Respect Your Body

As a continuation from my article about my journey with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), I wanted to process through some thoughts I’ve had regarding my journey into health and wellness.

As communicated in my post on UC, I have a high value for physical fitness and exercise. And when my experience of UC would hit peaks of inflammation, it would be challenging for me to get a 30 minute run in without having to stop and find a restroom somewhere. It got so bad in at times that I would actually just run laps around a local park that had a public restroom as geographic center. This would allow me to stop whenever I needed to stop — sometimes 4–5 times in what was intended to be a 30 minute run. The continual impact of running was simply too much for my colon, and honestly, for my emotions as well.

In 2015, while in Tulsa at a family gathering, I was afforded some (much overdue) time with my cousin and good friend, Katherine Shafto — an MD in Minneapolis, MN. Not only does she practice medicine, but she also spends much time and energy dedicated to the study of wellness and nutrition — an incredible combination in my opinion — which has come through her own personal journey in addition to the glaring needs of the medical landscape, which, as she has communicated, is all but bereft of both. As we spoke specifically about my condition and the challenges it presents, she gave me some helpful insight. Speaking from some of her own injury and injury induced physical limitation she could empathize with where I was coming from. While Katherine is not one to draw back from a challenge, she did say that the thing she learned in the midst of her experience was the importance of listening to and respecting your body — a challenging viewpoint in a society that has created disconnect between body, mind, and spirit. If your body is telling you something, instead of fighting it and breaking your body into submission, you should listen to it — respect it.

This was the opposite of what I had been doing. I had been working against what my body was communicating. Instead of stopping to listen and respond to my body with an alternative that would bring positive change to my physical and emotional well being, I was setting up systems and scaffolding to muscle my way through and “make it work.” What Katherine proposed was a complete change in method.

She suggested yoga as a way to stay active while not forcing my body into the unnecessary impact-after-impact demanded by running. The idea that I could simply stop running while still maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle (though foreign) was a breath of fresh air to me — and it came as a complete surprise. I had no idea that I was stuck in my narrow perspective, my normal until I was given the invitation to step out of it.

Yoga, my new normal

Before the conversation with Katherine, yoga had never really been on my radar as a form of exercise that would replace the fast paced cardio that running and swimming provided. I could knock out a run in 30 minutes, while I always thought of yoga as more of a 60–90 minute time commitment. And even with 60–90 minutes, I didn’t expect that it would be much of a cardio option. But thinking through my current setup realistically, my 30 minute daily run had actually become a 60 minute run with a lot of breaks — this was no longer a viable option, physically or emotionally. So I purchased my first yoga mat, the PRO by Manduka, a pair of yoga pants by 4-rth and began my yoga journey.

After some research, I found an instructor, Dylan Werner through an online workout fitness community called Cody. Dylan’s coaching and workout plans hit every point of the spectrum for me when it comes to fitness. While I’m not running long miles, the power holds and vinyassa flows within Dylan’s workouts are plenty to get my heart rate up and get me sweating pretty intensely.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Cody app platform as well… It’s an online community and encompasses a variety of different types of workout plans done via video — even now, just perusing through my app, I can jump into anything from yoga to strength, flexibility to barre, HIIT to weightlifting, and even food health and nutrition plans. If you’re looking for some good workout programs with an element of social accountability and don’t want to mess with going to the gym everyday, check it out. It’s working for me.

This concept of listening to and respecting ones body is a progressive learning experience. Our bodies are in a constant state of change and our circumstances are always evolving. When we set ego aside and ask the honest question, we maintain the coarse to keep up with that change. What does my body — or mind, or spirit — need? a new workout regimen, quiet space of prayer, an earlier bedtime, a later wake up time, time in nature, healthier eating habits, more adventure, less chaos, more structure, less stress, more downtime, less wasted time, more fiction, less instagram, more red wine, less coffee. It’s not about finding one thing and sticking to it. Rather, it’s regularly ask the question, waiting for the answer, and moving accordingly.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

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