I don’t think there’s any word that strikes up a more boring image in the world of physical fitness than the dreaded “treadmill.” So actually writing a blog post about running on a treadmill has to be the most yawn-inducing idea ever.
But bear with me, friends, because today I’m doing just that. And who knows. Maybe this blog post is just what you needed to read today!
One of the more difficult aspects of the health journey I’ve been traveling this past year is its unpredictability. For several days, sometimes even several weeks, I will feel great. I’m back to my old energetic self, my mind is focused and creative, and my body is functioning normally. Then, without warning, and often without an obvious trigger, I sink into a difficult place. My digestive system is a mess, I’m exhausted and lethargic, my brain is foggy, and I have trouble focusing.
Sadly, the past few weeks have been a low energy place for me. When I’m in this state, I can sleep for 10 hours at night and still want to take a nap the next day. I can eat a perfect diet of nutrient rich foods and still dread walking up the stairs because it leaves me panting for breath. I basically have to conserve my energy for what most needs to be done, and any thought of exercise gets pushed to the back of my mind.
But this morning, I woke up feeling good, and I wanted to get back to starting my day with some not-too-strenuous physical activity. At the beginning of the year, I began doing the Couch to 5K on my treadmill. You’ve probably heard of the Couch to 5K. It’s a simple running program that alternates short increments of jogging and walking. You start the program with more walking than jogging, but by the end of the nine-week program, you should be able to run a complete 5K!
Because of my ups and downs, I haven’t been totally consistent. But I have done the workout enough that I made it to Week 5, Day 3. This is the day when I was supposed to do a 5-minute walk, followed by 20 minutes of running and then a 5-minute cool down. It was the first day that I basically was supposed to jog the entire time, rather than alternating between jogging and walking.
It’s been more than two weeks since I did Week 5, Day 2. I looked at my treadmill, and I couldn’t imagine getting back on at this stage in the game.
“I should probably just give up the Couch to 5K,” I told myself. “I will never be able to do it.”
But then I had an idea that probably sounds very obvious to all of my intelligent readers, but took some time for me to come up with.
I could start over.
I could go back to the beginning.
Back to Day One.
That’s exactly what I did this morning, and here’s what I gained.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was! I remembered doing Week 1, Day 1 back in January and how I was counting down the seconds each time I had to jog for one minute before walking for 90 seconds. Now, it was such a breeze that I kept losing track of time. I felt great, knowing how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time.
Instead of feeling defeated by the treadmill, I actually felt a great sense of accomplishment that I had completed my workout. It might not have been the workout I had been planning, but I did it!
Most importantly, I did something. And something is always better than nothing.
I started the morning feeling healthier and stronger. I’m getting my energy back, and thankful to be back on the treadmill. So, if you ever feel like giving up, just remember the lessons my treadmill taught me this morning. Something is better than nothing. And sometimes it’s OK to start over.
I would love to hear how your week is going! Have you ever had to start over on a goal or plan? What was it like for you?
“Just breathe normal,” a man said in a calm voice. “You’re doing great.”
Despite his encouragement, the instruction made me want to gasp for air.
“What exactly is normal?” I asked myself. “Am I breathing normal? I don’t normally pay attention to my breathing. I’m not sure if this is normal.” The more I thought about it, the more unsteady my breathing became.
I tried to forget about where I was. I tried not to open my eyes. The realization that I was lying inside a tube filled with bright yellow light made me feel like I would panic. The thought that my arms were raised straight above my head made me want to pull them down. The thought that the man had injected a drug into my arm to keep my internal organs from moving made me even more self conscious of the fact that my stomach was rumbling. I hadn’t eaten for a day and a half, and I was hungry.
It was my first experience inside an MRI machine, and I was trying very hard to pretend to be completely calm and relaxed. It didn’t help that every few seconds a loud, pulsating sound would reverberate inside the tube.
Then, Bom! Bom! Bom! Bom! Bom!
Even with my noise cancelling headphones firmly in place, the sounds were jolting. I felt like I was standing next to the tornado siren at 10 a.m. the first Tuesday of the month.
“Breathe normal,” the voice reassured. I tried harder to keep my breathing slow and steady. Or was it too slow? Too steady?
WHAT. IS. NORMAL?
There’s really nothing normal about being strapped to a table for nearly an hour and being told not to move. The fear of this experience was one of the reasons I had put off the MRI for 10 months. Back when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, my doctor had ordered this test to get a better view of what was happening inside of me. It took me a while to get to a point that I felt like I wanted to know the answer.
As I sat in the patient waiting room for two hours, I watched a dozen other women come in and out in their robes and hospital gowns. I wondered why they had been sent to radiology. I analyzed their faces for any signs.
