The Table

Growing up, the kitchen table was the hub of our household. The iconic spot, immediately adjacent to the back door, primed for an elbow bump from the regular influx of a seemingly endless supply of kids, it was occupied most hours of the day and night by our dad. Trading hand-rolled cigarettes for pickled pigs feet (I have to believe his taste buds for the latter were primed by the former) he was always armed with a Zebra pen and notebook, stack of books, playing host to a wide variety of guests sharing conversation and advice, solicited and not. The booth was a proverbial clown car with endless capacity for bodies, especially on pizza night when there was a mad rush to rip open the paper of the Little Caesars double wide. Beyond daily meals and the dusty prepping of pierogi at Christmas, this simple round-edged square on a solitary pedestal has sustained and supported many discussions, decisions, emotions and evolutions over more than half a century and now welcomes the next generation for projects with grandma and sibling reunions.  It was over, around and under these sixteen square feet that I first learned about community, communication and collaboration.

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During orientation week of medical school, I was the lucky winner of a raffle for an Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment table, a serendipitous moment brought me early ownership of the tool that would become central to my entire professional career. Able to have a direct impact early on with family and friends who were willing candidates for the practice of techniques, this portable table was a constant companion.  With the patient upon and the doctor beside, a therapeutic relationship ensued. Four folding legs and cushioned teal leather supported structural corrections, optimal function and served as guide – for the health of the patient and my personal quest.

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This journey included a three-year round trip to the State of Jefferson including one where a year of independent practice utilized an identical folding table while two years in collaboration saw me rotating among four more permanent, customized to the needs of my colleagues, teaching me adaptability and stability all at once.  Navigating difficult diagnoses, welcome solutions and steep learning curves, I eventually landed back in my home state to a town previously experienced as a tourist, stepping before the path was revealed. Taking a chance on casual greeting of fellow osteopaths, their generous reception led to the introduction to Table Health. Intrigued by the name and enthralled by the mission, I offered my experience and alignment was found.

Visions of wellness centers as the solution to health crises facing the world have had many iterations – in my head, in writing, in proposals, in the rooms of my clinic and on the floor of my gym. Though health was enhanced, the concept never reached its fullest expression. On walking into Table Health, I saw the fruition of this dream. Calm and bright, the structure was sound, encouraging clear and full function. Substance supported style and the patient-centric, health-driven mission was everything I had envisioned manifested in reality – and they were looking for a physician to join them on the journey.  Abandoned meals and work plans of fasting were replaced by a bounty, inviting me to fill my plate and have a seat at The Table, welcoming my contribution and offering opportunity in return.

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The tasks are daunting, but equally inspiring as the potential is limited only by true reverence for the health. Trusting in my osteopathic roots, this is indeed abundant. While there will be no Little Caesars or hand-rolling tasks, pig’s feet might find their way back in a whole food model and there will certainly be books and notebooks aplenty. Though the dimensions have changed, and the advice now explicitly solicited, collaboration ensues and care for humanity remains a constant.  Temporary or permanent – over, around, under, beside and upon– the table positions us for relationships and roles as we require and can provide.

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May we be nourished, body, mind and spirit through our contribution to community as we make space for all at the Table.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

Core Strength

Foundation. Structure. Function.

As an osteopathic physician, I often counsel my patients that there are external supports that can be utilized when needed, but first line is to see what the body can do on its own. This can be in reference to a bite splint, orthotics, braces, wraps, tape, walking sticks and other implements. One I used often during my residency was a heel lift. For a short leg, a heel lift can be used, but only after mechanics, strength and flexibility are optimized. Patients can find an external support to be inconvenient or unreliable, serve as a crutch and, if not utilized appropriately, allow underlying imbalances to be untreated or ignored. Sometimes it is a reset – allowing the muscles of the body to adapt around a new neutral and can eventually be removed.

Sometimes it supports a temporary situation – for a pregnant patient where asymmetry results from the postural changes of gestation or in a patient with post-traumatic joint degeneration that is eventually treated with joint replacement surgery, the use of the lift is discontinued as the acute leg length discrepancy has resolved. Sometimes it is simply needed. We are not symmetric creatures and, though we have tremendous capacity for compensation, something, or more likely a combination/accumulation of many somethings, pushes the limits and a person simply cannot maintain balance without a bit of extra help.

