When You Try

I tried a new workout yesterday. I’m feeling it today. My triceps hurt. My calves are super tight. My right shoulder reminds me it’s still there. And oh, my back! I feel much closer to 75 years old today than I did before.

The instructor in the video, a tall, shapely woman in her late 20s, encouraged me to push.

“Change comes when you get uncomfortable,” she said right at me, looking into the camera lens.

I get it, lady. I really do.

I think God designed us this way. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In my mind, the only way to get different results is to do it correctly for the first time, like running for 30 minutes without stopping, or playing that run note for note in what we like to call the right way.

flute music

There’s a big difference between practicing something to try to improve, and doing the same thing over and over again to check a box or fulfill a requirement. Some things demand more time and thought in order to improve. Some tasks just need to get done, like taking out the trash or paying a bill. I’m talking about learning a new skill. Learning something new requires effort and time. It takes perseverance, which like a muscle it needs to be built up. It means we focus every time we attempt. We learn as we go and we probably learn more when we mess up. It’s humbling and time consuming. But oh so worth it.

I had to remind myself yesterday, as I tried to flip a down dog position, that it’s okay to get uncomfortable. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s all right to fall down and fail as we try new things.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

You know what? That workout I did yesterday helped my right hip. I hurt it in 2012 and have tried myriad stretches to ease it back into place. It feels pretty good right now. In fact, I ran almost pain-free today. That, friends, is worth getting uncomfortable for. I’m going to do that workout again tomorrow. It can only get better from here.

 

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End of an Era

kettlebell child's pose.jpg

(source)

Last night, our kettlebells instructor, Helga to you, taught her last class.

“Hi everyone. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and I’m quitting.”

She set her bag down and explained. She told us about the near-constant searing pain in her shoulder. She’s battled it off and on for the last 2 years. She’s had massages, chiropractor treatments and cortisone shots. She’s had X-rays, too. Nothing seems to totally get rid of it, save possibly complete rest. She got a full-time job a few months back. Making it in to teach night class has become increasingly difficult as well.  She’s taught for 6 years.

While out on a run this morning, I thought back over the classes I attended. I remembered learning how to swing correctly. Trust me, that took more than a year. Morning classes I didn’t bother to put on makeup, except for maybe lipgloss or lipstick.  After breakfast and coffee, I threw on clean workout clothes and drove up the hill to the gym. Over time, I acquired callouses. They peeled. Sometimes they bled. I got bruises on my forearms and sometimes my legs, if I knocked myself with a bell. I took on larger weights as I mastered an exercise. Sweat ran into my eyes. We did innumerable jump squats, reaching for the sky like frogs on steroids. I found muscles I didn’t know I had. We passed large balls from outstretched legs to outstretched arms, like a band of Cirque du Soleil rejects. All of this set to the lilting background music of Ozzie, AC/DC and Guns N Roses.

And I loved every minute of it.

For now, us merry few who are regulars will take turns teaching the class. But it won’t be the same. Each of us came face to face with the limits of our inner resilience under her instruction. We pushed past them and found new levels to play on.

“You know,” Helga said to me with a smile as we stretched out at the close of class, “you guys are the reason I kept coming back.”

She’s the reason we kept coming back. She made us feel like we could take on the world. Thanks for everything. So long, sensei.

 

 

 

 

 

Seventeen Days

seventeen magazine(source)

Nothing to do with the magazine.

I’m seventeen days into the running streak. I’ve got 19 days to go. Almost halfway. Truth be told, I’d like to continue it while on our vacation. The vacation goes from June 30 to July 15. I think it would help me be nice (ha!) while far away from home, familiar and control of circumstances.

I did not want to get up today. My body pleaded, “You don’t need to run. Sleeping is good. We did kettlebells last night. Remember? We did the card workout. Our legs already hurt. We’re middle-aged, after all. And let’s not even talk about our back…”

But,  I remembered this: I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:27.

I got up. I turned off the “I can’ts”. Just one mile, I coaxed myself. Start there and see what happens. I ran three very ugly miles. Box checked. Yes, I still think checked boxes are sexy. Don’t hate me.

Discipline gets a bad rap. Every action, friends, starts in the mind. The Bible has lots to say about the battlefield of the mind. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (taking thoughts captive), Romans 12:2 (renewing our minds), and one of my personal favorites, Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

It’s taken me awhile to realize the correlation between thoughts and actions. Okay, it’s all over the Bible, and in the news daily, but I didn’t want to believe it. I don’t think I wanted to be held responsible for the way my thoughts repurposed themselves as deeds. I tried to dodge that particular, ahem, discipline. I mean, I’m an American, right? Don’t fence me in. I love my freedom of speech, religion, right to assemble peaceably. Let’s not forget the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those few tenets form the backbone of the gospel of the U.S. of A, I find.

