This morning, my exercise routine was vastly different from what I participated in on Saturday morning: this morning was the gym; Saturday was a two-mile Fun Walk through Xenia to support the Miami Valley Women’s Center. Two ways to exercise–two ways to view life.
I have taken up exercising at the gym here in town. It’s indoor track is smooth with lanes so I can practice walking in a straighter line than what I do on the bike path. There is too much freedom on the bike path; I wobble uncontrollably all over the path. It is not only is frustrating for myself, but I am sure for the bikers or rollerbladers who are coming up behind me, ready to fly past. Thus, I can, but I resolved not to, walk the bike path alone.
And even when I do walk the bike path with someone, I take my walking sticks that I termed, “rod and staff” (Psalm 23:4). Who would have known that these trusty metal sticks would be the extra pair of legs that I need most often when I walk outdoors? They traveled all throughout Greece, hiked mountains in Colorado and now trod flat bike paths, occasional treks through our 3-acres of grass in the early morning or through town on the rough terrain otherwise known as the sidewalk. You can see why I have decided to take up the gym…it is conveniently safe, air-conditioned, and a time of socialness with the senior citizens of town.
At the gym, I usually walk around the indoor track–maybe a half mile or so–then use the stationary bike. It is like multitasking. I bike and read at the same time! In fact, I think I get more exercise this way, because I get lost in my book that I forget to check how long or how many miles I have been pedaling. I have also taken to the bike, because my left leg is now numb. Not that it affects anything other than just feeling like “muscle stiffness,” but being on the bike gives my ankles a rest: It gives my right ankle a rest from twisting and it gives my left leg a rest from taking the weight that the right ankle should carry on its own. The bike gives my back a rest from the “S” posture that the tumors are causing; and it gives my neck a break from tirelessly trying to hold itself in an upright position. When I bike, I rest.
Contrast to Saturday. It was hot, humid and threatening to rain. I was up early so I could eat a solid breakfast and grab a cup of coffee before heading out. I made sure I had everything (like my own little First Aid kit)–rod and staff, an apple, a SoBe Life water, my baseball hat, band aids, my registration papers and pledge money, and a tiny wallet with medical information papers/driver’s license. All checked and ready to go! I get to the Women’s Center in plenty of time to park, get in and out of the registration before lines start piling up and grab a cup of orange juice while making casual conversation with the volunteer at the table. I was excited. I had only ever been on committees to coordinate events like this or volunteered otherwise at the big 5k events.
I did not know what to expect really. All I knew is that I was determined to walk the full two miles. That might sound ridiculous (it is only two miles!), but considering two nights prior I could hardly walk a mile on the bike path with my parents as my neck was causing me so much strain, standing upright hurt to almost breathe…I literally strained everything on my rod and staff to make it back to the car. Good workout and I fell asleep fast that night when I got in bed, but I quickly reminded myself that there was a reason why I exercised in the morning rather than the evening: my body has more energy, better posture, better mental determination. I have to admit, I like being a morning person. 🙂
I get nervous when I walk around a crowd with my rod and staff. They help me maintain my balance, but they sometimes cause problems. Luckily, I did not trip anyone as we got started, but I did accidentally hit a lady’s ankle from behind…must have felt like a shopping cart hitting your ankle sort of feeling. I felt horrible. She did not turn around but I called out a sincere apology anyway. We get going around the first block and my mind is already thinking that they are going to take us to the bike path and then we follow a trail there and then turn and come back. I mean, after all, with all these kids and baby carriages that would be the safest route.
Nope. We end up trekking through the busiest streets of town on the roughest sidewalks–past McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s drive-thru intersections and more. This was NOT what I was expecting. We get about a mile down and I am walking by myself, which I enjoyed. The “trail” was only marked by little signs that had arrows, but I could see the walkers in front of me by a few hundred feet so I was not lagging too far behind. A small family caught up with me by the time I rounded the main intersection in town. We exchanged a few words and they continued on after I stopped to use the restroom.
When I came out, there was a large group of families with baby strollers making their way back so I joined, but found myself feeling like my rod and staff and wavering balance were getting in the way so I passed and walked a bit quicker to the next light where I ended up having to wait to cross the street. A different group caught up with me at this point and when the light said we could go, I was in the front. I started to feel pressure–I am not claustrophobic but when people follow me, I feel their eyes watching my ankles and I get nervous…which I am sure is all just in my head, but as I get up to the next curb not only do I feel this nervousness, but also the sidewalk is now slanted to the right (Why? I have no clue!) I tried to regain my balance as I felt myself starting to shift downwards but ended up landing gracefully in the bush instead. I tried to get myself up, but was having a hard time with my rod and staff flying in different directions and the slanted sidewalk. I feel a hand grasp my left elbow which helps me get up. I give a big thanks then add, “At least I fell in the bush”–while thinking it was genius that I had packed those band aids just in case I had a worse fall.
The last quarter-mile was this uphill, slanted, cracked sidewalk journey that made me start to wish that I was just done. That is when I decided to think of other things. I thought of how some days in life seemed like this walk–full of dangers at the intersections, rough terrains, heat and sweat like trials and tears–not like my safe, air-conditioned gym. I don’t know why the two miles caused my body to react all weekend in the way that it did, but I do know that crossing the finish line seemed victorious; my apple on the way home seemed sweeter; my Saturday afternoon of reading with my feet propped up seemed more relaxing; and my nap yesterday afternoon was a deep satisfying sleep.
I will still exercise in the gym, but I now have a greater appreciation for what it provides. Just as in life–there will be pain, but it will give me a greater appreciation for the days I have been given rest; there will be tears, but it will give me a greater appreciation for the days I have been given joy; there will be days when I fall down, but it will give me a greater appreciation for when I have been given the grace to stand back up on my feet.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)