Category Archives: healthy living

Spiritual Sprints: Lessons Learned on the Run

IMG_3318I thought I would cry — an ugly, sobbing, boo-hoo kind of cry. But I didn’t. In fact, based on the picture to the left, I was doing just the opposite, smiling buoyantly. The picture perfectly captures exactly how I felt as I crossed the finish line after running 13.1 miles – SHOCKED RELIEF!

When I started my half-marathon training plan over four months ago, it was with a sense of determination. I needed a challenge to focus on; I needed a “win” in my life. For some reason, I decided a 13.1 mile race should do it. Some days I trained happily, others begrudgingly. Some days I felt strong; others I gave up and quit. Yet, I stuck to the plan, paid my entry fee and showed up early Saturday morning dressed to run — filled with a mix of anxiety and excitement.

In less than three hours, it was all over. My four months of training centered around a mere 3 hour event. Yet after it was over, I realized I learned more than just what it felt like to complete a half-marathon.

Lessons Learned on the Run

1. The fun of a new adventure will always wear off and then the real work begins. Somewhere after the four-mile marker, I texted my husband: “Over four miles and still feeling good. C u soon!”  I was feeling great and my legs felt strong. Along mile 8, my hip started hurting. Then, not long after, my knee got stiff. It was those last 5 miles when my “embrace the suck” skills kicked in. I wouldn’t stop now no matter how bad it hurt, but now instead of running for fun, I was working to run. In life, we often want to participate as long as it’s fun. We want to pursue the dream, as long as everything works out. However, when the real work of discipline and details kicks in, we opt out. But remember this: it’s the moments of real work that get us across the finish line.

2. Small victories lead to big ones.  I trained for this race using a run/walk pace. Loosely translated, that means I ran for a certain amount of time followed by a walk. Obviously the running time is always higher than the walking, which is where the victory comes in. One thing I was determined to do was stick to my training pace (4 minute run/1.5 minute walk). During the first few miles, this plan seemed easy. However, at miles 11 and 12, just running for four minutes was daunting – and sometimes nearly impossible. My legs screamed for rest; my mind wanted to quit. I told myself over and over, just 4 minutes and you get to walk again. Then set after set of run/walk ticked by, and I found myself at the finish line. I won my race every time I completed a 4 minute run. It was pushing through the small challenges that lead to the major victory. (That’ll preach!)

3. The road gets lonely at times. There were certain parts of the course where I was completely alone. I could see a few runners ahead of me, but they weren’t within talking distance. It was just me alone with my thoughts and the steady pound of pavement. During those moments, it was harder to run. I couldn’t feel the pull of the runner’s pace ahead of me. There was no one speaking words of encouragement as they ran beside me. Yet I kept on knowing two things: eventually I would catch up to the runner ahead of me or someone behind me would match my pace. Truthfully, the road has to be lonely sometimes because that’s when we are forced to talk to the One who is always there to listen. And that’s exactly what I did.

4. We all need a cheerleader. I’m all about encouraging people. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of the race – cheering people on as they passed me. (Our course had a lot of loops where I passed other runners often.) I had people doing the same for me. Random texts dinged on my phone as I ran; friends sending words of encouragement and pride. For me though, the best part was knowing someone was waiting for me at the finish line. That when it was all over, someone would be there to give me a high five, document the look on my face as I crossed the finish line, and revel in the power of the moment. Saturday, my husband was my cheerleader. Other days for other life “races,” it has been friends or family members. I will tell you that without a doubt those who cheer for me have made a difference in the race I run – physically and spiritually.

5. We can always rise to the challenge if we stay with it. The last two weeks of my training schedule, I wanted to quit. In fact, I asked myself several times, “Why do you need to do this?” Another voice in me said you’ve worked too hard to throw it away. So I kept training and forced my doubts and laziness aside. The morning of the race, I was filled with nervousness, but also a sense of determination to finish what I had started. The start gun fired, and I set off to do what I had trained to do. You know what? I did it. I crossed the finish line. Was it easy? No. It wasn’t easy during training, so the actual race wasn’t going to be easy. I had all kinds of doubts, but I wouldn’t give in to them. I took one step at a time (sometimes literally); I trained one day at a time. I raced one 4-minute run at a time. That’s what it takes to overcome our challenges or to achieve our dreams. It is my hope that long after this race is over, I will let my “finish” spur me on to do the same in other areas of my life. After all, if I conquered a mere 13.1 miles, there’s not much else I can’t do. Right?!

