LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: fitness

Embrace the “SUCK”

Wisdom…goals…safety…accomplishment…health…pushing to limits.

These are all values in a delicate dance I just played around with. Now let’s be clear, I didn’t do anything that was truly dangerous or outrageous. But the dance was danced nonetheless.

It seems most of my posts have been around running and yet, they end up not about running at all. Well, here we go again. 😉 This year has been a difficult year for me since March when I ran the Oakland Marathon. My feet have never felt well since then and with all the training for a Marathon one craves food more. But a person with weight issues like myself has a hard time keeping the food intake in balance with the lessening of training once the run is over. So the weight has creeped back up a bit. Combine that with the foot pain, Achilles bone spurs and tendonitis, and then an additional muscle pull from a half marathon in May, and well, running has been difficult.

Fast forward to September. My muscle pull is healed; I complete another 10K and half marathon challenge; and am feeling well. I come to realize that I am one 5K and one marathon away from completing 3 of each distance in 2015. I’m not sure why, but that sounds like an impressive and cool thing to accomplish! I mean, just a few years ago I was a couch potato, a 435+lb potato. So to be able to say I did this, well, it’s just cool.

And that’s how goals get set I suppose. A dream comes out of nowhere, gets imagined and one goes for it. I never thought I would run at all, anywhere, let alone do an official event of any distance.

And that’s how goals get set I suppose. A dream comes out of nowhere, gets imagined and one goes for it.

The problem though is that my body didn’t cooperate with this self-created goal. Sure the muscle pull is well, but the heels are worse. So I attempt a marathon training plan that my body just can’t manage. The extra weight on the Achilles is not a good fit and admittedly I am struggling to get the weight back off. But I press on to accomplish the goal. I get a 5K done in October. That was easy enough. Just a marathon to go. just…

I get some long cycling distances in, do some short runs, spend time in the gym trying to keep fit, but the runs are short with more days of rest between than allowed for a good training plan. I try the Jeff Galloway method of run four minutes/walk one and that seems to be good to let me get further without killing my feet. But let’s face it; I am not in as good of shape as I was in January when I ran my first marathon.

But with goal setting comes determination and stubbornness. Isn’t that how we push ourselves? And so the dance with wisdom begins. I knew this was going to hurt and not be a good running time. I wasn’t ready, but I wanted to complete this new dream.

Race day came and actually I was feeling pretty good. My legs were fresh, my heels were in a pretty good spot and I was prepared for ways to manage the pain and allow myself some latitude in walking and going a bit slower. And actually as the race began I was doing really well.

The first 11 miles were well under the pace I needed to finish within the 6 hour limit. I even could end up with a personal best if kept it up. But then my body had different ideas. My heels had moments of pain all along, however, it was manageable and expected. But my left foot started to hurt horribly under the arch and that started to slow me down.   Miles 12-17 were below pace but still ok and the average would be good enough. I was going to do this! I was walking more than I wanted and had some serious bouts of self-doubt and thoughts of quitting, but I pushed on.

I noticed a different pain than I had ever felt though on my right foot. The pad next to the ball of the foot was really tender. I could feel the sock rubbing. It had been raining at times so I thought the wet sock was causing some pain. By this time I was beginning to lose it mentally. I was hurting and I couldn’t run and now even walking was getting hard. Diane met me at mile 18.5 to give me fresh socks and shoes, but the damage had been done. A bruised pad and blister had formed. The dry socks helped, but I could not get my body to get moving and my feet were killing me. And then the real emotional battle happened. The race crew began to open up the roads behind me and I desperately tried to stay ahead of them. In my attempt to give my feet relief by walking, the slowing down caused my muscles to stiffen and so I became even slower. I just could not get my body to respond to a quicker gate. There were less and less runners around me and I began to think I was dead last. I wanted to quit, but I just couldn’t. I was well over 20 miles into this. How could I give up now? But how could I continue? I was hurting so bad. I knew it wasn’t injury hurt, it was just pushing myself to the limit hurt. And so I continued to hobble on.

Different people along the way shouted out encouragements that I soaked in to get me steps further. At mile 22 or so is when I made the final decision to just not consider quitting any longer. At the top of an overpass, one that seemed like it was miles long to get to the top, there was a volunteer who spoke truth to me in the most encouraging way. You see, up to this point people were saying things like, “You’ve got this!” or “You’re killing it!” and I was thinking, you are being kind, but I am so not killing it. I am near the back, the race is closing down and I am dying in pain. I am SO NOT DOING WELL.

