After the Whistle: Faith, Life, Sport, and What it all Means

“Don’t carry your mistakes around with you. Instead, place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones to rise above them.” ~Ryan Ferreras

 

 

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The Life of Sport: How the Game Impacts Life

Exercise is the cornerstone (ha, get it?) of a life of health and well-being. But, it can get awfully lonely. The cold barbell burns your chest as it bounces skyward in the middle of a dimly-lit garage and you ask yourself, “why am I doing this?”

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Sport provides purpose in the areas where basic exercise can’t. Sure the reps increase, so does the diet, but the synergy with fellow players, and goal setting are both centerfold to fostering a healthy relationship both inside and outside of sports. This is only my first year, but in covering the Cornerstone baseball team I’ve come to know a couple things about our fellow Golden Eagles.

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1.) We’re all in this together. The energy in a college baseball dugout is hard to beat Not to overuse a lyrical quote from an overplayed high school drama, but it fits pretty well into the overall dynamic of Cornerstone baseball. Every player is welcomed, accepted, Supported, and groomed into being not only a good athlete but a good Christian overall.

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2.) The Bigger Picture. None of these players are payed a dime to swing the bat or throw the ball. As a matter of fact, many (at NAIA institutions) will never get that opportunity simply given the level of play. But the important thing to remember is that the game develops discipline. A virtue that, if attempted by yourself, may be hard to fully understand/follow. But with a team? It’s essential to a happy career/life.

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“To succeed…You need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.”
– Tony Dorsett (NFL Runningback)

Finding a Healthy Medium: My Daily Routine

” The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom.” – Aristotle 

 

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Running from the Pain

     “Knees to chest,” he would subtly remind himself, crunching through mounds of unkept leaf-infested sidewalks. The burn in his lungs steadily burned like an August afternoon, but he knew the second wind was imminent. That thing all exercise junkies like to refer to as the, “runners high.” And that, unfortunately, was all that it was… a high. He stumbles through the side door, leaving a river of sweat in his path. He glances into the mirror with the acute confidence that he is the, “finest of them all.” Fifty pounds of weight shed off of his back, a three-quarters-full beard covering his otherwise infant-looking face, and (female) heads were beginning to turn. Only this time, it wasn’t because of his grizzly, unkept, knuckle-dragging appearance. It’s the attention he wanted, but not the end he had envisioned. Running was an escape from reality, a physical ploy to mask the emotional turmoil building underneath.

Moderation and Discipline 

     The sad reality is that, in modern-day society, there is a waning desire for finding a true and honest solution to improving mental health across the board. Not because kids/adults have lost their drive to reach the light at the end of a long dark tunnel, but because there isn’t an instantly-gratifying fix they can find on google. And to add insult to injury, the doctors office has become the last place you want to find solace. Even six-figure-making medical professionals can’t seem to understand that it isn’t about simply increasing dosage, but rather a balance of moderation and discipline. Bringing diet, exercise, meditation, and medication into one, in order to build a brain that fulfills your wants, needs, and desires.

Everything in life is good in moderation. So take my, “five days to a better brain,” routine. And when you’ve completed it, have a beer. Crack open a cold one, kick back, and watch the Lions get robbed by the NFL.

Monday-Friday

  • Meditate for 10 minutes before school/work. (simply sit in an upright position and focus on the breath in and out of the nostrils with your eyes closed. I would recommend setting a timer for 10 minutes)
  •  Go for a short jog/other aerobic exercise
  • Maintain Medication (If you’re on medication)
  • – Get 7 hours of sleep (At the least)
  • Don’t do any nonprescription drugs/drink alcohol.

That’s it. Five Days, and five steps to begin to see rapid results (you can indulge on the weekends.) It isn’t intended to wear you out, nor cover up the symptoms, but rather to show the brain different regimented exercises in order to build it up (like a muscle.) I could extend this blog to 2,000 words and use academic terminology to describe the science behind the simplicity, but let’s admit it, you don’t have the time nor the interest. So give my five-day program a try, and watch yourself flourish:)

 

Exercise: Top 5 Reasons it’s a Must

“Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the heart.” – Gene Tunney

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The sound of his alarm clock is deafening. His hands, consumed in calluses, is sluggish in delivering the final blow after a series of attempts only minutes earlier. Subtle grunts and moans accompany his maiden voyage out the door and down the driveway. It was 5 am, but waking up early was already something of habit. But 5am during a Michigan winter? Infant children are more steady on their feet than someone walking down the driveway during a snow storm. Almost on cue he slips on a sheet of ice before reaching the driver-side door, sending his books and notes airborne. Both feet leaving the ground, he faces skyward, if only for a split second, and asks himself, “Why me? Why does anyone care what I look like? I could drink red bull till I grow wings, and eat McDonalds until cholesterol is my middle name and who would be there to stop me?” His question is abruptly disturbed by a swift and brutal impact with the snow beneath him. Maybe the impact of the ground, or a calling from God reminds him, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.”

