One hundred twenty-five days ago I was awakened by sharp neck pain, chills, headache and unable to turn or bend my neck more than a few degrees. It’s been 18 weeks since I’ve been consistently pain/stiffness free. Months of physical therapy later I am back to the low range of normal in neck mobility. I’ve worked on flexibility, posture, core strength and shoulder and back strength. I’ve learned that my neck stiffness and pain correlate with stress and poor posture. The toughest part of work involves my time in an ambulance – the most ergonomically void box ever. Understandably, it’s not about me in the ambulance. The next toughest part is looking down for long periods of time. I have made modifications within my work environment that make it tolerable. Thankfully, most days are pain-free now but I still occasionally struggle with twinges and stiffness in the lower right side of my neck. It’s more annoying than anything but improves with staying calm, stretching and self-mobilization of my cervical facet joints.
It’s also been 125 days since I’ve done anything remotely close to triathlon training. I’ve gone on walks and jogs here and there but nothing like before. There were many days of tears and I returned to unhealthy eating while embracing limited mobility, not just in my neck, on the couch. The result: weight gain, muscle loss, weakness and depression. These 18 weeks also served as a reminder, a painful one, of what life was like before I focused on being healthy. Boy, I would have much preferred a verbal reminder instead of a physical one. Apparently I needed the 2×4. But you know what? My story doesn’t stop here. This is my plot twist.
Through the tears and frustration I prayed that God would let me see that He still cares about me. Richard and I joined a new community group in the fall and last week we studied the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32. A couple of years ago I went through a study by Tim Keller called Prodigal God. It was life changing for me and I encourage you to read the parable then listen to Tim’s sermons. Anyway, for several reasons I look at God as my father and at community group we were given minutes to ponder on and thank God. I thanked God for His keeping love that night. I believe that He has a hand in everything that happens in my life and that the purpose of my life is to glorify Him. Boy, do I fail time and after time and feel like a road block sometimes but His love redeems and keeps me. I don’t understand why he let’s things that I perceive as bad happen to me but I understand that His story is bigger than mine. His perspective is different and at each turn, good or bad, He is revealing himself to me and teaching me to trust Him. I know my neck issue pales in comparison to some of the sorrows you guys are currently walking through. It’s been my struggle though and I’ve been discouraged. In addition, my grandma, whom I love dearly, is my go-to for wisdom and who is just plain awesome, almost went to see Jesus. She spent time in an ICU during a winter storm that veered 120 miles off predicted course. Because of the storm her procedure had to be repeated when the correct device could be delivered to the hospital and she had the same ICU staff for ~ 60 hours straight. Working in an ICU I know that fatigue and stress can play a huge role in medical error. I prayed that God would protect her, knowing full well that she was ready if He wanted to call her home. Good news, with some living modifications she is recovering and doing well! It’s heart-wrenching knowing those you love are hurting and struggling. Then later in the week I had a stressful day of work when I wasn’t even there. How does that even happen? Tell me I’m not alone in that!?! As I was driving to meet some friends, completely caught up in life’s recent stressors, I played the song “How He Loves”, by John Mark McMillan, on repeat. Many of you may know the version performed by David Crowder Band.
“He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.”
“Afflictions eclipsed by glory” – I finally experienced and understood those words! Have any of you ever been so overwhelmed by His love when the world would tell you to doubt, to give up, when something tragic or completely frustrating happens? That was the moment I had in the car. A time of worship despite my circumstances, a time of thankfulness for His keeping love that I can’t be too good enough not to need or disappoint him too many times to lose. It was some good truth time. John Mark explains more about his song in the brief video, link below. It’s worth the five minutes. Trust me.
Now for what’s to come after the plot twist…
Triathlon training is far from practical at this point. Realistically, holding my neck in the position for a ride on my road bike may no longer be possible. It turns just far enough to be able to breathe while swimming freestyle. Which leaves me with two sports, running and swimming. The good news? I can run and swim. I can walk, talk, breathe and dance. Well that last ones debatable, but I can move! Some triathlons have relay events available. I don’t have to completely leave the sport but I will have to modify and completing a race may now be dependent on friends competing with me. (If any of you are interested in the future let me know!)
Over the next several months I will focus on becoming healthy again. It was a long road the first time and there’s something to be said for naivety. This time I know how hard it’s going to be. My pride wants to go outside right now and bust out a 5K in 20 degree weather but my body and mind aren’t there yet. Getting real – today I completed T25’s Cardio workout, fully modified, focusing on correct form and building muscle strength. So what is getting healthier going to look like? That’s what I plan to blog about over the next year. Week by week I plan to share lessons, thoughts, struggles, wins, workouts and recipes. And I’ll need your encouragement. If any of you are going through something similar maybe we can keep each other accountable. I’m not giving up. Remind me of that.
– Exercising 3-4x per week. I’m working a mixture of 12h day and night shifts until March so working out before or after work will be a challenge.
– Eating clean 80% of the time. Shoot, even 50% at this point would be huge!
– Two 5K events. One on my 30th birthday and another two weeks later. I’d like to run both of them. We’ll see 🙂
Clean and Curvy