Each Saturday morning Veronica Cogwin and Lisa Green lace up their tennis shoes and sneak out of their homes while the rest of the world sleeps. They get up before dawn and join a group of fellow women with two goals in mind: We will exercise our bodies—and our souls.
“During our walks, we pray the Rosary,” says Cogwin, a mom of four young children. “Our motto is ‘strengthen your body, strengthen your soul.”
It’s multitasking at its finest.
“Aren’t all busy moms motivated when they can accomplish two things at the same time?” jokes Green, who has three kids, ages seven, five, and four. “Seriously, incorporating our prayer life into our workout routine has helped to motivate us tremendously because we are able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit uniting our bodies and our souls. And we’re pretty sure the Holy Spirit likes it when we take care of his temple.”
Green and Cogwin live in the Columbus, Ohio, area and have dubbed their walking-praying group “Mamas Movin’ With Mary.” They started hitting the pavement together in 2009 along with another friend in order to train for walking a half-marathon. They haven’t stopped moving since.
Consistency is a hallmark of the group.
“Our weekly mileage varies, depending on the time of year and whether we’re training for a half- or quarter-marathon. Typically, we meet up for an early morning walk on Saturdays—around 6:30 or 7:30 a.m. With an earlier start, we still have plenty of time to spend with our families on the weekend,” says Cogwin.
Walking with other women also makes it less likely they will skip their weekend workout. “Accountability is key when starting a workout routine, which is why we try to do it together,” Cogwin says. “If it’s cold and dark outside when the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., it’s much harder to turn it off and roll over when we know someone else will be waiting to meet us for a walk.”
Cogwin jokingly blames her dedication on Catholic guilt, but the truth is that both she and Green have made true friends while fortifying their bodies and spiritual lives.
Thinking of creating your own walking (or running group, if you’re feeling overly ambitious)? Here’s how to get started:
1. Begin networking. As mentioned, working out with others boosts accountability, but maybe you’re new to your area or just don’t think you have any friends who are interested in breaking a sweat. Word of mouth can be the best way to get a group started, so tell your friends, fellow parishioners, or neighbors that you’re looking to form a walking group.
If you want to add the spiritual component, consider including a blurb in your parish bulletin. “There’s a group in Georgia that’s has gotten started by affiliating themselves with a sub-ministry of their pro-life group. They are getting the word out about their walking/running group by putting a message in the bulletin,” says Cogwin.
You can also search sites like Meetup.com to search for people looking for fitness buddies. LifeRunners.org is another wonderful resource. The organization provides training plans and unites team members to train for races, raise money for pro-life causes, and pray for an end to abortion.
2. Get creative. “Be flexible in setting times to meet. Be creative in establishing workout plans,” says Green.
If some moms can’t find babysitters, consider trading off. “This summer we tried to meet up at a local playground with our kids,” says Cogwin. “Two of us would walk and pray while two mamas stayed back to watch the kids. Then we switched.”
Also, Mamas Movin’ With Mary sometimes brings the kids along for the ride—and the praying—for weekday workouts. “During the week when we have conflicting schedules, we try to load up our kids in jogging strollers and on bikes and hit the pavement. Granted, we may not finish all five decades of the Rosary, but even one seems like an accomplishment, and it’s sweet to hear, ‘Mama, who are we praying this decade for?’ Our Blessed Mother has got to be smiling at us,” Cogwin says.
3. Set goals. If you’re new to exercise, moving your body and just getting out there may be the best motivation, but as your fitness level increases, it might be helpful to have a goal in place. Like Green and Cogwin, you could train for a half-marathon or start with a 5K or 10K. Training plans are easy to find, thanks to the Web. In fact, Cogwin and Green’s website, MamasMovinWithMary.com, includes links to training plans. (While you’re there, be sure to check out their moisture-wicking workout clothes sporting phrases like “Hail Marys aren’t just for football.”)
4. Stop worrying and start walking. If you’re too hung up on the details or whether you’ll be able to find time to walk during the week (or even once a week!), it’s not going to happen. The best way to get started is to do just that—get started! “I think it’s been said before, but just do it!” says Green.
“It’s sometimes difficult to start a workout routine, but we all know that once we get going we feel better and our bodies get stronger,” says Cogwin. “Working out also generates more energy, and as moms with kids ranging in age from eight months to nine years, we’ll take any energy boost we can get. By taking care of ourselves, we’re then better able to take care of our families.”
The importance of taking care of yourself is important no matter what your age—whether you’re a parent or not. Take care of your temple. Nourish your soul with prayer, and you’ll be better able to bear Christ to the world and serve all those you encounter. “I saw a beautiful image of Blessed John Paul II walking in his garden while praying his Rosary,” Cogwin says. “He was on to something.”
- LifeRunners.org: Pray, fundraise, and run as a team—All In Christ for Pro-Life! The teams provide walk-run options, so don’t be intimidated if you’re new to fitness.
- MamasMovinWithMary.com: Offers training resources, Catholic workout apparel, and support for women wanting to get started with a prayerful fitness group.
- MapMyRun.com: Whether you’re a walking or a runner, the website and free smartphone app allow you to plan your routes, track your mileage, and even connect with fellow fitness enthusiasts. Cogwin uses MapMyRun.com to plan her group’s walks.
- RosaryWorkout.com: The website for a book of the same name, this offers a unique program that combines praying the Rosary with modern exercise science.
Step it up
Don’t have the time or perhaps the support network to start a regular walking routine? Here are five ways to take more steps every day.
1. Convert downtime to walking time. During your daughter’s soccer practice, walk around the field instead of playing Fruit Ninja on your iPhone.
2.Take an extra lap around the mall or even the grocery store before you start shopping. Perk: You’ll get to scope out the best deals before you start filling your bags.
3. Plan an active getaway. The next time you’re ready to vacation, consider a hiking trip in the mountains. If the beach is more your style, take daily walks, searching the sands for treasures.
4. Eliminate one motorized trip—car, bus, or subway—every week and walk instead. If this is impossible in your suburbian world, then park in the back of parking lots or take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
5. Only watch TV when walking. Even if you don’t have a gym membership or can’t afford a used or new treadmill, make a promise to walk or jog in place while catching up on your favorite shows. If you’re not walking, then the TV shouldn’t be talking.