Wednesday Reads: Exchanging Chaos for Intention

Wednesday Reads Wide

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World caught my attention for one reason – the idea of a bike. For the past few years, I’ve so wanted to own a “cruiser bike.” You know the kind with a cute basket on the front, painted in a sweet color like turquoise or pink. I can easily imagine myself just puttin’ around with flowers dangling picturesquely out of my little basket — headed nowhere but blissfully happy.

Now I will say that parts of this book do speak to that fantasy, but most of it is about living in the real world. Not just living but living in a way that breeds positive and life-changing choices for families. It offers the hope of living a slower paced life because you choose it. While this concept is no easy feat in our insanely scheduled and overly busy lives, Tsh Oxenreider presented doable steps to achieve the art of living intentionally. Here’s a few reasons why I like the book:

1.  After living a few years in a foreign country, I gained a new perspective. A perspective stateside friends didn’t really understand – even though they tried. Reading this book was a comfort because Tsh had lived abroad as well. I identified with her and felt comfort knowing someone felt the feelings that bubbled constantly beneath the surface of my heart. In chapter 2 while speaking of her family’s return to the states after a long stint in Turkey, she articulated exactly what I was feeling: “But the truth is, it was hard for us to dive into the deep end of life. Our skin felt itchy, as though our home culture were now a too-tight sweater. And why did everyone seem to be in such a hurry?” I knew she understood me, and I wanted to hear more.

2. She speaks convincingly not condemningly. So much of what she writes gently opposes the modern American life. The subtitle of the book truly is the point. Tsh shares first her reasons for living intentionally and then gives some practical suggestions on how to make that happen. She discusses grocery shopping, child rearing, traveling, career pursuits, education, and even entertainment. Each area of our lives can be lived by choice and not by force. Just the simple act of making that choice in various areas of our lives will render them more enjoyable and purpose-filled. One of my favorite quotes from the book is the discussion of purchasing fair trade foods. While the younger generation is living for a “cause” they often – like the older generations – don’t really know why. Tsh says it this way: “Jesus taught that we should love one another just as he loved us, and that we are called to look out for the interests of others and not just ourselves (John13:34, Phil. 2:4). This means we shouldn’t, in good conscience and to the best of our ability make daily choices that harm others. This includes where we spend our money.”      This concept was easy for me to see after spending many weekends at the local open air food markets in Costa Rica and Ecuador. I adored this part of my week. Most Saturdays were spent procuring various fruits and vegetables from local farmers and then cleaning and storing them all. My family was eating healthier and I was a part of that. In Costa Rica, I could have easily gone to the grocery store and purchased many of the same items, but it was a better choice to support local farmers and a step toward living a more intentional life.

3.  Her book gently confirms the heart’s longing for a fuller life without all the extra work. Learning to live with the idea that less is more, in every aspect of life, is difficult in a world where everyone consistently seizes more, more, more. As I read each page I noted ways that I could make my life more intentional. I discovered ways to incorporate that concept into every day life – not just on Saturdays. I think it was easier for me to adapt to her ideas since I had been somewhat forced into simple living while in Ecuador, but I do know that this way of life is so much more fulfilling. As Tsh says, “we were made to live with intention, beyond the status quo. Don’t waste your years punching time clocks, sacrificing your ideas and passions and relationships without purpose. You have them for a reason – use them well.”

4.  I would whole-heartedly recommended this book to young wives and mothers. I read many of Tsh’s words and thought if only I knew this when my kids were younger. I would have done things so differently. Young wives and mothers need to have tools to build the best home they can for their spouses and children. Often they fall prey to the idea that it’s a bigger home, better-paying job, and college-prep kindergartens. Tsh helps the reader see that while those things have value, there is no greater value than making the choices that are truly best for your family. It doesn’t matter what other moms or wives are doing. But learning to define at a young age what your family will be about is invaluable. This will be my next baby shower or wedding gift. Such truths that need to be learned early.

On her blog The Art of Simple, Tsh best sums up the concept of the book.

“It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.”

So often I’ve felt I had no choice but to live the busy, over-scheduled life I was dealt. I had no idea that I could make small choices to change that life into a better one for my family and me. Living intentionally has made me a happier person and my family more focused on what’s truly important to us.