Dr. Orthopedic Surgeon (OS) stood in front of the small group of eager listeners in the sterile education room of the hospital clinic. We were attending a Running Injury Prevention Class. All of us were there for different reasons, but motivated by the same desire — we just wanted to run without pain. I eagerly awaited the moment when I could ask about the pain that I experience on the outside of my left knee. Another sought an opportunity to point to her Achilles tendon injury, and others hoped to share their special bodily aches. Every one of us poor suffering soles (pun intended) waited to hear the secret of avoiding running injuries.
I’m not sure what I expected to hear from Dr. OS. Deep down inside, I was hoping for something easy — a miracle cure, new training plan, or a piece of equipment to buy. Needless to say, I was shocked by the simple story “stretching and strengthening the muscles will lead to stronger legs reducing injuries.” Was this the secret to running without pain?
Ever since I played AYSO soccer in elementary school, coaches have taught me the basic stretches that Dr. OS’s partner, Mr. Physical Therapist (PT) demonstrated. While some would slowly lean over their hamstring and moan is pained relief, I would simply grab my feet and think, “so what.” In spite of the hyper-flexibility in some muscles, Mr. PT did demonstrate a few freakishly odd yoga positions, that I’d never seen and simply conceded as not possible.
As I leaned against the wall cross-legged with a twisted torso like a human pretzel, it dawned on me that I had a choice to make. Either I would listen to Dr. OS and begin to stretch, or I would ignore the advice just as I have since elementary school.
Matthew 13 tells the famous story of the Parable of the Sower. In this story, seeds are sown across four different types of ground. In all but one type of ground, the plants fail to thrive due to the poor growing conditions. But in the fertile soil, the seeds sprout, grow, and produce fruit. The story ends with the statement “Whoever has ears, let them hear” as a question of whether you will respond.
I’ve heard Dr. OS’s story since I was small and have confirmed the advice from multiple sources. In a nod to the truth, I tried stretching and strengthening exercises. Sometimes, I’ll stretch while watching television. Occasionally, I’ll touch my toes before running. I even followed a yoga video, once. It just that when I stretch, it doesn’t seem to work.
But, the Parable talks about seeds growing into something that produces fruit. Without much horticultural knowledge, I am certain that the plants take time, a long time, to grow. I’m currently in year 3 of my pineapple growing experiment and still nothing (but that is a digression for another day). Strengthening and stretching is not intended to yield immediate results, but cultivate an environment which will produce fruit in (and for) the long run.
I think my problem is that I know the truth, but I don’t have a real commitment to following it. Seed growing is about consistency and patience. My previous attempts have been filled with haphazard efforts that are present only when I have nothing better to do. The result is much like a seed that sprouts quickly only to die when the busyness of the life chokes out the plant. If the story is true, then I need to make a consistent, disciplined effort to listen and follow the instruction in order to see the results. This may take some time, but I think that’s the nature of faith. For now, I’m going to work on the freakishly odd positions.