Kindness to self – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality Number4

How do you treat yourself? What kind of self talk to you engage in?
What about when you are anxious? Or stressed? Or when you’ve made a mistake?

Negative self-talk is not without consequences. We actually have the power to cause self-harm through the words we say (or think).When talking about this with other, I sometimes suggest that we think about our self-talk with a lens of “would I say that to another person?” Sometimes, most times, the answer is a resounding “NO!” But still, the temptation to do this can be great, especially if you heard such negative talk directed to you as a child.

For me personally, it comes to body image. Through the years I’ve reflected on my past and am now in the process of writing my story. Part of the story includes a very negative body image. The root of this is in being told from the time I was in 6th grade that I am fat. I was even put on diets by older siblings. I remember once being so hungry that I stole an apple and quickly ate it while standing behind the house. Can you imagine thinking that an apple is “bad” to eat? But when I look at photos taken when I was a child, I was not fat! (Unfortunately I can’t find any of those photos this week)

After a lifetime of struggle with healthy eating, I have been fat…and I have been thin. Until recently I never maintained a weight, instead always moving up or down (mostly up). I have now been at the same healthy weight (±5 pounds) for the past 2 years. That is a record for me.

And yet, I will still, on occasion, look down at my stomach with derision and say, “I’m so fat!” Maybe this is why the following paragraph hit me:

“If you cannot be kind, caring and supportive inside yourself, then how can you possibly presume that this capacity will magically appear in your dealings with others and the world around you? How our body carries the feelings we have about ourselves is the primary factor influencing all our relationships.” (page 41)

Those are tough words. Thankfully they are tempered by grace. The grace that God gives to each of us as a genuinely free gift. Grace that helps us to know we are valuable and worthy of love – no matter what our bodies look like. Christian spirituality, Christian prayer are rooted in this grace and in the command of Jesus to love. To truly love others we must first learn to love ourselves.

For me, becoming an endurance athlete has taught me to love this wonderful body…just as it is. Loving it means taking care of it with rest and nourishing food and exercise and prayer. It’s all related.

How have you learned to be kind to yourself?

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?”

Icebergs – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality #3

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From page 31 of “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection…”

There is much more going on below the surface! This iceberg analogy resonates with me. Maybe it will with you as well. Briefly, we experience feelings, emotions, and physical sensations all the time. Often we react to these emotions without having a clear understanding of where they came from or what precipitated them.

For much of my life, this reactionary activity resulted in my pushing these feelings aside with food.

Was I happy? Then eat!
Was I sad? Nothing like eating for this!
Was I bored? Hmm, what could I eat?
Was I angry? Nothing like something crunchy and salty.

The problem with this approach was that I was unhealthy…physically, mentally, and spiritually. Learning, instead to explore the “why” behind an emotion, has been a freeing (and difficult) process. I say process because I am still learning here and can safely say that it will be a lifetime of learning, of exploration.

The first step in exploring what was under the water line (the iceberg) was through faith. In knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I could safely and critically interact with old hurts, old failings, old disappointments. This was freeing, but it was mostly the spiritual and mental.

The next step for me came through endurance sport. It was here that I truly learned to love my body and the gift that it is. It was here that I learned that I could endure great hardship…and later say it was “fun” (see Fun? Endurance…Is it fun?). It was here that I’ve learned so much about the holistic nature of faith. It has changed my outlook and given me the desire to help others experience life through endurance and through grace.

Today…food can still be a struggle (The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight). Unfortunately that will always be the case because of biology. But mindfulness and movement can counteract the struggle. If you’d like some help here let me know!

 

 

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?

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?

 

Running Our Public Lands

img_4998.jpgLast night I listened to a friend, Vic Thasiah, make a call for the running community to be more actively engaged in conservation efforts for our public lands. His presentation took place at Topa Topa Brewing Company, and since I was holding a beer while listening, I missed taking notes! I wish I had because his talk was inspiring.

img_4776He shared that, from a national perspective, runners, as a group, are not as involved in preservation efforts as are hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. We as runners, are not organized around this important issue as are other groups. As I listened to the presentation, I wondered how many of us runners consciously appreciate the beautiful places we can go. Or do many of us think of running as “exercise” and something to “get done” while also experiencing the added benefit of a beautiful view?

As a pastor, I pray my gratitude for this beautifully created world in our weekly worship, while also praying that we would be good stewards of all that surrounds us. I find myself envisioning some of the places I’ve run as I pray. I’ve also tried to encourage our getting outside for worship with a monthly Hike Church. This has been met with limited success… but maybe that’s because I’m not doing a good enough job of inviting people.

img_4207-2.jpgThe other day, while running on one of our paved, but in need of much work, bike trails, I wondered about the feasibility of runners and cyclists fundraising to fix the trails. That’s a good endeavor and I’d support it. But now, I’m also thinking that we, wherever we are, should involve ourselves in to caring for, and helping to preserve, and conserve our public lands.

In my area, that care can be exercised through The Ventura Land Trust. I might even use my upcoming Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge as a fundraiser for this worthy organization. Meanwhile, how do you see the running community participating in care for our public open spaces?

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Coaching

oMZMn5W+SF2PYQGyKaDjZQIf you haven’t read this important article by Erin Strout, Why We Need More Female Coaches, I recommend you take a few moments to check it out. Before reading it, I hadn’t been aware that we had such a dearth of female running coaches. My ignorance, was solely due to my relative newness to the sport.

Well, I don’t think I’ll make it to the elite level and I know I won’t be at any college, but I’m excited to announce that, officially, I am a certified running coach.

Currently, I’m helping to coach a group to the Ventura Marathon. I’m doing a little bit of personal coaching for friends and family…and am setting my sites on more. Pastor Coach…