Rector's Ramblings May 2, 2018
I have this problem whenever I try to exercise on a regular basis: I injure myself. The problem is two-fold. One, I’m not in very good shape. Sure, I don’t weigh 250 lbs., but let’s just say my weight isn’t muscle, either. So, when I exercise I tend to overestimate my physical abilities and hurt myself. This was a factor in my tennis elbow diagnosis, and it’s the reason I’ve stopped most of my other workout routines. The other part of the problem is closely related, but also different: I don’t know how to pace myself, or to take it easy, which means I do too much.
What does this look like in practice? It means that when I dust off the weights, I convince myself I can do the twenty pounders, when I should probably be using the tens (surely not the fives!). It also means that after months of not running, I might be better off doing an easy mile, and yet I grind out three instead, pleased with myself that I can still do a 5k. I got lucky earlier this year when I ran the bridge with no training. I was expecting to walk the bridge; that’s what I thought my youngest wanted to do. Once we were there, however, she wanted to run. So we ran. I didn’t have my calf compression socks or anything (I do try to use technology to help when I can!). Luckily, I did not have a heart attack, and I did not pull anything, but luck is all it was.
I refuse to admit that I can’t find a way to exercise. So when I came across a little tech device created by a company called Lumo, I thought I might have found the answer. I first heard of Lumo a couple of years ago. They made a little device that you clip to your clothing. The device has gyro-processors that speak to your smart phone and let you know when you’re slouching. I am aware that I have bad posture, and I thought that was interesting, but not enough to spend money on. This time around, however, I saw a new product; Lumo Run. It promises that again, by wearing a little device that clips on your running shorts, it can measure your performance on a series of measures and give you tips on improving your form and prevent injury.
I’m a researcher, so despite my, “Eureka!” moment, I did some online research to read what the reviews had to say. The balance of all of it was that, yes, the device was accurate and helpful for those wanting to improve their form. So, my Easter present to myself was a Lumo Run, and it has been great. I’ve done three runs with it so far (yes, only three since Easter - I have learned not to overdo it, so I’m pacing myself!), and it’s pretty amazing. It measures side to side motion, vertical motion, braking (when you don’t have a smooth transition between steps), cadence, and a couple other things. It gives live feedback during the run, and suggests exercises to help you improve the area that needs the most work. I have been amazed to find out that it works.
I used to think I had pretty good running form over the years, however, my persistent injuries and the assessment of the folks at First Place Sports, when buying new running shoes in Jacksonville a few years ago, have destroyed that perception. This silly little device, no bigger than one of those pink erasers I used to use in school, has guided me through three runs with virtually no pain afterwards. And I’m not running slowly (by my standards). The biggest correction has been in cadence. By upping the quickness of my steps - faster, shorter strides – I have eliminated much of the knee pain that seems to show up twelve hours after a run. The live feedback while on the run means I can’t forget the goal when I’m tired and bored, or when I daydream. It won’t let me slip into bad habits.
Now, if only I had a Lumo device for other parts of life. Like staying up too late watching TV, or eating more than I should, or skipping my prayers. Perhaps a device that would allow me to call my parents and invest more in friendships. Or a device to chime in my ear when my phone is keeping me from focusing on my kids or something else that deserves my attention. I should add that my phone can do some of these things, if I tell it to. I can tell it to remind me to go to bed, or use the app that tracks my eating to tell me when to stop. But those things aren’t like having the little voice in my ear.
The truth is we can slip into bad, unhealthy habits very easily. Good, healthy habits tend to take work, and sometimes it’s just easier to cut corners. This is why self-reflection and introspection are good. Taking stock of how we feel, and what we’re doing about feeling better are important. Some things will be beyond our control. For example, as I’ve written about before, my right elbow will never be 100% again. Ever. Not even with surgery. But, when I remember to do stretches and regular exercises to strengthen the muscles in my right arm, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. Generally, however, I don’t remember to do them after awhile until it starts hurting again. We may not have the power to make things 100% better, but we can usually improve things.
We can all benefit from regularly checking on ourselves. If there are things we can do, which lead to a healthier physical, emotional, or spiritual life, we should do them. We can let go of the stuff that we can’t control. I know my best efforts will not hold off some of the Purdy genetics that await me. What I can do is listen to my soul when it tells me it needs more Spirit; I can work on my prayers. I can listen to my body when it is constantly tired and sore – I can exercise (gently!). I can hear my doctor when he says I need to get my cholesterol down, and make some changes in what I eat. I will never do any of it perfectly, but if I pay attention and check in with myself from time to time, I can get back on the wagon, so to speak.
God wants us to be happy, healthy, and whole. Anything less is just that – less than God’s intention for our lives. There is much we can do to pursue such outcomes, and while we can’t rely on a little device to chime in our ear to encourage us, we can help ourselves get a fair part of the way down the road. If we don’t we will find ourselves fatigued, burnt out, injured, and even lost. We just can’t get it right all the time. But we can work on it a little bit at a time. And I hope we do.
O Lord, help us to be masters of ourselves that we may be the servants of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. Amen.