Shape Up

“We should do a plank challenge,” she said.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Every day, you do a plank exercise, but you hold yourself in that position a little longer each time.”

She showed me a graphic that outlined the idea from day 1 to day 30.

“On the first day, you only do twenty seconds?”

“Yes.”

That seemed so simple, and I could give up that amount of time without regret.

“On Day 30, I’m supposed to be able to do this for 5 minutes?”

“Yes.”

I had spent years doing various workout programs, always getting somewhat bored and moving on to another one. Going to a gym never was high on my list. In my twenties, I did, and I found it inconvenient compared to being at home.

During a time when I was drinking diet pop, I would have significant blood sugar drops. I didn’t equate that I was putting in chemicals that represented something that my body thought it needed to supply insulin for.

At times, the reaction would get so severe that I would begin to lose my eyesight. The only way that I had learned to counteract it was to consume sugar as quickly as possible. I could feel the symptoms begin with overall fatigue that would spiral into a waterfall of sweat. From there, it just would get worse. If I caught it fast enough, I could stop it quickly.

After drinking an entire can of diet pop, I had just gotten started in a class and ate next to nothing before arriving. My nutrition plan was starvation.

I felt the first wave of weakness begin and tried to ignore it. My idea was to mentally combat it and stay focused on what the instructor was saying.

I had never had this situation occur while I was exercising, and it seemed to worsen.

I could no longer withstand it anymore; I knew I had to solve the issue or be in total darkness.

This was way before I had children, and I didn’t carry around a vast purse stuffed with everything known to man for all emergencies. I had seen my mom do that, but I was carefree and never prepared for anything; I was living on the edge with only a wallet.

When this state of being would come upon me, I had to move fast to get help. It’s similar to a person needing their next inhalation of nicotine or some other substance they are addicted to. Nothing else matters at that moment while your body is begging for attention.

I grabbed change from my locker, and in a fog that was rapidly overtaking me, I thought I would quickly find what I needed.

I forgot where I was, and back in those days, they believed in no vending machines, unlike now. If you were there to improve yourself, they would ensure you had the whole experience of pain and suffering. Why would I think I could find sugar in a gym? I saw wide-eyed stares at the front desk as I sprinted out the door. They thought I must have gotten inspired to run an impromptu marathon.

My only choice was to exit and go to a grocery store in the same strip mall. I was not moving slow but somewhat erratically down this long hallway, knowing that I could blackout in public. That was what I had read about the subject, anyway. Some have gone into a coma-like state if this condition isn’t attended to, and I didn’t want to do that in public.

At this point, calories don’t matter, and stopping the progression is the goal. I spotted two small gumball machines with candy in them, and I jammed in one dime after another while cranking the handle.

As fast as I could, I shoved them in my mouth and kept getting more. I could feel my legs getting numb, and it was spreading into my hands.

I must have appeared like a crazy person who couldn’t stand one more second of a restricted diet. I had come running out of a gym, hit the candy like I was playing a slot machine, and sweating profusely while chewing.

In my haze, I had not noticed the man leaning up against the wall watching all of this.

I heard a loud slurp through a straw. In mid-gulp of Mike and Ike’s, I looked up.

“You can’t eat that! You are going to get fat!”

My mouth was so full I couldn’t defend myself, and he took on the role of my life coach.

“You don’t want to do that to yourself! This is going to make you gain weight! You are going to get fat!”

All I could do was stare at him and keep eating.

“It can’t be that bad! Get back to the gym! This isn’t what you want to do, and you are undoing all of your hard work.”

I ignored him and deposited another coin.

“Lady! Listen to me! You are going to regret this later! Stop eating that!”

This went on for a few minutes. I was battling off the lights going out, and he was harassing me.

Once I got myself to feel more normal, I said out of breath,

“I had a blood sugar drop. I had to do that.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you just wanted junk food.”

At first, I thought he was joking, but the more I tried to explain, the more he accused me of being a person who had just escaped a fat camp.