I decided that the women in the dark blue robes were there for a mammogram. They still wore their normal pants and shoes. Some came in with dress pants and high-healed shoes under the blue robe. Others wore sweats and tennis shoes. They changed into their robes in the little dressing room, like we were all getting ready for a spa treatment. But they got in and out much faster than I did.
I had to sit for two hours drinking large cups of contrast fluid. I was the only one wrapped in white blankets as I chugged the ice cold liquid.
A few other women came through dressed like me. They wore the baggy light blue hospital pants and the gown that tied in the back.
It was refreshing in a weird way. We all were there for different reasons — some routine, some more serious. But just the fact that we were there meant we were carrying something. We shared the weight of the unknown. Of what the test would reveal. In that space at that moment surrounded by total strangers, life felt so real.
I occupied myself by listening to a podcast, called “Missing Richard Simmons.” It’s a documentary style story about the flamboyant exercise guru who has made millions with his trademark silk shorts and curly hair. People know him as an outgoing, caring, highly emotional man with what seems like ceaseless energy. Then, one day, he vanished. He stopped going to his exercise studio. He stopped returning e-mails. He stopped running out of his house to greet vans full of tourists on the prowl for Hollywood stars.
He secluded himself inside his home, not to be seen for three years. Which might not be a big deal. Except that he’s Richard Simmons. And for Richard Simmons, that’s not allowed. It’s not normal.
Later that day, I had an appointment with my hair stylist.
The environment was oddly similar to the radiology department. Women coming in and out and putting on black robes to protect their clothes. Their regular pants and shoes poked out underneath. We were all there for the same purpose. This time to get pampered. We chitchatted about superficial stuff. The pretty parts of life.
I looked at each woman there and thought about the women I had just shared space with in radiology. I realized these women weren’t so different.
Each one of us had a weight behind the smiles and foiled hair and casual conversation. Even a celebrity like Richard Simmons is carrying something that became too heavy — that made him suddenly want to disappear. It’s not as obvious when we trade our hospital robes for the salon capes. It’s actually harder to talk about when we all look so… normal. It might be a difficult relationship or an addiction. It might be a health concern or a financial crisis. It doesn’t show on the outside, but I’m guessing for most people, it’s there.
We know how to walk around concealing what might be troubling our souls. We’ve all figured out how to breathe without giving it too much thought. Slow and steady. Stay calm.
Even hours later, I found myself still taking deep breaths.
Still wondering why it was so hard to carry out his simple instruction.
One of the great joys of watching our kids become teenagers is seeing them grow in their gifts and talents. When they were little, it seemed we were always trying to give them opportunities to experience new things, whether it was a sport or an art class or a chance to learn a new skill.
As they make their way through junior high, and now high school, it’s been fun to see them start to settle in and take ownership of their gifts. All four of them (including the first grader) are great about regularly practicing their creativity, without being prodded by their parents. After school around our house often looks — and sounds — like a drum solo emanating from the basement, girls doing backflips on the trampoline or choreographing a dance in the living room and someone walking around with a video camera, excited about his next idea.
This past month was a floodgate of creativity at our house, so I decided it was time to write a super braggy mom post about all that’s been happening.
All three of our older kids got to participate in an annual talent show for the youth at our church. But this isn’t an ordinary talent show. They are put together in teams with other kids their age, and they have to draw a card with the type of act they have to perform. They get about a month to work on their idea.
Our 14-year-old was especially excited about his group. They were supposed to perform a song, and I knew that because of his passion for drumming, he had encouraged his group to do something that involved using buckets for drums.
Parents aren’t invited to the show, but I got to attend because I needed to take photos for the church. About 30 seconds into his act, I realized I better pull out my cell phone and also take video. This was really funny!
Check out his performance here:
At the end of the evening, all of the students voted for the acts in three categories: Best displays the theme of “Bold Love,” Best Teamwork and Best Overall Performance. After watching all of the acts, I was confident he would probably win at least one prize. However, I think we were all shocked when his group won ALL THREE awards! So. Fun.
In addition to his bucket drumming skills, he got to perform twice this month with his percussion ensemble at school and also gets to play as part of the youth worship team at our church on Monday nights.
I also loved the performances by our other two. Our seventh grader helped choreograph a dance for her group of 6th and 7th grade girls.
Our 16-year-old and his team had to do a rap song. While our other two kids practiced for weeks, they literally put their act together about five minutes before the show. They were still one of my favorites. They simply had so much fun performing!
Earlier in the month, our oldest son got to perform in two other amazing ways. He had been working for about two months on a short film that he entered in his high school’s first ever Film Fest. All of the entries had to display the theme of the year, which is “The Best Day Ever.”
He took a serious approach with his positive message of how a student stood up to a bully to find her best day ever. He wrote, directed, edited and produced the film, which won second place. He was so excited, especially since his film was up against those of several junior and seniors. The big thrill for me was reading through the comments of the three judges, who are professionals in the film industry. It was amazing to read their (mostly positive) critiques of his talent.
