Obstacles: Sometimes You Have to be Your Own Generator

It’s been two weeks since Irma. Much continues to happen around the world with natural disasters. In our town, we haven’t had to deal with the devastation of other places. Regardless of how impactful the storm, one thing is true for anyone living in a post-storm world: things aren’t normal. Normal has been replaced, if not permanently, at least temporarily.

This was clear the first day I went for a run. It was Tuesday morning, not much longer than 24 hours post-storm.

As odd as it sounds, I literally had to tell myself that it was okay to go for a run. I’m sure to many it would have been the furtherest thing from their mind. To me, it was what I should do. It is my routine, and I should do it even if I didn’t want to or questioned if I should.

I did a 5.7-mile route through West Bradenton. A little darker than usual, even for early morning hours. Darkened street lights, humming generators, and impassable sidewalks were obstacles to my normal carefree run. Watching traffic on Cortez Road between 51st and 75th was interesting; actually on this entire route it was. Non-working traffic lights (5 out of 9) were catching many drivers offguard. They were having to pay more attention because routine was broken.

When routine is broken, when there are obstacles in life to doing what we are accustomed to doing, it can be quite jolting, to some life-altering. All of these things I noticed on my run were simple examples of obstacles that post-storm living presents. And if you allow them to, these obstacles can appear overwhelming and unnavigable. They can appear to be.

If the appearance grips us with fear, we would do well to step back and let our brains catch up to our emotions. Our brains can help us see…

  • …taking a shower by flashlight is doable.
  • …if you don’t know how to do something, most likely you know someone who does.
  • …a new routine will take more time…so leave earlier for work, allow more grace to other drivers, and expect the unexpected.
  • …the obstacle may not be addressable in the desired timeframe. That’s okay. Give time to yourself and to others to get it addressed in a safe and wise manner.
  • …obstacles don’t automatically mean you can’t do your thing.  They may just cause you to have to figure out a different way.
  • …like many pre-storm days, the best motivation is self-motivation. Sometimes you have to be your own generator.

The Night Before

It’s after 8pm. So being an obedient Manatee County resident, I’m off the streets. Waiting.

Marathon runners know what this feels like. You’ve prepped all you can for your race. You’ve laid everything out for the next morning. The alarm is set; you know because you’ve checked it a gazillion times. You’ve stretched, or not. You’ve attached your race bib, or not. You’ve prepared your liquids, or not. You most certainly have eaten your last meal and properly hydrated. And now you wait. The long night has started; and if it’s your first 26.1, it will most likely feel like the longest night of your life.

You make yourself go to bed; and after about an hour of asking yourself ridiculous questions about tomorrow, you somehow fall asleep…only to wake up thinking the alarm didn’t work because surely the night is over, but the clock says it’s been less than two hours. If you’re lucky, you’ll repeat this cycle a couple of times. And each time you ask yourself another question before falling asleep, “Why can’t I stay asleep?”

And from my experience, here’s the answer-anticipation of the unknown. 

  • Can I make it the full distance?
  • What if it starts raining?
  • They say you hit a wall at mile 18. What does that feel like?
  • Did my training plan really prepare me?
  • How will I feel when it’s over?

These questions can go on and on. And they probably will until the race startgun sounds. And then, for the most part, after about mile two, they stop. You’re not normal if they don’t return at some point during the race, but you find a way to cross the finish line.

So here’s to the night before. You’ve done all you can. Followed your game plan. Put your trust in the right hands. Prayed for endurance to last all the way to the finish line. 

It will come. One way or another, it will come. 

But right now, it’s the night before. And you wait. 

Think about that finish line. It will come.

When Has God Spoken to You (Journal Exercise Suggestion)

The back was too tight to do a morning run this morning (that’s what stretching and treadmill runs later in the day are for); so instead, God and I had a longer than usual conversation.

During the conversation I got a pretty clear message of something I am to do this week. Receiving that message made me ask this question, “If I made a list of the ‘big, writing-on-the-wall’ messages I’ve gotten from God in my life, what would that include?” 

Seemed like a good exercise, so I did it before I left for the office. As it turns out, in 30 years of adult living, I’d say I’ve received nine such messages. To be clear, “Be nice to idiots is not a ‘big’ message.” The daily messages we receive from the Holy Spirit are nothing more than atuning ourselves to communicating with Him regularly. A big message is something like, “Change your career path,” “I promise you if you’ll stop saying ‘no’ to me about this direction you’ll be 100% satisfied,” or “You’ve been waiting for the green light. Here it is.”