From a young age, I found myself practicing independence and self-reliance. Making life decisions as they came with minimal counsel. From college and scholarships to medical school and deferment to residency location and modifications. To be clear, I was not alone, but prided myself on managing responsibility on my own.  I have felt strong and capable, confident especially in my physical capacity. Even through knee surgery, that did require assistance in driving and a forced respite from training, there was a finite element that made it seem manageable. Fast forward to June 14 and this all came crashing down when a perceived bought of severe indigestion, after a curious week of severe pain and wondering, turned out to be a significant tear of the deepest, most critical stabilizer of my abdominal muscles.

With the announcement that the only treatment was complete physical rest, I could not fathom the state of incapacitation and lack of independence rendered by this dictum. Given the severity of the pain and the desire to banish it as quickly as possible, I committed to the prescription and surrendered to the process. With grace and kindness, my family, friends and community offered the help I needed and, with the salvation of working through the additional support of an abdominal binder, I crested the 42ndday with much smaller muscle mass but much larger appreciation for the ability to accept help as freely as I might give it.

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Best external supports ever!

Embarking cautiously on a rehabilitation program and gradually gaining strength, I began to feel whole again and it seemed I was in the category of “in need of temporary support,” now able to do for myself, shed the binder and resume life as I knew it. All was going swimmingly as I prepared to reenter the pool and dust off my triathlon gear upon my return to The Great Lakes State. I targeted race dates many months off, setting reasonable goals as key motivators on the path back to full fitness. One week ago, on a rainy night that would prove paradoxical to an earlier comment I made regarding the reliable dryness of middlest and littlest, a momming moment of mattress changing illustrated the incomplete healing of my midsection as a familiar, and most unwelcome, searing pain reemerged.

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Day of (gentle) first run

In disbelief that after such disciplined recovery and rehabilitation and while feeling so strong, such a simple action could send me back to square one, I was quite literally rocked to my core. Was I really that weak? So vulnerable that I couldn’t handle a simple task of sheet-changing without re-injury?  I was defeated and deflated – overwhelmed by a rush of anxiety that couldn’t be quelled by the release of running. I turned again to friends, family, community and was met readily with encouragement and understanding. I realized that injury was not synonymous with weakness and vulnerability can actually be a marker of strength because only in the acceptance that follows can we truly heal.

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Running by the lake = happy place – there again soon!

While my core muscles might be far from perfect, my core values are reinforced and my core people as robust as they come. I will continue to optimize the mechanics of my body, strength of my spirit and flexibility of my mind, but as it turns out, for me support is simply needed, for now, for longer than I’d like to admit and maybe even forever. I am appreciative to have the external resources and will provide them for others with a more gracious spirit when called upon. Function. Structure. Foundation.

May we embrace our own needs as we seek to help others and trust that we truly are stronger together.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

Pain Cave

We talk often in the gym about time in the Pain Cave – an elusive and sometimes dreaded place where the hardest work, and by natural consequence, the most magical things, can happen. It is the place to push limits, to find out what you really can do and how much you can truly handle. It is by nature a dark, often solitary, place and you almost certainly come out transformed. Unlike those used for hibernation, however, this cave has always been an active space. There is no frigid dormancy, endless slumber or reliance on fat reserves – it is a place of sweat, grit, movement, physical and mental engagement and (a perk to be sure) mid-or-post-exertional refueling.  With the side-lining of a most unforgiving injury these past two weeks, the pain cave has taken on a whole new, and not particularly favorable, meaning.

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Rocking an electric scooter in the Oregon Zoo!

My coaches and I work hard to keep our athletes active through a wide variety of injuries and ailments, recognizing the benefits of movement in the healing process physically, mentally and emotionally as well as the importance of social integration in the success of recovery. With an ironic sense of humor, or just plain bad luck, the universe sent me the one injury for which there is no modification other than strict rest. So, with an abdominal binder to get me through clinic, the rest of my time has been spent lying down, icing my abdomen and making the most out of seated calf raises and supine quad sets. With relentless consistency, the pain persists as a reminder to follow my physician’s advice explicitly and unpredictable shocking stabs of severe pain provide (unnecessarily aggressive in my opinion) reinforcement should I attempt to move beyond the boundaries established for optimal recovery.

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Unable to reckon with spending time in the space that I have always associated with power, speed and endurance in a state of complete physical incapacitation, I retreated. Reassigning my coaching sessions to a most helpful staff, I just stayed home. I pictured the sweat, the barbells, the chalk, the rig, the bikes, the rowers and the boxes and, somewhere between ego and frustration, simply couldn’t handle that snapshot with my image absent from the activity on the floor.  I posted workouts, e-mailed potential new members, admired pictures of athletes from the week and received updates from my coaches, but I didn’t make the trip over (conveniently blaming my walking ban for not covering the 2-block jaunt by foot as usual, but that really doesn’t hold water…I could have had a ride at any time).