Check it out here:
As soon as the Film Fest was over, his mind was already racing with his next short film. He enlisted a couple of friends as actors and filmed another one the very next day!
He also made his high school acting debut in February in the freshman-sophomore play. The play was a series of short stories written and directed by the juniors and seniors. He had a blast, and did a fantastic job in his performance.
He played Alexander Hamilton.
Our 12-year-old daughter has had some downtime, now that cheer season is over. However, she also has been really growing in her music ability, playing the flute. We got to watch her perform last night in one of her last concerts of the year, and it was amazing to see how far she’s come since starting band last year!
She also got to be in the spotlight for her performance in her brother’s film. On the night of the Film Fest, all of the directors and actors were invited to dress up like they were going to the Academy Awards. The girls and I had a blast getting dressed up for the show.
That brings me to our little one. She is still hard at work doing gymnastics five hours a week. But she also has been trying some new things this winter. She started a tap class, and she also is taking an acting class on Saturday mornings. Of all the things she is doing, she has decided acting is her favorite! We get to see her class perform a very condensed version of The Little Mermaid in a few weeks.
Well, my blog was starting to sound pretty dull the past few weeks since all I ever talk about is what I’m giving up and what I’m NOT eating! I thought it was time for me to record some of the other exciting stuff happening in this crazy house full of kids and their creativity.
Until a few years ago, I had not ever participated in the practice of giving up something for Lent. I heard my friends talk about what they were eliminating during the 40 days leading up to Easter, but I couldn’t get up the motivation to do something that would purposely make my life more difficult. I loved the spiritual reasoning behind it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. And, come on. Isn’t life challenging enough the way it is?
During the past year, however, the act of giving something up has become a recurring theme. Whether it’s been for spiritual reasons, health reasons or just to make my life better, this practice of self denial has been an awakening for me. In fact, part of my journey in 2017 is to give up one thing for a month, each month of the year.
As I enter the third month of 2017, this is my third time giving up something this year that I enjoy. Strangely, as a new month approaches, I’ve grown to look forward to getting rid of the excess in my life. Instead of feeling dread and fear of the pain that will inevitably come with self denial, I’ve started feeling a sense of excitement to crack down on a new area of my life that has gotten out of control.
In fact, in several cases, I’ve found my life to be so much more pleasant without the habit or practice that I once loved, that I’m not anxious to go back to my old ways.
For example, last year, I gave up watching TV for Lent. I have loved learning new things, having time to practice my hobbies and being free from the distraction of television shows. More than a year later, I haven’t reintroduced TV into my life.
Last June, I was forced to give up gluten when I found out I had Celiac Disease. Having something taken from you is quite different mentally and emotionally than giving something up. Obviously, I haven’t even considered going back to gluten because of the devastating effect it has on my health. However, I’ve taken it two steps farther. In January, I removed sugar, grains, soy, dairy, legumes and artificial ingredients from my diet. Just when I thought there was no way I could add to that list, it became clear to me in February that I also needed to give up all inflammatory foods, including eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, cocoa powder and nightshades. As I’ve been carefully monitoring the improvement in my health with this radical change to my diet, I don’t have plans to start eating those foods again anytime soon.
I also gave up social media in February. The best word I can think of to describe my life without it is “lighter.” I’m not as anxious. It freed me from carrying the weight of so many issues that are posted on social media. (I did cheat once, but other than that, this post will be my reintroduction, I suppose!)
What I’ve found to be so interesting about this practice of giving up is that it seems to be a discipline that is becoming easier for me to practice. It’s almost like I’ve been exercising my self control muscle, and it is growing stronger, making it less painful for me to use in new areas of my life.
This month’s elimination will be different. Giving something up for Lent isn’t just an act of self control. It is something we do out of spiritual conviction. This self denial is a way to help me focus on the sacrifice Christ made for each one of us on the cross. It’s tempting to give up the easiest thing. To chose the thing that will cause the least inconvenience, disruption or pain. But denying yourself something difficult can serve as such a great reminder of what this season is about — that He made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.
Whether you want to give something up for Lent, for other spiritual reasons, to improve your health or even just as a challenge, here are a few things I’ve learned this past year about giving up:
Taking a before shot can be a powerful motivator. This could be a literal photo or it could take another form, such as a written statement of what life is like and how you want it to change. This act of marking your starting point is like a commitment you are making to yourself that things are going to change. With every “before” shot, comes an “after.” You are committing that things will look different in the “after”. I wrote more about that here.
I’m a believer that giving something up for Lent should be a personal decision that comes from a spiritual conviction. But for your everyday acts of giving up, it’s always nice to have a support system. Giving something up with a friend or at least sharing your goal with someone can turn it into an exciting journey!
What about you? Did you decide to give something up for Lent? Is this a practice that you think can make a positive impact on your life?