But this lady was different! She asked how I was and in my saddest voice I said, “I hurt so bad, I don’t know if I can make it”. And she agreed with me! She said, “I know, it sucks, huh?” Throughout this short conversation she encouraged me to “embrace the suck”. I was going to hurt the next day whether I finished the race or not. But the pain I would feel would be far worse if I gave up at this point. So keep going!

And so I pressed on. I did finish! The race had been completely closed down and they were removing the finish line as I neared. My incredible wife advocated for me for them to stop just a bit so I could finish and she stood there at the finish line for me. They gave her the medal to place over my head as she gave me a kiss.

IMG_1003I did it! In 2015 I completed 3 5Ks, 3 10Ks, 3 Half Marathons, and 3 FULL Marathons. Admittedly this final medal gives me mixed emotions and will remind me of many lessons. I am “embarrassed” at the level of fitness I let myself slip to and the poor time to finish the race. In the end it was 7 hours and 46 minutes; almost a full 2 hours worse than my best time. Nobody can say that was done well. But I am not embarrassed at all really, as this is also one my proudest moments. I gutted it out. I didn’t give up. I pushed through pain and temptations and doubt and accomplished my goal.

And so here is where the post is not about running at all. A major take-a-way from this experience is that real encouragement is not in platitudes and “you can do it” type statements, but in truth that acknowledges the pain and difficulty and then moves you to a place to dig deeper any way. I in no way dismiss the well-meaning motives of anybody who cheers you on. It’s welcome and meant well. But when you know you are hurting or not doing well, to be told you are isn’t useful.

As a pastor, I deal with people on many different levels of brokenness in their life. Some are going through serious trials and facing huge odds and the spiritual high-fives aren’t useful. Empathy is to share in one’s pain, to cry with them, to understand. I can’t fix their life or make the pain go away, but I can acknowledge that it hurts or “sucks”. I can pray with them to find the strength that God provides to move through the “suck”. Sure, I feel a bit helpless. I want to fix and rescue and make everything better. But the journey through the “suck” is what is needed to get to the goal. The determination to finish has to be found in each one of us.

A Year of Accomplishments Celebrated This Weekend

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the long distance run events I have done. I started running in February 2014 with a 5K, loved it and then signed up for a whole lot of crazy. I started it all with the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend by doing the Dumbo Double Dare – a 10K on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. I was so excited for completing this first major run and felt it to be a great accomplishment. I was so emotional crossing the finish line.

Well a year has passed and I have done so many races since.

  • 4 5k’s
  • 3 10K’s
  • 5 Half Marathons
  • 2 Full Marathons

I will add this 10K and half this weekend and hope to add another 5K and full before year’s end. I want to do that so that 2015 will have three of each distance. This, however, is a negotiable goal. 😉

My life is so different now and as I go into this weekend I have very mixed emotions. Sadly I am not all that excited. I think I will do fine, but the last few months have been very difficult physically and emotionally. I really jumped in too hard too fast by doing the second marathon in March. Many would say that about the Dopey Challenge, but I really felt fine after that. But the marathon really set off a whole lot of pain. Partly because I had not recovered enough from the first marathon and partly because I have not been able to afford the massages I was regularly getting leading up the Dopey. Those massages I think kept me from getting injured.

In any case, my feet just have not been the same. And then I did the Pixie Dust half marathon on Mother’s day and strained the right TFL. That has been a long recovery as well. And so now most everyday is filled with various body aches. The worst being my feet and achilles. I have bone spurs (well before the running) and they just hurt so bad.

But I hurt when I don’t run too, so I figure why not stay fit and hurt instead of being a couch potato and hurting? Right? But emotionally this has taken a toll. I have put on weight by not being diligent about food journaling and going back to old habits somewhat and that has been tough too. Not just because I am not as comfortable with my weight but it affects the running ease too.

So that is why I am going into this weekend with mixed emotions.

Now all that whining put out there. I am also going into this weekend feeling like even my lows are highs compared to where I came from. That the fact I have done all that this last year is not just crazy, but a sign of God’s power to change a life. I am not who I once was. I never will be. And even though I have struggles, I am coming at them from a new place. I am a man who sees fitness and health as important. I am a man that has learned that my strategy to cope was an utter failure and that I serve a God who has a better plan. I am a man that knows that even when I go back to old ways, I have a reference point to get me back to His better ways. Before, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I am aware and have seen God at work.