 

On a recent trip to my childhood home, I discovered my high school journals and it seems little has changed these past 20 years – I was waking early for aerobics class and visiting the gym after sports practices for extra workout fun. I couldn’t believe my friends were satisfied with only one athletic endeavor on the day and, clearly then as now, relied on all things physical to support maintenance of my whole self.  Other than the 20 weeks I spent trying not to exacerbate contractions when pregnant with biggest, the past 23 years have been underscored by consistent (in some opinions obsessive) exercise. Considering laws of energy conservation, what happens then the usual outlet is suddenly obstructed? At least in the time prior, that energy could be converted into the growing of another human, a meaningful and tangible task, but now I found myself waffling, wandering and wondering into dangerous lands.

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I’d like to blame this look on the cave…but mostly just me and the sun attempting to co-exist.

Dark and solitary, there was a faint familiarity in this cavern, but it was overall unsettling. Lacking both the promise of renewal that follows hibernation as well as the exhausted victory celebrated post-max effort, this cave was pure emptiness, creating the perfect setting for a pity party with the focus on a farewell to muscles developed over a dozen years, now withering away in as many days. Always one to lead the start of a race, I blasted the first stages of the grief process, crushing denial early on as I attempted to power through the pain, sprinting up the anger hill with some less-than-ideal-momming moments and mentally unpacking that too-heavy suitcase, but there was no bargaining back the injury, no matter how fast I coasted down that hill. And then I hit the wall – of sadness. Between the shift in my relationship with the dynamic events of the summer season, the stolen independence of my primarily pedestrian transport and the crisis of identity as an athlete abruptly stripped of activity – I was at the edge of a deep, dark crevasse and I painfully lowered myself into a corner and stayed put.

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Breakfast in bed – the cave has a perk or two…

Disappointed, dulled and despondent are a powerful trio, but they are no match for the support and encouragement of dedicated friends, athletes, colleagues, staff and, of course, family. Their efforts created a glimmer of hope beckoning me slowly, cautiously, to the mouth of the cave and, squinting, back into the light. Returning to my home-away-from-home at CrossFit Inconceivable, I could genuinely and happily celebrate the effort and achievements of the athletes, pushing themselves for a couple more kilos and those final few reps. I saw that my presence in the space was not limited to performance, but still significant in participation through presence, contributing to the positive spirit of the community.

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Hearing the echo of my own advice, supported by mounting research, I could finally see why social integration is even more important than exercise in promotion of health and longevity. Placebo effect perhaps, but I truly felt better being around the action – watching my coaches in their glory, coaxing greatness from each individual; seeing athletes push themselves to a better result than last time; appreciating the space that has grown so much in the past 10 months to create a positive environment for mind, body, spirit to achieve beyond what we ever thought possible – and realizing that the challenge might not come in the form of a gymnastic movement or heavy barbell, but in the test of endurance of the soul through unexpectedly treacherous terrain.

 

Just like that, I was back in the picture and the pain cave was once again a safe, though challenging, space, softened and strengthened by the presence of my extended family and positioned once again to achieve transformation, this time through the acts of resting and healing. Opportunity was reclaimed to yield a better me than yesterday – repairing a physical weakness that has likely been lingering in the shadows for some time, fortifying a vulnerable spirit to know itself as true with or without a daily dose of exertion and enlightening a mind to concepts often shared but not always heeded. With the darkest moments behind me, it turns out the wall had a gate and with the guidance of community, I had moved through, energized to hold on into acceptance of this new normal and prepare for that hidden kick, knowing the finish line, though not quite in sight, is just around the corner.

 

 

May we see our limitations through the lens of opportunity, accept help where it is offered and emerge stronger than when we began.

Best,

FitMamaDOc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enunciate the Negative

May is crazy. Perhaps it is because we are actively in the midst of it all, magnifying the events to larger than life appearance but, for whatever reason, there is much ado about everything these days. School events, May Day celebrations, birthdays, final games, recitals and field trips make their annual appearance while the usual daily fervor of work, school, lessons, music, coaching and practice escalates, invigorated by the longer hours of daylight, delightfully warmer temperatures and general sense of merriment scored by the spring season. These days are equal parts joyful and exhausting, which are beginning to seem an inseparable dichotomy of feelings and lead me to contemplate the concept of embracing the negative, a notion that has offered itself as a recurrent theme in many of the books and podcasts supporting my learning recently.

