Archive for ‘endurance’

2013/08/31

Good Form

running-symbolA couple of weeks ago, I went to a running clinic on Good Form. I’ve been running for almost a decade, so why would I need a Good Form class? After my car accident earlier this year, it took me a while to get back into my normal workout schedule. And unfortunately by the time I was done with physical therapy, much of my endurance that I built up last year was lost.

This hasn’t been discouraging for me. In fact, I’ve focused on more cross training with dance, shorter running routes, and strength work as I gear up for a Warrior Dash in October. But even as my focus has been other types of exercise, I have this longing to train for another longer race. And with that longing has come a desire to improve my running both in form and speed, which I know will increase my overall benefit from it. It made sense then to start with my form as a precursor to speed training.

At the class, our experienced instructor Tammy Sanders took a video of each of us running past her. Then she played our videos back one by one in slow motion, pointing out how our feet were striking the pavement, what our posture looked like, and if our arms were in the right position. We learned that cadence, or the number of steps per minute, is important too.

It was very enlightening to find out that I’m a heel striker, my arms are coming across my body too much, and that I have good posture and head position. I left the class focused on the simple truths that would help me correct my poor form: bend my knees, center my posture, look down the road and not down at the pavement, lean slightly forward, run with light steps to stay balanced.

My first solo run to practice the good form tips I had learned went well for the first mile or so. But I noticed after that, my body wanted to return to old habits. I struggled at times to keep the new, better form even though I knew that it was more efficient and would help me avoid injuries common to runners. I measured my cadence that day, and found out that mine is about 170 versus the optimum 180 strikes per minute. I have work to do there too.

For a decade, I’ve been running—with success—as far as I would define it. I’ve never been fast; I’ve had very few injuries, but with good form now added to the mix, what more might I discover I can achieve?

What if I practiced good form in my spiritual life as well?

I’m not asking this question to lead into a discussion on “works” here. I’m talking about what if I consciously started to address the bad spiritual habits or baggage I picked up along the way that is throwing my form off.

For those of us raised on church, sometimes bad spiritual form is linked to our families and how they relate to church or other believers. If we’ve been hurt at church, sometimes it is linked to forgiveness we refuse to extend to other Christians or a church as a whole. For those of us who were or are preacher’s kids there’s a reason that there is a negative stereotype equated with many of us. And we see many pastors and wives of pastors (I was also one of these) wound up in burdens that while related to ministry also have to do with poor spiritual form due to burn out, unresolved conflicts, and living hidden lives outside of their parish.

But like the formation of any bad habit, poor spiritual form doesn’t happen overnight. I know for me, I can think of several very distinct instances or situations even in the last five years of being a Christian where certain seeds planted bad form. And frankly, I let those seeds take root.

This bad form has made me more cautious about being “too involved” at church sometimes. It has made me distrust certain Christians without real cause. Basically bad spiritual form has given me excuses to hang some of my decisions on, a place to justify a distance and a separation that I sometimes have practiced in order to protect myself.

I know there is a different way. I can practice good spiritual form. It isn’t easy. Bad habits are hard to break.

But I can start with some simple truths:

bend my knees in prayer

center my posture on God

look down the road and see who is in need not down at the pavement absorbed in my own problems

lean slightly forward into hope

run with light steps giving my burdens to God to stay balanced

Father, help us to practice good form in our spiritual lives that we may be strengthened in you and that we might discover anew what you can do through us to the glory of your Kingdom. Amen.

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2013/04/30

Clear title

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My car was totaled in February. I was on my way to work, and a young driver lost control of his vehicle and hit me right at my driver’s side window. A few days later  (as pictured) I was saying goodbye to my Jeep Grand Cherokee as it sat at the wrecker’s lot waiting to be dragged off to a junkyard. From this shot the extensive damage isn’t evident; only the buckled door frame gives a hint that something’s wrong.

I have to say it was a tearful goodbye. At almost 11 years old, so much had happened in and around that car.

