“Aaron, if you can touch your toes, I’ll get you a pony.”
A ten year-old me remembers hearing the words from my father, who offered this goal in hopes that I would be to become flexible enough to touch my toes. Stiff-legged me took Dad up on the challenge and began stretching every day until I was able to touch my toes.
I remember walking to the protective glass, where he was playing a game of racquetball, and proudly showing him my newest accomplishment, reaching down to finally touch my toes.
There was a look in his eyes of happiness, as he proudly watched his son accomplish a goal shared between father and son.
I never collected the pony, nor did I think to ask for it. Feeding a large family meant there were more important goals than my childhood pony fantasy; groceries took precedent.
The above story came to mind while midway through a stretch/yoga routine; a regular practice that was prompted by the realization I can no longer touch my toes.
A proper stretch routine can take the entire length of a regular workout, and is equally as important. Unfortunately, I’ve missed my share of stretching and have a lot of catching up to do.
Stretching is hard, just like any change. I don’t find it nearly as glamorous as an arm workout. Yet, it’s a painful discipline that ensures the next few years will be free of injury.
While working out, I encountered an emotion I had never experienced in a workout; sadness.
A sadness seemed to flow from the resistance my stiff, inflexible limbs were offering. It seemed like a taunt; laughing at me for trying to improve a weakness. It brought reminders of the waterfall of failure I’ve encountered.
Tears. Then…forgiveness, while pushing through movements that used to be impossible.
The moment took me back to a promise between Dad and son. The goal of his exercise wasn’t to buy me a pony, but to teach the invaluable lesson of making something better of yourself, no matter how difficult the pain.
I’ve met many people who share similar struggles; having difficulty counting your victories when it seems only the failures are present. Yet, I realized the best voice to counter the critic doesn’t come from far away; it comes from inside, when you’re willing to take action.
Today, I can stretch a little bit further and found forgiveness for the inner child that still can’t touch his toes.