No one else can reign in my thoughts. That’s my job. One of the great benefits of us as free will creatures is the amazing complexity and beauty of our thoughts. As humans, we carry within us the God-given ability to dream and create amazing things. Yet with all the darling schemes we conjure up, some still prove to be stinkers. Let’s yank the ugly thoughts out. They will only yield pain and disappointment to us and those around us. Let’s cultivate a discipline of good thoughts. They will yield a crop of encouraging words, healthy actions and a fruitful life.

 

 

 

Kettlebell Evangelist

kettlebellsLast week, I attended my first kettlebells class in, oh, 10 months or more.

The class itself incorporated exercise balls, passing the ball back and forth between feet and hands while lying on our backs. Ouch. Oh, and I can’t forget get-ups, five on each side. I wobbled on weak legs for the last one.

One of the class regulars said, “This is all your fault, Susan. We haven’t worked out like this in months.”

I had to grin. I knew it to be true as sweat dripped off me. I was sore for several days afterwards. Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games…

Going back to work in 2015 put the kibosh on morning classes. They got cancelled, anyway, due to low attendance. Night classes, right after work, tugged at my heart. I wanted to spend that time with my family. It seemed indulgent, driving up to the gym instead of going right home after the 8-hour slog.

But now, something’s changed. Things have settled down at home. And I need more fun in my life. You might argue sweating to 80s metal rock while swinging a heavy cast iron cannonball with handles sounds more like a torture technique. Well, yes, there’s an element of that. Yet pushing to the outer limits of my strength and stamina brings a great rush of joy. You could claim endorphins. Sure. I don’t deny that. Endorphins keep us coming back for more.

I think it’s more, though.  For me, chasing excellence in any form fuels my spirit. I don’t ever want to settle for good enough. I’d like to see what else I can do. I want to feel my best every day, strong and happy. That said, I’ll never be the skinniest girl. I like food. Probably won’t be the fastest or strongest, either. But I can be the best me, with energy and joy enough to go around. So call me a kettlebell evangelist. Moving your body can change your mindset. Come one, come all, to the house of sweat and pain. You’ll uncover a better attitude as you transform your body.

Hurts So Good

arnold & slyHappy Friday, everyone!

There’s a principle in body building that gets a lot of press.  You have to work the muscle, essentially tear it down from the inside, in order to strengthen it.  Your body was designed with amazing self-healing powers.  The workout that kills you actually does make you stronger.  Because you won’t die for real. Not today.  But you might ache all over.  Sitting could prove challenging; standing up makes you yelp out loud. Wearing your purse on your shoulder – either shoulder – causes you to rethink why you carry a purse at all.  And really, ladies, why *do* we? Sigh.

From bodybuilding.comResearch has shown that in order to increase muscle mass, stress must be put on the body, leading to increased hormone release, and increased flow of nutrients into the muscle, and with rest, muscles will grow.

So, the great thing about all of this is that as you continue to push yourself, you gain physical strength. You increase stamina as you run longer distances.  Your body acquires efficiency in utilizing oxygen. The heart reaps fabulous benefits from aerobic stress.  See, the human machine learns as it goes. It adapts to what we teach it.  It’s interdisciplinary at the cellular level.  Yet it’s little by little.  You don’t wake up one day and run a marathon.  Unless you’re Dean Karnazes. Just trust me, you’re not.

As I look at this minor running setback, I’m reminded that the potential for greater wholeness often comes out of breaking. It applies in the spiritual world as well.  God can make something new out of our brokenness. In fact, God shapes us all the time:  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand – Isaiah 64:8. We learn as we go.  Sometimes, our entire paradigm changes. Hopefully, we gain wisdom and greater faith, line upon line, truth upon truth. In the vernacular, we “work smarter, not harder” due to knowledge gleaned from painful experience. I look forward to the good things the Lord will bring out of this season.

Tearing Up

Totally stole this from thedancingrunner.  Hope she doesn’t mind.

I wasn’t going to blog today.  But something happened that made me reconsider.

Two days ago when I ran, I felt my left calf seize up.  Nothing too serious.  I walked a little and finished my route.  I’d been doing fartleks (don’t laugh) and I figured I strained it somehow.  I rested it yesterday by *not* running.  I got out today for a short romp around the ‘hood.  About a block from the post office, I heard a pop.

My calf popped.  And not like this

It scared me.  It hurt a bit, but not super bad.  I walked home – as briskly as I could – and checked out the hive of information online.  “If your calf muscle pops, go to the emergency room immediately.”  Umm.  How about I just get ready for work and take some ibuprofen?  Thanks, WebMD.  I’ll make a doctor’s appointment for later in the day and call it good. It hurt, yet I could still walk on it.  Stairs caused more pain than flat surfaces.

