This is the first of five legs in our Pilgrimage series. Today we’re led by physical therapist and High Calling member, Bob Gorinski.
It’s hard for me to imagine a pilgrimage or journey without movement. As a physical therapist and trainer of athletes, I help a wide variety of patients achieve new limits in movement. I play bio-mechanical detective, attempting to solve problems in the function of muscle, nerve, and bone.
Most of my clients are on a serious journey toward change in their physical form and function. And do they ever ask questions about health and fitness products, many of which guarantee results. Fast!
Why aren’t the orthotics fixing my heel pain? When can I pitch again? Will protein drinks help me lose weight?
I offer straightforward opinions and evidence-based answers. But often I simply don’t know. It’s challenging enough to keep pace with advances in rehabilitation and sports performance, much less the latest claims in homeopathic supplements and mattress technology.
“Optimal,” “comprehensive,” and “transformation” are permanent buzz words in the health and fitness industry. Transformation, really? Not even yoga is comprehensive. And sorry, Chuck Norris, but the Total Gym is still just a gym, and rarely do gyms help a person achieve peace.
Physical therapists pride themselves on treating causes of pain and dysfunction instead of symptoms, yet the root causes sometimes go quite deeper than we can dig.
Filling the hole
While there’s plenty that I don’t understand about the human condition, a decade in the clinic has shown me that even intelligent people buy into good and bad fitness products in order to fill a hole elsewhere.
Middle-aged moms imagine that getting into their college jeans is a realistic and worthwhile fitness goal. Couch potatoes think PTs and orthopedic surgeons can fully atone for years of bad decisions. Desk jockeys assume that simply being in a gym is equivalent to the inevitable discomfort of getting fit.
Similarly, fitness fanatics believe that glucosamine and more exercise is the solution to their repetitive overuse injuries. (Even PTs – ahem - take ibuprofen when the best prescription for aches and pains is a few days of rest.) And then there is greed, bitterness, and many other conditions less apparent yet more physically damaging than a soft midsection or flat feet.
In all seriousness, who has ever ab-crunched or low-carb-dieted their way to contentment?
If (as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy in I Timothy 4:8) Godliness has value for all things – holding promise for this life and the life to come – then the body certainly stands to benefit from spiritual exercise. That makes a lot of sense, and I don’t think we have the capacity to will ourselves to any kind of transformation. Sooner or later, the body tells the truth.
But be careful now. If the body were always a testimony to the spirit, then we could identify spirit-filled people by their physique. Of course that’s not the case. The lives of my kindest, gentlest patients have taught me that an (apparently) strong spiritual life does not fix the genetic and life circumstances we’re dealt. By no means are injuries and the wear and tear of life always earned with laziness or neglect. I’m pretty sure that even the saints get arthritis.
The truth is that whole people are far beyond PTs, nutritionists, doctors, and the guy in the Facebook ad selling Acai Berry. While we can be helpful or even critical in handling the details, we know that a fit body requires more than diet and exercise. That’s why the “just” plans for health and fitness are always a lie: Just seven minutes of exercise per day. Just two pills before major meals. Just one spinal adjustment per month….
Even the oddest fitness products sell because they’re supported by an “expert” in a white lab coat (or a sports bra) and promise a “new you.” They look kind of fun and cost only three installments of $39.99. Yet being made new transcends the scope of physical medicine. It’s why I never make promises with my treatments. Besides, who is an impatient, chronically late, caffeine- and activity-addicted PT like me to guide anyone in mastery of life?
Health is a lifelong journey that demands daily attention; the kind of attention that costs more than the price of diets and exercise gadgets. Fit bodies are a worthwhile pursuit that can easily be forged into idols. At the same time, exercise and effort is a blessing from above that helps us manage the hard realities of our life and times.
As much as I’d like to prescribe what people need most, I’m fearful of writing Jesus into my medical plan of care. I wouldn’t want it to be another quick fix. What I can do is take the posture of washing feet. That just may be the best bio-mechanical and spiritual response toward wellness there is.