I walked away with him yelling at me,

“Quit eating that stuff! You are going to gain weight!”

I canceled my membership after that, never looked back, and decided to faint at home, not in front of weird strangers. When the kids did come along, and I hefted a heavy purse everywhere I went, I didn’t have time for it anyway.

My daughter’s suggestion of doing a workout with me was not out of the ordinary. We had tried an assortment of them. The chin-up bar across the bathroom entry hadn’t seen a chin in months. The huge, inflated, life-changing ball was slowly losing air, taking up space in the corner. All of the pilates and yoga DVDs were collecting dust. Multicolored bands were resting on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be used. And we just paraded by them all with bowls of ice cream.

“When do we start this?” I asked her.

I looked at the calendar. If we started it that second, we would be finished on Thanksgiving Day.

We decided this was perfect timing to discipline ourselves into a healthy habit before eating for ten people.

On Day 1, when the twenty seconds were up, I wondered if this was too easy for me. I found as the days rolled by and time was added on, it wasn’t simple. Even with a rest day every six days, it was starting to become a chore to endure. The one-minute mark on Day 7 was when I realized I had been lured into something that had seemed so basic but was proving to be otherwise.

I felt like time stood still as I balanced on my toes and forearms, pondering my life. The soreness in every part of my body would rear its ugly head, especially when I would have to go up or down the stairs, generally in a hurry but having to bow down to the fire that ripped through muscles I didn’t even know I had.

“The girl in the picture was smiling,” I said to my daughter as we advanced and had time to kill.

I contemplated my life, balanced my checkbook in my mind, did meal planning, and mentally made a grocery list not to acknowledge that everything was shaking. At the tone going off to announce our freedom, we both crumpled to the floor.

“Why are we doing this again?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with her face on the carpet.

Once we were at a minute, 30 seconds got added on next. Then ten-second increments. Little by little, the torture was slowly creeping in.

Day 18 brought 2 minutes and 30 seconds to the table, and it was like a lifetime. So, what kept me going? I had read about the health benefits of better core strength, balance, more energy, a faster metabolism, improved mood, a reduction in injuries, and stronger back muscles.

The night before our final session, I held myself stationary for 4 minutes and 30 seconds while trying not to scream breathe. I had come a long way from a mere 20 seconds. Only one more day, and it was going to be the mother of them all. 5 minutes.

I woke up with the worse backache of my life! I crawled out of bed, unable to complete the final round. I could not believe that I had done the entire thing, only to be cut off on the very last day. Instead of realizing how far I had come, I only felt defeated that I couldn’t finish what I had started. I didn’t ever want to hear the word plank again.

In my walk spiritually, I have had these same moments where I knew I was to go a certain way, but then the path I was on led me in an entirely different direction. But that’s how living by faith goes. When you begin, you might not know the outcome.

In Proverbs 16:9, there is a good reminder that we are not in control and never will be:

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (NLT)

It may be a tough pill to swallow at times, but if you want to live fully under the shadow of heaven’s wings, you have to conclude that it’s not all about you. Eyes are watching that see everything from a standpoint that we cannot, and our lives are meant to be used for the good of all humanity.

Underused body parts will let you know when they are not comfortable, and there have been times when I have not felt secure as my abilities to see and hear the unseen realm are increasing. I didn’t want to be deemed different than others, so I hid the truth of who I am becoming so others don’t live in fear because of me. If you can’t explain it, you set yourself up for the judgment of others, and that’s fun.

Growth involves not staying where you have been, so there’s going to be letting go of old, worn-out ideas, saying goodbye to what doesn’t serve you anymore, and coming to know the potential you have always possessed. It can feel like you are dying, but you are not.

You are becoming your genuine self as you trust in the One who put you here to do a job, and you allow yourself to be stretched beyond what you thought you could handle, only to find out you can.

Remaining stagnant is always going to be an option, but there will never be fulfillment in that. The still, small voice will never stop pursuing, hoping to see you move forward into your best self as you shape up.