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In a world where we are often encouraged to seek happiness as the ultimate emotion, and in my own profession where I am focused on seeing the health, it can seem almost taboo to have negative thoughts and feelings and simply unacceptable to concentrate on the negative. As I contemplated this, the lyrics of a long-ago song played on repeat in my head:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

Now, I can get behind the utility of seeing the good, embracing the health and shining a light on what is right with ourselves, our communities and the world, but I do think admonishing the existence of the opposite can be a dangerous line to walk. It is unfair and unrealistic to ignore that negative feelings, unpleasant situations and plain and simple bad things are going to happen. Middlest displayed this effect directly when, overwhelmed by less-than-optimistic-emotion, he looked up at me with tear-filled eyes and stated, “you’re not going to like this…but I’m just not happy all the time!” What an inconceivably impossible task to achieve – all-the-time-happiness! I quickly scanned back through all the dialogue I had provided for this to be his personal expectation – comments such as “what can you control? Attitude and effort…” “Your feelings are a personal choice, choose to make it better and not worse.”

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While certainly I would want for him to live more deeply rooted in a positive, loving state of mind and heart, I more strongly wish for him (and all of us!) to embrace (and be able to handle) the full range of human emotions. Greater than limitless happiness is the capacity to feel it all – happy, sad, joyful, angry, brave, fearful, resilient, guilty, curious, confused, grateful, frustrated, encouraged, deflated, calm, excited, tired – to understand it all as part of humanity, to accept it all in ourselves and others, to hold the weight of it all with strength, to make space for it all with grace, to move between it all with the agility of a competent emotional being and recognize that without the negative companion, the positive aspect would likely lack luster.

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While I certainly don’t wish ill on my patients, family, friends or community, I must recognize that there is pathology in many forms interrupting the fullest manifestations of health. Rather than ignore it, I must acknowledge the presence of dis-ease, sit with it, uncomfortable though that may be, to better understand it – how it came to be, what is contributing to its perseveration and truly explore the capacity for change. This might be best framed as potential transformation of the whole person in relationship with this “negative” aspect of his/her health.  Resolution may not be an option, but a shift in the engagement with the ailment always is.

The more I have explored the acceptance and even welcome of negative emotion, the more I see that our attempts to seek the positive at all costs can lead us out of our truest self, out of the moment and render us unable to just be.  This is not to say that we should seek a depressive state, or that we have to act on every negative emotion that comes through, but we should be open and at least tolerant of any feeling that arises rather than resisting, ignoring or trying to change that feeling before it has a moment to speak its truth or establish the framework for future, fuller sensations of all sorts.

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I often tell patients (and occasionally athletes in the gym!) that pain has a purpose – it is alerting us to something that is not right in our bodies – that our nervous system is waving a red flag and asking for help. We can ignore that pain, tell ourselves we should just power through and hope we work it out…or we can listen – not surrender, but listen – and assess what might be the trigger – is it truly just of the body? Was there a tweak of a muscle, ligament, joint or nerve? Is it of the mind? Are we truly hitting a point of maximal fatigue or a place of fear that we might not succeed? Is it of the spirit? Have we maxed out our capacity in all arenas of life May-style and is our body lighting up the only SOS it has in the way of pain fibers, forcing us to rest, re-evaluate and reset?

 

Perhaps these negative emotions are serving that same purpose, perhaps they are a subtler version of physical pain, a prodrome if you will, and if we could tune in, listen and analyze sooner than later, we might save ourselves from more severe physical symptoms that arise as a last-ditch effort to get us to be present in ourselves and attend to our personal needs. In my exploration of this concept, I was struck by the latter portion of this definition of negative:

“a photographic image made on film or specially prepared glass that shows the light and shade or color values reversed from the original, and from which positive prints can be made”

Though we are now a generation removed from film-based cameras, indeed it has been many years since I have held that strip of 5 miniature, reverse-colored images up to the light to determine which full-color, large-as-life moment I would like to reproduce, this simple description of the intricate and fluid relationship amongst original, negative and positive struck me as a critical acknowledgment of the relativity, reciprocity and requisition of negatives for a complete picture in life, for the fullest experience.

