It’s funny how often we sell ourselves short. Sometimes it’s in the little things: getting upset about what we may or may not have accomplished in a day’s work when there is still laundry to do and dishes to wash. Sometimes it’s the bigger things in life: believing the lies that we need to have chiseled abs or perfect skin to be valuable, or a job that pays well and a bank account with a retirement fund once we reach a certain age. Of course these aren’t conscious thoughts or deliberate actions against ourselves, but we often limit who we are and what we can do.
Last week I had the chance to watch a group of young adult cancer survivors push themselves not only beyond their comfort zones but beyond their preconceived limits and was truly inspired by the results.
In partnership with Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), my husband and I (he an actual employee, me the grateful tagalong and helper!) set out for 12 days to tackle the beautiful Owyhee River in SE Oregon with 10 other survivors from Canada (for a taste of what this trip is like, please check out the trailer for our film at Wrong Way to Hope). It was a difficult but beautiful trip, as most good things are, beginning with a 2 day road trip from Calgary down to Oregon – the literal middle of nowhere, Oregon. We were slated for 8 1/2 days of kayaking on the water and the pace of life changed from inner city pressure and the demands of motherhood, careers, and the “daily grind” to a simplistic routine of eating, sleeping, paddling, and repeating. After watching this group of mainly women (plus one male supporter and the guides, two of which were also men), I am more grateful to have witnessed what happens when you push your own limits. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always pretty, and it was a process. When your trip starts with 10 beginners paddling 8 miles against an upstream wind on day 1, you know the aftermath won’t necessarily be smooth sailing.
One woman had only been out of treatments for breast cancer for several months and physically was feeling the daily struggle, while another had lower back and shoulder problems from her cancer a few years ago and thought she was crazy for coming as soon as we made it to the river. But you commit to something, you make it work, especially when you don’t have the option to give up or head home! 😉 By the end of the trip, I watched with the other guides as these women went through their struggles with food on the trip down and on the river, faced their fears at the top of looming rapids, and watched the smiles slowly begin to grow as they stuck with it, got better, and adjusted. By day 8, it was clear that if they’d wanted to give up and fought feelings of failure, they had overcome them.
I wonder how much we do the same thing in health and fitness in our lives? How often do we start something but don’t fully commit and therefore allow fears of failure and feelings of unworthiness or discouragement take over? When you next flip and fall out of your kayak or hit a rock, will you get back into your boat and paddle on? When you have an overindulgent eating week or become lazy in your exercising goals (because we all will), will you resist, knowing it’s easier to give up and let go?
I want to encourage you to stay consistent, motivated, and driven in your fitness goals. But more than that, know that you are worthwhile and valuable enough as you are and that you can push beyond your physical, mental, and emotional limits. After some inevitable suffering, discouragement, and frustration, you will indeed rise again, smile again, see change, and be changed.
Like my kayaking friends did last week, live and be well,