"Some of my siblings and I were with her when she took her final breath. She was only 62. I am only 38. This wasn’t supposed to happen, but yet it did, and here I am trying to navigate my new reality, a life without her."
Today is September 7th. The last time I exercised was July 25th. Six weeks ago, I was participating in a cycling challenge that involved riding ten miles per day for ten consecutive days. On the seventh day of that challenge, I received some devastating and heartbreaking news. I was informed that the cancer my mom had been battling had suddenly become more aggressive and was spreading rapidly. I didn’t complete my ride that day. I never finished the challenge. My mom died eight days later. Some of my siblings and I were with her when she took her final breath. She was only 62. I am only 38. This wasn't supposed to happen, but it did, and now I am trying to navigate my new reality, a life without her.
Like many mothers, she was my best cheerleader and greatest fan. I began experiencing and enjoying athletics when I was four years old. I participated in soccer, t-ball, swimming, running, tennis and basketball. My mom took me to hundreds of practices, events and games. She always made sure I had the gear I needed, that my uniforms were clean and that I had something to eat to replace the many calories I burned through. As I grew up, she was my number one support, without a doubt. That support wasn’t limited to only my childhood and youth. She continued providing it years later when I began taking part in triathlon and running events. She would find ways to encourage and cheer for me from over a thousand miles away.
The same year that I began pursuing those athletic interests as an adult was the same year my mom found out that she had an extremely rare type of cancer. In November of 2017, my mom was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma that was proliferating in her upper right arm. Since that time of diagnosis and as she struggled with her physical health, I recall her making occasional comments about my “strong body” and how she wanted me to take care of it. I believe she would still want that for me. Even though I know she’s right about the importance of taking care of my body and also knowing that she would want me to continue enjoying athletics, I find myself struggling with how and when to put fitness back into my life. For the past two years, I have been going back and forth between exercise feeling important and it feeling nothing more than trivial. Because I am actively grieving and feel that I need help with that process, I recently searched for and found some ideas that I liked from Dr. Kelly Morrow-Baez about using exercise to assist in healing grief. Grief is something we all experience, and I thought that sharing this information could perhaps be beneficial to someone else. Listed below are Dr. Morrow-Baez’s tips to begin healing grief with exercise.
1. “Consistency is better than intensity. An easy 10 minutes that you do daily will have more physical and emotional benefits than an occasional high-intensity sweat session. Your body is designed to do random, intense exercise — but only in a crisis. Part of the crisis response is to release the stress hormone cortisol, which defeats the purpose of any self-care activity.”
2. “Choose something you can do anywhere. While the gym has great machines, it’s not necessary and definitely not useful if the effort to get there feels Herculean. Simplify by choosing exercise you can do from home with minimal equipment.”
3. “While yoga has tremendous restorative benefits, I recommend including cardio activities like walking, running, biking, and swimming to get the best effect while you’re grieving.”
4. “Respect your energy levels: there will be days when you’re filled with energy and days that your energy is zapped. This is normal, especially when you’re grieving. Take each day as it comes and don’t “should” on yourself.”
Morrow-Baez, K 2017, Healing Grief With Exercise, Thrive Global, accessed 7 September 2019,
< https://medium.com/thrive-global/healing-grief-with-exercise-f4e01c926fe7 >
Written By: Mandy Goodwill, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Mandy on Facebook @mandy.hitchcockgoodwill
How do you stay motivated while grieving? Let us know in the comments below!
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