aging · Christianity · Health · Running · Uncategorized

How strong are you?

About a year ago I was diagnosed with the beginning of osteoporosis, which made me feel old and brittle and worried about getting a humpback. My mother fell and broke her hip while putting up Christmas decorations when she was younger than I am now and suffered from it for the rest of her life. I have a horror of something similar happening, so in addition to the over-the-counter calcium the doctor suggested, I started going to a class for weight training. Resistance training builds strong bones. 



Most Tuesday and Thursday mornings I crawl out of bed at 4:20, drink a cup of coffee, put on my clothes and meet some other brave souls to lift weights for an hour to loud music. Our leader, Jan, is a high school math teacher who actually makes getting up that early fun. Our class is not one of those where you kill yourself by pushing over tractor tires, but it’s not easy either. We put weights on a bar and place it on our shoulders and do lots of squats and lunges. We then work on our biceps and triceps and shoulders and lie down on our mats and do planks and crunches. Afterwards we have a relaxing cool down stretch. 



I love how the weight lifting makes me feel and I hope my bones are getting better. One of the unexpected results of the cross training has been how much my running has improved since my legs and core have gotten stronger. I am running less miles but feel great during my runs and I’m even a little faster. Also, I have less jiggly stuff under my arms. 



But I  know my limitations when it comes to weights.  My legs are fairly strong, but like most women, I don’t have much upper body strength. I still cheat and get on my knees instead of my toes for push-ups. I’m sure I would improve with more work, but I am never going to be able to bench press like the body builders at my gym. My ’50 something’ body can only do so much.



I’m realizing, however, that when it comes to getting stronger spiritually, I’m barely tapping into my resources. Some friends and I are doing a “virtual prayer group” and praying through the month of January with 31 Days of Prayer for the New Year. One day last week the prayer was: 

 

”Pray that you will lean on God for strength, in the good times and in the bad.  May He become your backbone and source of your strength.”

People in Bible times needed to be physically strong. I wonder if because our day to day lives are so much easier that we can’t appreciate how Jesus’s words sounded to them. Take for example the woman at the well in John 4. When Jesus tells her that He has water that will keep her from being thirsty again, her first thought is how wonderful it would be to not have the daily chore of lugging water back to her home. Think about how much water we use in a day, taking showers, washing our clothes, doing the dishes. I can’t imagine having to carry that into my house every day. So of course that is what she thinks about. But Jesus is not talking about her physical needs, but her spiritual ones. As she struggles to pull the heavy bucket up from the well, he tells her: 

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13-14)

This is the source we have to draw from, but I feel I often ignore it.

 Sometimes when I am going through a hard time and ask God for strength, I treat Him like a trainer at the gym. “Just show me what to do to get results” is the unspoken request. But instead, He has this infinite supply of power that is there for me to draw from. I don’t have to be strong within myself, I just need to keep the channels open between Him and me so that I can pull from that source when I need it. It’s kind of like having one of those body builders around all the time to pick up anything heavy that I need. 



What a relief to know that I don’t have to work on building my spiritual muscle, that God has already done it for me!


aging · Health · Menopause · Running · Uncategorized

Outrunning old age?

Cholesterol1

For all my adult life, going in for my annual physical was alot like going to Adam’s parent/teacher conferences when he was growing up – all  warm fuzzies and “You’re doing a great job” and “No problems here.”  After all, I’m not overweight, I run, I don’t smoke, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables – and did I mention, I run? Running has felt like my talisman against any health issues – after all, if I can run a half-marathon, surely nothing could be wrong with my body, right?

Wrong.

I recently went for a bone scan and bloodwork at my new doctor’s office, a very personable OBGYN who was recommended to me as someone who has a concentration on women in “my stage of life”. (Unlike the girls of today who have no problem mentioning their – um, periods –  around the opposite sex, I still feel akward saying I am in “menopause”, but there it is.) I was not surprised at the results of the bone scan, showing that I am going down the slippery slope to osteoperosis, since my mother and grandmothers all had it, and my scan from several years ago showed bone loss. I was prepared to have to start weight lifting and maybe even some sort of hormone therapy. What I was not prepared for was the results of my bloodwork, showing that I – the runner- now have high cholesterol!

Surely the lab made a mistake and got my blood mixed up! In our family, Keith’s side has the cholesterol and heart issues and my side has cancer, plain and simple. My parents always ate whatever they wanted, and even though my mother was pretty heavy on the cheese and butter,  never had cholesterol problems. My mother and grandmothers didn’t really die of anything specific, but basically just wore out at an old age. Keith’s family on the other hand, have all died at fairly young ages of heart related problems. I’m always on him about his eating and worry about his cholesterol, so he thinks this change is pretty humorous – I feel like my body has tricked me!

My research has shown  that cholesterol often goes up in ladies in my “stage of life”. Great. Here’s the other kicker – I have struggled all my life with my weight – in fact, sadly I have based much of my self-worth on what the scale says – and the last few months I have gotten down to a very good weight for me. So get this – osteoporosis is worse in thin people, because if you are carrying around a lot of pounds, your bones are getting weight bearing work all the time! Is there no justice here?

So here’s my confession – even though I know in my head that at least 90% of my good health all my life comes from my genes, I have still harbored a certain feeling of superiority in my low blood pressure, good cholesterol, and ability to pretty much do whatever I feel like. Now I am having to admit that just because I am a runner, I am not immune to my body letting me down. I’m just thankful it is not worse.

I go this week to talk with my sweet doctor, but I pretty much know what she will say – I need to do more cross training so that I am exercising every day, not just those few running days, weight bearing for my bones, and more focus on my diet – I guess I need to  cut back on the red meat and sweets, and  drink red wine(!) We will discuss hormones, although I am not so sure I want to go down that road. I feel like the student who has made a bad grade and has to face the music.

Isn’t it sad that I am feeling guilty over what is a normal part of aging? I don’t apologize for my gray hair and wrinkles, yet I feel like it is my fault that these other changes are happening.

What has been your experience?