When I was in grade six and graduating from elementary school, my gym teacher wrote this in my yearbook:
“Sasha, perseverance is… nailing that roundoff back handspring.”
I have never forgotten those words. For two years I had worked at that roundoff back handspring, asking my gym teacher to “spot” me during every gym class so I could practice (I must have driven him crazy!). I loved doing roundoff back handsprings, but for the longest time I was afraid to do them without a “spotter” because I had a fear of jumping backwards and landing upside down on my head… It took a lot of courage, practice and perseverance, but at our final gym show for all the parents, I “nailed” that roundoff back handspring and could not have been happier!
Since then PERSEVERANCE has been one of my life precepts. It is defined as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
I love that. If we want to accomplish all of our life dreams we need to take a stance of “steady persistence”, not only when it’s easy, but “especially” in the face of difficulties! Perseverance is what got me through the long and exhausting 28-hour shifts during residency. Perseverance is what helped me pass my final medical licencing exams. Perseverance is what gets me to the gym at 5:30 in the morning so that I stay fit and strong. Perseverance is what has caused this website to take off… Take an honest look at yourself: are there aspirations that you’ve abandoned because you hit an obstacle and didn’t have the determination to keep going? Have you let excuses or difficulties get in the way of being everything that you desire to be?
I want to share a personal testimony of an obstacle that I’ve faced for the past two years.
In 2011 I fell in love with running and ran my first half-marathon. Two weeks later, I ran another race even though I had started having some hip and knee pains. I just popped some Advil and went for it anyhow. Well, after that second race, I developed severe pain on the lateral aspect of both knees that not only prevented me from running, but I could barely walk for two weeks and stairs were not even an option. I was diagnosed with severe iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a common overuse injury affecting runners, especially female runners. I saw physiotherapists, chiropractors, kinesiologists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, even the top orthopedic surgeon in Toronto! I read every article in Pubmed on the treatment of ITBS. I iced, I foam rolled, I rested, I stretched, I did yoga, I strengthened… I even learned to do self-acupuncture! I did all these things, and yet every time I started to run again (even 10 meters!) the pain would return and I’d have another flare. At one point a doctor said to me: “Maybe running just isn’t for you. Why don’t you find another sport?” I wanted to punch him.
I know this may seem trivial to some, but running for me is a passion, a stress relief, and a tremendous joy. So to not be able to run for two years has been extremely emotionally difficult. Last year in particular was challenging because I spent 8 months studying for my final specialty licencing exams and I wasn’t able to do the one exercise that brings me joy and keeps me fit. For a few months I became down and discouraged; I gained some weight, and became frustrated with my body. But perseverance meant that I made the decision that I was going to overcome my IT band syndrome. I didn’t take the doctor’s word that I shouldn’t run anymore as the final verdict. (Now, just to clarify, I’m not being foolish. ITBS is an inflammatory problem of a band of fibrous tissue – it is not a joint problem. The difference being that ongoing running with a joint problem could cause longterm damage, where as ongoing running with ITBS doesn’t cause longterm damage but only temporary pain.)
I pursued all avenues to make sure I got healed. I took the time it needed for the inflammation to subside. I worked on strengthening the supporting muscles that were weak in my glutes and thighs. I was and continue to be religious about stretching. And for me, a large part of my perseverance was in prayer. The doctor’s prognosis was that I had severe IT band syndrome that would always be a problem. But I had received a promise from God that I would run again (He told me: “farther and faster than before”). So I held onto that promise and took God’s Word over the doctor’s.
I finally got my breakthrough a couple months ago. I am now back to training for my next half-marathon and running “farther and faster than before”. I run with the biggest smile on my face because I know that it took perseverance to get healed. I refuse to let an injury, illness or sickness define me because I have determined to live in health. No matter what trial or medical issue you are facing, you have the choice to let it define who you are, or do your part to continue to live to the fullest despite your diagnosis.