This weekend may not be the “first” and therefore not as emotional and satisfying of an accomplishment, but it will be a marker of the great things God has done and the places He has taken me. And I will cross that line knowing that all the struggles and pain are far less than the health and victory I have experienced.

a day to remember

November 2, 2012.  Not a holiday in most people’s experience, but for me it is the day of my “fake heart attack”.  So it’s not a holiday for me either, but certainly a watershed day in my life.  Although I had already been spending a year doing heart work – emotional and spiritual, it is this day that began the physical transformation that all that heart work was leading me to.  I remember being in the hospital trying not to be afraid, but with the wires connected to me, doses of nitro being administered to no effect, and being prepped for an angiogram, I was admittedly scared.  Later we realized the nitro had no effect because it was not my heart that was damaged.  I had/have acid reflux.  Not a fun condition to be sure, but a manageable one.  One whose management meant a radical shift in my diet, thus the physical transformation.  When one can’t eat spice, fat, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate or even coffee, one is going to lose weight.  And weight I lost.  After a short while, I began to notice this and with all the heart work that had happened, it was like a light came on and weight loss just sped up.  My new heart wanted a new body to go with it.  I no longer needed to use weight to hide or suppress my fears and hurts.  I no longer needed to use food keep from trusting God’s plan for those hurts and to manage them on my own.   The first year I “moved more, ate less” and I lost about 10 lbs a month.  The next November I joined a gym and the weight loss slowed, despite beginning running.  But it still comes off.  My general eating has returned many of the foods that acid reflux doesn’t care for, but with the weight loss the doctors said I might not need to worry so much about it.  In retrospect, my fake heart attack was a gift, a wake up call from God and another step in my healing that he was taking me on!

IMG_6238Look at this picture!  The left side is me in late October 2012.  And that wasn’t even my highest weight.  A few years earlier I was 40 lbs heavier.  The one on the right is me yesterday on my longest run to date.  I stopped for a moment to ask a random person to take a picture of me.

I still have weight to go, but that is not a concern for me so much.  I am loving fitness and the new me. I still have those moments of snacking late at night, but because I run and work out so much I am able to handle it.  But that explains the slower weight loss these days.

In earlier posts I have referenced a couple of songs with lyrics that mean so much to me.  One is “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin.  As I was running yesterday it came up in the playlist and one of verses struck out to me.

Most kind of stories
Save the best part for last
And most stories have a hero who finds
You make your past your past
Yeah you make your past your past

It’s a brand new day
The sun is shining
It’s a brand new day
For the first time in such a long long time
I know, I’ll be ok

It reminds of what Paul says in Philippians.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

It’s not that I forget the past, but I make it my past!  I press on to the future and as he says in the next verses, I hold on to what I have attained!  This new me IS me.  The old, is a memory, one which shows the God of grace at work…MY God.

Who am I that you would find me here?
Who am I that love would draw me near?
Who am I that you would die, to save a broken soul like mine?
Who am I?
Who am I?

The maker of the heavens knows my name.
The author of the oceans gave me grace
My should my soul will ever sing your praise
Almighty God!
(Almighty God, Todd Fields.  North Point Live: Here + Now)

Together We Thrive!

“Together We Thrive” is the new ad line for the Kaiser Permanente.  It seems they are on to something very spiritual and direct from the pages of the Bible.  On another, soon to be related, note, I did speedwork with the Coastside Running Club this morn.  I am enjoying it as I can learn from others who are very experienced.  Not just about improving pace, but form, the concepts of tempo runs, and more.  And yet on another, soon to be related, note, I have joked that I have my very own wellness team, “Team Len” comprised of Mark, my chiropractor; and Trevor, my personal trainer.  They have been invaluable to me for getting and feeling healthy.  Shortly after the Kaiser commercial ran this morning, Diane joked that I had new members of Team Len – the running coaches of the club.  My reply, “Together We Thrive!”

I have seen and learned many spiritual principles on this journey towards fitness.  And one of the most important? I can’t do this on my own!  From the Ultimate Leadership team, to Dr Arnold who I spent a year with, to the fellow running friends from Church, to the previous mentioned “Team Len” members; I need(ed) each and everyone of them.  From the real deep work to put pieces together to the passing encouragements, it all plays a part in this idea of “thriving.”

And of course that is what God designed for us.  He wants so much more than survival for us.  He wants us to live, to love, to serve, to thrive! And the key to all of that is together – the one-anothers!  By nature I am not the most social person.  I love people, but I am a bit shy or awkward in new situations and I am not the best follow-through friend.  I have been described by some as aloof, and I think there is some truth to that at times or situations.  And so this lesson of interdependence is so valuable to me.  I have grown to cherish the role and interaction with others.  I look forward to growing friendships through all of this in the future.  It’s not just an ad campaign, it’s truth – Together We Thrive!

To thriving!

