Consistent Stretching & Strengthening

Stretching 2Foot and leg pain began when I started running at age 14 because a boy I liked ran cross country. (Incidentally, over 20 years later, not only do I still run, but I’m married to that boy who also still runs.) My first memory of these problems were shin splints. My cross country coach faithfully taped my feet before every practice & meet to help alleviate some of the pain.

My mom took me to the podiatrist who fitted me with orthodics, which I don’t recall really wearing much (okay, not at all). In college, I ran very little, so the pain subsided, and I all but forgot about it.

Then the pain started again after college because I started running again. I also started teaching college classes, which meant a lot of standing, and the pain in my feet and legs gradually increased and returned worse than ever.

Stretching 1After trying orthodics again, expensive shoes & lots of rest, I finally sought to revamp my running form as well as to incorporate cross training activities. Still, the pain increased to the point of not being able to walk without a limp.

Next, I endured the most painful event ever in my life, nerve testing of my feet (seriously, huge crochet needs stuck in the side of my feet). No problems found. Next came hours of physical therapy on pretty much every joint & ligament from the waste down. Painful.

The point? I’ve done a lot to find relief from this chronic feet, leg & hip pain. But only one route brought any consistent relief… stretching & strengthening.

Physical therapy taught me how to stretch the tight muscles in my legs and feet. About the same time, I began to strengthen my core too. When I do these regularly, my feet and leg pain – along with any back pain – almost disappears. Missing a day or two here and there isn’t a big deal, but chronically missing them gradually brings back the pain and tingling sensation.

My lifelong struggle with foot, leg and hip pain and finally finding the solution of stretching and strengthening remind me of the importance of consistent Bible study, prayer and fellowship. When I do these activities regularly, my focus remains steadily on Christ and my purposes set toward His desires. When I don’t, I lose focus easily and find myself lost and unbalanced in a chaotic world. These activities, when done consistently, do for my soul what stretching does for my muscles… prepare me to better handle the stress and strain of life.

So, why don’t I always keep with the habits of prayer, Bible study & fellowship?Probably for the same reason I neglect my stretching & strengthening routine at times. When the pain goes away, I forget what brought relief. Conversely, when I feel the pain, I’m motivated toward the habits that keep me flexible and strong.

The same holds true spiritually. Unfortunately, I’ve sort of trained God that I need to feel pain and/or discomfort in order to keep to the good habits that provide for my protection. He knows I need to be reminded of the basic habits needed to remain strong and flexible in this journey of life.

Does your life reflect this truth? Share your story in the comments.

18 thoughts on “Consistent Stretching & Strengthening

  1. Excellent reminder that transcends our physical to our spiritual stretching and strengthening. Like Paul shared with Timothy, physical training is good but spiritual training has eternal value. (1 Tim 4:8) It is good too that you have a faithful partner in life who has encouraged you through the challenges of life and shared in your aches and pains.

    • We certainly cannot neglect the "good" placed on our physical value, but we must be careful to not let it overtake the better of the spiritual. Yes, I am very blessed to have my husband in my life. God has used him in so many ways, almost too many to recount.

  2. I had a massage the other day. One of the questions she asked me as she did a deep tissue massage on my legs, especially my thighs was "Do you stretch when you are done cycling?" Somehow "I used to" didn't seem to be the appropriate answer. 🙂 I have tried to do that the past couple rides. Jury is still out due to some knee pain. But you are also right, Kari, on the need to stretch spiritually. I let up on that sometimes also.
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    • Interesting that we don't think much about not doing these things until it's too late to prevent repercussions, isn't it? This is one area that doesn't scream too loudly at us until it's almost too late. I need to rely on my past mistakes in this area to keep me from making them again. Ah… if only that always worked.

  3. I have been struggling with fellowship and I needed to read this message. Thank you for sharing. I have been off balance for over a year. Usually it's just a couple of months and I try and get back on the wagon so to speak.

    • Definitely understand struggling with fellowship as well as with being off balance for short and long periods of time. Starting with the basics is key to getting back on track for sure. What are you doing to help yourself get back on the wagon?