I went to work, doing work-y stuff and later drove to the clinic in the afternoon.  I found out my old primary care physician had retired.  It had been a long time since I paid him a visit.  The new doctor, who may or may not be my primary, was Russian with a last name I could not pronounce.  A professional, elegant woman of indeterminate age, she asked me what brought me in to see her. Let’s call her Dr. D. Her straight brown hair fell in an angled bob around her high cheekbones. Dr. D is a striking woman. However, after telling the nurse and filling out the paperwork, I resisted the urge to open my bag of sarcasm.  I mean, if you have a medical degree, you did read somewhere along the way, right?!

Anyway.

I told her about hurting my calf and the pop in the morning.

“Stand up and turn around,” she instructed.

I did as I was told.

She felt up my right leg, checking the muscles.

“Everything seems to be in place,” she said.

She moved to the left leg. She probed the muscles, checking for hot spots.

“Stand up on your tip toes.  Okay.  Lean back on your heels.”

I could do both without screaming and only minimal pain.

“Okay.  Turn around and sit down.”

At this point, it felt like a game of Simon Says.  But I did it anyway.

She settled back on her rolling stool.  Her pale blue eyes looked into mine.

“It looks like you have a micro tear in the calf muscle.  We won’t know anything more unless you get an MRI, which can help us see the muscle.  An X-ray only looks at bones.  Your bones are fine,” she said.

Right.

“Here’s a sheet with some mild stretches you can do to help it heal.  It will heal on its own, given time,” she smiled at me. She told me I caught it early and praised me for not exacerbating it by pushing through.

Dr. D handed me a prescription for a drug I’ve never heard of but only need to take once a day.  And…no running for two weeks.  Two weeks!  That’s 14 days.  Ugh.

At least I’m not doing Juneathon.

I hate that I’m back on the injured list.  At least this time, I can still walk.  I’ve got kettlebells.  I will work on other things in the meantime.  I might even bust out the ice, something I’m prone to dislike. I’ll add in some much-needed stretching. Heck, I could even try something new since running and I will be reduced to nodding acquaintances for a while.

I’m addicted to running.  I admit it.  But let this be a lesson to you, boys and girls.  Listen to your body.  Especially if it sounds like an old breakfast cereal.

Five Miles After Breakfast

I planned to wake up early.  I really did.  But then…sleep.  It overtook me, like a massive rogue wave.  I slumbered until after 6:00.  Good times.

So after breakfast, I drove through the rain up to the gym. I need to work out some new running routes because the old ones make me crazy bored. I found my favorite treadmill open and all the others filled.  Huzzah!

As I mounted the machine, the older man on the neighboring treadmill greeted me. He walked along at a good clip with a hefty incline to boot.

“I see you come out of the back room sometimes,” he said. I could tell by the look on his face he wondered if I was part of some secret society. He was curious. Some gym goers never venture past the front room, I guess.

“Oh, I go to kettlebells class,” I said, chuckling. “It’s pretty hardcore.”

He nodded.

“That’s why I walk here.” He gestured to the treadmill.  “I can control my own destiny.”

We shared a laugh. But those of us in the know realize nobody controls their own destiny, despite a glut of inspirational movies and whatever your horoscope might say.

We chatted a bit more.  I mentioned the article pinned on the bulletin board, the one sporting his photo.

He grimaced.  “I only lost about 10 lbs for that article.  I’ve lost about 10 more since then,” he said, not a little proudly.

“The last article featured a gal who’d lost over 100 lbs.  I didn’t even want to be interviewed,” he said, shaking his head.

He didn’t feel his accomplishment merited celebrating.  I didn’t comment on his thought, but I pondered it as the miles rolled by.  Why do we downplay our successes?  Maybe our awards don’t stack up to the Nobel Peace Prize, but they do matter.  I thought about all the folks I know who’d just like to lose a few pounds, 10-20 or so. To me, this man I’ll call Joe, would be inspirational. He started walking on a regular basis, cut down on his caloric intake, and got fit. His bouts of depression became a memory.

“Since that article came out, I also toned up a bit, too,” he informed me.

I glanced over at his slender frame. Weight-bearing exercises provide great benefits for all of us, since we lose muscle mass as we age.  I silently applauded his foresight. Exercise is like money in the health bank, I think. Why not invest in yourself whenever you can?

We talked off and on as I finished up my five miles and he his timed workout. It was nice to have someone to talk to, even if only for a little while.  He encouraged me.  I only hope I did the same for him.