Hips, Thighs, and the Nanaimo Factor

15380497_10154880210114515_1394830291038030524_nMany thanks to my good friend Jeff Buckman for introducing me to the sport of snowshoeing. Having spent most of my adult life in the Great White North, I shouldn’t have needed a guy from Pennsyltucky to perform this essential function. Nor should I need a guy from Michigan to introduce me to ice fishing, but my colleague Joe Stinson will be doing that this winter. But I digress.

This morning I took off down a narrow, frosted trail near the Ottawa River on my new Red Feather snowshoes. I’m an enthusiastic cross country skier, so I wondered how I would enjoy trudging along at a much slower pace, walking like a toddler with a load in his Huggies.

Neither scenario proved to be true. My gait was pretty much as it usually is, despite the additional width of the shoes–and I don’t walk anywhere slowly, either with or without snowshoes. I have to say, it was every bit the workout that skiing is–a very different movement, but with poles, a great way to get some much-needed exercise. In Jeff’s words, “It is fun–just another way to enjoy the snow.” Jeff is an avid downhill skier, so he should know. And now I know, too.

Whenever I use the words, “hips” and, “thighs” in the same sentence, I recall an incident that Donna and I still laughed about many years later. We were in the waiting room of our doctor’s office in Nova Scotia one time when a schoolgirl came by selling Girl Guide cookies. We bought some, but the lady next to us said to the girl, “My mouth says, ‘Yes,’ but my hips and thighs say, ‘No.'”  Donna borrowed that quip many times over the years.

Medical researchers and practitioners alike tell us that as we age, men and women collect our excess weight in different places. In men, fat goes to the gut; in women, it goes to the butt. Diagnostic imaging at Walmart will confirm this.  (If Donna were reading over my shoulder, she would have just slapped me lovingly on the back of the head and said with her delightful giggle, “Rob–delete that!” But she isn’t, so I won’t.)

So ladies, if you’re interested in firming your hips and thighs, etc., I highly recommend snowshoeing. (I know some of you will be, especially after all those holiday goodies. I call this the Nanaimo Factor. If you’re not Canadian, you won’t understand this medical jargon and will have to come up with your own factor.) That’s the region of my body where I really felt it today–far more so than when I ski. You’ll feel it there, too–of this I have no doubt. In fact, after shoeing a few kilometers, your hips and thighs may be on their knees begging you to go home.

Snowshoeing seems like a great family activity, as it can be mastered immediately by anyone who can walk. Poles help with equilibrium and lend an additional aerobic element to the motion. The sport can be enjoyed anywhere you find snow–no grooming is required, or even desirable. (I’m talking about the trail’s grooming, not yours. But wait until after your shower, which you will need.) It’s about blazing your own trail, exploring uncharted territory, and all that. A word of caution from a seasoned professional–don’t attempt using your snowshoes in a hard-packed, icy parking lot as you’re going back to your car. The teeth of the crampons may grab the ice and stop the shoes dead, resulting in serious injury to your face, your pride, or both.

One final comment about snowshoeing. Cross country skiing is a very enjoyable and therapeutic solo activity for me–especially at night, under a full moon. Somehow, snowshoeing seems different. It’s a little like drinking mate, the tea that is such an integral part of the South American cultures I so dearly love. It’s okay to do it alone, but I think it would be much more enjoyable with a partner.




Listen to Your Girdle

The other day I hit TRAIL 10, a cross-country ski trail that meanders through the woods to the bank of the Ottawa River. The snow was fast—not icy, but slick and granular, like trillions of minute, oil-drenched pearls. I am naturally a speed freak, so I decided to take advantage of the conditions and set a personal record for TRAIL 10.

I didn’t. Set my record, that is. I failed to pace myself.

I took off as fast as I could, exhilaration trumping judgment. For the first two kilometres, all the muscles around my pelvic girdle screamed, “Slow down, will ya?” For the last three kilometres, my lungs wheezed, “Told ya!” When I finally heaved myself into the driver’s seat to head for home, my body was trembling.

I began to think about Psalm 39. It’s a psalm about pacing, among other things. David writes,

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psa 39.4, ESV)

Some context. David finds himself in the midst of wicked people who seem to have no sense of the eternal. They are simply heaping up wealth for no purpose, and David understands the futility of this worldview and desires to be spared “the scorn of a fool.” He asks God to forgive him for his own transgressions and to hear his cry, acknowledging the fleeting nature of life and the importance of living with the impetus of eternity.

How can we pace ourselves more effectively?

  1. By knowing our destination. People who feel their destination is a hole in the earth live one way; people who know they are headed for heaven live another way altogether. Those who have no idea where they’re headed live another way still. People who work only for weekends, or for wealth, or for retirement work one way; people who work to please their Saviour work a different way entirely.
  2. By knowing our capacities. I’m not a long distance runner. I’m not built for it and I never enjoyed it. But a 100-metre track or a soccer pitch was another matter entirely. Though I know my destination, I don’t know how far away it is. So I need to understand what I can do in the remaining days of my journey and not concern myself with things for which I have no capacity. I’m far more effective if I “play to my strengths”.
  3. By knowing our propensities. I have a tendency to overestimate my capabilities in terms of how much time I have to perform tasks. Throughout my life I have often taken on more than I could accomplish, and ended up frustrated and stressed. I’m a procrastinator, but I work well under pressure. I’m not a good multi-tasker. I become very easily distracted doing routine tasks, but given a window of time to devote to something I enjoy, I can be so focused I can skip meals and sleep (theoretically.) I love a challenge.

These natural traits, considered against the backdrop of a biblical worldview and an eternal perspective, should be reminders to me of how to approach my relationships, priorities, my work and my schedule.

They are like aching muscles and a heaving chest.