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Sis, Take a Breath!

Ever think about how much you REALLY need to breathe? Kirsten Watson, the wife of a former NFL player, shares her discoveries after baby #5.


Sis, Take a Breath!

By Kirsten Watson

I’d finally made it back to the gym after baby number five. With all respect to all my sisters with ripped abs, I just don’t enjoy working out. My favorite part of a workout is when I’m done. That salty pine smell and the clanging of metal weights invigorates some people, but me? The sight and smell of it at 5 a.m. had me wanting to crawl back in bed.

But Baby Eden was finally sleeping through the night and getting out of the house felt like a small escape. Maybe at the gym I could actually get something done. Maybe I’d sweat a little, log some miles, focus for a bit. Because in my day-to-day, with all the mouths to feed, diapers to change, laundry to wash, and schoolwork to oversee, I felt like my wheels were constantly spinning. That morning I wanted a win.

We’d recently moved to Baltimore for Benjamin to play with the Ravens. We still didn’t know many people, so I’d gone online to find a gym and eventually booked time with a trainer. When I walked in, she greeted me with a smile and an outstretched hand. She was a tiny thing who appeared really strong—a look I was going for. This was starting off in the right direction.

My research had revealed that she had a PhD, so I figured she knew what I needed to do to get the baby weight off. The way she moved told me she was probably a dancer. I wondered if we’d be a good match.

After some weights and cardio, we finished the workout and she asked if I’d be open to incorporating some Pilates into our regimen. I was hesitant. I’d tried Pilates before and didn’t like it—or maybe it didn’t like me. So, I asked why she thought this would be beneficial.

“Your core is weak,” she told me. “Although you can do the movements, you’re using the wrong muscles, and you aren’t using your breath correctly.”

Wait. What? Did I need to remind this PhD who I was?

She wasn’t looking at a first-timer. I’d played high school and college athletics, I’d pushed out five babies, and I’d worked out my entire adult life. And did I mention I’d pushed out five babies?

My trainer pointed out that a good rule of thumb is that the body should exhale during exertion. “For example,” she said, “on a pull-up, exhale while pulling the body toward the bar, then inhale on the way back down. Repeat.”

Duh, I thought, I knew that . . .

As I held back an eye roll, I managed to laugh. “My breathing might be a little off, but I’m still here!” I said. “I must have been doing something right for the past thirty-six years, right?”

The truth was, I was insulted. I knew my body was a temple. I took good care of myself. And being married to a pro athlete, I’d spent countless hours preparing well-balanced, nutritious meals. As a mom, I cared for the health of my kids. And on top of that, there I was in the gym, with a weeks-old infant, putting forth my best effort. Didn’t she know who she was dealing with?

I’m so glad I held my tongue. Breath, I nearly said, is super basic. I’ve watched all my babies take their first breath. It’s miraculous, sure, but it happens naturally, with no lessons. Nobody has to be taught how to breathe.

But then I started to wonder. Maybe she had a point. Exertion requires energy, and a deep hit of oxygen is probably needed most right after exertion. As a mom of a newborn, I thought it sounded pretty good to replenish my energy. By the end of that first grueling session with my trainer, I realized she was 100 percent right. Breathing might come naturally. But it isn’t as simple as I’d thought.

Back home, I started to notice my breathing throughout the day. I’d catch myself taking short breaths. Why was that? Short, shallow breaths might keep me alive, but they weren’t sufficient for giving me the energy I needed. My body required real, deep breaths.

Sometimes I’d even notice I was holding my breath, especially in times of stress, like when my toddler bumped into something. I’d hold my breath, waiting to see whether he’d cry or carry on. Or when Benjamin got hit on the field. Or when I realized we’d be moving—again.

I was breathing. But I was depriving myself.

What my trainer had said was true, and until I accepted this truth, I’d be stuck.

I started repeating it throughout the day: Exhale during the hard part; inhale to renew. I said it when I was driving in traffic. When my kids argued. When my plans were interrupted.

That focus calmed me, restored me. It was nothing short of a breakthrough. As it turns out, breath is literally the stuff of life. And I’d been neglecting mine.

Remember how God formed the first human being in the book of Genesis?

The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Did you catch that? God breathed life into Adam.

That same spirit—literally God’s own breath—animates our lives. Without breath, we are just bags of bones and dust. Literally.

But something else happens in the next chapter of Genesis. Lies enter the world. Specifically, lies about God spoken by the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

Truth is a lot like breath. Jesus called himself “truth” in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And when we read the Gospels, we find Jesus speaking the truth over and over again. Even when it was inconvenient. Even when it was unpopular. Even when it cost him greatly. Even when the cost of speaking truth was His own life.

In Jesus, there is no deceit. We might be deceived, but He never is. I want to be open to hearing and receiving the truth. I almost shut out the trainer when she was trying to share reality with me. I’m so glad I let it in. Our need for truth is as deep as our need for oxygen.

Kirsten Watson is a mom of seven and the wife of author and retired NFL player Benjamin Watson. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a marketing and Spanish degree, Kirsten worked for a Fortune 500 company and then in the nonprofit sector, aspiring to one day run her own company. Now she’s the CEO of a family of nine and the executive editor of MomLife Today. With Benjamin, she founded the One More foundation, and together they cohost Why or Why Not with the Watsons.


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