Feel your ground

My latest “Storm Survival” post has to do with the life lessons I learned from my running shoes. We can often “over cushion” our lives (numbing – especially during hard seasons) and not allow ourselves to truly feel the ground we are running on. This cushion can give us a false sense of reality…can cause us to run in unnatural ways…and can just be unnecessary weight. Removing that cushion was freeing but meant changing the way I ran.

I have gotten more into running these past few years – Probably because I live in the flat FLAT Netherlands and the largest incline I need to navigate is a bridge over the highway. 🙂 I prefer longer, slower distances. I’m not a sprinter. The initial endurance/distance increase can be rough but once I establish a routine I find running to be almost meditative. I can Photo1(11)clear my head and let my body fall into an easy rhythm. But like most runners I have had my share of injuries. I spent several months in 2011 rehabbing an IT band issue after the Amsterdam 1/2 marathon.

If you are around running you are probably aware of the barefoot or “minimalist” trend that has been gaining momentum. (Please bear with me if the very thought of running sends chills up your spine 🙂 )The idea is that humans really were designed to run…just differently than most people do it today. The theory is that we used to out run our dinner because we are able to use oxygen better and would literally run the animal to death. We were running before Nike existed so it meant we were barefoot. A major shift happened when the running shoe was invented and we put a cushion in between our foot and the ground. We changed from our natural bio mechanics absorbing the impact to the shoe. This cushion allowed us to change our running style (not for the better) and may be contributing to the increase in injuries that runners experience. I can’t go into all the science behind it but if you are interested there is a great resource here.

After I finished chemo and was rebuilding my mileage base I decided to change from my clunky Asics to a much more streamlined, minimal Adidas shoe. This change has made a huge difference for me. When I first started running I went to a proper store and had my stride evaluated…they decided I needed a shoe that would stabilize my foot when I ran along with a custom insole for my high arch. It was comfortable enough and I used this set up for years but I never felt like my foot landed “completely” correct. It always felt forced into a certain orientation. When I switched to the Adidas I felt more free and lighter…there was no arch support and only some slight padding…so I needed to make some adjustments to compensate for losing the cushion. Here are the major ones:

  1. You need to change the way you run – smaller faster steps reduce the force and landing on your forefoot helps you to absorb the impact
  2. You need to build up your miles SLOWLY. Can’t make this change and immediately expect to run the same distance. It’s similar to starting over. You are using different muscles/tendons and need to train them
  3. It takes a lot of focus in the beginning but eventually becomes more natural
  4. Accept that you may not be able to run as fast but you are (hopefully 🙂 ) running better

OK, that’s quite a back story…how did this change teach me about life? As I have been processing through my own storm season I began noticing all the ways I was tempted to compensate for my emotions rather than experience them. I would avoid them with TV. I might numb them with some wine. I would hold on to anger and resentment without facing the fear of letting go that existed underneath. These things were the cushion I wrapped around my life which allowed me to keep moving forward but I wasn’t living as free as I could. I wasn’t living how I was designed. I was relying too much on the padding and it was weighing me down.

But here is where the running analogy comes in. I know people who have wanted to make changes in their life and tried to dramatically overhaul everything. New goals, new way of living only to have the enthusiasm burn out because they did too much too fast. Then they get injured or frustrated and just stop. It takes time to retrain yourself and often we don’t have the patience.

Here are my practical suggestions based on the running lessons I learned:

  1. First you need to decide what you want to change and how. Much like changing your running stride it takes a decision. example: I realize I am using TV to distract myself from sitting with and processing through difficult emotions. I want to change that.
  2. Second, start slow. If you are removing a cushion and changing how you’re living you need to rely on something else to compensate. Partly, you might need to absorb more impact with your body. I think we are designed to experience more pain than we usually allow ourselves – it isn’t nice but with God’s grace it’s how we evolve and grow.
  3. You might need to strengthen other muscles…again slowly. You want to eat more healthy? Start with one meal a week. Exercise your planning and self control muscles. Build up from there. You want to stop avoiding things with work or TV? Try meditating/praying for 5 minutes everyday. Pretty soon that will seem easier…increase it to 10…etc. You are building up your “letting go” and trust muscles.
  4. Making changes takes focus and determination. Don’t expect it to be easy initially but it will get easier.
  5. Accept that you can’t start out where you ultimately want to be but with time you can get there. Trust God and give yourself grace in the process.

Til next week…happy surviving and running,