May we all, middlest included, expand our palates to taste the vast flavor of emotions life has to offer. May our approach be as enthusiastic and broad as the madness of May, landing us joyfully exhausted at the end of the experience, satisfied that we have successfully sampled the flight of feelings that unites us in humanity.

Best,

FitMamaDOc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resting, Reverence and Racing

The end of the week has unfolded with unexpected moments, shifting the focus of, and time for, writing. The rest-day-challenge was a much smoother undertaking this week with an unset alarm allowing for freedom of choice on Thursday morning leading to a 36-hour interval of rest. Warming up with gentle biking, transporting littlest to and from soccer, and then a workout with middlest and littlest in the gym to close out the day, the restoration was upheld. With Friday dedicated to The Olympiad for biggest, I managed to sneak in the daily workout in between coaching the 5 and 6am classes with the help of my ever-faithful co-coach and was able to comply with the departure time set by my husband to ensure timely arrival at the day’s big event.

Fifth grade was one of my most challenging years in school and has brought some tumultuous moments for biggest and his classmates as well, navigating relationships, new feelings, the uncertain transition zone from the freedom and boundaries of the primary years to middle school responsibility and privilege. It was advised by the seasoned Waldorf teachers, parents and students that this experience – of staying overnight with classmates as well as students from area schools, distribution into City-States and representation of a collective, opportunity to demonstrate for many the skills they had practiced all year and honoring the spirit of the Greek gods by bringing their personal best in attitude and effort to the day – is often transformational for the students.

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Navigating the hour drive into the mountains, past one of our favorite mountain lakes and arriving to the cabins that had housed our Olympians for the night, the spirit in the air was simply joyful. Seeing the students with new friends and proudly representing their City-State, there was an air of confidence but also a lightness about them. There were many special moments through the day with speed, strength, precision and power on display through the six events, but most remarkable to me was the pace at which these were carried out and the patience and respect demonstrated by the students and adult mentors throughout the process.  We live in a world with short attention spans, fast moving schedules and shows, short snippets of entertainment and demand for instant gratification from experiences. The Olympiad offered a most powerful antidote to this rapid-fire existence naturally, with intentional and thoughtful implementation of each moment and movement throughout the day.

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The Opening Ceremonies set the tone with beautiful movements from the Priests of each City-State, transitioning them from their individual points on the periphery toward the center collective of the ring, relinquishing division for cooperation in the spirit of competition and honor of participation. Fleet feet carried the Olympians across the field in the sprints, first as representative of their collective and then of themselves. Hearts lifted to the sky launched the athletes into the air for the standing long jump. Discipline of the discus and javelin were so remarkable – waiting for each of the sixty athletes to take a throw in turn, unrushed and wholly witnessed by competitors and spectators alike.  Meeting others in a place of welcome and strength while upholding beautiful form above all brought a whole new spirit to wrestling. Energy and enthusiasm made the relays an exciting finale, working to raise the City-State flag together. Closing ceremonies brought opportunity to witness observations for each athlete from their Priest, King and Queen, acknowledging their gifts and growth through the Olympiad days.

It was truly an amazing time, in a beautiful setting, steeped in reverence for tradition, rewarding best effort, team work, leadership, perseverance and encouraging honor for self and the collective. I felt refreshed and inspired reflecting on my own Field Day Experience some 25 years prior and heading into a morning race, representing CrossFit Inconceivable out on the trails.

A few hiccups in the waking hours with middlest surrounding breakfast confusion led to a scattered sentiment to the start of Saturday, which followed me into a foiled initial attempt at finding the start line of the race. Already moderately unsure about attempting the 10 Miler instead of the 5K for both timing and capability reasons, this seemed to be a sign that the latter would be the choice, if only be default. Rallying as usual, my weekend warrior race support managed to find the trail head in time and I headed to the registration table, going all in for the longer course. Given bib #7777 (which can only be viewed as 1111 multiplied by the luckiest number!) and the gratuitous start delay for technical difficulties, it seemed I would be ready to roll with the 10 Mile crew. Seeing faces familiar from the podium of other local events and knowing my capacity for technical trails, I embraced the moment for beautiful scenery and thought to myself “perhaps I can just participate without the need to race…”

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While the delay was helpful for the purposes of starting, it gave me concern for the narrow window I had at the finish to cross the line and make it back to town to coach littlest in her penultimate soccer game of the season. I took the opportunity in the opening miles to text a serendipitously visiting friend to coordinate childcare and transport – multi-tasking not thwarted by racing – thankfully she could read through the mid-run-typos and was able to help ease the pending transition. As the race looped back near the start line, I found myself in third place among the women and had a fleeting thought that it would have been nice to have been visibly leading for that moment, likely the only opportunity given that the early miles took place on a wide gravel road compared to the pending single-track terrain that forced a notable slowing in pace for my hesitant road-runner footfalls.

