Don't Tread On Me!
I'm gonna be honest. Until today, I didn't actually know where that phrase came from but I've heard it frequently and have seen many bumper stickers/tattoos with the words inscribed. Turns out, it's from a Metallica song. (To all my friends who love heavy metal music, my apologies. But I don't share the affinity and therefore am very unfamiliar with the music! Haha).
Anyways, this phrase came to mind for me today when I was at the gym. I've recently been having a battle with the treadmill. Ready for an embarrassing story? OK great. Here we go!
When I was 19 years old and preparing to move to Thailand, I realized that I was in no physical shape to be trekking and building and doing manual labor in the jungle. (Not what I even ended up doing...BUT it IS what I THOUGHT I'd be doing!). I digress. It was at this point in my life that I first joined a gym and signed up for a personal trainer because...let's face it...my body had never (successfully) played sports, barely passed P.E., and could barely fit into a seat on an airplane. So I decided to start trying to make changes and to train my body for living in another country and to be in better condition overall!
My personal trainer would have me start each session by doing 10-15 minutes of walking/jogging. I wasn't a big fan of the treadmill because I felt it was boring and monotonous, so I would do this part of the training outside...until one day, it was raining and the treadmill was my only option. I reluctantly hopped on and put my headphones in and tried to imagine I was jogging outside in a more pleasant place. I then made a fatal mistake and closed my eyes. Spoiler alert: My pace was slower than the pace of the machine.
It is important to note that behind the row of treadmills, there was just a long wall of mirrors. How do I remember this so clearly? Because less than 5 seconds after closing my eyes, I flew off of the treadmill and into the wall of mirrors with a LOUD "thud" that made the whole gym turn around and look at me...the obviously overweight teenage girl in the corner who didn't even know how to use a treadmill properly. My trainer came over and helped me up and was very kind to me...but that moment was traumatic! I felt so completely inadequate. I mean, how could I fail at using a TREADMILL. It's supposed to be one of the simplest pieces of exercise equipment and I couldn't even get THAT right. They use them in nursing homes for crying out loud! Did I REALLY think I could actually become athletic? Who was I to even CONSIDER that I could lose weight and live a fit and active lifestyle?
From that day on, I always used ANY other form of cardio machine when I went to the gym. Stationary bikes, ellipticals, stair masters, ANYTHING to keep me off of that death trap. The treadmill said "matter of fact...DON'T tread on me" and I said "OK fam, no problem. I'll be over here, thanks!" Haha.
I am now THIRTY. And I am healthier now than at ANY point in my life. Hands down. I've been working with a different personal trainer for the last several months and have somehow managed to avoid the treadmill with him too...until last week. (Could it maybe have been because I always made it known how much I hate it? I will neither confirm nor deny...)
Last week, my trainer tried to get me to do sprints on the treadmill. He demonstrated what he wanted me to do and then asked me to copy him. So when it was my turn, I reacted in a way I did NOT expect. I could hardly see out of my eyes because they were so full of tears that I worked HARD to keep from escaping. I felt shaky. My heart rate increased. My palms were sweaty. I legitimately felt like I was trapped on a scary roller coaster or like I was strapped in for a bungee jump off of a cliff. (Side note...that does NOT sound fun to me and I don't get the appeal. Haha). I was having a panic attack! I did NOT want to even attempt the treadmill. And not only that, but I was ANGRY that a silly machine somehow had this power over me to instill a fearful response to a normal situation.
I was REALLY hoping that my trainer would say to me "you know what, that's OK. We'll find something else for you to do." But you wanna know something? HE DIDN'T SAY THAT. Instead, he modified the treadmill to be a little less scary (so we started with walking instead of sprinting). He got up beside me on the next treadmill and kept his arm behind me just to let me know that he would catch me if I fell. Not only that, but he pushed me. "OK. Now increase the speed a little bit. Stay here. OK. Now increase it again. Good. Now take your hands off the bars. Can't do that? OK. No worries. Start with one hand. Good. Switch. Good. OK now pick up the pace a little bit. I've got you. Don't worry. You're doing great." You could pretty much play that on repeat for the seven minutes I was on the treadmill and you get the picture.
He knew something that I only THOUGHT I knew. I really CAN do this. I just needed to be both pushed AND encouraged.
I want to pause here and say...something I learned about this whole situation is that fitness is a REAL journey and PTSD from being fat/obese/overweight/etc. is a REAL thing that you have to overcome. My brain could rationalize that this was just a machine and that millions of people in worse shape than me get on them EVERY DAY with no issues. My LOGIC knew that it was safe...but my BODY didn't believe it. But you know what? My body needs to catch up with my brain because the fact of the matter is...I'm NOT the same as I used to be! I have grown, morphed, and transformed into a healthier person in mind, body, and spirit. And I CANNOT let my worst day in the gym set the atmosphere for any future days in the gym.
I was still trembling on the inside when the seven minutes were up. He told me I should be proud of myself, and part of me was...but a bigger part of me was just so frustrated that I couldn't deal with this simple machine. And it was at that moment that I decided...you know what? I'm going to best this machine. NO way something so common is going to have that type of power over me!
God really used my trainer to show me more of who God is! Isn't life like this sometimes? We had something terrible happen to us and something that might be common for everyone else becomes a trigger for us. It causes us to literally lose our senses and we have to be intentional in order to accomplish the task. And do you know Who is right there cheering us on, walking beside us, ready to catch us, AND pushing us? Jesus Christ Himself. Not only Him, but He also gives us community around us to remind us of the truth when our minds and bodies seem to have forgotten it.
I THANK GOD that He doesn't just let me give up or quit. And I'm so thankful that He doesn't say "you know what, let's find something else for you to do." NO! He is our CREATOR! He KNOWS what we are capable of...ESPECIALLY with HIS aid! And He is NOT going to let us give up just because we are afraid of something. Take Moses for example. He had a stuttering problem. Then God told him, "Hey, you're gonna go talk to Pharoah in front of all your former peers and family members and tell him to let My people go." God KNEW he had a hard time speaking to people. He ALSO knew that he was CAPABLE of doing it anyway! ESPECIALLY with His help! So, he didn't accept that excuse and he pushed Moses to do it anyway and guess what? He completed the task.
Yeah, life IS hard, but it is meaningful and worth living! Maybe you feel stuck right now and aren't really feeling God with you. Maybe you need a community around you to keep you on that treadmill and to do life WITH you like my trainer or like Moses' brother Aaron who supported him and encouraged him along the way. Maybe you learned this lesson long ago and this just reminds you of where He's brought YOU from! Wherever you're at today, if you need a friend or a listening ear, let me know. You're not in this alone. <3
(P.S. To the treadmill that I walked (tread) on for 20 minutes TODAY with no hands...I say don't tread on ME! Metallica's lyrics say it best... "So be it, threaten no more. To secure peace is to prepare for war." I may have a long way to go, but I WILL conquer you! You are no longer a threat to me.)