When I started running, way back in ye olde days of 2010, I was dumb. I began running wearing those goofy toe-shoes, the Vibrams. I loved them, because they were NATURAL, and my stride was BEAUTIFUL, and all the mountain people from 2000 years ago did just fine running barefoot. I was like an ancestral mountain person, with my beautiful stride.
And my stress fractured feet, and my callouses, and my over pronation, and my knee pain. And my calves. Oh, my calves. When one begins to run with a forefoot strike, one experiences tightness in the calves of a calamitous nature. Walking was on a must-needs basis. I was content to sit in my chair and nurse my sad little calves.
But even in a more traditional shoe, my calves would have burned. My hammies would have hollered. Running wasn’t a habit. My muscles, my heart, my mind even, didn’t yet have a foundation that would make it hurt less.
The first few weeks of barre class were similar. Every morning, I’d run, then head to barre. Every evening, I felt the onset of fatigue and stiffness in the muscles, as if the lactic acid were flooding my system and enhancing my pain receptors.
I thought my calves might stage a bloody coup and remove themselves from my form. My hip flexors wept silently in the night. My abs hoped nothing would make me laugh; it hurt to laugh with all that work on the transverse abs.
Lately, I’ve noticed that my prayer muscles are weak. My meditation time is self-central. The goodness and truth of scripture is the last on a long list of my usual resources. And then, I woke today with a prayer of thanks on my lips.
My husband is out of town, and when he is, each of the kids gets a sleepover with me. When I woke, and heard the sleep breath of one of my babies, it was purity, and goodness. It was silence and peace and prayer. It was that one golden moment of recognition and hope. And it stretched my heart shaped calves and hammies and biceps.
Over time, I learned to run 3 miles. Then, 6. Then 13, and then 26.2. My muscles may become tender and tight, but not often, and I know how to address it. Barre is challenging, but it does not render me prone for days anymore. I have developed muscle memory. I have worked, and pushed, and run and sweated through long workouts and crappy stretches.
My prayer muscle is weak, and it will push me to stretch it. But that moment, of peaceful child sleep breath told me it was worth it.