Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm Back Baby!

I ran today. I told myself I'd just try one mile and stop if it hurt. The whole time I thought about mechanics, and you know what? I'm a major heel-striker. No wonder my knees are mad at me. So I'm relearning how to run healthfully - how to take care of my body. It's surprisingly hard to do in traditional running shoes, so I can't wait for my Vibrams!

I went two miles today and felt absolutely wonderful. I had to try not to smile while running so people wouldn't think I was loony. And then I couldn't hold my excitement so I told about 4 people at the gym how excited I was to be running again..... No doubt those 4 people now think I'm crazy.

Thank you Lord for giving me the ability to run again when it gives me so much joy.

(P.S. This is my new favorite website on barefoot running developed by biologists at Harvard)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to my Running Roots

I love running. I mean really, really love it. There is something so captivating and relaxing about settling into the graceful, soothing strides of a long run while my mind can wander. It's just me and the Lord and my feet on the pavement/path/track. Well, sometimes it's me, the Lord and Beyonce (thank you ipod). 

I've been long-distance running for 10+ years, but over the past 6 months I have developed such severe knee pain that it drove me to the doctor after effectively being unable to run farther than 1/2 mile without collapsing on the track. Disheartening. Especially when the doc informed me that my issue was most likely a combination of slight miniscal tearing, damaged cartilage with chunks floating about, and early arthritis. Yummy. 

And then he told me I might not be able to run anymore and I wanted to cry.

The end of January will mark the end of my mandatory "no running" rest period, and I'm allowed to gently try again in February. I've spent January petitioning the Lord for just a few miles a week. "I can give up 8+ mile daily runs, Lord, but please please just allow me to handle 10 miles a week, just 10...."

And then I stumbled upon an interesting alternative - possibly even revealing the source of my pain.

Barefoot running. Well, not necessarily barefoot ALL the time, but running in a minimalist shoe that mimics being barefoot. In an effort to save blog space and not bore you with my inevitable elaborations, here is a bullet-pointed list of research I've been compiling on this subject:

  • Typical running shoes can put more stress on your knee and hip joints that continually walking in high-heeled shoes. This causes an exponential increase in torque on your knees (an increase of 38% from barefoot) and hips. Hello knee issues! In fact this increase in torque on knees is greater than the increase caused by high heels, which is only 20-26% (1).
  • The energy cost of running is reduced by 4% when running barefoot vs. in a traditional running shoe (2).
  • The rate of injury (both chronic and acute) to the lower extremities is substantially higher in people who run in running shoes vs. those who run barefoot (2).
  • The abundant cushioning and arch support in running shoes actually increases impact force (2) by causing us to land on our heels instead of the balls of the feet, where are feet were designed to absorb shock (3).
  • The human body can instinctively modify itself to different types of terrain and absorb shock appropriately, but thick soles of running shoes impair our ground awareness and limit natural elasticity (3).
  • Running barefoot adjusts your posture to its natural, healthy alignment by allowing you to strike the ground where the foot is designed to (3).
  • Running barefoot increases sensory feedback, balance and proprioception in the feet (2)(4).
  • Since many podiatrists believe its dangerous to run completely barefoot, I've researched a minimalist shoe that mimics the benefits of going barefoot while protecting the soles of the feet (Vibrams). 

If all of that isn't convincing enough for me, today a Kenyan guy from my gym boasted about the benefits he's experienced from barefoot running. He said he had been barefoot running for years, up to 10 miles at a time, and that it was the most freeing, natural and painless experience he's had running. Naturally I was sold after that - have you seen those Kenyans run? They're incredible!

So I've asked for a pair of Vibrams for my birthday next month. I'll look goofy running in my five-fingered shoes, but I'm hoping to be back running to awesome jams soon. Expect a follow-up post on my barefoot experiences!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Incapable of "Sabbath-ing"?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a type A list-maker and I spend my days cramming in as much as possible, flying from task-to-task, until I fall into bed exhausted at the close of every day. Well here's my confession....

I'm starting to wear out.

It seems to be no coincidence that the Lord has been bringing my path upon much literature and teaching about rest lately. I recently read Timothy Keller's "Counterfeit Gods" , through which God revealed my idolatry of productivity. I didn't even know that was an idol. Guess my heart will just take anything good and twist it into wickedness. 

The idea of Sabbath was brought to my mind a lot over the last couple of months, and I'm happy to say that Jeremy and I had a very nice time of rest visiting family for the holidays. I returned to Denton ready to hit the ground running, only to discover that my tiredness quickly returned. Problem is, I'm WAY too busy with WAY too many things on my plate to even take Sunday to rest! I mean, that's laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning day! Right? Wrong. There's that tricky little idol of mine peaking out of my heart again, revealing that this is going to be a tough struggle for me. 

The Bible blatantly COMMANDS us to take a Sabbath EVERY WEEK (not just on holidays, as I try to talk myself into) to rest. I mean, it's right there in the ten commandments - on the stone tablets and everything!

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God."