In a lot of ways, I love the opening quote. However, there’s something I would love to change about it. “Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the entire person.” Physical health isn’t about looking like mike the janitor with biceps bigger than his brain, or Judy the dance instructor who puts more effort into her figure than anything else. It’s about being a more healthy you physically, mentally, AND spiritually.  Here are my top 5 reasons/inconvenient truths that prove exercise IS NOT optional.                                          

                                       1. Gives the Immune System a boost.      

     This part is a double edged sword. While the immune system helps fight off potential disease, it also helps the body maintain stress/reduce effects of aging. It doesn’t take running a marathon either. Just moderate exercise can help the body fend off even the most minor of colds.

2. Helps boost energy 

Cornerstone has an obsession with homework, frequently mistaking quantity for quality education. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice when it comes to doing homework. But, you do have a choice to exercise! A light (15 minute) jog around the neighborhood/campus can help boost your energy and get all the work done that needs to be finished.

3. Combats Depression 

This is the one that I wish more people knew about. Regimented exercise can help increase grey matter in the brain (the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord, consisting mainly of nerve cell bodies and branching dendrites.) This means not only a decrease in depressive symptoms, but also an increase in memory/focus.

4. Improve posture/Look Confident 

People with scrunched backs are seen (subconsciously) as not only less confident but also as less attractive. However, when you exercise the back and core muscles, posture can begin to correct itself naturally. Giving off a more confident and sexual look.

5. De-stress 

God tells us we can be angry all we want, just don’t sin because of it. Let’s face it, being a college student sucks at times. The scheduling, work load, lack of sleep, and the rest really seem to add up. So why not go home and give the heavy-bag a jab, jab, hook? Exercise is a great way to work your demons out while staying sane.

Stop, Drop, and Breathe

“All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” – Kalu Rinpoche 

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You want to be someone else, because the person in the mirror simply isn’t cutting it.  You fool yourself into believing that fake smiles, fake appearances, and fake (secular) luxuries can fill the weeping gap between the physical, and the spiritual. You cram healthy greens down your reluctant pie-hole behind a caked-up instagram filter in the hope that someone actually buys the myth that you’re healthy. Your fake public smile turned private cry bought you a lifelong subscription to BIG PHARMA WEEKLY. Your brokenness closely resembles your grandmother’s 1,000 piece puzzle without an original picture for reference. Your lying ways have convinced most that you’d make a decently coherent politician. You cheat so much that even Tiger Woods would be proud. As a matter of fact, you’re so lazy and out of shape, that your daily exercise involves a trip to the fridge. And you want to know something? There’s beauty in all of that. Not because it’s perfect. Rather, Its beautiful because… it’s YOU. If there’s one solitary key to living a life of, “imPERFECTION,” it’s learning how to BREATHE. Looking inside (through meditation/prayer) at the person you are beyond the emotional circus of daily life. Just remember to stop, drop, and breathe.

The clock grows noisier. Click… click… his knees are shaking violently. Blue scrubs scurry between a pair of swinging doors, rushing patients and paperwork from office to office. The magazine in his hands is nothing but a prop, a distraction from  his fears he feels closing in, but can’t escape . He’s in his room now, alone. His fathers 9mm sits in front of him, starring through him like a lost puppy to a passerby. Its deadly dark, so much so that he knows of only one light, and thats the gun’s flash. The type of light that is both ultimate, and final. His head nestles itself further down in-between his knees, picturing the carnage, longing for the boom.  How could he trust a doctor to heal him? He was lost. “Hello Nate.” His sight is drawn from the dark caress of his folded arms toward the corner of the room. The doctor is a handsome man. 5’9/5’10, with eyes as pure as an Alaskan tarn contrasted by hair darker than the skies over San Pedro de Atacama. “Come on in, and sit down.” The boy’s knees crack with the sound of sturdy twigs as he slowly maneuvers his way across the floor. He’s sluggish, but hopeful. Healing was to either come now, or in the pits of hell.

The chair brought him comfort, his buttocks gently easing their way deep into the therapeutic cushions. “I want you to close your eyes and breathe. I want you to focus only on the breath, and when you feel your mind wonder, just recognize what it is you’re thinking about, don’t react to it, and bring your attention back to the air flowing in and out of your lungs.” He takes a breath… The barrel presses firmly up against his temple, trigger finger quivering, heart rate surging, he is breaking. Another breath… tears begin to stream as a sudden light pours through cracks in the window accompanied by the familiar dragging of a bumper across the driveway pavement. Another breath… his fingers loosen, the gun slips from his grasp to the granite table below. Another breath… He feels a comforting warmth surround him, what could only be described as God’s embrace. Another breath… The deadbolt is undone, he scurries out into the hallway into his mothers arms, there is no question he needs help. Another breath… He is at peace, watching himself come to terms in his hallway, floating above his emotional toil like a fish out of sea. He isn’t struggling anymore, just observing. “Ok Nate, you can open your eyes now.”

The peace that you felt wasn’t a fix. Rather, it was simply standing outside of yourself. Observing, instead of changing. Being, instead of wanting.  There are three ways that humans have come to dealing with deal with depression. To either 1. Push it away, 2. Let it blind them, or 3. Let it sit in their lap. When you meditate, you are creating a space inside of yourself for the depression to just sit. You don’t invest in it, you don’t act upon it, you simply let it be. So that in life when the triggers come along you can utilize your mindfulness practice in silence, in order to mindfully observe in real life. 20 minutes of silence and breathing a day, and you will see functional growth in not only the physical brain, but the spiritual soul.”