Running on Grace

This morning I left the house feeling GREAT! I had just done an hour of speed work interval training for the first time with a local running club and I am wearing new jeans in a size that I haven’t worn since probably I was 25. I was walking out the path just filled with self-satisfaction that quickly moved to a gratefulness toward God. And not a false-humility, oops-I-feel-guilty-for-taking-any-credit, kind of gratefulness. I think there is a place that God allows for us to feel a joy for our part of the relationship we have with Him. But that said, I am quite mindful of just how insignificant my role is in all the changes I have gone through in the last few years.

Now that the “number”, the amount of weight I have lost, is public (currently now at nearly 210lbs), I am getting all sorts of positive comments from people. I have been getting the ‘you look good’, and ‘how are you doing it?’ sort of statements, to which I appreciate. I am human, and compliments and acknowledgement does feel good. But it has now ramped up to a level of how inspiring I am and how I have motivated people to make changes and that I represent hope. And of course I know these are nothing but well intended and I accept them as nothing but pure compliments. But I still get a bit uncomfortable with them nonetheless as the changes REALLY are not about me.

Yes, I have had to follow-through with good behavior and choices on eating and exercise. But if you have heard or read my story you know that before there was any weight loss, there was a year or more of counseling and prayer and “dot-connecting” as to why I had developed reactionary and self-sabotaging habits. God had clearly begun a deep work of heart and I have come to realize just how much I failed to trust God’s plan to deal with stress and pain and chose my plan to self-soothe with food.

And that is ALL God! I am so immensely grateful that He loves me enough to continue to reveal in me just how much I need to continue to grow and trust. The work of “forming Christ in me” is a long and beautiful process. It isn’t easy and frankly is so difficult to discern when you are trusting in Him vs self. I really was shocked when I had those numerous AHA-moments that wasn’t really fully trusting Him. But once I saw it, I knew nothing but good was coming. Such a huge weight lifted, that was greater than any amount of fat on my body.

This new stage and passion of running may not last (although I hope it does), but what will last is the ever-growing reliance on Him. When I run, it is on a “path” of grace. “Eat less, move more” is the simple lifestyle change strategy I share, but the REAL change is found in trusting God’s plan and not your own.

Again, I don’t mind the compliments (keep ’em coming), I know they come from nothing but a great place of love and encouragement. But please know there is a BIG God behind what has happened in my life. And I would love for you to join me on that run!

Your Strength Just Might Be Your Weakness

I have been really running and training a lot lately.  In the gym I am lifting heavy and on the trails I am going far.  I am, as you have read in other posts, been so excited to see just how fit I am becoming.  It’s a great feeling!  But a couple of weeks ago while running, my knee tweaked.  I stopped running at the moment and then took a few days to ice it, care for it.  But it didn’t really seem to be going away.  Admittedly I was inwardly concerned that this might sideline my new passion and I would be out of running, losing all the money invested in registrations and equipment, and worse, reaching my newly set goals.

Jumping ahead a few weeks, still running, my lower back/right hip area was a bit tender.  I just brushed it off as random body aches.  But it got worse, so I went in to see my chiropractor.  Post adjustment, I felt great and went out to run…my longest run to date.  I did a complete half marathon in training!  FELT GREAT!  The entire rest of the day I was wonderful.  But morning came and my back was so bad I could barely get out of bed.  Now I have been icing it and visiting the chiropractor.

Thankfully both knee and back are on the mend!  And it happened through something I found to be revolutionary!  Stretching!  (DUH!) I in fact had not “injured” anything.  I got too strong, worked some muscles too tightly, and let them pull my body out of whack.  The knee pain almost left entirely when my trainer helped me to identify a hamstring that needed to be stretched out.  What a relief both of pain and hope for future goals.

The back is a current malady and I am still working on it, but again, my trainer helped me to see that all my squats and dead lifts were strengthening my lower back and running was strengthening my thighs.  Both are good things and sound great.  I am getting strong.  But something called a hip flexor was getting tight and combined with my lower back muscles tightening they both were pulling my pelvis forward causing a misalignment.  He showed me a series of stretches and again, I found immediate relief.  This one is a bit more settled in so the stretching regimen will take a bit more time.  

But a lesson learned.  Getting strong is not enough!  Packing on the miles, racking up the weight, doesn’t cut it.  One has to slow down and stretch out.  We all hear about stretching, but so many, myself included, don’t give it the place it deserves.  We take short cuts, doing just a few quick ones, but the goal is to get right to the run or the weights.

So why am I taking time writing about this?  Because I saw spiritual life parallels.  

I find in my own life and have observed in many others that we have some transformational experience and it’s exciting.  We ride the wave of the new feeling, changes, and generally go forward in our new found life with confidence.  We should!  God has brought healing or new awareness, or a lingering sin issue has finally been overcome.  That is what God does in us.  And again, it feels great!

