I don’t have a history of being happy with my body. I started running to lose weight. I soon learned that running alone wouldn’t do it. I had to change my eating as well. Over the years I did lose weight. While its not always been easy, this is the first time in my life I didn’t gain it all back. At the beginning I didn’t expect the spiritual change that occurred.
Today I run as a spiritual practice. I work through problems. I pray. I even write sermons. I’ve also felt the deep call to help others to (re)discover their own bodies as pathways to experiencing God’s grace. I’ve struggled with language. So I’m thrilled to have discovered the book, “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality,” by Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell.
As I read, I will share thoughts and hopefully start some discussion. Today’s thought comes from page 1 of the preface:
During more than 45 years of our team research, we have discovered that the way in which people treat their own bodies and feelings becomes a reliable predictor of how they will then treat and interact with those around them.
I’ve been saying that if we can treat ourselves better, we will be able to treat others better. How might our world be in a better place if we cared for ourselves? Would we then be better able to care for others? I think so. I look forward to more discoveries in this book.
As I’ve gained fitness through running, I’ve had many opportunities to interact with others about this journey. Usually this is in the realm of answering training questions and offering encouragement to those who tell me that they too would like to begin running (or be more active or lose weight). I love helping people! That’s, I think, part of my call as a pastor.
I’ve discovered that better physical fitness can be related to spiritual fitness. Or better expressed, taking care of our bodies is part of a holistic way to live our faith. For me personally, I’ve discovered that running allows me to meditate, to pray, to reflect on life, and even to write sermons. These benefits come from those, long and short, solitary runs. Another benefit is the community that I’ve discovered by joining a running club. I value the relationships that I’ve built over the last couple years. One of my favorite activities is Wednesday night track…it’s hard work (which I like) but more importantly it is gathering to work hard together. Its social and I like that. With the added benefits of my husband and adult children becoming runners as well, it’s become an integral part of my life.
All this has nudged me towards coaching. At first I thought this was something to do in addition to my work as pastor. But I’m learning that it is somehow part of my pastoral call. Of course I’m still working this all out, but helping people to move…to get moving…to experience the wonderful bodies that God gave them. It falls under my call to provide pastoral care while also witnessing to the Kingdom of God in the community. Something that I’m also trying to work out is how I can help other pastors to be more proactive in their own self-care.
Lately I’ve been reading lots of books about running and training. The other day, while looking at another book, I noticed a book titled, “Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-in.” In looking at the title, I realized that God was gently leading me in this direction because my work as “pastor” may benefit from some of this type of training as “coach.”
This book is for coaching athletes but it can benefit anyone who is “in the business of motivating other people.” So far the introduction has reminded of the importance of trust. It is critical for leadership, in and out of the church. In the church we talk about trust in God…something very important to the life of faith. I want to explore the importance of extending that trust in God into trust of one another (including trust of the pastor/leader).
I plan to share more insights as I read this book. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts regarding the intersections of coaching, trust, and faith?
Five years ago my daughter, husband, and I ran our first 5k races at the Channel Islands Harbor 4th of July 5k and 10k. We’d started running earlier in the year. Megan and I were close together but she had a better kick and beat me at the end. She still has a better kick. We both remember our excitement at completing this first race. My time was 36:16. I’m very proud of that time because it is a marker on a new, fit way of life.
We don’t do the race every year because we sometimes travel for Independence Day, so my next race was in 2015, this time a 10k. I was training for my second marathon at the time and this race was in the middle of a longer run. I was absolutely thrilled with my time of 1:04:44. I remember finding one of the coaches for the training program and excitedly showing her my time.
I didn’t run this race in 2016, but ran a 10k on July 23rd in 55:22. I don’t remember the same level of excitement that day. Maybe it was because I was also running a 5k…and it was hot! But I was certainly pleased with the time.
Today I ran the 10k…just my third 10k. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just started hard running last week, after my recovery from the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (Recap here). I raced a 5k last Wednesday and was disappointed with how hard it was for me…and for my time. My coach thankfully told me I should be happy that a bad day was better than my best day a year ago. Ok, I’ll take that!
Then on Saturday I had a nasty fall 1 mile ito a 9 mile run. I’m still battered and bruised…and I completed the run.
My goal today was to beat my 55:22 from last year…and not crash at the end the way I do in a 5k. I started a bit conservatively, felt good after the first mile, and pushed the pace a bit. Almost every mile felt good, with miles 5-6 being the hardest (as they should be). I got a cramp in my side for part of mile 6 but then it went away. I sprinted the last .2 and finished with a time of 51:56. That’s a 3:26 PR! WhooHoo!
A lesson in all this is that progress happens when you stick with it for the long haul. Another…enjoy the journey along the way.
Today I’m personally thankful for: community races; all the volunteers who were out there this morning; and FREEDOM, may we not squander it.
In completing 4 weeks of a more focused effort on losing those last few pounds, I’ve remembered a few things.
Weight loss is not fast, nor is it easy.
Unfortunately many of us expect both. The weight loss industry perpetuates this lie with adds that promise quick results…for a fee. Fad diets also promise quick results, but are often unhealthy or unrealistic. I’ve tried many fad diets over the years. I’ve also given Weight Watchers hundreds of $$$$ over the years. But neither approach resulted in long term, healthy weight loss.