It came as quite the surprise to me as we dropped down a hill to a narrow, rocky footpath, that the two women in front of me kept getting closer. My breath quickened as I was right on the heels of the second-place runner, making my already anxious steps even more apprehensive as they came closer to hers. As we both approached the leader who graciously made way, I passed them both and carried on, grateful for clear space ahead and a return to the mantra of breath, feet, beauty, keeping me focused on my own effort and grateful for the gorgeous surroundings.

Falling victim to naïveté as we once again passed near the start line, I thought “I don’t know why they are calling this Tough as Nails, that wasn’t so bad!” Shortly thereafter, I made the final major turn, where the volunteer noted “keep it up, first woman, just gotta climb to the top!” And at that moment, the cautionary tale from the race director at the start line echoed in my mind “the race truly beings in the latter half he said…all the climbing after mile six he said…” and I realized my naivety. I figured the other women were seasoned veterans of the off-road and were probably better at pacing than I, but as I began to ascend, also reminded myself that their legs had to traverse the very same rocks and elevation as mine, so I should just work within myself and what was to be would be.

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The up is often in my favor, as the rocks provide traction and opportunity to utilize different muscles – shifting my mantra to “glutes and hamstrings” with gratitude for all the posterior chain work in the gym. As I reached the peak, with brief pause for a quick picture of the epic surround, I hoped I had done enough on the climb as I would have to descend for the remainder of the race to the finish line and the down is NOT my forte. One runner approached, familiar to me from the end of The Hill Climb and I made the mistake of trying to go with him, nearly sacrificing an ankle in the process. That was reminder enough that I had to stay within my own skill set and simply do the best I could descending the trails.  Final miles mantra “run like it will last forever…race like the finish line is just around the corner.”

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On the final return to gravel, a fellow CF!NC athlete was in the clearing, already finished for some dozen minutes with his race, called out “Go Amelia!” which was uplifting, until his second declaration of “Go Kelly!” rang out only a handful of seconds later. My heart sunk as we turned onto the gravel and she jetted past me but in a split second, my racing spirit took over and I thought “you didn’t lead for that long to just let it go now!” and so, I went…and harnessed the Prefontaine spirit that has carried me in so many races, knowing  that I was either going to get there first or leave it all out there trying. As fate would have it, the finish line wasn’t too far around the corner and, for the first time in recent memory, I had opportunity to truly race for first place. Just like that, I went from participant to competitor to victor, thanks in large part to the efforts of the community around me and the other female runners pushing me to the margins of my ability.

May we honor ourselves, our teammates and our fellow competitors with best attitude and effort in the events of our choosing, embracing opportunity to find hidden greatness where we might least expect it.

Best,

 

FitMamaDOc

 

 

Relaxing, Repeatedly

Confession – I was NOT enamored with the extended rest last week. I expected to enter the Friday workout ready and raring to go and could not believe how heavy the barbell felt. I opted for the lighter, shorter option of the workout and consoled myself with the knowledge that The Siskiyou Challenge, a multi-leg multi-sport relay race was pending the following day, and this could serve as a taper (a concept I have considered often, but implemented only rarely, never wanting to miss out on the fun just because of the next day’s race).  The evening brought heavy rain, and I embraced the quiet energy of the day.

Relaxing – Reluctantly

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The rain continued into the morning, but the weather was kind overall for the bike, kayak, bike, run, bike, run events. It was a fantastic day with so many members of our community, particularly from our gym, participating in the race. A social event composed of a variety of physical activities, against the back drop of the beautiful landscape of our town, complete with live music and delicious home-grown food might come close to a perfect experience. Capped off by a gymnastics performance where biggest, middlest and littlest demonstrated their hard-earned skills in jumping, flipping and dancing, the day was bursting with energy and enjoyment.

Relaxing Recreationally

 

As Sunday arrived, I relished the quiet calm of mobility to start the day (relaxing respectfully) and began to find a rhythm again in the gym with workouts, inspired by the enthusiasm of my husband and fellow athletes along with our children, who are always up for a challenge. Welcoming back the soreness in my muscles as a feeling of being alive and building strength, I began to convince myself that rest days were not for me, that I had done my due diligence and would return to the omission of them from my schedule going forward.

