Fights, Flights and a Rumble Roller
“To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain–not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it.” -Dr. George Sheehan
I run from pain. I run from people, places and things that make me uncomfortable. It is a primitive, automatic and genetically ingrained snap decision that I make when confronted with the choice to either fight or to fly off into the sunset with my feelings and body intact and my survival insured. Is this a great thing? Yes and no. The fight or flight response exists for a reason and sometimes the best choice is to flee; if the threat is real and not a danger conjured up by an irrational fear. Have the triggers that send us running for our lives back into our caves evolved over the last one million years? Yes. Is running away from those fears and pretending they don’t exist always the best response to a challenging situation? No. Unless my neighbor has an exotic animal collection that I’m not aware of, I will not be forced to fight off a saber-toothed tiger that is hell-bent on meeting his daily protein requirement by adding me to his meal plan. In the modern world, we may not be running to save ourselves from big-toothed prehistoric man-eaters but face other, just as terrifying threats to our well-being. Work, relationships and expectations, in addition to the unique decisions we have to make every day in order to survive the currently frenetic pace of the world, all present their own fight or flight responses.
Aside from being more fit and wanting to present myself with a challenge, part of the reason I signed myself up for a triathlon was to continue the process of understanding both my own fears and the reasons why I sometimes want to fly straight into my safety net instead of facing them. I recently had an epiphany and came to the conclusion that I have a fear of being uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful, blessed life. I have more than I need, friends and family, and am doing what I love in life. I get to travel and experience life completely and fully. But I’ve spent parts of my life being very uncomfortable. With myself, my circumstances and the expectations put upon me by me and the people in my life. Why now, when I’m clear-headed enough to experience and appreciate life as I think God intended me to, putting myself through the pain of this athletic pursuit, when I clearly will never be a part of the Olypmic triathlon team? Isn’t that the point, though? Getting to experience things I never have before BECAUSE I’m living and appreciating the life God had in mind; and not to get all Bette Midler on you, but he gave me both the wings and the experience, good and bad, to know when to use them.
Last week my workouts suffered because I was in a fearful, excuse-making mood. In my experience, fear is not the best place from which to make a decision, but usually the most comfortable. “Yes,” I say to myself, “there are legitimate reasons for not getting a workout in.” The stuff of life happens. Projects pile up, families get sick, (in this case my beloved fur-son Buster) and the hits just keep hurling themselves over the net straight at us. Knowing that I don’t have to swing at every last one of them will hopefully get easier the more I practice. Unfortunately, I’ve let heartaches, pains and a full plate, both my schedule and the one on which I put my dinner, keep me from being consistent.
When I sat down to write this post, my only intention was to share my experience with the new torture device/Rumble Roller, a fancy-pants foam roller, that I bought last weekend to help me work through some of those minor, yet annoying pains. But in true ADD fashion, my thoughts leapt from one place to another until finally landing on the subject of fear and working through it. Something in me needed to write about this subject today. Probably because those little pains in my hip, foot and knee last week had me convinced that my dreams of finishing a triathlon were over and that I’m just not built for this kind of thing. You see, I have an un-superhero alter ego named Dame Doom who walks the streets of my life spreading fear, pessimism and drama wherever she sees a glimmer of progress. She’s a real B. I wouldn’t mind setting her out in the middle of a pack of saber-toothed tigers armed only with a foam roller. Here are some examples of her mind-numbing, progress-inhibiting chatter:
DD: “You waited too long to run, now it’s too hot outside. You and your sore hip will be found passed out on the side of the road.
DD: Your foot hurts. You must have some horrible foot-pain inducing disease that you don’t know about.
DD: You just over-ate again. If you go swim now you’ll definitely sink.
DD: It may rain. If you get out on your bike now, you’ll get caught in it and spiral out of control and crash into a stop sign when you brake on the wet pavement.
Yep, she’s a b with a capital B. With that being said, I’d like to make a side note and say that the past two weeks haven’t been all gloom and doom. I’ve had great moments with friends, good workouts and moments of profound gratitude for the blessings in my life. Maybe I needed to have a crap week last week in order to see God’s blessings more clearly and to learn something that I still haven’t quite figured out.
Thankfully, as I head into the weekend, I’ve armed myself with my new foam roller so that I may properly take care of myself; a more organized schedule that will allow me to accomplish everything I want to do; a restored resolve to live life on life’s terms; and a recovered senior beagle who has been there for his mom through all the fights and all the flights. This weekend I think I will stay in the game and fight so that when the time is right, I will fly.
The Best Medicine
Next: Less distraction and self-evaluation. More thoughts and a REALLY funny video about the Rumble Roller.