  4. I wish pain and discomfort would not be what drives me to do that which is best. The truth is often it is. It is scary to think we need bad to drive us to good. I need to be consistent with the discipline of both the things I want to do for my body and the things I want to do for my soul. It I'm not it not only effects me but also those around me. An intentional and disciplined physical and spiritual life offers so much positive it is a shame we let ourselves be drawn away towards laziness.

    • A preventative approach certainly is a wiser approach, that's for sure. And you're so right about the ripple affect. Unfortunately, those it affects most are the most willing to make concessions, and we don't always seen the damage – sometimes irreversible – until much later as a result. Intentional and disciplined – preventative as much as possible – goes a long ways to not only prevent laziness but to propel us from just productiveness into effectiveness.

  5. Rev struggles with constant low back and leg pain, and faithfully stretches to keep it tolerable. I admire those of you who stick with your workouts even when you could easily allow pain to put you on the sidelines. I completely agree with your analogy. It was a family crisis that sent me to daily Bible study, and any time I fail to stay close to Him through the Word and prayer the pain comes back in abundance. His peace and strength can only be found in staying connected daily.
    My recent post 5 Simple Secrets to Inner Peace

    • Really, I keep at the workouts regardless of pain because I refuse to let my physical self be the boss. It's kind of what I have to do mentally to say that no matter how I feel, I'm going to do what I can to stay as healthy & strong as I can. Now, what I can attain changes day to day, but I am just determined to not let the physical decide for me. I think you'll see more of what I'm getting at in the August series. I hope so anyway. And you're so right about needing daily connection. If our inner worlds are to stay strong, they must be founded and shaped around His directives. No other way to truly have that peaceful inner self that stands strong no matter what's happening in out outer worlds.

  6. Great analogy. When I find myself walking through a season of pain, I usually end up wasting time figuring out how to alleviate the pain on my own. After some time passes, it dawns on me to offer the pain up to God in prayer and return to Him. I am so prone to forget because my mind tends to be future-oriented. I forget past painful experiences when things are going well, and I am prone to drift away from God in these good times.
    My recent post Through the Eyes of a Child

    • It\’s frustrating when we waste that time even though we know what to do to struggle through the pain with victory, isn\’t it? Seems like I do it still so very often. When will I learn? Slowing down the pace of life and simplifying has certainly helped. We need to learn more discipline with habits in the good seasons, I guess. Need to always stick to the fundamentals no matter what.

  7. Pain was also what helped me develop a consistent daily quiet time, which I've been doing for 12 years now. Before that every year I would put it on my New Year's goals list and I never could make myself do it. Interestingly, though the pain was somewhat self-imposed as I began the quiet time when I began to consistently work on letting go of my negative emotions, bad habits, etc. Since I couldn't do that in my own strength, I needed that quiet time each day. It didn't take long for it to become such a highlight of my day that I started doing it just out of enjoyment. Which is surprising after all those years of struggling!
    My recent post How My Friend Lost 140 Pounds

  8. Also fits with depressives: we slide downhill into the pit, find our way to a doc (or, if we're trying to work through the issues instead of just medicating them away, a doc *and* a therapist), gain some relief – all well and good. The problem starts here – because we feel better, we start slacking off whatever treatment/med regime we're on, almost imperceptibly, until one day we're back in the breakdown lane again. Just as not all pain is physical, nor all of the same type, we differ in degree of disease and rate of recovery.

    I need contact – regular contact – with other believers, as well as quiet time, reading and meditating. I also need to engage the world at large and not retreat into a little Christian bubble to try to stay safe from the world at large – comfort zones are death traps that we design.

    Good post, Kari – as usual 🙂
    My recent post Visiting Hours

    • The key is learning & knowing yourself and then doing what\’s necesary even when you don\’t feel like it. I just remember what happens when I don\’t do what I know I need to, and it usually keeps me on track. A huge challenge comes for me when routines change drastically, such as when my kids are on summer vacation or when we travel. My body always struggles with r hose changes, and my mind soon follows if I\’m not careful. Balance is so important, and I need to keep it in mind always in this struggle.

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