Relaxing – Relatively

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Our gym social Monday was a great celebration of achievements from both the relay race as well as a weightlifting meet for our coaches and I espoused my new philosophy, noting that it might not be the right choice for everyone, but for me, the extended, total rest intervals were detrimental rather than therapeutic. Ironically, that same day, an article I had written for a local publication was released noting Rest Days and Recovery Help to Get You Fit! Thankfully, I had detailed the option of active recovery and encouraged outdoor, playful activities, so was saved from hypocrisy by the capacity for utilization of the many fantastic local resources and would be able to achieve restfulness in the way of cycling, swimming, paddling, running, hiking or playing in the beautiful landscape of Southern Oregon.

Relaxing Reasonably

 

By Tuesday, I was back in action for an extended gym celebration – participating in classes as a new coach took the reins and celebrating the anniversary of my first-ever due date with a workout that shares a name with biggest. An unexpected add-on clinic on a usual day off was balanced with opportunity to sneak in a bike ride through town and I regained the sense of contentment that had been missing in the week prior.

Relaxing – Remotely

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I committed mentally to adjusting my rest day goal and entered into Wednesday ready to work. Thanks to the formatting of the workout, I was able to both coach and participate, utilizing the rest intervals (relaxing resourcefully!) to complete the prescribed movements and found myself drawn to the after-work with fellow athletes instead of the writing I had originally intended. Trusting the spirit of the moment, I finished the session, replete with conversation and encouragement before setting forth into an extended clinic day. The usual evening mobility session was precluded by the addition of extra patients and, instead, my unwind was a brief walk to town and a delicious dinner, recapping with my uncle, who graciously came to town to represent our elder generation at the children’s Grandparent’s Day, overriding the time I planned for writing in place of the morning session, leading me to set an early alarm for the following morning,

Relaxing Relationally

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When the tones sounded at 0425, I was overcome by a very emotional response – an internal turmoil of awareness that I did not have the energy to coach a class with the enthusiasm I would want for my athletes and wondering how I was going to survive the extended clinic day to follow, wishing desperately for a few more hours of sleep. After brushing my teeth and reaching for my leggings, I had a sudden realization – it was THURSDAY! The one day I am exempt from the coaching schedule (thanks to the forethought of my former self, recognizing that we need a regular pause from activities to maintain a positive spirit) and that a few more hours of sleep were, indeed, possible. This was a true moment of awakening and acceptance for me in the week – speaking to the need for rest as well as flexibility in timing of that respite with capacity to honor myself, past and present, in order to support the best of myself in the future.

Relaxing – Relievedly

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Owning the necessary vulnerability of the experience, I shared the wake-up distress and immediate rejoicing on discovery of the built-in rest-from-responsibility-in-the-gym-day; many took this to mean I feel burdened by coaching, which is absolutely not the case. Quite the contrary, I usually feel invigorated and inspired, eager to work with athletes, explore the boundaries of fitness, witness progress, develop new goals and celebrate personal victories. Consequently, this moment of feeling unable to enter into a typically welcome experience was the aggressive wake-up call needed. To clearly see that a limit had been reached and, in order to maintain that inspired state and the enthusiasm my athletes deserve, I needed to pause, reset and replenish. What might historically have been perceived personally as a failure, in light of this rest-day challenge and dedicated exploration of that sweet spot among mind, body, spirit, it was a most needed moment of growth.  Synthesizing the considerations I have carried in the previous weeks, I am motivated to continue with the challenge.

Relaxing Resolutely

(with an open mind on the details)

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A gentle run on Thursday evening, supporting active recovery, brought me to the gym for a lecture on Mind-Body-Inseparable with two of our athletes, who are teachers at a local meditation center. As they led us all in reflection, I neared that integral space of mind, body and spirit and landed smack dab in the middle upon hearing their testimony that the act of being fully present in the body during time in the gym was a truly unique experience, allowing us to be free of the busy mind while still mindful of the active body.  Such a profound concept and one I honestly never acknowledged – perhaps the only time in the day when we do not allow ourselves to be swept up into the current of “what’s next” and truly feel “here I am, now.”

Relaxing, Reciprocally

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With a closing statement on the use of meditation in our daily lives, it was advised that we can always return to the breath, as if it was the only thing that mattered and because it is the one thing that does, above all else. To achieve this, we practiced a simple deep breath in, thinking of nothing but the breath, and another out, followed by the direction to relax – relentlessly.

