Grace found in Small Steps

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An uphill journey might seem hard, but the view at the top is worth every step.

The other day I was listening to the Rich Roll Podcast and his interview of Zach Bush, MD. You can listen to it here: RichRoll Podcast – Zach Bush, MD

There was much to be alarmed about in this podcast, especially in the way our farming and use of pesticides is responsible for much illness and other problems. But the message from Zach was also one of hope and promise for the future.

The most impactful statement…the one that made me stop what I was doing, find some paper and pencil, and make a note was Zach’s scientific definition of grace.

Previously I’d never thought of a scientific definition of grace. Here is what he said:

Grace scientifically is that you heal faster than you injure.

I love this definition and can find so much truth in its simplicity…not just scientifically but in life. There is so much hope in these words.

You heal faster than you injure.

Simple decisions that lead to simple changes can lead to healing. This idea is not that making a small change will lead to overnight improvement. But rather our simple changes (which if truly simple are also small), lead over time to big transformation.

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Oatmeal and berries…much better than what I used to eat for breakfast.

Some examples that come to mind:

  • Choosing healthy food will lead to a healthier body over time. The effects of past poor choices don’t disappear immediately but they do over time. My own experience of this is that by (mostly) eliminating processed food from my diet and replacing it with real, wholesome food, I’ve lost 80 pounds. It took a few years.
  • Choosing to move a bit every day can lead to better fitness. If it’s hard, then start with walking and move from there (or even stay there if that works for you). When I decided to be more active and start running, I could only run 30 seconds before needing to walk. Over time, my body grew stronger and in 2018 I completed my 10th marathon…and marathon number 8 was Boston.
  • Choosing to limit online media can lead to a healthier attitude. I confess that this one is a struggle for me. But I do notice that my decision to refrain from pointless online arguments and to no longer follow certain people has made me a much happier person. I need to take daily steps to further limit the time I spend here (especially on Twitter 🤔)
  • Choosing to mediate or pray regularly helps to clear the mind of distractions. Haha…this one is a work in progress too.

All of these transformations – or potential transformations have been gradual. They are perfect examples of healing (or better health) coming about through small changes. Of course we must acknowledge that better health can also be relative. The starting point often dictates how far we can go, but that doesn’t mean we cannot make some improvement.

Sometimes we fail to take those initial, small steps because the change we seek seems to be so far out of reach that we give up before we start. Or it is painful to start moving. But the experience of grace is that when we take one small step after another we are eventually able to look back and see that we’ve travelled so incredibly far on the road to better health.

How have you been able to experience this grace in your life?

Running with a Cold? A Cautionary Tale

Do you know the conventional wisdom about running with a cold? It’s pretty simple.

If you have a fever, body aches, or symptoms below your neck then DON’T RUN.
Or
If  you only have symptoms above the neck, like a stuffy nose you’re good to go.

This is what you will discover with a simple google search. Here is my screen grab from just such a search from this morning:

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What is not emphasized in much of the online advice is that running when you have a cold takes precious recovery resources away from your body and diverts them to run recovery. When you do this, you are not able to adequately recover from your cold. This should be common sense, but I failed to follow it. I will chalk it up to a lesson that will make me a better coach. Here’s my story.

Lot’s of people are suffering from head colds this time of year. It’s common…almost inevitable. I started to feel the symptoms the Friday before Christmas with a bit of a scratchy throat. My reaction was, “oh no! I don’t have time for this!” For the coming days I had a long run, family event, church, and church again for Christmas Eve. I didn’t have time to be sick and so I effectively willed it away for a few days.

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Race pace portion of my long run on December 22.

The long run on the 22nd was 15 miles with 8 at goal marathon race pace (9:08) for me. I went 4 easy, 8 at goal and 3 easy. It was a wonderful run and I hit my goal pace while feeling good.

 

After the run, I still felt good and our family Christmas party was fun. I felt fine and made it through worship on Christmas Eve thus ending a very busy time in my role as pastor. At 2am on Christmas Day I woke with post-nasal drip hurting my throat. Dang! I only was able to hold it off until I mentally relaxed.

I did take it a bit easy the next couple of days. Instead of joining my run club for a Christmas morning run, I went out with them and walked. I took a couple days off and ran again on Friday. The bad news, I still had chest congestion. The good news, running helped to open up my sinuses…but it was ugly. This run was only 6 miles and felt fine.

