Gratitude Day 664
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious.
Every Olympics, I am in awe of what participating athletes are able to do. They accomplish things that I would never dream of trying; including those who never win a medal.
I watched the last 15 minutes of the men’s marathon competition. The runners were winding through the last couple of miles of their 26.2 journey. A man from Kenya, the odds-on favorite, held a significant lead. He busted through those last few miles at a 5-minute/mile pace … after already running 24 miles. His stride and cadence were fast and consistent. He had a smile on his face. He looked more like he was running the first two miles of the run than the last two.
I was in awe.
I am not a natural athlete. I was not a starting varsity high school athlete, nor have I found the sport that feels natural to me. I just try to take care of the temple God blessed me with. I have run, biked, kayaked, hiked, and cross trained for years. I do not feel a rush of endorphins after I exercise. I’m just trying to get back home or finish the workout without dying.
Last weekend, I went for a long run while training for a half-marathon. My friend suggested that we run one this year. Hesitantly, I agreed. Before committing, I had been running casually and did not have the weekly mileage required to begin a half-marathon training plan. I convinced myself that I could do it. My goal is just to finish. Period.
While I know this, my brain is still having a hard time processing this.
It has been about 10 years since I last ran a half marathon. In early 40’s, I ran about a half-dozen half marathons. One would think I would remember the lessons I learned from training a decade ago. Honestly? I’ve had to retrain and rediscover them. My training has had its ups and downs.
Pounding down the country roads last weekend, I once again reminded myself how much this training is similar to the Christian live. Maybe the lessons I am rediscovering might be helpful for someone else. Let’s go.
Begin with a plan.
Shortly after I signed-up for the half marathon, I opened up an Excel spreadsheet and plotted out a training plan. I pulled out some previous training schedules, knowing that I would have to adjust them. I am older than the last go around. I need more rest and recovery days with some cross-training mixed in.
There is no question that I am more consistent and regular in spending time with God when I have a plan. For me, it begins with a Bible reading plan. This is the anchor of what daily time with God includes. While these plans begin at the beginning of the year, you can start either plan (New Testament or Books of Wisdom) any time of the year. Download them. Start today. It doesn’t matter what month you begin the plan. Just start.
Adjust Your Plan When Necessary
Truth? I don’t always do exactly what the schedule says for a particular day. Sometimes, I switch days around, based on what happens during the day and week.
This is OK! As Christians, we must extend ourselves grace when we don’t follow through with something like we would prefer. Life happens. Rather than giving up, just alter your plan. Move things around. And be OK with this.
Plan for Rest and Recovery Days
My current running includes 3 or 4 days of running a week, with different types of runs each of those days. I schedule myself one “long” run a week, extending this distance regularly to get closer to a half-marathon distance.
I know that I cannot and must not run more than four days a week. My body is older. It takes longer for it to recover in between runs. These days, running means managing my energy and abilities. This is how I will prevent injury.
The Bible plans I follow provide two rest and recovery days every week. Readings are scheduled for Monday – Friday. If you get behind, there are a couple days to catch up. This space is built into the plan.
I know that I will be able to follow the Bible reading plan more successfully when I allow for “rest and recovery” days. These allow for some grace space which helps me feel like I am able to stay on track.
Live It Daily
While having an overarching plan is important and necessary, the daily implementation is where the rubber hits the road. Each day will not be the same. And this is OK. Yet, we also need to listen to what is going on in our lives and learn from this as well.
While my body “thinks” it can train as it has previously, it cannot. How I hydrate myself, what and when I eat, what time of the day I run and the heat and humidity at the time I run all affects my ability to complete a run. This is especially important on the days when I am running a farther distance.
One hot and humid day, I thought I could run mid-day. BIG MISTAKE. Not only was it too warm, but I had also not hydrated properly and had not eaten enough before I began running. Halfway through the run, I realized I was in trouble.
On these longer run days, I know it is important to have water on the route. Historically, I have put water bottles along the route. This day, I didn’t. I failed to take along some quick and easy energy bites with me. I waited until the heat of the day to run.
All BIG. MISTAKES.
Let’s just say it was not pretty.
I have made plenty of mistakes in my spiritual life as well. Sometimes I remember those mistakes and avoid them in the future. Other times, I make the same mistakes over and over.
Living it daily means I think through what will work for TODAY. I prep myself for what I have coming up and manage the situation. Spiritually, this may mean spending additional time journaling or reflecting or listening for God. Too often, I work harder and not smarter. I’m trying to reverse this as I get older.
Discover Your Best Form
Because I am not a naturally-gifted runner, I have struggled with running form at times. Over the years, I have tried to educate myself about this and see what works for me.
As I run longer distances, form becomes even more important. Having good core strength provides the necessary foundation to keep running when my legs get tired. Keeping my shoulders back and my feet light helps propel me forward.
When I get tired, it’s easy to slip into bad form. I get lazy and stop remembering how form can help me run more efficiently.
The spiritual life is no different. We don’t get enough sleep. We’re exhausted. We feel beat up and broken. We turn to everything but God, looking for inspiration. We eat too much and the wrong things. Maybe we drink more than normal. We binge watch TV or Netflix. We fill ourselves with the wrong things and not the good things.
And then, we wonder why everything feels more challenging and difficult. On these days, it’s time to remember what helps us stay connected to God, even if we don’t feel super close to God. Is it listening to worship music or J.S.T (just sit there) with God or chatting with a spiritual friend about your struggle? Sometimes, a small change in “form” can help us get back to the core of what is important to us.
While there are more lessons from running that I am remembering every week, let me ask you this: What are you learning about yourself these days that also can apply to your spiritual life?
We do not live in silos. Something that affects us in one area of our lives can influence another area of our life if we allow it.
On a side note, my friend Barb and I are running a half-marathon that is raising money for cancer research. If you feel like you’d like to support this run and help raise money for cancer research, you can donate by going to: https://runsignup.com/Race/28060/Donate/pkD8t8wvdoGFCbGZ
For lessons from every time I tie on my running shoes, I am grateful.
Dear God – Too often, we look and look for life lessons … when they are right there in front of us. Thanks for helping me see there ARE lessons I can learn from running that apply to my spiritual life as well. Amen.
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