You might call these markers. Markers are specific times or places in our lives where significant things happen. Sure, your wedding day, your child’s birthday, and other physical events are markers. This intentional, spiritual exercise makes you think about your conversations-with-God markers. They can remind you who has been for you, where he has been with you, and what he has done through you.

So what are you waiting for? Get a blank page in front of you. Answer the question. You never know; another “big” message might be ready to get marked.

Dude, You’re At…the Gym

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

Last Saturday, I watched something I’ve never seen. You rarely know a stranger’s story, but this dude had a story. 

We walked into the Manatee Avenue Planet Fitness at the same time. I always have a plan for my time in the gym. It most likely is get on the treadmill, run my preplanned distance or time, wipe down the machine, leave. Recently I’ve also joined the masses who plug in to their phone or the TVs to let music, news, or sports pass the time. This is what most “gymmers” do. They have a plan. They get it done. They own it.

This dude wasn’t an owner. I’m not sure what you’d call him. Maybe a wannabe. A poser. Bored. A leaner. Lost. From my observation, I’d definitely say he was confused about what to do when you go to the gym.

I never saw this dude pick up, get on, or much less turn on any piece of equipment. He touched a couple of pieces, but that was just to lean on them. No joke. For 25 minutes I watched him move from one elliptical to another, one bike to another just to lean on them and “change channels.” He’d stare at the TV above the machine for a minute or two, never plugging in mind you, and move over a machine or two to watch a different TV. Apparently he likes closed-caption viewing. This is all he did for 25 minutes. And the last time I saw him, he was walking away from every piece of equipment heading toward the exit. He’d leaned enough. Gym time was over.

Call me crazy, but what in the world? Hard to give, much less get credit for going to the gym when you might as well have stayed in the living room moving back and forth from the couch to the love seat. The recliner might have required some energy.

All kidding and judgment aside, when you are committing to a fitness plan, you really need to do just that-COMMIT. Playing at it makes a mockery of it. And the only one losing is you. The gym doesn’t lose. It doesn’t care if you commit or not. It’ll gladly take your monthly automatic deduction and roll on. If you actually hire a trainer, they don’t necessarily lose either when you don’t commit. You won’t be their favorite or star client, but they’ll also take your payment and work out any frustrations they may have because of you when they go to the gym.

Going to the gym, committing to a fitness plan is rather simple. At least from the logistic view. 

  • Schedule it. 
  • Develop your goals. 
  • Determine your action steps. 
  • Do the work. 
  • Enjoy the benefits.

If this isn’t working for you, then it’s time to ask yourself a different question. It could be worded something like, “What am I really doing at the gym? Why am I not owning this commitment?”

For the, I’ll say, 89% of dudes in the gym who are owning it, good job. Keep at it. Keep owning it. Like the two of you I was happy to share the gym with this morning.

One dude had an artificial leg. He got on the treadmill and owned it. The other dude had a significant limp and walked with a cane. He owned his gym time with free weights. They weren’t leaners or posers, lost or confused. They had a plan. They were getting it done. They owned it.

(I must give about 8.9% credit for this series to my dude Mark. He’s an owner.)

But I Don’t Want To

One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.

But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.

I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.

So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.

The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.

What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.

Fruity Fridays: Running to Do Good

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit, I’d guess this one to be the one most wrestled. 

Doing good is different from being good. You can be good on the inside. But to show the fruit of goodness it has to be seen, you have to do. That isn’t always easy. It’s downright challenging in many cases, on a regular basis.

  • It’s hard to do good to someone who views your decision as wrong.
  • It’s mind bending to do good to someone who intentionally undermines you.
  • It’s gut wrenching to do good for someone who knowingly lies about you.

These are examples that are difficult because they reveal where your power originates. If your power to handle wrong, undermining, and lying lies only in you, you will be less likely to do good.
No, we have to rely on a better source of power than ourselves. That power comes from the model of goodness. That model and power is described in Acts 10:38.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Instead of looking at yourself to muster the power of goodness, we must look to the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard the situation, he has the power to do good through you. So how do we look to the Holy Spirit?

