Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cramps on the Run

Running tests who you are: your desire, your commitment, your willingness to sacrifice, your passion, your body, your mind and especially your spirit.  As a runner, I have encountered many difficulties.  IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, lost several toenails, sore knees, dehydration, pulled muscles and a pinched sciatic nerve.  Those all hurt in one form or another but the most frustrating injury one is when I get a cramp.  Several years ago I pinched my sciatic nerve (the worst pain I have ever experienced) and since then, my right calf has a tendency to cramp. I am aware of this and take measures to control it.  I know what to do and more importantly what not to do in order to avoid the cramping.  

Yesterday I went to run a quick ten miles.  I had my warm-up planned and knew when I was ready to increase the pace.  I encountered rain, wind and hail.  For me that is motivational as I figure anyone can run on a nice day but it takes dedication (or foolishness) to run in nasty weather.  My pace was quick, legs felt good and my breathing was well under control.  At mile 5.31 I felt a twinge in my left calf, not the right one, not the one prone to cramping, but the good one, the calf I can rely on. And then, boom! A cramp.  I slowed the pace and tried to stretch it out.  I walked a bit but that did not help.  I was able to jog very slowly until mile 7 and then walked the rest of the way home.  I had to cut my run short and was much slower than I had wanted.   

What causes a cramp?  Dehydration, lack of nutrition, over use of the muscle and several other factors.  My hydration and food intake for the week were not good.  I'm pretty sure that was the issue.  

How do you treat a cramp?  When I got home I soaked my legs in an Epsom salt bath, used a foam roller and lacrosse ball and then put on some compression socks.  Oh, and rest.  Which is, for me, the most difficult.

Now, when you are going through life and get a "cramp", that is, an experience that forces you to slow down and maybe call for help, how do you get through it?  Maybe soak yourself in God's Word (there is nothing sweeter), talk to a trusted friend for some external perspective and get a hug from a loved one.  Oh, and some rest.

Keep Running!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wall

I am helping a friend train for her first marathon.  One of the questions she asked was how to train in order to avoid the wall.  I told her "You don't."  You will hit the wall or rather, the wall hits you.  Typically, the test comes anywhere from 18-22 miles.  Up to that point the race has been fun.  Seriously, there are bands, people in costumes, folks cheering you on.  But, when that moment hits, and you will know when it does, play time is over.  Now it is a test of the will; the desire to continue on in the face of adversity.  Overcoming circumstances. 

What is the wall? The "wall" is that point in a marathon where your energy is gone, your muscles want to quit, you ask why you are doing this and the will to continue is tested.  It is the most difficult point in the race, in fact this is the point where many people quit. Getting through the wall comes down to desire.  During my last marathon at about mile 23, I said to myself "Alright, you've got this."  A runner next to me said something encouraging, gave me a fist bump and then ran to the side and vomited.  Not what I was expecting but that little bit of encouragement helped me. 

When you encounter the wall you want to quit.  When you encounter the wall, you know the finish line is close.  When you encounter the wall, you have an opportunity to do something great.

Life is like that isn't it?  You hit the wall physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually.  You have run the race for so long you are tired, exhausted actually.  Loss of a loved one, relationship ended, lost job, financial difficulties, loneliness, question your faith?  Whatever your wall is, be encouraged to continue on, get up every morning and go through your day, have a cup of coffee with a friend, call someone you haven't spoken with in awhile and put a smile on their face. Eventually the wall will fade and you will have made it through another race.  The best way I have found to conquer the wall is simply:


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Joy Comes in the Mourning

I have experienced loss this week.  My wife's (and mine) Aunt Laura passed away.  She was a dear sweet lady with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye and a love for Jesus in her heart.  We saw her last year and simply enjoyed her company.  She was a blessing! 

Psalm 30:5 states "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning."  The verse is using two parallels: God's anger is short lived but His love is forever and our grief only lasts a short time but joy in Him is everlasting.

I spelled the title with the word "mourning" on purpose.  Let me explain.  First, I do not want to mis-interpret the scripture and certainly I do not want to add to or take away from God's word, but, as I thought about the contradiction that hurt lasts for the night and when the light arrives, there will be joy, it occurred to me that love does not exist without grief and grief does not exist without love.  For instance, when I hear of  a death of someone I did not know, I do not really grieve for that person or that family.  Sure, I am sorry for their loss, but I do not feel a sense of loss.  However, when a close friend or a family member dies, I hurt, I weep, I miss them.  Grief only happens when we lose something important or more importantly someone.  

Joy comes in the mourning because we loved and cared and regarded that relationship as important and valuable.  We weep because that person deeply affected our lives in significant and meaningful ways.  And that is where joy is in the mourning.  When we lose someone, we can rejoice in the gift they were to us, we can offer thanks for the time we had with them and we can (HERE IS A BIG ONE) give forgiveness for the times they hurt us.  As the Light of Christ surrounds and comforts your heart, joy does indeed come in the mourning.
Keep Running!