THE BIGGEST MUSCLE
By: Lauren Anderson
It feels like I’m at a tipping point. Seriously, it feels like the whole country is on the verge.
The last couple of weeks, I feel like I’m just keeping my head down and trying to get through it all y’know? I don’t think I’m alone either. I’ve gone into survival mode. Stress is mounting, especially on the internet with it’s constant reminder that there are lots of stupid, hateful, sexist and racist people in the world.
But before I write it off for good, I remember that the internet can also be a reminder of all the good in the world. A way to connect. A way to inspire and instill hope. Because for every terrible article about the state of the world, I am given a moment of reprieve in a cheerful puppy video. They are doing something so cute I want to eat it. And I sigh a breath of relief.
But the bad stuff is starting to outweigh the good in my feed. And that thought terrifies me.
I have to admit, my tensions are high as I try to navigate the political rhetoric, the constant election vitriol, and whether or not I can remain friends with people who actually are voting for—! It’s enough to make you blow! And let’s face it, winter is still coming.
To put it mildly, I’m feeling pretty strained.
Which is interesting, because I’ve been feeling strained physically as well.
A couple of weeks ago, I hurt my back. (See week 45 blog post.) I have continued to workout, and it is slowly but surely getting better. But it’s been a longer road than I anticipated. And since I am new to pain in this capacity, it’s been top of mind, and an added burden in already trying times.
Luckily, I have a bunch of geniuses at my disposal. Every single coach at Solcana is ready to do workout modifications, so I can still rock my body, but also nurse my back–back to health. They are rich in knowledge, and no stranger to injury themselves.
And let me be very clear here, the coaches at Solcana ARE NOT attempting to doctor me. Only my doctor can do that right? But they do have insight about the body, and what might be going on that I do not have. And I am grateful for it.
And so is my doctor! When I told her what was going on with my back at my physical last week, I also told her what I had been working on with the coaches since the injury. My doctor was like, “Yup. That’s great. I was going to say the same thing.” And then she added, “It’s important that you keep moving. And keep up the good work.”
Can I just take a moment here? I have never heard “keep up the good work” from a doctor at a physical before in my life. I hate going to the doctor so bad, it gives me literal anxiety. I’m one of those doctor office criers. It used to get so bad that I would warn my docs beforehand. “Listen Doc, at some point today, I might start crying. It’s not you, it’s me.” Y’know, that sort of thing.
But I know I have to go, so I make myself get to the doc. Every year, I dread a mini-lecture. I hate hate hate getting in trouble. But this year, I got a “keep up the good work.” Honestly, I felt like flying! Slowly but surely over the last year since I saw her last, I’ve dropped over 50 pounds, changed how I eat, I cook myself, monitor my sugar intake, and work out 3-4 times a week now, which includes strength training as a major component. I think my doc was also a little beside herself. Usually they have to deliver bad news, but not today. Not today, dammit. When I left the office, if I would’ve had confetti in my purse, I would’ve thrown it.
I was actually a little surprised to hear the part about “keep moving” too. You might know, when you get hurt, sometimes all you want to do is lay around and baby yourself. But with my back, it’s actually good for it to keep myself moving and working. Not at the same capacity, of course, but man! If I don’t keep moving and using, those muscles could atrophy, or weaken, causing even more pain or strain. Who knew?
Well, the doctor knew. And so did my coaches.
So after a couple weeks, Coach Hannah approached me and asked me to be a guinea pig in in some new Back Pain Free programming she’s developing, that might soon be available. I was all in. Sure I’ll do it. Anything to get back to 100%. Please and thank you.
I’m only a few days into the program (which is approx one month long), and I already can tell a difference. And one thing that is so surprising to me is how much focus is on my butt.
To get rid of back pain, I have to learn how to use my butt better. AKA The Biggest Muscle.
This is flooring me because I already have a super strong butt. (See week 2 blog post) I mean, my ultimate party trick is surfing people on my butt. I thought I was using my butt. But it turns out, I wasn’t. I was using, overusing, (and eventually straining), my back instead. A much smaller and more fragile area, than my big strong butt.
After training and refocusing the bulk of the work into my butt, all of a sudden, my back already feels better! And the lifts, feel easier. What is happening?! By engaging my butt, it feels like a more accurate and appropriate distribution of labor.
Which is like DUH. Of course! But I wasn’t doing this. It’s like if my body were a family farm, and everybody on the farm has a job to do. But instead of asking the energetic and strong teenagers to bail the hay, I was making the baby do it.
This revelation is really striking me. The butt (or more accurately, the gluteus maximus) is the largest muscle in the body. It is designed to keep our body upright and walking on two legs. It is a very powerful machine. And is set up to work very hard, very easily. As far as strength goes, if your arms are gorillas, than your legs are horses. But the butt? The butt is an ELEPHANT.
And now, the butt muscle discovery seems like an easy metaphor/analogy/parable about all the strain I’ve been feeling in my life in general.
When I first hurt my back, I skipped the gym for almost a week. But instead of getting better, it stayed feeling the same, even worse. It wasn’t until I came back to the gym, and asked some questions, that the coaches were able to start me on a path to actual recovery. In other words, I was over-using or only relying on one tiny “muscle” aka ME. I was not getting better, I was exacerbating the strain. But when I started to engage the “Biggest Muscle” aka My Community of Experts, not only did I start to feel better and more supported, I started to actually physically GET BETTER. Enough so that my doctor could say, “Keep up the good work”.
And now this realization feels like something even bigger still. Perhaps all the strain (whether mental or physical) I’ve been feeling is because I’ve been trying to go it alone. I’m not using the biggest muscle at my disposal…
Like all the people that remind me there is hope. That there is still good in the world. The wise ones that calm me. Even though it feels like the world is about to boil, they point out that sometimes you gotta boil the water in order to cook the food. And great change often requires some great strain.
Muscles must first breakdown before they can build back up bigger, better.
And suddenly I feel stronger.
With my biggest muscle engaged, I’m ready to face the world.