Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do what moves you

I have three great friends name Jennifer, all of whom I see and talk to regularly. They're all completely different from each other and yet very similar in the essential ways. They're each absolutely hilarious and down to earth. They each love Jesus, people, and food and that order (my criteria for lifelong friendship). And interestingly enough, they each share a love for running. Since that's an activity completely foreign to me, I wanted to interview them to learn more. What about running moves them?

Between the three of them, these rock star Jennifers have run 15 half marathons, 8 full marathons, and over 10 shorter races over the last few years. One particularly hardcore Jen ran the Mega which is pretty much a marathon/hike through the woods of Pennsylvania. I mean, seriously. Who does that? They all seemed to get serious about this “hobby” after age 30. If it were solely about physical fitness, I'm sure they would've eventually let it go, just like any other fad workout. The fact that they continue with this discipline after several years tells me that there's more to it. Something about running moves them figuratively and literally. When I explored it with them, this is what I Iearned. Running appeals to them on four key domains of wellness: social, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

1)      Social wellness- Each of them started because of a friend’s encouragement. One said, “After some conversation with friends where I said I could NEVER run a half marathon, they signed me up for it anyway…I got bit by the running “bug” and have been running ever since.” Someone in their life made them feel like they could, so they did. Then once they started, they became part of a community. Not only do their loved ones cheer them on at races, but so do complete strangers. There’s nothing like a crowd of people you don’t even know cheering you on and telling you that you can do it.

2)      Physical wellness- There’s lots of benefits to aerobic activity. It helps with weight management, prevents a sedentary lifestyle, and keeps the body regulated. One shared proudly, “My doctor has told me that since running my cholesterol looks good. My blood pressure is, and I quote her, “beautiful.” These Jennifers seem to eat better, sleep better, and feel better when they run. Sounds like good reasons to me.

3)      Emotional wellness- Each one mentioned running as a form of stress relief. It offers a solace to process the issues of life. One shared how healing it is for her. “When I was going through a painful time in my life, the marathon training helped me process my emotions and feelings by replaying what had happened until it stopped hurting so badly.” Running is her therapy.

4)      Spiritual wellness- Lastly, running is about nurturing their spirit. “It gets me outdoors enjoying God’s creation, and gives me time and space to clear my head and just get with God.” Through that consecrated time of prayer and meditation they learned these key life lessons: a) Keep moving, b) Be patient with yourself, c) Do it for you, d) Embrace all seasons, and e) You can do anything you set your mind to     

I have tremendous respect for the Jennifers in my life. I've heard their stories. I've witnessed their setbacks and triumphs. I'm blessed to be running life's marathon with them. They are truly overcomers and they inspire me. You might read this and not be any closer to running around the block, much less a marathon. But that's not the point. It's about taking this New Year and finding whatever your thing is. Discover what gives you life and teaches you about yourself. In this next year, I challenge you all to be like my Jens and do what moves you. I know that's my plan.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Assessment

This morning I went to my very first fitness assessment. In typical Crista fashion, I way over thought it and worked myself up ahead of time. And in typical life fashion, the experience wasn’t nearly as scary as I concocted in my head. Every once in a while it is, but not usually.

I’d imagine depending on your relationship to your body and movement some parts of the assessment will be more anxiety provoking than others. There is a scale involved, not a sensitive area for me, but definitely many other people. There’s a vitals check to measure blood pressure and heart rate. [Note: These will be elevated if you’re anything like me and your physiology interprets every new situation as the equivalent threat as being attacked by a wild animal.] There’s a body composition component that involves a bit of prodding and pinching with a body fat measuring apparatus. Again, I’m generally comfortable with the aesthetics of my body, but that’s enough to make anyone a little insecure.

The point of it all is not to judge or shine a light on imperfection. Like any assessment, it captures where you are right now to help you plan for where you’re going. I think it’s human nature to be harm avoidant. It’s much easier to avoid facing things that scare us. But you can’t progress without confronting yourself truthfully, accepting reality for what it is right now, and being strategic and intentional about how to improve. I can already tell this training experience is going to be about a lot more than just fitness. I can’t wait to report back on all the life lessons I’m learning through movement.

Physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also the life which is to come. -1 Timothy 4:8, Amplified

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The counselor becomes the client

Apparently this is the year of throwing myself in the deep end. I have no idea why, but there have been several recent decisions where I felt compelled to try something way out of my comfort zone. See, I’ve always been a play it safe kind of girl. I play to my strengths and I generally prefer to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Well, I don’t know if it’s temporary dissociation or invasion of the body snatchers, but I seem to keep signing up for brand new, super scary, way out of my comfort zone activities- one of them being personal training.

You might hear that and wonder what the big deal is. But, you have to understand I do not see myself as athletic at all. I was SO not that kid that got picked for kickball. I always opted to walk the mile in P.E. class instead of run it. And field day? The absolute bane of my existence. I just didn’t have the speed, endurance, or coordination to excel athletically…not in competitive sports at least. So, the thought of meeting with a trainer one on one, a person who lives and breathes fitness, is really anxiety provoking…so much so that it makes me wonder if that’s how clients feel when coming to therapy.

As I said in my introduction, I’m a counselor. I live in the realm of emotional expression. I’m very comfortable with intimate sharing. Emotional intensity doesn’t scare me. I move towards it. But for the vast majority of people, feelings are scary as all get out and they’re avoided like the plague. I think that’s why those who come to counseling and ask for help are so highly defended. They’re terrified of being negatively evaluated. They’re scared to death I might discern something about them that they’re not telling me or perhaps they don’t even know themselves.

So, here I am about to enter a client role and I’m experiencing all the anxiety and second guessing that I imagine my clients feel. Should I cancel the appointment? Maybe I can just keep doing what I’ve been doing and I don’t need anyone’s help. Is she going to be nice to my face and then laugh and talk about me behind my back? What if I get started with all this and then I find that it hurts more or it’s too hard? What if I just can’t do it?

Framing my fear in terms of counseling work just confirms why I need to do it. Courage is feeling scared and doing it anyway. All of us are asked at different points in the journey to step outside ourselves and face our fears. That’s part of the human experience. I think it’s even more important for counselors and leaders to do so. You can’t take someone somewhere you aren’t willing to go yourself.

For any past, present, or future clients that might stumble upon this, please know I’m committed to doing the work I invite you to do. I know how vulnerable it feels to open up to a stranger and ask for help. I’m not sure it ever gets easier. But just know, I get that, and I’m honored you took the step to see me. And if do my job well, I’ll make you feel safe enough to come back.