Physical Stretching and Strengthening
Foot 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 and meet to help alleviate some of the pain.
My mom took me to the podiatrist who fitted me with orthotics, which I don’t recall really wearing much. In college, I ran very little, 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.
After trying orthotics again, expensive shoes, and lots of rest, I finally sought to revamp my running form and 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. No problems found. Next came hours of physical therapy on pretty much every area from the waist down. Painful.
I’ve done a lot to find relief from this chronic feet, leg, and hip pain. Only one route brought any consistent relief: stretching and 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 sensations.
Spiritual Stretching and Strengthening
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 stay 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.
I still feel physical pain much like I still feel spiritual and mental pain. The habits of stretching and strengthening help keep me flexible and strong, though, so I can work through the discomfort. They allow me to stay mobile and to eventually emerge from the struggle stronger and with renewed perspective.