My first introduction to Body & Soul was at a health fair. It included samples of the various workouts, healthy snacks and other fitness-related stuff like that. It was kind of a big deal, I now know; even the president of Body & Soul was there. My friend Kerri invited me, and to be honest, I really just went to be polite. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted desperately to exercise, but I couldn’t. I did a few moves to some of the songs in the very back of the room, hoping nobody was looking at me. Mostly I watched. There was a raffle, so I entered it. To my surprise, I won. I walked to the front of the room to receive my prize: a T-shirt handed to me from the president herself! I smiled and walked away, secretly wondering if maybe this was a sign that I might be able to do this one day. I left that event happy that I had fulfilled my commitment to my friend and that I had a new shirt.
Kerri was not finished, though. She kept inviting me to come to class. I tried to tell her I would love to come, but…
My history was messy. My body wasn’t strong like hers. I was relatively active as a kid, but those days were gone. My story included things like mild obesity, pregnancy complications, thyroid problems, autoimmune issues, a blood clotting disorder, fatigue, even a mild lupus diagnosis. Most recently, I was trying to manage debilitating pain from a sudden onset of bursitis and piriformis syndrome. My ability to move and walk normally were significantly impaired. I remember sitting on ice and then sitting on heat, and then sitting on ice…day after day. I relied heavily on pain reliever. I went to doctors and PT. My husband took over the grocery shopping. I clearly remember the day we got a wheelchair for me at the zoo because I knew I couldn’t walk for that long.
Kerri, that crazy woman, kept inviting me. Let me just say right here: thank God she didn’t stop inviting me! Thank God. I truly believed it was impossible for me. She didn’t.
I couldn’t even stand up for the entire hour of the first class I attended, let alone do the moves. But I left that evening with a lot of encouragement and a teeny tiny bit of hope.
By the grace of God, and with the guidance of the most loving fitness professionals I have ever met, I kept showing up. I was gratefully “invisible” in the back of the room, yet at the same time part of a welcoming community. I just kept working at my level, doing the best I could do that day, just like everybody else in that room.
One evening after I had been coming for a while, I left class in tears. When I saw my husband, he asked me, “What is it? Is the pain level bad today?”
I could hardly get the words out then, and I have never been able to tell this part of the story without crying, as I am doing now.
“No,” I answered, “I did not know it was possible to feel this good.”
From that moment on, everything changed. Before it, exercise hurt. Everything hurt. Since then, though I still have daily pain down my left leg, it is far, far greater when I don’t exercise regularly. I am in for life! I have climbed giant sand dunes and walked long European streets and so much more since that day in early 2007.
Just this morning, I put on a new Body & Soul shirt. It says, “I love chocolate, squats, and Jesus.” My husband saw it and asked me if I really do love squats (he knows the other two are definitely true ?). There was no hesitation from me. “Oh yes! Yes, I actually do. Out of everything, that exercise is the one that brings the most pain relief!”
Who would’ve ever thought that I would love squats? Not me. Who would’ve thought that I would be able to work out for a whole hour? Not me. Who could’ve possibly imagined that I’d one day become an instructor? Goodness, certainly not me.
Yet here I am, with an entirely different life, because God is surprising and kind, and because my friend wouldn’t give up.
If you know someone like me, don’t give up on her/him! If you are the one like me, allow me to invite you to a Body & Soul class. We have something for every level, whether you are weak, highly fit or somewhere in between. Come, and then the important part… keep coming, and as Kerri taught me: never give up.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Paula Huss is a certified group fitness instructor with Body & Soul Fitness, and also serves as Western Regional Director. She currently leads classes at Mt. Olive Ministries in Milpitas, CA, where her husband, John is Senior Pastor. They have three creative kids: Max, Gina, and Drew as well as two energetic rescue dogs. Paula is passionate about encouraging others to keep moving, eat well and enjoy healthy, renewing rest. She also loves to sing, and listen to crashing waves.