Last week, I told you all about my new running habit, and how something as simple as a morning exercise routine is teaching me important life lessons. If you missed last week’s post, you can view that here. This week, I’ll talk about the last three lessons I’ve been learning as I continue to work at this new practice.
Lesson Four: Looking ahead makes me a better runner.
The route I run keeps me on some pretty uneven pavement, and sometimes it’s hard not to spend the whole run looking at the ground to keep from falling over a loose stone. But I’ve noticed an interesting thing: when I manage to shift my focus to further down the path, I tend to feel more motivation to keep going. I can’t explain how lifting my head and my gaze can have such a psychological effect, but I’ve noticed it again and again.
This concept has played out in my spiritual life as well. It reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said when comparing the Christian life with running a race: “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”
When I spend my days looking at all the possible things that might cause me to stumble or focusing on the difficulties and pain of this life, I can easily become overwhelmed with self-pity, worry, and frustration. However, it’s amazing the change that can occur in my heart when I lift my head, fixing my eyes a bit further down the road on Christ and what He has done for me, is doing in me, and will continue to do with me if I keep running.
Lesson Five: Joy and pain can occur at the same time.
I do not like pain. And because of this fact, I don’t really like exercise. I’d much rather have a Netflix marathon than run in one. So why do I keep at it? Because even in the pain, I have found joy. This may seem impossible, but it’s true. When I crest the final hill of my run and it times perfectly with the song I’m listening to (Go the Distance, anyone?), I feel so incredible knowing that I’m accomplishing things I never thought possible. When I feel the soreness in my muscles, I feel a bit of happiness, too, knowing that the pain means I’m getting stronger.
This paradoxical lesson is also true of life. I have experienced the truth of it in the past year, as my family experienced the death of my grandfather. The loss hurt us (and still hurts us) to the core, but we also felt inexplicable joy knowing our Papa was perfect, whole, and healthy in the presence of his Lord and Savior. We sing a song at our church here that says, “There is strength within the sorrow”, and we felt that personally. I’m so grateful to have experienced this paradox, and know that like I spoke of last week, sometimes pain shows us we’re growing, and even when that growth is undetectable to the human eye, there can still be joy in the midst of the process.
Lesson Six: I can’t get better if I don’t get out of bed.
This last lesson is one I have to repeat to myself over and over most mornings. My warm and cozy bed is so much nicer in those moments than the cold outdoors. But last week, I had to take a whole week off from running because of the snow and ice we had here in Cambridge, and let me tell you, my first day back at it was rough. I had done some inside cardio workouts during the week when I couldn’t run, and those had helped me some, but I am more sore this week than I was when I first started!
The truth is, I’d like to think that staying in bed for a day and skipping my workout won’t have an effect on my run the day after – but that’s just not true! My runs this week have been so much slower than they were before my week off, and I’ve had to really war with myself about whether or not it was absolutely required that I run to the landmark I’d set for myself rather than turning around early and trying again the next day.
The difficult truth is, change is hard work. And when we don’t put in the hard work of changing our habits and developing better ones, or put it off until a “more convenient” time, often we go backward rather than remaining at whatever benchmark we’d achieved. But the positive news is, when we get back at it, armed with the knowledge of where we were previously, we might have more motivation to more quickly reach that previous “personal best”, and even push past it. At least I’m seeing that to be true with me.
If you’re considering trying something new, or changing a habit you have, I encourage you to “get out of bed” and get out there. Learn those lessons, friends! And then remind me of all of them tomorrow morning around 7:30 am when I’m grumbling about wanting more sleep and less exercise.