Sometimes, exercise is just exercise. It's work. It's unemotional. It's uncomfortable. Just another check to make on your to-do list. And a begrudgingly made check at that. But sometimes. SOMETIMES. It's. So. Much. More.
Let me tell you the story about my first 5K on 2015. This is not a story about how I crushed my PR; or how I increased my running cadence; or broke in my newest Newton shoes. Not even about how many calories I torched based on a new Fit Bit reading. It's about how at the end of it, I was crying. Even during the final 100 yards or so, bawling. Not because I hurt so badly or because I was so upset with myself and my time, but because I felt so OPEN. So convicted. So redeemed. So amazing.
You see, I love running. LOVE it. It's fantastic. But this year, I told myself that I wanted to try to NOT run and see how that affected my body - a little exercise physiology experiment on myself. Now, mind you, I had been running in some capacity since I was about 17 years old. I'm not going to share with you how old I am. Just know that I have been running for more years than I have not been. In an attempt to spare myself from getting cut from the volleyball team in high school when I was a Senior, I opted to run with the cross country team instead. I didn't actually run in races with them, but I ran with practices once and a while - whenever I felt like it. And I would run by myself at home. My dad has always been a runner. He would go running almost every night. When I got old enough to drive, he would run for a certain amount of time and then have me come pick him up. This was before cell phones and GPS tracking or Garmins, so I would just drive on the route he typically took until I found him. I never really understood until I started running myself why he never wanted to just run out half the distance and then run back. If you run, I think you can relate too. He and I used to participate in the Walleye Run in Fond du Lac, WI every summer while I was in college and then a few years after even. We even ran on the morning of my wedding day. I got married in December.
Deciding to NOT run this year was kind of a big deal for me. Because of my history of running and how much a part of my life it was, but also because now my husband is a runner. A TRUE runner. In fact, he participated in the Boston Marathon this past April. Granted, I think it's a bit belittling to say that he's a "true" runner compared to me being what, a false one? But I think you understand what I mean. Running is a HUGE part of his life. The rhythm of our family is set by his running schedule. He is very much engrained in the running culture and a lot of his decisions are made through the lens of "how does this affect my running?". So yes, my NOT running this year affected him too. Not in a direct way, or even a way he may admit, but it did. It affected us.
But let's talk about Sunday. That was the first time I went running all year. ALL YEAR! It was the end of June.
Summer is so seductive. It makes me want to run, rollerblade and paddle board all my time away. Be that paddle boarding is only something I've researched and never actually attempted yet, and my roller blades are a bit small (darn post-pregnancy feet), I decided I would go running. I kind of forgot all of the reasons I told myself I wasn't going to this year. I started off feeling a bit clumsy and awkward. My gait was off, my stride length and foot strike were not the most efficient and my breathing was labored. I wanted to quit not even a half mile in. But I kept going. I had a little NeedtoBreathe playing on my iPhone and the weather was beautiful. As I continued on, I felt better. I started praying. Asking God to help me. An utterly selfish prayer. Just wanting to keep one foot in the front of the other. As I continued on, God was telling me stuff. He was asking me tough questions. I didn't actually hear Him, but the thoughts that came to my mind were from the Spirit, I do not doubt this for a second. I heard questions like, "why did you really stop running?", "what do you have to prove?", "why did you give up something that brought you joy, something I made you capable of doing?". As these questions became harder and harder to answer, the run became easier and easier - still not very pleasant, but easier. As I was being exposed to my selfish motives and being made aware of my need to prove a point (to whom I'm not sure), I felt a surge of adrenaline and strength. This strength was not my own. My legs were weak and my lungs were burning, but I felt a sense of strength that can only come from the true source of strength. I also felt vulnerable. And hot tears welling in my eyes and then crashing out in waves over my cheeks and falling off my chin. I leaned into it. I used that exposure and adrenaline and vulnerability to increase my stride length, to quicken my pace and to become more efficient. I used it to take on these tough questions and address the true reasons behind my decision to not run in 2015. Because of this run, I was able to be honest with myself. I was resentful of my husband's success in running. I am so incredibly proud of him, don't get me wrong. I am also his biggest fan and supporter. But I was resentful that running came so easy to him. I had been running for more years of my life than I hadn't and he , after just 3 years of running qualifies for and runs the Boston marathon! Who does that?
Fear was also a reason I had chosen not to run. And how brilliant is it to make any decisions based on fear? Not. I was afraid that my job as a fitness professional was in question because of my lack of success in running, or better, the lack of PERCEIVED success. Why did I measure my success in running against my husband's? His ability to compete in the Boston marathon had NOTHING to do with my ability to run. Yet, I let that lie seep in and take root in my thought process and even affect my decisions.
Praise be to God our Father, our Creator, our Nurturer, our Redeemer for his grace during that Sunday morning run. I was able to let go of the fear and resentment that I felt for over 6 months. I was able to ask my husband for forgiveness and to be at peace with myself and I was able to ENJOY running. Dear sister, if you find yourself comparing your success against your husband's or measuring your worth next to his - DON'T! You don't have to take up running to do this -although I highly recommend it. You can just ask yourself these hard questions and face the hard truths about your relationship. First ask God to show you where you have been comparing or harboring resentment. Next, ask for forgiveness. Then pray about ways to work toward removing or replacing that comparison and resentment.
Then go running.
Okay, that last part is optional.
You see, sometimes exercise can be SO MUCH MORE and THAT's why I love it so much.