In my first season of vaulting there came a day where I picked up my pole and a shooting pain jolted down my wrist. This was odd because I had never felt it before, and there wasn’t a traumatic injury that had just occurred, the pain just appeared. It happened right after warm ups at a meet in Stanislaus. As the competition began I was barely able to hold my pole, which is kind of an essential part of the vault, leaving me utterly helpless to do the thing I was supposed to do. Well needless to say the meet ended, going exactly opposite of what was planned, and something needed to change. Up until this point I approached the vault with a closed fisted grip, meaning my fingers were locked around the pole from step one.
It can be a “safer” grip because you already have firm contact with the pole, however it led to an awkward twisting at my wrist, and after a year my wrist had finally had enough. A grip that once helped me move towards my goal was now a pain holding me back. I went home and tried vaulting with a new grip. I ran down the runway a few times without taking off the ground before finally saying to myself, “Nope! New grip is not the answer! Way too scary!”. For a couple of weeks I taped my wrist, loaded up the Advil, and tried to push through the pain. I tried taking a bit of time off to “rest and recover” and come back fresh with the same grip. But nothing worked. If I desired to continue vaulting then something had to shift: fear or no fear. I moved into what is called an open handed grip, where my wrist would be in a neutral position, allowing me to be pain free. But it left me uneasy and unsure that I would be able to hold onto the pole. I had horrible images of my hand slipping from the pole, flipping upside down, and breaking my neck. (Seriously).
But I practiced. I fought through the uncomfort. I fought through the fears. I repeated rep after rep until it became comfortable, until it became natural, until it got to the point that I could no longer even imagine using the old grip. I knew the path I was supposed to be on. I knew I was supposed to be vaulting. But I doubted and feared not having a firm grip on things. (Oh how many parallels I could draw from that, but I will let you chew on that statement yourself). It’s funny because just the other day I was teaching my friend how to hold a pole and I can’t believe how unnatural it is to close my hand around the pole these days. I honestly don’t think I could ever vault like that again. It causes my body to be too tight, too rigid, and inhibits a free run. Not that it’s a bad grip, but it’s not meant for me.
Sometimes change is thrust upon us through an outside circumstance (like an unexpected pain). Maybe that circumstance is causing you to fear that you are no longer able to run. Or that if you change the way you approach things it will end in disaster. Your journey has been shifted of no fault of your own, but your adaptability and willingness to embrace the shift will determine whether you stay in your race. Can I encourage you with the fact that God promises that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (see Philippians 1). We know the promise that for those who love God all things work together for good, being called according to His purpose (see Romans 8). Maybe it’s time to step back and evaluate with a new perspective the possibility of change.
Yet sometimes there is nothing forcing us to change. Maybe you are just realizing that in your race you have reached a plateau in progress. To make a change like that takes courage. Courage to admit that what once helped move you forward is now just a weight holding you back. This type of change is the hardest to explain to people from an outside perspective, because there is no tangible reason to fall back on. Yet Hebrews says let us throw off every WEIGHT and sin that so easily entangles us, and run the race set before us. Take a few moments to look at your race, and evaluate whether you are running in the most effective way. If God is nudging, have courage to throw off even the good thing that brought you to this point, but has now become a hinderance to growth.
As for me you can find me running my race with an open grip.