I tweaked my back last weekend.
It was a muscle zinger that came out of nowhere and buckled my knees. Within five minutes a band of spasm gripped hip to hip making putting on socks a chore.
But I didn’t panic.
Over this season of jaw rehabilitation I have learned about dealing with muscle challenges. I put the lessons into practice by alternating ice and heat. I stretched, foam rolled and kept moving.
In the past, I would have coddled the area to give it a chance to heal while waiting for my next physio appointment. Instead, I used my recently-developed ability to differentiate kinds of pain and recognized that this version required action, not protection.
On Monday at the rehabilitation gym my trainer asked the general check-in question and I mentioned the back tweak. With a glint in her eyes and a lilt to her voice she asked, “Soooo, what did you do?”
I put on my best “bad girl” face and replied, “I reached six inches above my head to adjust the shower curtain!” I should have gone with “sky diving.”
She didn’t say “Oh, you poor dear. You should go home, put your feet up and wait for this to get better.” Nor did she say, “You shouldn’t be here today.” What she did say wasn’t a surprise (in light of my workouts for the last 16 months) and it struck a responsive chord.
“Okay, it sounds like your core didn’t engage properly last session which meant your lower back over-worked and became too tight. The heavier weight you can now lift is exposing compensations in your body. You’ve got to get the right muscles working. Let’s focus today on getting that core fired up again.”
I saw this day coming.
In June, 2014, one month after surgery, I first encountered the need to develop core muscles. I wrote:
There's nothing glamorous about doing core strengthening. You lie on your back and do these tiny incremental movements so slight that anyone watching might think you are cloud watching. And so it was in those waiting years. I had to learn to value the smallest accomplishments and come to terms with being okay to simply be.
Core strengthening takes time. It's an investment in a solitary activity that shows little reward for a long time and feels very unsatisfying at times. Throughout the two years prior to surgery I had a soul-level confidence that I was exactly where God wanted me to be and that waiting and taking care of myself – in all senses of the term – was my vocation. And yet, at times, it felt like crawling a marathon. Many days I felt similar to lying on that physio table asking God, "What muscles?" or, "How do you want me to live today?"
Core strengthening is actually really hard work. Now that the muscles are engaged and actively tightening, I know exactly where they are! And I have this sneaking suspicion that I won't get a graduation certificate from core work on July 14th. I'd love there to be a little ceremony where Kelly says, "Well done, Shelaine, you've finally figured out how to do this. Be free to live your life now."
Ha! I already know that's not going to be the talk I get. It's more likely to be, "Core strengthening is the foundation to the structural well-being of your whole body. Do these exercises until you get to heaven and you'll be able to move on to strengthen other parts of your body and avoid injury." I just know it.
So, back I go to the basics of firing up my core, that foundational strength for all of life’s heavy lifting.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst