got discouraged. So I cancelled exercise classes. Every once in a while some one would ask me about them and I would often reply that they were cancelled due to poor attendance and lack of commitment.

Lorena, just hanging out in the store with the ladies
Fast forward too many months to even want to count. The women still gather multiple times a week. And still in the Casita. Only now it's a thrift store and they only gather to chat and waste time. One day I was in there, too. Chatting and wasting time right alongside them. When one of the ladies started complaining about her weight. Several others chimed in. And Adriana started reminiscing about the days when the Casita was just the Casita where we did exercise, and she lost weight and how skinny she was back then. She turned to me and asked when we were going to have exercise classes again. Hmmm...Good point. I, too, had missed our classes. I LOVED going to the gym and attending aerobics and zumba classes when I was in the states. I LOVED encouraging the women here in Costa Rica to get fit and feel better about themselves. There's something so satisfying about all those endorphins happily jumping in your brain as you jump around the dance floor making an idiot of yourself with a group of ladies who are also making idiots of themselves and no one cares because you all feel happy from the jumping endorphins.

So two weeks ago classes resumed. In talking to Rodney about the pain it is to haul the projector and a bass amp and a laptop computer and cables and wires back and forth between our house and the Casa Nueva to use work out DVD's, he suggested that why don't I just teach the class from what I already know. Genius! Why not give it a try?? iPods fit into pockets so much easier than projectors and laptops and cables and wires do (the bass amp stays at the church).

The first 2 weeks of classes were awesome. Attendance was steady. Their determination to work out, get fit, and lose weight was strong. The Mechanic Falls team came and also helped teach the classes. They even brought yoga mats to make floor exercises easier. The Saturday they were here Kim and Monique helped teach the women about healthy nutrition, diet, and exercise as well as the importance of good dental hygiene as part of the women's breakfast. The women were incredibly interested and everyone had lots of questions. I have found it to be a universal phenomenon for women to want to lose weight. Every country has its own myths, norms, and practices, as well, when it comes to losing weight, diet, nutrition, and exercise. The Ticos here in Los Anonos are not excluded. I gained credibility with the ladies as I showed them a picture of myself from over 9 years ago when I weighed almost 100 pounds more than I do today. They were shocked and could hardly recognize me. That was the start of my weight loss journey where I made lifestyle changes to become the person I am today. I told them that I understand the struggle that it is to lose weight and to want to be healthy. They showed renewed interest in losing weight and attending exercise classes now that they could relate to my journey.

What a difference 10 years makes...2002 to 2012!!
This week started out strong, too. I had several women come on Tuesday. At the end of each class we talk about when we're going to have the next class. Several women work in the mornings or care for children, so it's touch and go. I asked the ladies if I had classes the next day would they come? Yes. For sure. Two said they would definitely come. I asked again. Are you sure you'll come tomorrow? If you want a class I will be here. Yes. Definitely. They wanted a class on Wednesday. Wednesday woke up on the right side of the universe. It was sunny and warm, not too hot, not a cloud in the sky. I got ready in the morning, excited to start out my day on the right foot, too. I prepared a new playlist on my iPod for working out. Nothing like a little Avalon remix and some old school World Wide Message Tribe to get you ready to rock out. I got set up in the backyard of the Casa Nueva and started warming up. Five minutes went by. Not unusual for the ladies to be late. They are on Tico time, after all. Ten minutes went by. Slightly unusual, they're normally fairly punctual to my classes. Fifteen minutes went by. Still no one. And the music had changed to a rapid beat, for doing step aerobic. Time out. What do I do? The old me would have been frustrated (see previous blog on the things that I'm still not used to but don't bother me as much any more about Costa Rica). I probably would have just packed it up and went home. Maybe even been a bit offended that my time and efforts didn't matter enough to them to even send me a text message saying they weren't going to be able to come. I mean, who wants to do step aerobics alone? In the back yard of an empty church? But then again, why am I even exercising? Am I exercising and getting fit for the ladies of Los Anonos or for myself? For my own health and betterment of my own body or for other people?  Was exercise going to be part of my lifestyle or just something I talk about doing? If there is anything I have learned over the last 9 years it is that I need to make wise choices and decisions for the health and nutrition of MY body, so I never go back to my old self. I have decided to make living healthy a lifestyle and not a fad, even when no one else is around. So instead of letting myself become discouraged and giving up, I pushed through and did the full work out by myself.

As I was thinking about this in physical terms, of course the Lord brought to mind this whole concept in spiritual terms as well. When we live in the world, we are spiritually heavy. Fat. Lazy. However you want to call it or imagine it. When we accept the Lord into our hearts, we are a new creation. Healthy. We go through a process of transformation as we exercise our new found faith. Pretty soon we become spiritually fit, by reading the word, praying, and using our faith to help and love on others. We become light in the freedom that Christ has given us. But it is also a lifestyle change. We cannot go back to the laziness of our lifestyle in the world, where we are only pleasing ourselves, eating whatever junk we want from the world. Our diet changes to a healthy appetite of the Word of God.

When we do become spiritually fit, some times others see our fitness and what to be fit, too. Bible studies form. Prayer groups. Ministries. However, just like in exercise and diet, some times we crave the things of our old life. We like to be lazy. We like to eat whatever we want. We don't always like to exercise. But we remember what it's like to be fit and light. So we start exercising our faith again.

Are we willing to exercise our faith even when no one else shows up to exercise their faith with us? Are we willing to make a complete lifestyle change knowing that others may or may not follow us in our endeavors because we know it's right for the health and nutrition of our spiritual body? Are we willing to encourage each other that when we no-show one day and "fall off the band wagon"? Will we become discouraged when no one else seems to take spiritual health as seriously as we do? Will we still read the Word even when no one shows up for Bible study? Will we still pray if no one shows up to the prayer meeting? Are you willing to work out your spiritual body even when others think you're crazy or you're not "seeing results" in your life? You can do it. It can be a lifestyle and not just a fad. You can do it.

"For physical training is of some value, 
but godliness has value for all things, 
 holding promise for both the present life 
and the life to come." 
~1 Timothy 4:7-9

 Adriana and her daughter, Keylin, both get a good morning work out in. Adriana shows off her Combate moves (a Costa Rican TV show like American Gladiator) while Keylin stretches.

Good 'ole calisthenics. Nothing like a few jumping jacks to get your heart rate up.

...Oh, and by the way, just for the record...they all showed up to work out this morning :)

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