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May we find the balance point for ourselves by trusting instincts, remaining open to insights and adapting to shifts in the experience, finding reinforcement through the power of relaxing – responsibly, responsively and reliably.
Best,

FitMamaDOc

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Spot

I’m writing these words

After a rest day,

And it’s rather late I fear.

So please excuse the tardiness

‘Twas not the plan, to be clear

But to my bed, after a long day at work,

I’m afraid I got too near.

And I’m writing this blog

After a rest day,

And it’s rather late I fear.

Reporting live on the aftermath of an official and total rest day! I held true to the plan this week, only coaching the 5am yesterday and walking myself home from the gym rather than into the action of the 6am class. Considering last week as a “scaled” rest day, allowing for an endurance workout whilst coaching, I took this one up a notch and “Rx+’d” the challenge by returning to pajamas, my bed and even a later alarm. While more sleep did not transpire, there was rest and relaxation as I bought myself a bit of time with a proposed recipe for middlest to prepare for the morning – grateful for the synergy of his new-found prowess in reading and love for all goods baked!

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The infamous baker…in a Joey Tribbiani moment…putting on ALL his PJs…

Fueled by a 14-hour marathon of coaching, training and book-clubbing Tuesday, taking the pause was easier this Wednesday. While it felt a bit of a letdown not to write during that designated hour, the anticipation of an extended no-breaks clinic day provided a quick reality check that confirmed rest for the mind in that 60-minute window was wiser than a compressed moment of creativity. Walking home from work, the original finale for the day was teaching mobility class, but as fate, the 90-degree day and a solitary soul in attendance would have it, I could even relinquish that physical responsibility to my trusty coach and instead join my family for dinner.

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One of many inspiring insights from our book club selection, The Alchemist, thanks for the rest day universe!

 

All week I have thought about the pie charts from my last installment of writing. I appreciate their utility in visualizing the concept and have even kept a running pie-chart-progression at the bottom of each entry in my Book of Joy journal (the accurate completion of which I often question as my entries do not always seem overtly joyful, but I digress). There has indeed been a shift in the distribution among the three components. Seemingly following conservation of mass as applied to the circle as a whole, if space is made in the body and mind aspects, the spirit has no choice but to expand.

There has been an increase in time spent with family and reduced need for extreme weekend workouts, embracing a five-soccer-game-Saturday in the blissfully warm sunny weather. Spontaneous progressive dinners with my husband as well as the sharing of laughter and stories with friends. Walks home with littlest, life lessons with biggest, creative moments with middlest and a glorious solo lunch with relaxed reading and writing. Space made for reflecting, planning, connecting with family and journeying on the next step on the path.

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Through this all, however, I could not sit comfortably with the idea of mind, body and spirit co-existing so rigidly – aloof neighbors never crossing the fence line.  Ever drawn to the fluid – in treatment and in the flow of the river of life, the image that kept coming to mind this week is better reflected here:

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Still occupying mostly their own domain, but with inseparable pairings and that most precious central space – the intertwine of all three – this is the image I wish to hold and the feeling I hope to create through the rest day challenge.  Which activities fill those darker shaded areas, which successfully blend exhilaration of mind, body and spirit simultaneously? That is where the joy is found…perhaps an exploration of journal entries will reveal those most magical moments and light the path toward this elusive central region.

Fully intending to finish this last night, I was surprised to find at the end of my rest day that I was more tired than usual. A paradoxical outcome, but perhaps rest begets rest and when I finally made the space for respite, suppressed fatigue surfaced. Ever seeking efficiency, I set my alarm for the time I would usually wake to coach the 5am class and schemed that I could finish the writing and make it to the 6am class to train…but as the tones rang out at 0425, that sentiment was replaced with a continued weariness and I opted to return to slumber.  I’ll consider it another level up on the commitment to rest. And as I sit, awaiting my first patient of the day, I feel refreshed, though without the usual buzz from an early morning workout…and for the first time in recent memory, walking up the stairs to my office was free of the exquisitely excruciating awareness of all the muscles in my lower extremities…who knew that soreness could dissipate with 36 hours of recovery!?!

Grateful to have made shifts, opened space and reframed relationships with a new focus on that sweet spot in the center – nourishing mind, body and spirit in part, pair and, total.  May we allow for fluidity in view and find fulfillment in the whole – all at once or as the harmonious sum of its parts.

Best,

FitMamaDOc