I bought the car by timing out the first payment with the arrival of the first real paycheck my former husband earned after becoming a priest. Emma grew up in that car. She’s the reason I bought the car. Rear-facing baby seats and VW Golfs don’t mix, so I traded German engineering for a car manufacturer with military roots.

I moved from Kansas City to Baltimore to Nashville in that car. A lot of life changes are represented in those moves. There’s even a great picture of my two best friends from Baltimore—Lauren and Greg—sitting on my tailgate with me the day I packed up to leave Maryland.

I know it was just a car, but it represented so much more. In that car was a mix of memories and conversations and accidents and victories.

I have a different car now—a dream car really. I always wanted a Jeep Wrangler. When I ended up with a totaled car, I figured why not shop for what I want. With only two Wranglers in 100 miles of Nashville that fit the bill, I would say I was pretty blessed to find the one I have.

My new used car didn’t come without a price. Weeks of Physical Therapy due to the accident cost me time and money. My Jeep Grand Cherokee was paid off, free and clear of any title. The Wrangler is partially owned by Huntington Bank, thank you very much. I don’t have a clear title anymore.

My car is part of a silver linings playbook in a sense. It’s what I always wanted, but I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for that unexpected accident, and in the end I’m working to pay for the dream—to pay for a clear title.

I have friends in similar situations. My best friend, George who is still in cardiac rehab from his surgery in December, is very grateful to be alive. There are just a few medical bills he has to tend to. He has another chance at life, but he doesn’t have a clear title.

Another dear friend is finding a new, thriving life for her and her kids after a tough divorce, yet she still has to work on the sometimes-strained relationship she has with her ex. She is blessed that things are better for her and her kids, but she doesn’t have a clear title.

At church recently, I was gratefully reminded that there is an ultimate hope and joy in the fact that there will be a day when all of our titles will be clear. From John in Revelation 21 (bold face mine):

I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

NIV, Verses 2-7

No more tears. No more death. No cost.

This song really says it all with rich vivid imagery:

When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,

I’ll bid farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage, and hellish darts be hurled,

Then I can smile at Satan’s rage and face a frowning world.

 

Let cares like a deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall,

May I but safely reach my home, my God, my Heav’n, my All.

There shall I bathe my weary soul in seas of heav’nly rest,

And not a wave of trouble roll across my peaceful breast.  

–“When I can read my title clear” by Isaac Watts

So take heart. There will come a day when your title will be clear, when you won’t even have to count on a silver linings playbook, because of the hope in the life to come. Amen.

2010/06/30

Endure

Besides the 26.2 miles that make up one of the definitions of the word “marathon,” the word also means “a lengthy and difficult task, event or activity; a test of endurance.”  Endurance is an interesting thing.

When I trained for a marathon a few years ago, I quickly learned the difference between sprinters and elite athletes vs. the more common runner that makes up most of the field in any number of races across the country.  I was surprised to find my training team was made up of people who looked like they were in worse shape than me.  And I was even more surprised to find out how many of them could smoke me on the running trail.

It was all about endurance.  They had it; I didn’t.  I didn’t at first anyway.  But as the mileage climbed for our team training runs, my body responded.  And eventually I did it—finished 26.2 miles despite an injury to my right leg just weeks before the race.

A few weeks ago, I got the notion to run a half marathon with just one month to train.  I knew it would be a stretch.  I had trained for the full marathon for five months.  Yeah…the math didn’t exactly add up just because I was only doing half the distance.

Ironically, while I trained, at choir we were involved in our own kind of endurance test.  We were preparing for a concert that featured Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard—a 20-minute piece with major highs and poignant lows.  And we were also learning the lengthy Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine by Eric Whitacre.