I usually run long on Saturday, but had a funeral, so I moved it to Sunday. This meant that my week would have 2 long runs – Sunday and the following Saturday. It also included a New Year’s Day trail run which was (except for blowing my nose so much) one of my best trail runs ever.

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I put in some race pace effort towards the end of the run, mostly because I was desperate to get to a restroom.

Interestingly every run this still felt ok. I had to blow my nose over and over again while I ran, but strangely this was ok, because I was “clearing out my sinuses.” My cold stubbornly persisted throughout the week. The run at the end of the week was 16 miles easy. My son ran with me on a cold (for SoCal) day. I was a bit worried about how I’d feel because I hadn’t shaken the cold, but it ended up being a very pleasurable run. I even felt as if I could keep going when we finished. I successfully ran 49.6 miles that week.

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My son and I before our cold Saturday morning run

 

In retrospect, what this week of running while trying to shake a cold did was prolong the cold, while tiring my body. Enough so that Monday’s run was not bad, but not good either. Then Tuesday’s run made me so tired that I skipped strength training. For Wednesday track I was tired, so I skipped it. I ran on Thursday, which I don’t usually do, and felt ok for the first half, but then cratered for the 2nd half and had to skip strength training again.

Here’s the lesson for me: if anyone that I coach had asked me about running their regular schedule while sick, I would have advised against it. But I did it myself because “those runs felt ok…and all the symptoms were above my neck.” Yesterday, I contacted my own coach (who hasn’t been doing my schedule though) and told him that while I want to coach others I still need a coach! He told me to take three days rest.

And here we are…resting. Hopefully I haven’t set myself back too far. And I have learned a valuable coaching lesson…

Here is some better advice from Coach Jay Johnson: “Should you run with a cold?”

Mile A Day Challenge Update

Pastor-Coach Nancy's Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge-3 I started this challenge 4 years ago as a way to encourage activity. The idea was, and still is, that all of us can find at least 20 minutes a day for exercise. That is how long it takes for the average person to walk a mile

For the first three years the challenge was free to enter. Some would enter and never even start. This year I decided to charge an entry fee of $25, with $20 of it going to a local non-profit (in this case the Ventura Land Trust) in support of open space. Would people sign up?

Ultimately we had 31 challengers, and thus raised $610 for the VLT.

Of the 31 participants:

19 traveled the minimum mile a day
2 missed only 1 day each
4 missed a few days but kept trying

All together the challengers logged 2,772.41 miles. That’s an average of 81.54 miles a day!

Not bad!

Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality – #2

Way back on October 31, 2018 I posted the first of what was to be a series on the above mentioned book. Then I got bogged down in all kinds of stuff…and to be honest the book is not all that easy to write about. Well, also, I’m only on page 38 so that’s maybe not the best excuse. Today, a few quotes that are important.

All of us, especially children, must be encouraged to listen to our bodies as teachers and not as enemies.

Somehow, as a child I learned that my body is the enemy. I was told that I was fat…ugly…lazy and I believed all this. It’s only recently that I’ve learned to love this wonderful body that God has given to me. It is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made…freckles and lumps and all!

I’ve learned this through sport…endurance sport…running to be exact. I wish I had discovered this earlier, but as I keep telling people, “it’s never too late to start.”

Important to my journey (which led to a pastoral call) I discovered the truth that God’s grace is an absolutely free gift. This knowledge has freed me from lots of self-doubt, but I must have thought of it more in the sense of feelings and heart. Today, as I fully realize this grace, I now believe, it can a should lead us to a holistic understanding of our bodies as gifts to be used and cherished and cared for.

What about you? How do you interact with your body today? Is it different from when you were a child?

Mile a Day Challenge

My 4th Annual Pastor/Coach Nancy’s Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge starts tomorrow. Most of us can walk a mile in 20 minutes. That’s not too much time, and yet many of us struggle fitting this easy exercise into our lives. It is even harder during the holidays. But finding 20 minutes for a walk (or less for a run) is not impossible. That’s why I started the challenge. Whether you accept the challenge to go a mile a day or not, I encourage you to make time for exercise each day. It is good for your body and your mind.

Pastor-Coach Nancy's Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge-3

New Book Blog – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality

I don’t have a history of being happy with my body. I started running to lose weight. I soon learned that running alone wouldn’t do it. I had to change my eating as well. Over the years I did lose weight. While its not always been easy, this is the first time in my life I didn’t gain it all back. At the beginning I didn’t expect the spiritual change that occurred.

