Runner's World has a feature each month where they profile some notable non "runner" person who actually runs and the feature chronicles how they fit the running in and why they do it. Some of these people are actors, writers, statesmen, chefs, etc. But they have all found that running helps them achieve the balance in their lives that they seek.
Luke 2:52 says "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." To me, this verse is the definition of balanced growth. I know that when I am regularly doing something (even if it's a baby step) in each of these areas (intellectual, physical, social and spiritual), I am happier, I am a better person, mom, and daughter of God. I can best hear the answers I seek from the Lord when I am balanced in my efforts at this life. I can best offer my husband and children the nourishment they need when I am replete. Being replete as a mom is not easy.
A few years ago, I felt like I should begin some sort of exercise program. I don't remember what exactly I tried, just that I gave the usual "New Year's Resolution" attention to the idea, that is to say, not much. Some time later, I was in the temple seeking answers. Once again, I no longer remember what answers I was seeking, just that I needed them. As I was worshipping in the temple, I heard in my mind the sentence: "You have not been true and faithful." Ouch. I knew at that moment that I would already have the answers I was seeking if I had given serious thought and effort to the exercise program I had been impressed to begin. I had not been faithful and so I was not entitled to or prepared for the answers I needed until I did my homework. So for me, some sort of regular exercise feels like a personal commandment.
Running has been the activity that I can best sustain over the long haul. It is very low tech, requiring no special location and no special apparel or equipment other than a good pair of running shoes. I can open my front door and begin running at any time of day and in any weather. I can run on vacation or at home. Running is the thing that I can do to be alone or to be with a friend. Both have their place. But running is always something that I do as a person, not with my mommy hat on (although it definitely impacts the sort of mommy I am).
Over the years running has taught me a few things.
I can do hard things. When I started running as a mommy, I started slow--10 minutes, then 15 minutes, slowly building up to what I could actually call a cardiovascular workout. Eventually, I began running races, first a 10K and now I'm training for my first marathon in the fall. I don't run fast and I don't train for a time. I sign up for races because it gives me a tangible goal to work toward, to keep up with the program when sleeping in is too tempting (not that it ever actually works out in my favor). And when I am done, I have something I can show myself in times of trial, to remind myself that I am strong. I have done hard things.
The power of baby steps. Running requires build up. It is unwise to run your first 10 minutes one day and then run 26.2 miles the next day. Assuming you even complete the distance, you will pay for it in spades. I have learned as I run that I can achieve many seemingly insurmountable things if I can divide the task into small pieces, growing along the way. In taking these baby steps it is important not to say, "I only ran 2 minutes today" but to say "Yeah, I RAN today." There is power in taking baby steps, because you are moving.
The rewards for running may have little to do with physical health.
I run races with my baby sister and that has given us a rich new facet to our relationship. We chat as we run during the race and we bond and commiserate as we train, even though we live several hundred miles apart. We are eight years apart in age, but we have a very close relationship because we have chosen to have running in common. We find, as we run, that we have many other things in common as well.
Answers to questions may come to me as I run, either because I'm running with a friend who can help me think through things or because I am running on my own and can "be still" while I run. I know that I am entitled to answers and blessings because running prepares me to understand them.
You can't water flowers with an empty pitcher. Running on an empty stomach or similarly on too many bad nights' sleep is suicidal. But how many times do we run figuratively on empty, giving insufficient heed to spiritual and physical nourishment and rest? I know that I can't give my husband and family my all if I have nothing to give. I have to refill my pitcher to be able to share. When I take the time to care for my body and spirit, my ability to share that preparation is boundless. My proverbial garden can bloom aplenty because I have the water to feed it.
I know I need to exercise. I need to care for this body, this second estate, with which I have been entrusted. Running makes me strong in mind and body. It enriches my relationships and deepens my feelings of self worth. When I run, I marvel at the wonder that is my body. "Look Father what I can do with this wonderful gift You have given me!" I guess in a very long term sense, I am running HOME.
What do you do and why do you do it?