Client stories – guest post by Devon Anderson.
I do not come to the world of endurance sports training as an accomplished athlete, or as a fit and skinny 20-something. Instead, I’m coming from the other side, from the second half of life – with retirement on the horizon, a mere decade away.
I’ve never been a team sports person. I’ve never in my life considered myself athletic. But the arrival of middle age presents certain splits in the road. As we experience the first signs of aging, or, in women’s cases menopause, it seems we have a decision to make. How will we take care of our physical selves? Not to prevent aging (as if we could ever do that) or pretend it’s not happening. But how can we live life fully, as whole people, and take care of ourselves so that we are around to enjoy our lives as long as possible?
I began cycling in my 50s. I love the outdoors, and cycling can be very meditative – focusing on breathing and paying attention to what’s around you – how the buds are beginning to open on trees, for example, or how the loons have come back from wintering in the south. The year I turned 50, I worked with a trainer who helped me prepare for the Red Ribbon Ride, a 4-day, 300 mile ride that benefits 8 HIV/AIDS organizations. The next year I found Kym Zest, through the Minneapolis YWCA, who built a training plan that would ready me for the RAGBRAI (a six-day ride across Iowa) the following summer.
Both rides were amazing, and I learned an incredible amount – about my capacity, about the building of strength and confidence, about the joy of a body that will work for me if I invest in it. Even with those early accomplishments, though, I wanted to go both deeper and further. I wanted to exercise my whole body – not only the muscles used to pedal a bike. I wanted to go deeper by incorporating additional components of physical wholeness – meditation, mindfulness, nutrition, balance and stretch.
I joined Zest Ed because it offered a piece of what I so deeply wanted — not just a service that would design a training plan, but a partnership. It offered a relationship with an experienced, compassionate, knowledgeable professional who would not only help me train, but teach me components of training — like how to prevent injury, how and when to really rest, how training plans are designed (cycles within cycles) and how to challenge myself without ruining myself. Zest Ed shifted my athletic training from a process of following, to a process of learning.
In the end, as I live fully into the second half of life, what I want most is wholeness. And, as Parker Palmer once wrote, “wholeness is always a choice.” I choose wholeness in part by training for endurance events. Not because I want to get a good score or race time, or lose weight (though that would be nice), or prove anything to anyone. I want, in essence, balance — between work and family, rest and exercise, play and responsibility. I want a body that feels good and strong and capable, that is up for adventure or the next opportunity around the corner.
The Trappist monk Thomas Merton claimed that “there is in all things…a hidden wholeness.” That’s the funny thing about wholeness – it’s within us all along, down deep. Training and exercise, preparing and learning is part of the process of uncovering the wholeness that is already there, bringing it forth, and living into it.
Devon Anderson has been an Episcopal priest for 21 years and is currently serving Trinity Church in Excelsior Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and 15-year old son. Her daughter attends Boston College. Her family has two dogs, one very bad cat, and three chickens. You can also read Devon’s Zest Ed athlete bio and her “She Shoots! She Scores!” post.