Today I run as a spiritual practice. I work through problems. I pray. I even write sermons. I’ve also felt the deep call to help others to (re)discover their own bodies as pathways to experiencing God’s grace. I’ve struggled with language. So I’m thrilled to have discovered the book, “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality,” by Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell.

As I read, I will share thoughts and hopefully start some discussion. Today’s thought comes from page 1 of the preface:

During more than 45 years of our team research, we have discovered that the way in which people treat their own bodies and feelings becomes a reliable predictor of how they will then treat and interact with those around them.

I’ve been saying that if we can treat ourselves better, we will be able to treat others better. How might our world be in a better place if we cared for ourselves? Would we then be better able to care for others? I think so. I look forward to more discoveries in this book.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts?

 

Day by Day – Marathon Recovery

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Marathon number 10. I missed my goal by A LOT! But I also surprisingly placed 3rd (of 20) in my age group, thus earning this beautiful plaque 

I am continually impressed by the way our bodies are capable of healing themselves. We overwork them to the point of pain, such as in running a marathon. Immediately after  the race the pain starts…or weakness as your legs feel more like jello than anything else.

The negative effects will go away. When you make recovery a priority, they go away faster allowing you to begin working towards that next goal.

 

Last week was my recovery week for the Ventura Marathon. It was also a week to attend a conference. Because I was out of my normal routine I was able to be more intentional and I had a fun way to gauge recovery…the stairs. Here is recovery by day.

Day 1 (Sunday – Race Day)
Immediately after the race. Eat well. Rest. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t meet your goals. I had to remind myself o this because I didn’t do as well as I’d planned. Immediately after the race a friend gave me a quick massage. I recommend this for everyone! After lunch activities included a shower, compression tights, and a nap.

56195934482__EDB5E544-B761-4575-A054-75A4A104E7B9Day 2 (Monday)
Eat well and rest! This a the day to travel to my conference, meaning a 3-1/2 hour drive out to the desert. Sitting that long was not fun! Thankfully we always have the option to stop the car and walk. Before the long drive, I decided to visit my chiropractor for some active release and adjustments. I also borrowed a set of Elevated Legs from my coach. Both good decisions.

When I arrived at the hotel I learned that my room was on the third floor. Carrying all my luggage, of course I took the elevator. Once at my room I noticed a set of stairs almost directly in front of my room. It would be very hard not to use them. This was an outside stairwell at a resort. Thankfully they weren’t too wide because my first time down the stairs I had to hold the rails. Rather than walking I was using my arms to support those oh so sore quads with each step. Walking back up was painful but doable. I ended the day with 30 minutes of Elevate Legs.

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Not the easiest to navigate post-marathon but it’s very hard to justify an elevator when you’re only on the third floor.

Day 3 (Tuesday)
The most painful post-race day! Up and down the stairs…ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. I can say I got in some good upper body work as my arms bore most of my weight. Elevated Legs first thing in the morning and right before bed – this time with the little ice packs (thankfully my room had a small refrigerator/freezer).

Day 4 (Wednesday)
Started the day with a slow and easy 1 mile run. I walked down the stairs with noticeably less pain and thought that I could maybe go a bit farther than the assigned 1 mile. Once I started running I immediately thought, “no, I’ll stick to a mile.” Elevated Legs post run. With some free time in the afternoon, I visited the pool. It felt nice to walk around in the water. I had planned to swim some laps but left my goggles at home and didn’t want to buy another pair. I finished the day with Elevated Legs and a glass of wine.

Day 5 (Thursday)
No pain on the stairs! Our bodies are so amazing in their ability to heal.

Day 6 (Friday)
Another 1 mile easy run that felt much better than Wednesday. One last use of the Elevated Legs post-run. Not only were the stairs not painful I was able to move rapidly up and down! I ended the day with the long drive home.

Day 7 (Saturday)
My husband and I did an easy 5 mile trail run. I was amazed at how fresh my legs felt. Then when I was done, my legs told me they were still a bit tire. At this point it’s easy to think that recovery is done. It’s not! Recovery efforts will continue into the next week as I continue with a reverse taper (increasing mileage and strength training).

Thankfully this has all gone well because I have less than 5 weeks before my second 50k. This trail race will be an “easy” effort.