Growing up I was never very athletic. In fact, most of my exercises came from playing in the woods while imagining I was building some sort of empire. I had a rock that I would trek to that was beyond the red raspberry and blackberry bushes, just a bit up a hill, that was hidden from everyone’s view. I did thinking up there. I was a thinker. I did alright through the rest of school, mostly because of gym classes, and the general need for movement between classes. I then went to college, and since I didn’t eat much then, I didn’t have much weight. Two events changed things though. 1) I got married and instantly gained 30 lbs, and then 2) I went to seminary. That severely hurt my health. I suddenly was less capable of moving. I had to read, read, read, and then sit through long lectures, and then go to a desk and do administration work for the youth ministry I worked at. My movement was limited to some times in the afternoon during chores, and then during youth group on Fridays and minimally Sunday morning. Needless to say, I gained tons of weight my first year.
My wife did make me start going to the gym however. It was a hard battle, because I was very self conscious about everyone trying to look good all around me. Our gym is a college gym, so there were lots of younger guys all around doing serious free weights. You would think they would grunt more, but thankfully that was kept to a minimum. It took me a while to find a groove, because I hated going to the gym. I was out of shape, and someone was making me do it. Two things that were serious barriers to my rebellious nature. Eventually, though, through the slow meanderings of time, I became somewhat more fit. I even began to do fake biking, and fake running despite the frustrations of not really getting somewhere.
And then something wonderful happened. I discovered that the school had a track, so after I lifted weights twice a week, I found that I had some more energy to run. If there is one thing I like, it is a challenge, and looking at the laps I could be doing, I began to think through how I could get back in real shape. The track is about 10 laps to make a mile, so I set the goal to run a mile. The first few times, I could barely run three or four laps. My lungs just could not handle it at a good speed, so I would walk the rest of the mile. I felt like a wuss. But slowly, I my body began to take more progress and my leg muscles began to hurt less and less until I hit 5 laps, then 6 the next week, and then 7 and so on until I hit the wonderful 1 mile mark! It was wonderful, but then I stopped running. School got in the way, and suddenly I had too much reading to fruitfully go to the gym as frequently. I lost my stride.
Real progress didn’t occur until I was in my last semester at seminary, when I felt a bit more comfortable with the school academically, and so I could find more time to get out and really work out. I decided too, that 1 mile was too small of a goal. I needed an unattainable goal to keep me going. For me, that goal was 5 miles. I still can hardly imagine hitting 5 miles. This kind of goal would keep me challenged and coming back, and with that vision (of a guy that can run 5 miles = proud guy), I would run and run and run.
I had to learn a few lessons before I went beyond 1 mile. I wanted to do a respectable mile. I reached a ten minute mile pretty easily, but I decided that that was not sufficient. I began to challenge my 1 mile time and I got it down to 9:30, then 9:00, and then 8:30. Yesterday I did an 8:15. I’m starting to feel better about my quality of the run and my body was getting more used to running. I also had to learn to breathe well. I noticed that my breathing was very inefficient, so I learned how to breathe through my nose mostly, and through my mouth when I needed more air. The more controlled air flow made me feel more confident in my run, and I think my lungs appreciated it. I also had to learn better posture, and found that having my head up and my arms bent and at my side allowed me to feel less tired. My stride also needed to improve, because my clumsiness was hurting my times. I eventually found a good stride that allows good movement and makes me feel less tired.
One thing still made running hard though, and that was a mental barrier. I had a hard time just running. My thoughts would wander, and everytime I thought of a lap, I wanted to quit. I had to get my mind off of the little statistics and details of the matter, and just get myself to enjoy the essence of running. I learned that I could make a good play list for encouragement. If the songs took my spirit away from thinking about the run, I could actually enjoy the run. My mind began to routinize the laps and counting, and I began to enjoy just the BEING of running. I found that the purpose of improving my health is still there, but it is less important, because I’m actually beginning to love the thing that I once hated. Strangely enough, the discipline is becoming recreation, as I discover that running makes me feel better, think better, and most importantly, serve my wife better around the house and with a better attitude. And now, when I go on vacation, I am annoyed that I cannot run at my track!
I’ve graduated from Seminary now, and I have a piece of paper and some learning, but I gained a new hobby that makes life easier, and more enjoyable to live. I can minister more faithfully, because I have the physical health to get from here to there, and a few basketball games in between. I never really enjoyed playing sports, but I’m realizing that that may not be the best thing for me. In the past I liked baseball, but I never had discipline. I’m thinking that I may try and get in a basketball game if some guys want to play where I’m moving in South Carolina. And to be certain, I’m looking forward to running with the youth I’ll be with at my new church.
If you’re about to start running, from my intermediate knowledge, I would suggest a few things. 1) Take it easy at first, and build about at about a 10 percent growth per week if you’re really challenging yourself. 2) Don’t give up the first, second, or third times you have a bad run. You’re body is just getting used to it. A point will come when things start to click. 3) Listen to some good music, whatever style you like, and get your mind out of the thinking about running, and more into the BEING of running. The sooner your identity wraps around it, the better the run is going to be. Attitude affects you physically, and you’ll give up too soon if you don’t think positively and enjoy even the aches and pains. So Go for it! Just run.