The styles of the music couldn’t be different.  The Barber piece is fully orchestrated; the Whitacre piece is a cappella.  The Whitacre is a fun, moving exploration of the genius of Leonardo da Vinci as dreamer and inventor working out the problem of flight.  The Barber is gentle then clamoring, melodic then dissonant, soft one moment and then suddenly loud and dramatic.  It is a wonderful composition of Kierkegaard’s heartfelt and intelligent writings honing especially in on the unchangeable nature of God.  What a blessing to sing such music.

And oh, how it kicked my butt!  Working with and around choral music the last decade, this material gave me an awakening to the simplicity of music most church choirs are singing.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It’s just that preparing for this concert was nothing short of a vocal marathon.

As the concert approached, I began to wake up with the music playing in my head. Different phrases and bars that I was trying to work out would come to mind at times, and I would practice my singing in the car on long drives.  I consulted with more experienced choir members over challenging passages, and during coffee outings with musician friends I would bring my music out and ask questions.

Then a couple of weeks before the concert, our director “took the training wheels off” on us on the Whitacre piece.  With no piano help, we all floundered a tiny bit, but miraculously we made it through.  I think everyone was stunned, and I tried to contain my internal celebration as we moved on to rehearsing the Barber score.  We had done it!

Seems that musical artistry has a few things in common with endurance training.  Just like with running, our practice and persistence over time had given us the ability to make it through.  And from there, both pieces blossomed.  After we had “gone the distance,” we had the confidence to really make music.  We continued to sing as we waited for the big night.

Meanwhile, I had a half marathon to run.  Three hours before our final choir rehearsal, I took to the starting line hoping to finish and make it over to church afterward.  As the runners started in 20 or more waves about two minutes apart, I stood with 30,000 strangers ready to begin my 13.1-mile journey.  I was so excited to begin. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was ready to go.  I was confident I would make it to the finish.

Finally the moment came, and as I started to jog over the starting mat, I glanced down at my left foot sporting the computer chip that would track my official time.  We were off!  A sea of colorful runners headed down Broadway towards downtown Nashville, and I was proud to be one of them.

The first few miles went as expected as I paced myself.  Just like in my training, at around mile seven, I started feeling the run.  I began to work a little harder. I hydrated and sucked on a few oranges along the way.

The end of the course put a beating on me.  I knew from studying the map on-line that there were some hills to tackle.  Unfortunately some of those hills are in the last couple of miles.

Ultimately I crossed the finish line more than 10 minutes off my desired total race time.  I had probably set the bar a bit high for the training time I took.  Nevertheless the sense of accomplishment was wonderful.

As I met up with my daughter and the friend that graciously watched her while I ran, I felt grateful and hungry!  We dashed to the car as a large thunderstorm started, getting soaked by the time we made it.  Always a wonderful support to me, my little girl beamed with pride as we toweled off, chatted about the race and made our way to our favorite burrito joint.

The next evening, we headed to church for the concert.  I was dressed in black from head to toe having dusted off my longest formal skirt that had been stuffed into the back of my closet.

In contrast to my excited and relaxed start of the race, I was shaking all over from nervousness as walked out and took my place with the choir for the concert.  It didn’t matter that the crowd was small.  I still had to consciously breathe deeply in an attempt to relax as the notes began for our first piece.

At the end of the evening’s repertoire a familiar feeling of accomplishment came over me.  I was blessed as friends and family stayed to mingle over plates of cheese and crackers and as we collectively celebrated the music that night.  Finally, we shuffled to the car, and once again, my girl beamed with pride.

It was late.  It had been a busy weekend.  All my adrenaline expired; it was time to go home.

As we drove, I reflected on endurance.  Endurance training does not equal perfection.  After all, I had missed a few notes that night.  And I certainly did not finish first in the race or even in my age division.

But endurance makes a difference in life and faith.  When we endure, when we apply that “training” and reflect on the tough junk that God has gotten us through and the wonderful stuff that He has accomplished through us, we can face anything with a confidence and a peace that comes from Him.

May we follow more closely the ultimate authority on endurance. Hebrews 12:2-3