Category Archives: Sports

kicking and kicking but going nowhere?

I’ve never been much of a flutter-kicker. More of an arm-stroker. But when the masters swim workout calls for 100m freestyle kick, well, you kick. And it feels like an eternity to the other end.

Some people seem to have the gift of flutter-kicking, propelling themselves along like a speed boat powered by an outboard motor. Me? I’m more of a putterer. Not for want of effort, mind you. I’ll churn up a wake like nobody’s business and go NOWHERE!

Which is a bit embarrassing, especially if the people who share your lane are either piling up behind you or catching you up and tugging on your feet so they can pass.

Fortunately, today I had my very own lane. So when the workout called for a 100 meter kick, I aimed my kick-board dutifully toward the opposite end of the pool and set off with a mighty push from the wall. Momentum is underrated when you’ve an entire pool ahead of you and a kick like mine.

Now, I’d like to say that today I surprised myself with my torpedo-like speed, but I did not. No, I was much more like the Little Engine That Could. In fact, at times it was only the changing colors on the lane rope that convinced me I was moving at all.

Four navy, three black. Four navy, three black. Four, three. Four. Three.

Isn’t that how days feel sometimes? Like we’re kicking and kicking and going nowhere? Funny how something as simple as a friendly lane rope — which really is going nowhere — can reassure us that we’re actually making forward progress. And that, in the end, is all we really need to know.

….kick on, my friends. Before we know it, we’ll be there.

What’s worse than hitting STOP on a moving treadmill?

Years ago, when I was a graduate student doing time in the exercise science laboratory in the depths of the Smith Center at George Washington University, I committed a mistake that nearly turned disastrous.

My lab partner and I were learning how to operate the treadmill in accordance with an exercise stress test protocol. The test started with the treadmill at low speed, shallow incline and low physical demand and progressed gradually by steps to higher speeds, steeper inclines and maximum physical challenge. The test was finished when the participant asked to stop or until they could no longer keep up the pace. The highest level reached provided a measure of their maximal exercise capacity.

On this day, my brave lab partner chose to take the first turn on the treadmill while I, full of A student confidence, deftly operated the treadmill controls. She began walking very slowly on the level belt while I got the hang of adjusting speed and incline at regular intervals. Up she went in speed and incline, easily managing the changes in pace. After several minutes, she, being quite fit, had progressed to very high levels on the test, running at top speed at a steep incline, breathing heavily at a rapid heart rate. She was sweating and near exhaustion when she finally signaled she was ready to stop the test.

Seeing her signal, I did what was natural. Yep, I hit the STOP button. Do you know what happens when you hit the stop button on a treadmill when someone is running at full speed?

For some reason, this event has come alive in my mind in these days when the whole world has lurched to a sudden stop. The corona virus hit the stop button on the treadmill where the very fortunate were mid-run at a steep incline, and all the world has been launched into a free fall.

Now, in my days as a graduate student I was of course not alone in the exercise lab while performing this stress test. Rather, I was doing all this under the watchful eye of my exercise science professor, Dr Paup. He, reacting quickly to what he saw I was about to do, shouted, “Don’t stop the treadmill!” Hearing him and in sudden recognition of what I had just done, I did exactly what one should never do next… Yep, in reflex response, I hit the start button.

Fortunately for me, my lab partner was not only fit but also nimble. Somehow by throwing out her hands for balance, grabbing the handrails and lifting her weight from her now hopelessly entangled running sneakers, she escaped disaster and emerged from my total incompetence completely uninjured.

To this day, I have extra respect and harbor even a bit of trepidation with regard to the OFF button on a treadmill. Please, I beg you, press it only in an emergency and preferably not while someone is running. Isaac Newton was right when he told us that a thing in motion tends to remain in motion.

But please, and in fact this precaution is veritably screaming at me to announce in these days, if one makes the unfortunate mistake of hitting the STOP, which one may do when one is young and this experience is new, do not risk further injury by hitting the START to bring things back up to speed. While treadmills are designed to power down with a bit of grace, they don’t have a safety guard against the reflexive stupidity we are prone to when we go to correct our first error by committing another.

This stoppage time, unwelcome to us all, but especially to those who were just hitting their stride, has given us a marvelous opportunity to power down and assess the reasoning behind our activities and the potential recklessness of our protocols. Surely, it will be tempting and even reflexive to mash the start button to correct our error, but it’s better we didn’t.

What if, in this moment of profound pause and redemptive grace, we took stock of the value that’s been displayed so glowingly before us and decided to honor it by acknowledging its worth? How might that change our protocols?

Suddenly gone: a season of loss without losing

Something was taken without your permission. Stolen while you weren’t looking. Nipped in the bud. Just as it was blooming, coming together, looking up, coming to fruition. So much hope. So much potential. So much.

Without asking, they shut down your season, closed your show, before you even had a chance to take the stage. It was over before it began. Cancelled until further notice. All you were looking forward to is now not even a memory. Not even a loss or a defeat or a failure. It just … isn’t.

Absence. Without consummation. Missing In Action. Gone without a trace. Oh my, closure. Lotta folks gonna need closure. Because what might have been is no longer. Lives. Livelihood. Hope. Gone missing. In an instant.

There’s a house down the street I’ve often noticed — even though I try not to — where a black and grey flag has been flying for quite some time now. Years really. Decades actually. P.O.W. MIA. Wonder if they’d talk to me. Share their wisdom and resolve. Help me get through this.

My loss is really quite nothing compared to theirs. Maybe we could talk about it. About how it feels to lose something, Someone … what it does to you, how you get by, how you go on, day to day.

Holy Redeemer, comfort us in our losing. Sustain us in our hardship. Create in us a heart that reaches, that holds, that loves. Till the soil of that garden you’ve been planting, even the one born of despair, for you know the plans you have for us, to give us hope and a future. Us, not I.

In the days’ dimness, let there be light.

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