Keep on Keeping on

As I was recently thinking about blog posts, I realized it’s been a long, long time since I’ve written anything about health or progress on my big exercise goals I shared last fall. People sometimes ask about my five minute plank, and I feel a little heartbroken when I have to give them the update, which is usually a sign that I need to write about it, cause that’s the way I deal with stuff.

I looked back on my blog to the last time I wrote about it, which was interesting to me, because it was only a few days after the post that I injured myself so badly, I’m still trying to pull out of it. The progress has been painfully slow, and just painful in general, so I stopped saying anything about it, because there wasn’t much to say. A year later, I’m still not sure how much there is to say – no dramatic progress or exciting accomplishments, but here’s the thing: I’ve kept at it for a year without a lot to show. I’ve been thinking about how that in itself is worth a lot.

It’s easy to stay motivated when there’s progress, but when you work and work at something, with little to show for it, the motivation can take a major hit. It’s terribly disappointing to keep putting in the effort, hoping for things to change, waiting for some indication that things are improving, and not getting the results you’re wanting. What do you do then?

Before I injured myself last fall, I had worked my way up to a six minute plank, and I was feeling better than ever. My body was noticeably stronger, and I was feeling confident and excited about reaching my goals. But I ended up hitting my tailbone so hard I couldn’t move for a couple seconds, and it seems that everything in my pelvis, hips, and back is still being pulled out of place. The balance of strengthening these weak muscles is tricky – doing nothing means I won’t improve, and doing too much makes the pain flare up and then I need to backtrack. It’s long and frustrating and annoying.

I’m still able to plank for three minutes, but I’ve had to stay there for an entire year, unable to increase my time, hoping to get to a point where I can continue to work up to my 10 minute goal.

Just in the last month or two, I’ve started to feel some relief from some new things I’ve been trying, and I’m FINALLY able to begin increasing my planking time. I have to go very slowly and carefully, only adding about 10 seconds at a time every couple of weeks, but I’m delighted to be in a place where this is possible.

So how do we keep on keeping on? For me, it’s a combination of lots of prayer, Ben’s encouragement, and words of inspiration! It’s been awhile since I went hunting for quotes about exercise and not giving up, so here’s a good dose of exactly what I needed!

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How do you keep going when things are hard?

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Finding Out What We’re Capable of

It’s been 10 months since I started the challenge of strengthening my weak, creaky body. Someone asked me the other day, “What exactly is wrong with your body?” I didn’t know how to answer that in a neat and tidy way – the best I could come up with is that I was never physically active, my body has always been small and weak, and then I had babies, and all my muscles went out of balance while trying to deal with the extra weight of being pregnant. And then I didn’t recover.

For those of you who have been following along regularly, you know that my therapist has promised great changes if I can reach a 10 minute plank – the ultimate way to get my muscles back into balance. He hints at more crazy exercises to follow, but won’t get into get into the details right now while I’m trying to accomplish my goal of a 10 minute goal.

In the beginning, I could plank for 25 seconds. I’ve been working away at it every single day since last December, and many of you rejoiced with me when I hit the five minute mark.:) You have no idea how much I’ve loved your sweet words of encouragement, and all of the reports from others who have also started planking! You guys are amazing!

Five minutes was super exciting, and it felt awesome to reach that goal, but it was never the intention to stay there, so for the last month and a half, I’ve been trying to increase my time, but I’ve been SO STUCK!!! It’s been incredibly frustrating to stay at that five minute mark for so long, but I’ve kept at it, knowing that at some point, things have to change.

This last weekend, I hit a slump. There are times when the pain in my body flares up, whether it’s from stress, sickness, or just getting stiff from sitting too long. We’ve had a couple of fundraisers and events to go to where I haven’t been able to start doing yoga poses halfway through – sometimes, it’s just not socially acceptable to relieve tight muscles in public places, although I was tempted to bring my yoga mat and find a back corner somewhere where no one would notice what I was doing!

By Sunday night, I was in so much pain, I just sat on the floor in our living room and cried. My muscle therapist is out of town for a few weeks, and I didn’t know what to do. I could make an appointment with someone else, but he’s very specialized, and has been helping me for over five years, so quickly finding someone new wouldn’t really work well for this situation.

I knew I needed to plank, but couldn’t imagine that going well, considering the amount of pain I was in. I decided to do my best, and if I couldn’t last the whole five minutes, it would still be better than nothing.

Well, I hit the four minute mark, and was still okay, so decided to try for five. When I got to five minutes, I was still feeling okay, so went for another 10 seconds. Anytime I increase my time, I do it in 10 second increments, and then collapse on the floor, panting and unable to move for a few minutes until I’ve recovered. This time, I made it to five minutes and 20 seconds, then 30, 40…I finally stopped at six minutes!!! What in the world???!!! It was a planking miracle!! Ben said I didn’t seem that tired, compared to other times. It didn’t even make sense.

It felt like God wanted to give me a boost – a little supernatural strength to encourage me when things were looking too hard. I felt amazing afterwards. That’s the weird thing about planking – it is crazy hard and painful, but it actually makes me feel better when I do it.

