(By Wendi Colaiuta)
When I first started running, it was on a bit of a dare, and I’ve never been known to back down from a challenge. I was sure I would prove that this running thing was NOT for me.
On my first attempt, everything about running seemed strange. My joints hurt, my muscles were sore, my lungs were bursting, and I thought, “How does anyone like running, let alone LOVE it?”
But as I stubbornly kept going, my muscles began to relax, my joints loosened, my breathing fell into an even pattern, and I realized that my body had found its own comfortable, sustainable stride. After that first run, I was tired. But it was a “good tired!” Somehow, I still felt refreshed and surprisingly motivated to try it again!
I have now been a runner for almost a decade. Sometimes, when I’d rather just take a day off, I need to be disciplined to GO RUN, knowing that the benefits will be worth it when I’m done. (I’ve never regretted going!) Some days I can honestly say that I crave that run, need that run, and can’t wait to lace up my running shoes and get lost in thought and prayer, with favorite songs streaming through my earbuds.
It seems almost backwards, but expending the energy to run actually gives me more energy! It keeps my blood pumping through my body. I sweat out all sorts of “used up” nutrients and exhale carbon dioxide while breathing in the fresh air.
My body’s endorphins kick in and I feel a fresh wave of strength and endurance I didn’t know was possible. My body becomes healthier, challenging my muscles so they will grow leaner and stronger - burning off undesired, useless fat, and replacing it with healthy, efficient, new tissues.
When I get home from a run I am dying of thirst – for all the good stuff: good, clean water and nutrients to replace all of the “used up” ones I discarded along the way, fresh fruits and veggies and protein to fuel my body for another day. And I realize that one good decision to GO RUN leads to other wise choices like a healthy diet (and a renewed commitment to avoid the temptations of sweets and junk food), and gives me the energy to be more positive and efficient with the rest of my to-do list.
The positive effects are not just physical. Running is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually therapeutic! It is the one time that although my body is moving, my heart is “still.” My brain uses that hour to sort through thoughts and feelings, to wrestle with GOD in prayer about many different burdens. There are no distractions. No phone, no house chores, no family members needing love or attention, no computer, no TV, no books, no other responsibilities to cloud my heart.
I can think, I can pray, and like no other time in my busy day, I can use that hour to listen for the LORD’s still small voice to speak to me, teach me, show me, guide me, and comfort me.
Sometimes He uses those songs streaming from my phone. The tunes are catchy. They keep me moving forward. They keep me in step. The lyrics redirect my mind and heart, reminding me of GOD’s precious promises. They challenge me to let go of my wrestlings, rest in His love, and step out with courage and obedience as He directs me.
There are two other things that keep me going when I start to feel weary in the middle of a run. One is a very practical little thing I discovered called sport beans. These jelly-bean-like wonders are filled with a boost of all the nutrients my body is using up while I’m running. There are many days I can comfortably reach the end of my run without them, but sometimes I am more depleted than I realize and find myself struggling to finish. In those moments, one or two little “sport beans” is all I need to feel an extra burst of power, and with it, the ability to keep going and finish what I started.