In much reading over the years…and with much experimentation, I’ve concluded that the best approach to weight loss is to expect slow progress while focusing on a sustainable, enjoyable, healthy lifestyle.
What does this mean for me?
Regular, vigorous exercise. Eating healthy, which includes:
The occasional use of a food diary. It is important to check food quantities as well as quality on occasion. It’s amazing how portions can slowly grow, while unhealthy food is consumed more and more.
A conscious choice to eat a wide variety of healthy food. Sometimes people will say, “I can’t eat carbs.” So, they won’t eat something healthy, like fruit. I ask them, “how many people have you seen become obese by eating too many apples or too much watermelon?” A good piece of advice that I’ve seen in many places is to eat the rainbow. I love rainbows! And I love eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetable.
Cutting back on unhealthy, processed, calorie dense food. If I were to stray into fad diet territory I would do it here and say, just cut this crap out entirely. But this is not realistic. So if you have a favorite processed something my advice is to make it a very special treat and only eat it occasionally. Go back to the previous point…if you’re hungry eating an apple and natural peanut butter will be more filling and better for you than say, a bag of Doritos or a cookie. Something I discovered is that when all the processed sugar is gone, real fruit tastes wonderful. Try it!
Eating enough. If you are constantly hungry, you won’t succeed…and you will easily overeat when crappy food is place before you.
Last, think of it as a life style and enjoy yourself, which means don’t deprive yourself as social events.
Slow is ok
I discovered these tips while very slowly losing 80+ pounds. If you can focus on the journey and enjoy what you are doing each day, you’ll be able to look back at your success. I probably lost about 30 pounds a year, over a few years. Now that I’m trying to tackle those last pounds I need to remind myself of my own tips!
How Was the 4 Week Focus?
After 4 weeks of my renewed focus I lost 5.6 pounds. As I reported last week my other gauge of % body fat is off in that my scale now thinks I’m a bit dehydrated (which I’m not), so it had an increase in this number…but I don’t believe it and will write on that later. And, I had at least one day (sometimes 2) each week of social eating and drinking.
Now the intensive focus will end, but I will continue to eat healthy…because that is what I do. As my training miles increase, I will increase carbs in my diet. When I feel that maybe I’m out of control, I’ll use the food diary…because it is a helpful tool for the occasional check. I’ll report back periodically.
Last, if you are looking for some good advice I recommend a couple books by Matt Fitzgerald, Racing Weight and The Endurance Diet. I read these recently (after losing my 80 pounds) and was pleased to read that I had done mostly what he recommended. They are great resources.
Today’s run was not my favorite…five miles of light rain and big puddles everywhere, so even with this short run I was soaked. I won’t complain too much though, because any run is better than no run. And we need the rain.
So, today I am personally thankful for: the ability to run; the strength training class that followed my run; relaxing with a nice glass of wine at the end of the day.
I twisted me knee a bit during an exercise class on Friday. At the time I didn’t think of injury, but was very careful to not twist it again. On Saturday I had my glorious 9 mile run up and down a hill and felt to very brief stabs of pain (almost like a cramp) during the last couple miles, but no other pain. Sunday I went for a walk and it began to hurt a bit during the walk. I almost skipped this morning’s strength, just to be careful but decided that the upper body and core work would be beneficial. The knee was fine during class and so I did my six miles after…and it was fine for that. I think (and hope) everything is ok, but the potential for an injury is sure stressful!
The entire episode reminds me, and so I am reminding you, of the importance of strength work for endurance sports. Strength work helps to prevent injury (just be careful not to do any weird twisting-haha), it helps to correct imbalances, and of course properly done it makes you stronger and more efficient in your movement.
With all that in mind, today I am personally thankful for: the strong body that God has given me; the group exercise classes that I have been taking since November (this work is more fun in a group); and for all the evidence that shows you can start strength and endurance training at almost any age…ie, you’re almost never too old to start!
This week I ran 25.5 miles, and except for the week of the Carlsbad Marathon, this was the most mileage for 2017. Taper and recovery account for all the other low mileage weeks. This 25.5 marks the first week of training for Mountains 2 Beach on May 28, only 15 weeks away. Yikes!
Today’s long run of “only” 9 miles was and out and back that was also an up and down. I’m pleased that my climbing wasn’t too slow and that my heart rate pretty much stayed in the right training zone. I might even be able to quit saying sometime soon that “I suck at running up hills.”
Then the run down was glorious! It was at a perceived easy pace that was at or better than my goal marathon pace. As the next marathon is down the very same trail I’m thinking that I just need to get my legs used to that downhill for a much longer time and then I will have my BQ!
The best part of this week and today’s run is that in every other training re-start after marathon recovery (I’ve run 5 now) that first long run has made me ask myself while running, “how did I ever make it through a marathon?” This didn’t happen today and hopefully with won’t happen next week either!
So, today I am personally thankful for: a good start to training for marathon 6; for the beautiful sound of rushing water as I ran along a stream that was actually filled with water (a rarity here in SoCal); and for the mental and spiritual health benefits of endurance sports (especially in these trying times).