But then some twinge of pain happens and we get discouraged or we get sidelined with some sort of “fall” through destructive choices.  What do we do?  Well some, give up.  Just as in running or another sport, saying the injury took them out.  Others gut through it, still working on getting strong and ignoring the pain, the signals telling them something is wrong and should be adjusted.

I suggest a third option.  Taking to time to stretch out.  Sometimes our getting too strong too fast throws our body out of whack.  Spiritually we seek or let ourselves ascend to areas of leadership too quickly.  We get over confident in “our” ability and become self-deluded.  We do as so many in the fitness area do, we take short cuts.  We don’t take time to do the full stretch routine.  We fail to recognize it’s vital part of the process.  What is the “stretching” part of our spiritual life in my illustration?  Resting, delighting, meditating.  I am a charge ahead doer.  I recognize and relate to Christ on the go.  I see and feel Him work through me and in me as I serve and do my tasks.  BUT that doesn’t negate the necessity of slowing down and resting in Him too.  I need to not just work the muscles of faith, but stretch them out so they don’t get out of balance.

Too many seemingly strong people of faith have crashed and burned I think for this very reason.

I don’t want to overplay my spiritual application of this illustration.  But I clearly had this aha today and wanted to pass it on.  On the physical fitness track, be mindful, build and strengthen, but don’t get wound too tight.  Listen to your body and discern if the pains are the good ones from building strength or the signals to slow down and pay attention to some other needs.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.

Psalm 37:3-7a (NLT)

My life-passage here reminds me to wait on Him to act.  It’s hard to be still when you’re feeling so strong and fit.  There are times to charge ahead, to take the land, to get caught up in the “overcoming”.  But don’t neglect the Delighting, Trusting, and Being Still.  Our spiritual growth, just like our physical is a holistic and multifaceted endeavor.

This is a hard but necessary lesson I come back to all the time!  I suspect I am not alone.  

 

“Squirrel!”

That’s how I feels these days.  Like the dog in Disney/Pixar’s UP.  I am not generally an ADHD type person, but I do tend to get distracted and caught up in my latest obsessions.  So I went through a season of posting multiple times a week to not showing up for a while.  I was off chasing other interests.  This is the way I am wired.  I get bored and obsessed easily.  This has wonderful results as I learn and experience a breadth of things.  But it also has negative fallout in living for the long-haul.

I remember in college hearing a message from our college president, Dick Foth, that the Christian life was not about sprinting or even a marathon, but plodding.  I don’t recall all the details of his message, but the word plodding stuck with me all these years.  I hate plodding.  I walk fast, make decisions fast, get distracted fast.  There is nothing remotely attractive to plodding to me.  But there is wisdom and truth to this behavior, at least where serving God is concerned.  Pressing on, leaning in, holding fast – these are marks of commitment and growth.

But as to my being regular in my blog posts, well, plodding will likely never be a good description.  I do have stuff to say and share and process externally, and so I will continue to do so.  But as God made me to be one who gets caught up in things, I will from time to time be off on my latest adventure.

My first 5K!

My first 5K!

Currently that adventure is tied into my long journey of getting healthy.  I have NEVER been one to love sport and fitness.  But I have been bit by the running bug.  Well less about running, and more about Disney’s events around running.  I did my first-ever 5K last week at DisneyWorld. It was an amazing experience.  I was personally proud of the achievement.  Again, I am 50 years old and this fitness thing is all new to me.  And because it is Disney, they go all out to create experiences; the fireworks marking your run start, the swelling soundtrack throughout the park as you run, the giant finish line with crowds cheering you on, and the draping of a medal around your neck.  It is VERY cool.  And as I am one who gets distracted, this type of event is a great tool for me to keep focused on the exercise journey.  So I am already signed up for the next run event.  On August 30 and 31 I am going to do the “Dumbo Double Dare” at the Disneyland Half Marathon.  On Saturday I will run a 10K and then on Sunday a half marathon.  So while the training regimen is boring, dare I say, like plodding, the goal is worth it.

Hey, that sounds like our faith journey, huh?  (Did you see what I did there?  😉 Flipped it right back.)  Yes, we are in our journey to live for Christ and the day to day may seem uneventful and boring, but the goal for which Christ has called us is worth it!  At least in the area of your faith journey, don’t get distracted by the squirrels, and stay the course.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

Added Note:  My goal of participating in the run in August also includes raising money for the children of St Jude hospital.  If you would like to encourage my personal journey of getting fit AND help children get treatment for cancer, then check out my info and donation page at http://heroes.stjude.org/lenbanks

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