Just this week I had a big reminder (sort of a smack in the face) that I have a long way yet to grow. I was running with a dear friend and my old thinking patterns: I'm not good enough, I'm weak, I should be better at this, I'm a failure, Everyone thinks I'm awful, I'm not just a bad runner...I'm a bad person, started taking over my mind. It's hard to explain how quickly and aggressively they avalanche out of control into a huge mess inside of me. Before I know it, every negative thought or experience I've ever had about running (no shortage of those!) has set up residence in my head. My body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds, my throat constricts, my legs feel like they might give out from under me.
Because I trust my friend, and I share a lot of my thoughts and inner struggles with her, I told her what was happening on this particular run. We slowed to a walk and did the only sensible thing at that moment. We prayed.
I really invited God into that mess that was going on in my head and asked that the truth about who I am would push all of the junk out of the way. Well, actually my friend asked. I was busy choking back tears.
A minute or so after her prayer, I felt like jogging so I broke into an easy trot and while before I had been struggling painfully, this time we just jogged a nice easy pace all the way back home without any problem.
I've been trying to pray before and after any exercise that I do so I can keep a truthful mindset about my identity and the purpose of my exercise instead of letting my negative thought patterns carry me off down the wrong path.
It is becoming second nature to ask God into my time of exercise. My body is his dwelling place. Loving my body, being appreciative of everything it is and all it can do, caring for it with stretching and exercise, are acts of worship. Being thankful, asking God to heal and strengthen areas of my body, being aware of the physical feelings, limitations, and reactions I experience are ways of affirming I am his creation. He knows my body better than I do!
When I pray, exercise becomes more about being fit and healthy, surrounded by God's love and available to carry out his will in my life. When I don't pray, exercise is about fitting into a certain size, looking sexy, and running really fast and well so everybody, including me, will think I'm awesome.
I much prefer the first option. It's way more fulfilling, and comes with a sense of freedom.
Old habits die hard, but slowly and surely I'm letting go of the negative past and embracing the amazing present. So much freedom and contentment is mine for the taking when I choose it!