Friday, December 31, 2010

Running Shoes & Peak Performance

The flip in the calendar is like the passing of birthdays: cause for lots of celebration but not really a mark of change. We'll all wake up tomorrow in much the same state that we spent today, maybe a bit bloated or hung-over depending on your celebration style, but life continues on. As melancholy as this may seem, I'm not feeling that way this morning. I'm in a more reflective mood, and that is one definite perk to these time-passage-markers: it provides a culturally approved moment to take stock, set goals, all that jazz.

I was doing just that this morning. Looking over the goals from 2010, I realized I basically forgot about half of them by March, had success on one of them (hurray debt snowball) and and still battling away with the first (weight/food/body image issues). As I thought more holistically about the year, I saw two distinct analogies emerge, both from the land of health and exercise.

The Shoes & The Shoulder
I have been consistently active for the last decade of my life. After discovering my own athleticism after college, I've gone through seasons of marathon training, kickboxing, racquetball, weight-lifting, Zumba, and have loved it. During the season of marathon training (2007, I think that was), I learned the importance of good shoes, a lesson I thought it would be easy to consistently apply as I kept on with my athletic endeavors.

About 18 months ago, I began to notice that, as I walked down the hallway at the Y, my right shoe would squeak. Being from Fun Country, I would sometimes step harder to make it squeak louder or harmonize with the squeak or attempt to sing a song in time with the squeak. But not once did I stop to assess what was causing the squeak. I just kept on Zumba-ing and weight-lifting and elliptical training.

Then, about a year ago, I started not enjoying my workout classes as much because my right hip would ache afterwards. I chalked it up to all the crazy hip-swiveling required by the choreography, so I gradually stopped attending those classes. I was still doing other workouts (right shoe still squeaking, mind you) but I couldn't do what I really loved. Then, on Easter Weekend, I rolled my ankle HARD during class. There I am, flat on my ass, instruction stopped and I'm just barely not crying. I hobbled out of there, called for reinforcements, and spent the weekend with my right foot propped in the air. With aerobics out of the picture, I took about 2.5 weeks and then was back to walking every day (a major backward step in my book) and lifting weights at home. Then, one week later, I rolled it again.

Two weeks later, I ripped a shoulder muscle while wrestling with Sadie and Mason. (That was the middle of May.) Now I'm really out. I cancelled my Y subscription and try to slowly recuperate on my own, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I had no idea how to do that. After a month of pain, started physical therapy at Peak Performance. I didn't want to be squeaking in a doctor's office, so I went and bought new shoes. While trying shoes on, I thought, "I wonder what was causing that squeak." When I finally looked, I found a crack in the sole of the right shoe, just a small one, but definitely enough to squeak. I had been workout out on that crack for almost a year.

I didn't think much about it then because I was full-on into my shoulder rehabilitation. I'm so glad I sought outside help. It took weeks of lifting tiny little weights -- 1 pound, 2 pounds, 3 pounds -- and doing weird stretches, but with a very specific plan and help from an outside source, I was able throw a baseball again without wrenching pain. That happened in August.

In the midst of this part of the year, I was on Young Life Assignment at WFR and sharing the deep wounds of my story during Life Signs (see "Good Enough" from 8/13 for that story). God used that experience to bring up some issues in my heart that needed healing. Over the past four years, I have been moving forward with my life at a fairly motivated pace. Whether it was finishing a Masters Degree, starting a new job, helping to plant a church, or taking up Head Leadership of Davis Young Life, I have just been M-O-V-I-N-G. Sure, things were uber hectic and I knew the pace wasn't really sustainable, but I figured I'd slow down when I had a reason to slow down. Then A-Team and Life Signs happened, and when I slowed down enough to look at the wounds in my heart, my heart started screaming "OUCH!!! STOP TOUCHING ME!!!"

The volatility of that response was enough to get me to see that I needed to slow down. With the start of school, I dropped out of my National Boards class, lessened my commitments at church, and purposefully built more margin into my schedule. It was obvious that, for a long time, I had been moving forward in my life with this deep belief that I had to make men notice me, and if I weren't in tip-top shape (or at least headed that way), then I wouldn't be worth noticing even if I was noticed. I also saw how the pain that comes from feeling overlooked (not being overlooked, mind you, just feeling that way) was not something that I ever stopped to assess or bring to Jesus. I just kept working out and overloading my schedule so that I wouldn't have to deal with the pain of feeling overlooked or the shame attached to feeling overlookable. I kept moving forward attempting to ignore the hurt or numbing it with endorphins and sugar; all the while the shoes of my heart were squeaking but I never stopped to find out why. I never stopped to address the crack in the support system, the lie that I had begun to believe.

It took a physical injury to make me stop, and while stopping has had its benefits, I am starting to see now (after three months of trying to heal on my own from what I saw this summer) that I really don't know how to heal. This fall, I have been filling the space in my schedule with some good things (family time, reading, and the like) but when the pain rears up, I make brownies. I want to get right back to what I have been doing -- leading and going to school and teaching and everything else -- but the injuries are still there. So finally I am calling in for more specific help, people who've walked the path of healing with Jesus to help me learn how to use those muscles correctly and not overcompensate in unhealthy ways.

I want to run -- literally and figuratively -- in the wide open spaces God has for me. But life is full of squeaky shoes, turned ankles, and torn shoulders. I can only run rightly when I take the time to rest and heal, listen for guidance and receive the help I need.

May 2011 bear out the lessons of this year. Next week, I'm buying new shoes.

1 comment:

  1. I love deep thoughts by Marah Jean. Your vulnerability never ceases to amaze me! Nor do I ever know what to say to add any sort of wisdom or corroboration. But, I need to remember to add some deeper goals to my resolution list. And I wish I had the gift of reflection that you have. Love you buckets and happy new year, friend.