I have never been much of an athlete or sporty-type person and I have never pictured myself as a runner. The thought of putting my body through that kind of punishment, especially my joints, is not something that thrills me, but about 5 or 6 years ago I began adding a bit of a run into my walking exercise.
I think this was partly because I got bored with the monotony of the walk and wanted to get the expedition finished with sooner. I noticed, however, that there were (and still are!) a number of obstacles that beset me as I prepared for and engaged in this physical activity.
If I didn’t head out first thing in the morning, despite how much I argued that I would do it later in the day, I never seemed to find the time or energy to follow through on those promises. My first obstacles began the night before as I set the alarm and put my exercise gear out and I begin to groan inwardly at the thought of heading out. I am pretty creative with my excuses and they continued once that alarm stirred me from my slumber.
If I managed to persevere, get dressed and head out the door I eased myself into the activity by walking before beginning the run but once I started running I regretted it almost immediately. I’d say to myself, “You can’t stop now, you’ve only just begun!” and that seemed to get me over that obstacle. After only a few minutes I felt like my legs were made of lead and I just wanted to turn around and head home, but when I persisted and hit the 5 minute mark I found my stride, I seemed to settle into a more natural rhythm and I relaxed about this running malarkey.
After that, just as all was going well and I started to convince myself that I could do this forever, I crashed into my final barrier. Whatever my target was, be it time or distance, as soon as it was within reach I would feel like I couldn’t take another step. The goal was tantalisingly close, but it might as well have been in Mongolia.
This was when my mind needed to take over. I changed my focus to smaller goals, and then I concentrated on making it to that next mark. If I could just keep going to that leafy tree, to the house that has an old dishwasher out the front, to the letterbox with the flag on it then before too long I made the bigger goal and I felt so proud that I persevered and managed to reach the end.
Sometimes in life you have days when you can’t be bothered, sometimes it’s a breeze and other days it feels too difficult to even try to put one more step in place. I have had other days when I have felt all three of these throughout the day and various activities. What I have learned is that when it is especially difficult all I need to do is take the next step, focus on the next thing, keep a closer goal in view and it can help manage that overwhelmed feeling.
Keeping the goal in view is the key and that is the same in my spiritual life also. The Bible tells me at the start of Hebrews chapter 12: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.” My goal is to be like Jesus in all I say and do and so my eyes need to focus on Him and His example.
I would like to say that running has gotten easier over the years. I really would, but I can’t! While I can run further distances in faster times I still face these obstacles of the mind and body almost every time I venture out. Each run requires a combination of smaller goals that spur me on to the end of the adventure.
So I will continue to persevere in this area because I know the benefits to my health and fitness outweigh the perceived benefits of staying in bed, just don’t ask me about how well I can move for the rest of the day!