The next day, I had no idea what to expect. I got into position, and sent up a quick prayer before I started planking – “God, give me strength. If that was a one-time thing, I’ll totally understand, but help me to do this!!” Six minutes again!!! My ten minute goal is looking closer all the time!

The most amazing thing about this whole process is seeing how God made the body able to work really well. I watch muscles developing in my arms, and see the different ways in which my body rises to the occasion. I can do this – my body is capable of being strong and healthy and meeting physical demands. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m finding all of it to be delightful. I’m told a six-pack is in my future, and I would find that delightful, as well!;)

I’m always on the look-out for inspiring quotes to keep me going on this little adventure, so here’s my latest bunch of favorites:

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Do you have any goals you’re working towards? Surprising yourself of what you’re truly capable of?

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Birthday Favorites Part 2

Hey, Friends! Thanks so much for all the kind birthday wishes! I spent my day relaxing as much as possible, because I caught the cold my kids have been struggling with for the last week!:( Ben and I postponed our birthday date to a day when I’m feeling better, but at least we had babysitting all lined up, so I spent down time on the couch with some Gilmore Girls episodes. Not really that exciting, but now we have more time to anticipate our birthday date.:)

For today’s birthday favorites, it’s all about exercise. This last year was my year to start strengthening my body, and that’s a big deal for me, as I explained in this post.

It’s funny, because I’ve spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t athletic in any way, and it took 37 years to figure out I was wrong. The school I attended was all about basketball and volleyball, which I couldn’t stand. I liked biking and walks in the sunset, but those weren’t considered “exercise”. When Ben and I first got married, I went through an aerobics video phase, but didn’t really enjoy that either. Exercise was something I felt negative about in every possible way, and I tried to force myself to do it, but nothing stuck.

It’s probably a large part of why I ended up with all the issues I’ve had with my back and hips, although there are other contributing factors. I had a crooked spine, and because I’ve always been very small, I just didn’t have the strength to do things other people would find easy. I tried to make up for lack of strength with tension, and the muscles in my body got pretty messed up, especially during pregnancy.

After spending a few years working on flexibility with yoga, massage, and physiotherapy, this was the year to finally begin strengthening my unhappy muscles. Besides my little team of therapists, who take fantastic care of me, I have four parts to my strengthening program which have been changing my life. That sounds dramatic, but seriously – there are major shifts happening in my body, and I delight in them every single day! When I pick up Everett, or open a heavy door, and am able to do these things easily, I feel very excited about my progress!! Someday soon, I’m going to ride my bike and mop the floor, and it will be a beautiful day….

In the meantime, here’s what I’m loving right now:

Going for Walks

For years, I couldn’t go for a walk, because my hips just hurt far too much. I was always really sad about this, because I had so many beautiful memories of walking down the gravel road with my mom when I was in high school – half a mile west into the sunset, and then back home again.

Last spring, Ben encouraged me to start getting out of the house for a walk, no matter how short it might be. He kept saying a little bit was better than nothing, so I listened to him, even though it felt really dumb to walk past four houses down our street, and then turn around, because that was as far as I could possibly go. But very slowly, I started getting stronger, and I could get past five or six houses. All winter long, no matter how cold it was, I put on a million layers, and I got outside for a walk. My anxiety got less, my sleep improved, and my body got stronger. I love it. Now I go for a daily 20 minute walk, and every single time I head out our door for a walk, I am so full of joy and thankfulness because I can walk again.

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Oh, I have such a love/hate relationship with planking!! I love how it’s strengthening my body, but it is so hard to do it! In the beginning, I would actually cry because I dreaded it so much! But my therapist has said it is the BEST thing for back issues. He promised I’d start noticing the difference by two minutes, be in a great place by five minutes, and not even feel my back by ten.

I thought he was insane.

I started with 30 seconds, and it seemed completely impossible to plank for one minute, never mind five or ten. I started in December, and I’ve made it to four minutes. Suddenly five doesn’t seem so impossible anymore! I like to flex in front of the mirror now, because I’m still trying to believe weak little me is actually able to have some muscles in those arms. Anything is possible, I tell ya!!!

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Ashtanga Yoga

This isn’t exactly new – I’ve been doing it for about three years now, but this last year has been exciting because I’m really able to notice the health benefits. There are many different types of yoga, but this is my muscle therapist’s favorite, and it’s incredibly effective. You can check it out on youtube here, but the white spandex shorts are a bit much, so I bought this book, since I don’t want to turn the TV on every night when I do yoga. There are pictures of each pose at the back, if I can’t remember the new stuff I’m working on.

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Trigger Point Ball

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I love this ball. The idea is very basic – find a sore muscle, and lie on the ball. Sooo much pain, but it makes such a difference!! Unfortunately, Everett also loves it, too, and he runs away with my ball all the time. It rolls under furniture, and sometimes it takes me days to find it! I am very sore those days – I might need to consider getting a back-up. I’m told a lacrosse ball works just as well, and I’ve also used a baseball in desperation!

There you have it – the tools an unsporty girl is using to get strong and active! What’s your favorite way to exercise? Do you enjoy being active, or is it hard to get into the habit?