Exodus 20:8-10

Matt spoke about Sabbath as part of his message this week, and to be honest it was both energizing and discouraging. Energizing because the Lord has provided us with a day of rest, recharging and rich time with family and friends. Discouraging because I've never seemed to be able to really rest. My mind makes lists of tasks, my body can't relax if there's laundry or dishes to be done. I haven't realized how much of a SIN this is until now, when the Lord is revealing it to my heart through many channels. This was my mom's latest blog, that I just so happened to read today:

Here’s my most recent Google search: “Can a dog be hyperactive?” (In case you’re interested, the answer is “yes.”) Well, I’m convinced the puppy my son Mark adopted from a local shelter has a serious case.
Remi is an eleven pound, mixed breed blend of constant motion. He never walks anywhere. He reminds me of the little ball in a pinball machine. Ding, he’s off this direction and then ding, like a shot he’s off in a completely different direction. Even during the brief moments he is standing in one spot his little head jumps this way and that determining his next catapult.
Mark has had some success in training Remi. He finally got the potty thing down. Hallelujah! And he can “sit.” Be it ever so briefly. They’re working on “come.” That’s proving to be a challenge. But the one command meeting the most resistance is “stay.”
The other day I lent a hand while Mark attempted to impress Remi with the concept. Mark held the tennis ball and told Remi to “sit,” which he did. Mark told Remi to “stay” and then threw the ball. Ha! My job became holding Remi in the sitting position until Mark said “go.” All I have to say about the experience is it’s a really good thing the dog only weighs eleven pounds.
Hyperactive Remi reminds me a bit of my relationship with God. I find it much easier to go and do tasks God gives me than to sit quietly at His feet. Prolonged periods of listening, praying and simply sitting in His presence are hard-learned disciplines. I know that God not only wants me to be still, I am also missing out on blessings I can’t experience any other way. Last year I stenciled this verse on the wall of my home office:
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
This year I just want to do it. What about you? Do you have trouble sitting still before God?
God went straight for my heart. So I need help resting. Ask me if I'm resting. Tell me that it's OK to rest (and I'm praying now that I'll believe you when you tell me that). I'm a marathoner trying to sprint the whole way, and I want to slow down and finish the race well.

Monday, January 4, 2010

So Long 2009.... Hello 2010!

Another year has come and gone, and this one in particular involved a TON of change for us. Most of this was good change, and I learned a lot through it. I racked my brain for New Years Resolutions on January 1st, but most of the things I came up with were wish-list items - things I had zero control over. Those aren't really resolutions. These were things such as:

  • Taking a trip to Canada with Jeremy in August for our anniversary (dependent upon the economy and our tax return)
  • Being able to run long distances again SOON without excruciating knee pain (dependent upon how my body handles the new medicine I'm taking for my knees)
  • Jeremy landing a great job after he graduates in August (dependent upon the job climate at the time)
  • Accompanying Jeremy's family to New York for New Years next year (dependent upon the job...)

I noticed a pattern. I attribute everything on my wish list to being dependent upon this, dependent upon that, when all of those factors are ultimately dependent upon GOD! We worry about the economy, the job climate, and our health care as though men had power over them. But our God has control over all of these things, and the most powerful men in the world are but pawns in His hand.

"The king's heart is  stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will."
Proverbs 21:1

"The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord established his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

So, the list I ended up making this New Year was not a wish list for 2010, but a wisdom list from 2009.
Here are some important things I learned:

     1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN. All the time. In every situation. Even when I thought I knew best. Scratch that - especially when I thought I knew best. I need not worry nor be anxious, because my plans will ultimately fail and His far better plans will succeed. 

     2. GOD PROVIDES. We spent the first couple of months of our marriage struggling to make ends meet. God took care of us. Money showed up when unexpected bills presented themselves, and we had to learn to accept financial help. God humbled us, as we could not take pride in even monetarily providing for ourselves. By His grace we are starting to get our feet under us, but rejoice that financial stability is a gift from the Lord and that such stability is fleeting. We place our trust in Him, not our savings account. And we are EXTREMELY thankful for an unknown friend(s) that still sends grocery money (see When God send blessings through US Post....). We hope you are reading - we love you and are thankful for your unbelievable generosity.

     3. MARRIAGE IN SANCTIFYING. The Lord has allowed us to have such joy in the first 4 1/2 months of marriage. It is a great blessing to have someone to laugh with, cry with, wake up next to, cook meals with, read to, dream with, pray with, pray for, romance, and love. God designed marriage to be sanctifying, and we already see that spouses are the most equipped to hold up mirrors for one another. Because Jeremy is intimately connected with me, the mirror of my soul he holds up to me shows more junk than I sometimes care to see, but the Lord has used that to lovingly refine us. We have become partners in pursuing holiness.

     4. THE WEDDING IS GREAT, BUT MARRIAGE IS FAR BETTER. My lovely engaged lady-friends - it is SOO easy to get caught up in planning the perfect wedding day, to get stressed out about these plans, and to consume yourself with thoughts of these plans 24-7. Really easy. But it's one day, and the MORE joyous journey begins after the wedding day. 

     5. GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN FINISHED WITH COLLEGE. Alas, I am again in college earning my Masters degree until May 2011. 

     6. GOOD FRIENDS ARE GEMS. The Lord has blessed us with some awesome friends, and we treasure them. 2009 would not have been one-tenth as amazing as it was without our friends.

     7. GARDENING IS NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS. We yielded some crops last fall, but we will try again this spring with more knowledge and more patience!

     8. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE READING WHEN IT'S NOT FOR SCHOOL. I learn this every break and speed-read through a couple of books per week until the beginning of school. Then, by the end of the semester, I'm convinced I hate reading. So I re-learned my love Christmas break 2009.

     9. I HAVE A TRAVEL BUG AND NOT ENOUGH FUNDS TO FEED IT. I re-learn this every year also. Inevitably something will spark this and bring it speeding to the fore-front of my mind. I LOVE traveling and have a mile-long list in my head of places I'd love to visit. But traveling is expensive for the most part. So in 2010 I will pray to be content in my current status of travel (even if that's to Lewisville and back), and pray that one day the Lord will bless us with funds to be able to see the world He's created. 

    10. WE HAVE THE MOST LOVING AND SUPPORTIVE FAMILY EVER. We dearly love all 17 members of our now-exceedingly-large immediate family.

All of this reflecting leads me to one ultimate New Years Resolution, and I have a feeling it will be the same resolution I will have every year for the rest of my life. 

I resolve to know God more in 2010 than I did in 2009.

Happy New Year!