  1. Work through your anger, jealousy, selfishness, etc., before responding. (HINT: This may take more than five minutes.) Start doing good by not doing wrong by allowing destructive emotions to control you.
  2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him what goodness will look like in your situation, for that person. Only move when you have peace and commitment to the action.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. You only get better at something by doing it. Start with a simple good thing that you know the Holy Spirit wants you to do. Example: Pray that God would bless your offender rather than praying God would convict them. (HINT: Conviction isn’t our job.) A staggering baby step like this will lead to steady walking which will lead to strong running.

Running isn’t easy. Certainly not to do goodness. Surrender to the Holy Spirit to help you run to do good.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #27-Own/Stop/Look

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

A sensible person sees danger and takes cover; the inexperienced keep going and are punished. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭12‬ HCSB)

My first marathon, Virginia Beach, March 2009. I felt ready. All was going well until Mile 16. I had brought enough gels to get me that far. The race guide promised gels would be at that aid station. Promise broken. I had 10 miles to go. Without needed energy, what was I to do? 

I know now what I should have done, but all I knew to do that day was keep running and deal with the eventual wall I was going to hit. Mile 21. BOOM. Nothing left in the tank.

I didn’t “take cover.” I was definitely “punished.”

What can we do with danger or the unknown? 

  • Own your inexperience-Surround yourself with experienced people.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself “keeping going.” Stop. Learn from the punishments for your inexperience. Forgive yourself.
  • Look for other inexperienced people. Bring them some sense. Help them own, stop and look.

Running Tuesdays: Hype or Hope or Hypothermia (Recovering after a run)

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

I remember my first long run; it was approximately 10 years ago when I ran 11 miles without stopping! I was jubilant and I was DEAD; absolutely worn out, the rest of the day was a fog! I remember wondering how people were capable of running such high mileage and then getting on with the rest of their day. I would hear conversations like, “I am going to Ikea after this to pick up a bed for the baby,” or, “I can’t go to breakfast because I have to attend my son’s little league game,” or, “After this we’re off to Disney,” and so on – and all I could think was, “After this I am going home to die on the couch”! I just couldn’t imagine it! Each week when I would run 10+ miles on a Sunday morning I would literally be spent! 

After doing a little research I was introduced to post workout drinks. These were supposed to replenish the nutrients your body loses on such long runs; they are touted as having the perfect 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So I tried them – I tried all of them! And …. although I received favorable feedback from others who tried these concoctions, it was hundreds of dollars later when I decided they didn’t work for me.  

Let me attempt to explain how I felt after one of these gargantuan runs. I didn’t feel achy or stiff. It wasn’t even about tired limbs; it was plain and simple fatigue that would permeate my entire being and reduce me to a blob of nothingness that could do nothing more than flop on a couch.

One day I read an article that stated ice baths were the key to rid the body of “fatigue blues” – I went for it – No holds barred! My preferred method was as follows…. Fill the tub with tepid (almost cold) water, enough water to cover legs and hips – almost waist high. Have 30-1bs bag of ice within arms reach of the bath tub. Carefully climb into water – fully clothed (don’t change out of running gear to include socks). Once body is fully immersed, slowly empty the ice into the water – Brrr! The trick is to try and remain perfectly still and not hold your breath. Now …. Stay like that for 20 minutes! After the alarm goes off, JUMP out of tub, rip off freezing wet clothes as fast as viably possible, dry off and wrap yourself in warm towels. Once you are swaddled in towels, jump into bed until your body slowly regains feeling and then take a nice hot shower – Voila! 

Okay, this is torture – but it WORKS! It really, really works! I found myself doing this after every long run – the benefits were worth the 20 minutes of torture. Let me explain what it did for me. After going through the aforementioned regimen, I would honestly feel as if I hadn’t run at all; I would feel as fresh as if getting out of bed after a 9-hour restful night. It was magic! I became one of those individuals who too could shop in Ikea, go to baseball games or go off to save the world. I started to recommend these torture sessions to all of my running buds; I had found the “fountain of youth” for runners, but alas, no one else was as brave – they wouldn’t even consider it!  

Fast forward: several marathons and half-marathons later and ice baths are a thing of the past. The reason … your body eventually gets used to the pounding of the pavement, and it magically appears to strengthen and endure all by itself – naturally. Where I used to spend my energy after a race running to fill the tub with ice, I now use that energy to find the first available beer and a nice meal to celebrate.  

