Tag Archives: Running

Let Go with a Limp

hiking with Springloaded technology braceA few months back I wrote about my experience in letting go of running.  You can read about it here.  One thing I should make clear is that the physician who diagnosed the osteoarthritis in my right knee talked about me not running marathons again, but she did not rule running out entirely.  She prescribed an off-loading knee brace and said, “You might be able to run with it; I don’t know.”


The Breg Fusion® OA Plus Osteoarthritis Knee Brace that I have. 

In early December I was fitted with the brace and started using it.  I noticed that I had a slight limp or hitch in my walk as I use it.  I mostly wear it when I go on longer walks of three to four miles. Also I have worn it on occasion at the gym, using it with an elliptical trainer and walking on a treadmill.  I have not as yet tried to run with it.  Partly because it is winter in Minnesota and I fear slipping on some patch of snow or ice.  Partly because I want my body to adjust to wearing the brace during walking.  This spring, when I feel the urge, I will try a short run.

For now, at this moment, I have set running aside.  I may be able to run in the future, but for now I am not.  What mindfulness continues to teach me is to live in this moment, accepting as life is, not as I would like it to be.  In the past I have wasted a lot of mental and emotional energy regretting some event or yearning for something different.  Learning to live in this moment is challenging.  My mind seems to have a default mental state (sometimes referred to as the default mode network) that likes to ruminate about some past event or fret about some future challenge or problem.

Jesus warned about the danger of future worries in Matthew 6:34

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Centering Prayer is retraining my mind to let go of these ruminations and worries while coming back to the simple awareness of God’s presence.  As one sits in centering prayer, one may notice the mind wandering to some thought, feeling or judgment. When one notices the mind moving off on this mental tangent, whether it be some joyful anticipation or some anxious though,  the practice of centering prayer is to gently let go of whatever thought or feeling my mind is following and return to my chosen sacred word.  I may do this dozens of times during my twenty minute session. It is the continual practice of letting go and turning to God that is the exercise portion of centering prayer.  (You can read more about centering prayer here.)

Like walking with my brace, my practice of centering prayer still feels like it has a pronounced limp. Yet my trust is not in my feelings during centering prayer, but in the fruit of the Spirit that has come with the practice in my daily life.  I have discovered that I am more consistent in letting go of my worries and my attachments, such as my fixation on running.  At least for the moment, which is sufficient for today.

Riding Into the Darkness

16460554715_7e0e09e482_cLast month I wrote here about the disappointment I felt when a physician diagnosed my chronic knee pain as the early stages of osteoarthritis.   She said that my marathon running days were over.  Her diagnosis has felt like a dark shadow creeping into my life, robbing me of my identity as a runner.   I recognize that I am over reacting.  After all I can still walk and bike and paddle and swim.  I can remain active if I choose.  Yet running remains something I embrace, something I share with many of my buddies, even in the dark days of winter.

The season of Advent comes during the shadowy, short days of December.  In Minnesota we often drive to and from work in the dark. It is challenging to find ways to get outdoors for exercise.  Thus the darkness often can be internalized.   A favorite Advent scripture verse captures the season’s gloom and yet offers hope.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

One recent Saturday two of my running buddies invited me for a winter bike ride.  We each have one of those fat tire bikes that make possible riding in snow.  It was still dark as we started off, our headlamps pointing the way. As we rode the Gateway Trail, the sun rose and the clouds turned pink and red. It was beautiful morning and I gave thanks for chance to ride with friends.  I adapted Isaiah, thinking, “Those who ride in darkness have seen a great light.”

I continue to miss running.  When I drive pass runners, I feel a pang of sorrow.  I wish that I could tie up my running shoes and go for a quick run around the local trails.  Yet I recognize that my emotional attachment to running will fade and that I am capable of finding other ways to be outdoors.  My identity as a runner is not my core.   My simple daily prayer has become, “Lord, let me rest in my identity as your beloved child.”