Choose to Live in Health
Living a healthy lifestyle (whether losing weight, becoming more active, or simply maintaining current level of health) is certainly one commitment that requires STEADY PERSISTENCE. Yes, it’s a commitment – and it’s a choice. There will be “obstacles, difficulties and discouragement”, but it is totally possible to face each one and come out on top if you choose to be a person of perseverance. What does that look like? Well, when you’re facing those donuts at the office or the big tub of icecream in your fridge, it means choosing your health over immediate pleasure. Or maybe it’s a bigger obstacle than that: maybe it’s dealing with a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and recognizing that you need to make some major changes to your habits. From my experience, there are two types of people in the face of difficulty: there are those who give up because “what’s the point anyhow, I already have diabetes… why should I care about eating healthy now” and those who are determined not to be defined by their illness but use it as a springboard to make crucial changes.
Steps to becoming a person of perseverance
1. Set a goal.
You need to have your eyes on the prize in order to know why you’re running so hard. “To lose weight” is not an adequate goal. Ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Is it just to look better, or is it because you value yourself and your family enough that you want to take measures to ensure that you live a long and healthy life? You need to find an inner motivation that will push you through the tough days when it is much easier to give in to immediate pleasure rather than make the difficult choice to forgo that second helping of potato salad at your family reunion 😉
2. Write it down.
I’ve developed this thing I call MMOTM or Mirror Motto of the Month. Yes, it’s totally dorky, but I love it. I use an eraseable marker to write a monthly motto on my bathroom mirror. It serves as a daily reminder of my goals: personal, spiritual, financial… and I update it each month. Some sample MMOTMs:
– “A radical life leaves no room for excuses”
– “I have a millionaire mind. I have the mind of Christ. I have a healthy body.”
Write down your goals and keep them in an easily visible place to keep you motivated!
3. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
You’ve all heard it before: you are who you hang out with. It’s very true, you will be influenced by the people you spend the most time with. So make sure you surround yourself with people who will encourage you in your healthy lifestyle, career aspirations, financial goals… Find an accountability partner: someone you can call up when you’re struggling who will help you to stay committed to your plan.
4. Don’t settle for the status quo; be set apart from the crowd.
Please listen to me here! If you want to live a healthy life, you will need to be different from the crowd. I mean, look around at the Canadian population… not exactly healthy. Obesity and overweight is an epidemic affecting greater than 60% of our population! So by choosing to live in health, you will be “different”. What do I mean? Well, I mean, when your baseball league goes for pitchers of beer after the game, you need to make a choice to limit yourself to one beer and maybe forgo those wings because you’ve committed to losing 20 lbs. Or when you’re out at a restaurant and everyone is ordering fettucine alfredo, maybe you need to be different and order the baked salmon with steamed veggies [and hold the butter please!]. Just ask my friends, I’m “that” girl that orders like this: “I’ll have the steak frites. But instead of steak I’d like skinless chicken, and instead of frites I’d like butterless steamed broccoli and asparagus, with a side salad, hold the dressing.” Hahaha… I’m joking. But not 🙂
5. Speak positively.
I’m a big proponent for speaking positively. In every situation, you can speak either life or death, blessing or cursing, positive or negative. And words are extremely powerful. Whether you’re spiritual or not, there are not only biblical principles to the power of our words but also a multitude of scientific studies showing the effects of positive speech. Be a person who speaks life. Let me give you an example: When I was in undergrad, I was struggling with one course (I think it was cellular biology or something!). My mom told me that I should tell myself I understood, even when I didn’t, and eventually I would understand. So I would say: “I am intelligent. I understand this material. I can succeed in this!” And when I was dealing with my IT band syndrome, I would declare daily: “I am healed. I will run again. My body is strong and healthy.” Likewise, our words can give life to others.. My gym teacher created in me a spirit of perseverance and determination by encouraging me when he wrote in my yearbook: “Sasha, perseverance is… nailing that roundoff back handspring!”
Let’s impart strength, kindness and life to one another as we all choose to live in health! May you be a person of perseverance and determination, and may you fulfill every one of the dreams in your heart! 🙂