Running Tuesdays: Convenience vs Agenda Running

For the last two weeks, Lorraine and Michael shared their thoughts on running alone and running in groups. My turn.

I mostly, which means +90% of the time, run alone. And the answer is really quite simple. CONVENIENCE.

Running when, where, how far, and at what pace I want is really more important to me than anything else. Being able to decide that either on the spot or the night before is more difficult when others are involved. I’ve tried to run routinely with others, and it has mostly ended up being more of a hassle or frustration-counterintuitive to the rewards of running.

Even though I thrive on the convenience of running alone, there is a reason I engage in group running. That reason is when I need to focus on a set AGENDA for which the group is already committed or can help me achieve. That agenda could be anything from building up distance, running a particular tempo, or strength work on hills or a bridge. That agenda overrides any desire for convenience. For me, convenience gets sacrificed to the drive to fulfill the agenda.

You may have heard of the struggle some people have between playing at their work or working at their play. You can guess which way I lean. Some runners are really good at “playing” while they run. I generally have to work to play at my play. By work I mean I mentally have to tell myself to chill, relax, and don’t think too much when I run with a group. One simple way I’ve done that is to not run with any type of technology. If I don’t know my tempo, it keeps me from adjusting it. Ironically, I sometimes choose to run with others to force myself to pull back. I’m one of those odd birds that self-motivates. Those birds need others to help them chill. You could say that my agenda sometimes needs to be not to have one.

If you are toying with running against your normal routine of running alone or with others, I suggest giving yourself a week or two to experiment. Do at least one run a week outside of your normal routine. You’ll most likely learn something about yourself that will move you forward. Think about what feeds you but also what pushes you. Then go about making it work. Find the balance. Enjoy the road.

Running Tuesdays: Preferring Running Alone

by Michael Wilder

Running alone versus running with others can quickly turn into a discussion of being an introvert or extrovert. Introverts keep to themselves, but extroverts seek out others. Introverts need to be alone to “recharge” their batteries while extroverts need other people to “recharge” their batteries. Introverts are quieter compared to extroverts who are louder. I can keep going down a list of the differences between the two, but I believe running alone versus running with others is not an introvert or extrovert thing. I personally know both groups of people who run alone or with others. What it boils down to is personal preference.

Yes, I am an introvert, and yes I do prefer running alone. Running alone allows my mind to focus on the past, present, and the future. Running alone is a form of worship for me. I listen to worship music and admire His creation. Running alone gives me the opportunity to learn. I love to listen to pod cast and audio books while I run. Listening to those types of media helps me be a better person. Running alone does “recharge” my batteries especially if I am stressed or worried about something. Running is a release from everyday life. I struggle getting up early during the week to run, but after the back and forth between my mind of getting up or not, I always feel ready for the day after a run. I am not saying I can’t do this “stuff” alone, but it would be kind of awkward/rude for me to be listening to an audio book while my friend is talking to me.

Like I said earlier I prefer to run alone, but I enjoy running with people too. A majority of my runs are alone. This is not on purpose; rather it is because of when I do my runs. Running at 6am on a weekday 3 times a week usually does work with my running friends. Plus, if I do run with someone it would require a drive on my part or theirs. My preference is to get up at the time I want to go for a run, walk out my door, and start. When it comes to running with someone else, you have to organize your schedules. Organizing schedules is extremely hard to do in this busy world of ours. This is why I like to have scheduled group runs. Once a month I try to get with someone else to run with. We plan it out a couple of weeks ahead of time.

When I do run in a group setting it is enjoyable. For the most part of a run, no matter what distance, I chat it up with the people I am running with. I don’t run with a group to improve my time, which does come as an added bonus, but as a way to connect with my running friends. My wife goes to Starbucks and spends several hours with friends talking and connecting. I go for a run with my friends instead of going to Starbucks. For me, there is no greater joy than talking with a good friend while you run. Life’s struggles, issues, or problems seem to be clearer while you run and talk it out. Maybe it’s the physical activity or the cool morning air. However, running in a group for the purpose of talking and connecting is beneficial.

Bottom line here is that this introvert likes to be alone while running but will spread his extroverted wings and lace up with a group. As long as the group is out for a fun run, then I am all for it!