As Isaiah states, “a great light shines.” The promise of God’s love continues to illuminate our days.  Jesus’ birth is celebrated in the depth of winter because Christ is the light of the world that shines in our darkness.   On Sunday, with the whole church, I can sing

Silent Night, Holy Night, Son of God, love’s pure light!
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Gate Closed

Yesterday a gate closed for me.  Others may close in the coming months and years.  All are a part of the growing older.

Grand Valley

Last summer I backpacked in the Olympic National Park and my first day included a two thousand foot descent into Grand Valley.  It was late in the afternoon and my right knee began to ache as I dropped altitude rapidly.   I took some ibuprofen that night and hiked on.

When I returned home and started running again I notice that my right knee became sore after most runs.  It usually subsided in a few hours, but not always.  Occasionally the pain and discomfort woke me up at night.  In late September after a full day bike ride, I noticed the discomfort as I drove home.  I stopped running and biking.  The pain continued.   I started a series of trips to my family physician, an MRI, and finally Dr.Andrea Saterbak , a respected orthopedic surgeon who is the team physician for the US Ski team.

I went in knowing from the MRI that I had a torn meniscus but that it was “complex” tear.   Many meniscus tears can be “repaired” with arthroscopic surgery.  Friends had told me of their surgery and how they were back running within weeks.  I hoped my story would be the same with a successful arthroscopic surgery soon behind me.

After examining my knee and while looking at the MRI Dr. Andrea Saterbak said emphatically, “This cannot be repaired by surgery.”  Then she wrote at the top of on my treatment plan, “Early Osteoarthritis in Right Knee.”

She asked, “What exercise do you use to stay fit?”

“Running.   I like to run marathons.”

“I don’t think marathons are in your future,” She responded.

A gate closed for me as she said this.  She went on to explain that the pounding of running will aggravate the knee further, resulting in more arthritis.  My heart sank a bit as she carefully explained that my tear was more like a “frayed” meniscus and that orthopedic surgery would only aggravate the joint and cause further  pain.  She didn’t rule out running entirely, but she emphasized I will need to be gradual in my approach and see how my knee responds.

Other aerobic sports will need to be monitored as well, including biking and hiking. Especially long downhill descents like the one I did last summer into Grand Valley. She said a specialized knee brace may be helpful for such adventures and she gave me a referral for the brace.  The gates to bikes and hikes may be closing as well, but it is too early to know.

She gave me a four point treatment plan.

1.      Lose 10 pounds (mostly by restricting calorie intake)

2.      Cortisone Injection  (she gave me one before I left)

3.      Low impact activity

4.      NSAIDS (Ibuprofen occasionally as needed).

I walked out of her office disappointed but not devastated.  I could look for a second opinion.  Dr. Saterbak said that I could probably find a surgeon who would arthroscopically “trim” the meniscus, but I would be back in the surgeon’s office complaining about pain and inflammation within six months.  Overall, I trusted Dr. Saterbak’s experience, diagnosis and treatment plan.  I may not like what she said, but that does not invalidate it.

My practice of Centering Prayer, a form of Christian meditation, has strengthened over the past three years.   Centering Prayer has a corollary prayer called the Welcome Prayer in which I am instructed to welcome whatever new circumstance may enter my daily life with the prayer,  “Welcome, Christ, in the midst of this new circumstance.”  Whether it is a pleasant experience that I enjoy or drudgery that I wish to avoid, God will be present in my response.    With this diagnoses of osteoarthritis I am practicing the Welcome Prayer as follows  “Lord, I may not like this diagnosis, but You are here in the midst of it and I welcome you and ask you to help me respond with grace and compassion – towards my body, my community and you.”

One thought I have embraced is that this diagnosis is not life-threatening.  I will not die tomorrow or next month.   It is life-changing and that is the part I am seeking to understand and affirm.

Now I could respond with requests for healing, but somehow that seems unwise.  God could miraculously heal my knee, but then I would miss out on what God is teaching me in the midst of this situation.  I believe that God is present as I rethink, refocus and deepen my trust in God.

The diagnosis is still fresh and my emotions and thoughts are processing.  This blog post is part of that process.  I will probably write more in the coming weeks and month.

Thanks for taking time to read this.  Peace be with you.

Super Slow Mo Moments

I often want to rush through things, get to the good stuff.  But such rushing often causes unnecessary pain.   I have discovered that slowing down helps.  Even in training to run a race.

iStock_000016821441SmallA marathon takes a lot of time.   Not only the weeks and months of training, but the actual event takes anywhere from 3-6 hours to run.   Most runners would like to go faster, finish quicker.

But what if we just slowed down.  At least for a moment.

My running friend, Bob Timmons, connected to me a beautiful video from last month’s Twin Cities Marathon that does just that.   A friend of Bob, Ben Gavin, who works for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, shot a series of super slow motion clips that he titled Extraordinary Human Beings in Slow Motion at the Twin Cities Marathon Finish Line

What struck me in the video is that it expresses a central truth not only about the marathon, but also about life.   Life, like a marathon, is not one thing, but an incredible series of moments that are strung together.  The trick is to stay in the moment, in the now, and not worrying about the future or obsessing about the past.  Each moment is a moment of beauty.  Some days we need to slow down to see it.

As the Psalmist wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Lord Jesus, teach me to walk with you, moment by moment.

One Year Reflection

Marmot Lake in Washington Cascade Mountains

One year ago today I started this blog. I wanted a platform by which to communicate some of my passion to trust, live and serve as a follower of Jesus Christ. As a newly called pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church, I wanted a way to communicate with the congregation and beyond. In my first blog, I wrote about having three foci: the physical, mental, and spiritual components of faith. I also thought that I would be posting three times per week.

It turns out that I have posted an average of 4.5 times per week and my favorite topic has been reflections on scriptures. I like to think this blog as a supplement to my sermons on Sunday, helping prepare people for Sunday worship or giving additional insight afterward (“nuggets” that I could not work into my Sunday sermon).

Also I have done a variety of life posts. One of my most “visited” posts was last April when I wrote about my son’s engagement. I have reflected several times regarding my journey with my aging mother. And whenever I can write about the beauty of wilderness I rejoice.

I have not written as much about running as I first thought, probably because I have been struggling with a number of chronic running injuries. As those seem to be clearing up, I may return to that topic on occasion. Running often clears the mind for writing.

I still think this a valuable tool for communicating with the great people of Resurrection and beyond. Though I often post some short comments on Facebook or Twitter, the longer format of a blog seems to work well for me.  If you have any comments/topics/critique, please leave a comment or send an email. Like most bloggers, I appreciate comments.

(BTW, my e-mail is back at resurrection-woodbury.org)

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits (and the words) of another. Proverbs 27:17.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the communion of saints.

Running and Prayer Update

Running with son

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I have been unable to run pain-free since last spring and that I started a new round of physical therapy at Focus Fitness. (see MAT to PAT http://wp.me/p1e1iu-6A ).  Their staff is helping me to address the muscle imbalances I have developed by a series of exercises that activate weak or inhibited muscles.  Every day I attempt to do these awkward exercises, concentrating to keep the right form and to activate the appropriate muscles.  It is a definite mind-body exercise and I feel very foolish as I do them. 

Of course, last week, I had to try a short run to see if these exercises were having any desirable effect.  I hopped on to a treadmill and started first with a brisk walking pace and then pushed the pace higher to a slow jog.   I quickly discovered that my left IT band and right hamstring continued to complain.   I backed off the pace and stepped off the treadmill, disappointment hanging from my shoulders.   I had hoped for some instant relief.  But instead of running, I am back to the awkward exercises every morning and evening.

I continue to think there is a spiritual lesson for me to learn.  How often do I treat prayer as an instant relief button, hoping that God will magically answer my wish?  How often do I trust the process of praying patiently for God’s will to be done as I keep my focus on Jesus?  How often am I disappointed when things do not turn as quickly as I envisioned?

Also I know that many people feel awkward when they try to begin a spiritual discipline of prayer or scripture reading.   They are unsure whether their prayers are having the desired effect in their life or if they understand what they are reading.  Just like I needed a therapist to help me identify and work the weak muscles, a small group or spiritual mentor can help us begin a new spiritual journey. 

Is your spiritual journey flourishing, struggling or maintaining?  Where do you discover Jesus?

Patience and beyond

Pastor John when he could run

 I must confess that I have had trouble keeping up with my running buddies due to my own inactivity.  Over the past several months I have tried a few tentative runs, actually jogs, to see if my hip was better. Each time, the same pain came back and I would stop running and walk. I’ve stretched, I’ve iced, I’ve strengthen, I’ve Ibuprofen, I’ve massaged.  I have prayed.  I have had five appointments with a physical therapist to manipulate the SI joint.  Now I am scheduling an appointment with my doctor to see what options I have.  During this inactivity, several people have told me, “You must be patient.”

I have been hearing that patient word a lot.   As a new pastor in a congregation friends tell me tobe patient as I learn new names, faces, family connections and ministry choices.  At home I am learning to be patient with my siblings as we try to remodel and sell my mother’s home in Washington state.   I know that patience is a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and it is good virtue to possess.  I just wish that I could be more patient in learning to be patient.   

In my journal, as I wrote about these frustrations, I came to the realization that in the grand scheme of things, a season or two without running is not the end of the world.  I have had other such experiences of inactivity from running injuries and eventually recovered.   In fact, this hiatus may just open me to some new activity of the Holy Spirit.  Like learning to walk in the Spirit of God.  Or cross-country skiing or snow showing or cycling or yoga.

And thanks for your patient listening and prayers for my recovery.

What has been an important lesson in patience for you?

Getting Into It

Getting Into Winter

This fall and winter has been frustrating for me as a runner.  I continue to deal with various muscle spasms that primarily stem from an SI joint problem in my pelvis.  In summary my pelvis is twisted and needs special manipulation to become untwisted.  I have been to my physical therapist several times for this manipulation, but I cannot seem to hold the proper alignment for very long. I try to run a couple of miles and my muscle spasms are back. 

So I am going to try a different route.   Instead of whining about “not running,”  I will try to embrace winter and the sport of cross-country skiing.   I remember a quote from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak.   He was participating in an Outward Bound adventure course when he found himself paralyzed with fear during a rope-rappel down a cliff face.  He was certain that he was going to die.  The instructor asked if anything was wrong. 

 He responded, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then,” said the instructor, “it’s time you learned the Outward Bound motto.”

“Oh keen,” Parker thought.  “I’m about to die, and she’s going to give me a motto.”

But then she shouted ten words that reshaped Parker’s life, words whose impact and meaning he can still feel. “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!”

Parker wrote, “I had long believed in the concept of ‘the word made flesh,’ but until that moment, I had not experienced it.  My teacher spoke words so compelling that they bypassed my mind, went into my flesh, and animated my legs and feet. No helicopter would come to rescue me; there was no parachute in my backpack to float me to the ground.  There was no way out of my dilemma except to get into it — so my feet started to move, and in a few minutes I made it safely down.”

I plan to “get into it” with cross-country skiing and see what happens.  I will keep you posted.

Have you ever experienced a time when you had to “get into it?”


Shoveling Snow Inspiration

This morning I shoveled out the driveway after a six inches snowfall.  In the past, Saturday morning was my time for the running group and we would put in anywhere from 4-12 miles on a morning run.  But now I am in a different routine.   With a new church and with my recent running injuries, I have not been running on Saturday mornings.  I confess I miss the group camaraderie and exercise, but I am confident that I will be running again soon.

I remember reading about elite marathoner Dick Beardsley’s experience when he was injured.  He lived on a farm here in Minnesota and he spent time cross-training by shoveling snow between his house and barn so as to stay in shape.  He eventually recovered and got back on the road running.  As I shoveled this morning, I thought to myself, “Yes, you will get back on the road, be patient, stay confident.”  Then I looked up to see the sun shining through the neighbors’ trees.  Hope anew!

In one’s walk with Jesus, there will be times of challenges and frustrations.  The old patterns and ideas do not work as they once did.   At those times, we need to do some cross-training, seeking other forms of spiritual life: conversing/praying with a friend, reading a good devotional book, worshipping at a new church, going on a short mission trip, joining a new Bible Study.  Our life in Christ is not to be a rut, but a path to life. 

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.