Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do what moves you

I have three great friends name Jennifer, all of whom I see and talk to regularly. They're all completely different from each other and yet very similar in the essential ways. They're each absolutely hilarious and down to earth. They each love Jesus, people, and food and wine...in that order (my criteria for lifelong friendship). And interestingly enough, they each share a love for running. Since that's an activity completely foreign to me, I wanted to interview them to learn more. What about running moves them?

Between the three of them, these rock star Jennifers have run 15 half marathons, 8 full marathons, and over 10 shorter races over the last few years. One particularly hardcore Jen ran the Mega which is pretty much a marathon/hike through the woods of Pennsylvania. I mean, seriously. Who does that? They all seemed to get serious about this “hobby” after age 30. If it were solely about physical fitness, I'm sure they would've eventually let it go, just like any other fad workout. The fact that they continue with this discipline after several years tells me that there's more to it. Something about running moves them figuratively and literally. When I explored it with them, this is what I Iearned. Running appeals to them on four key domains of wellness: social, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

1)      Social wellness- Each of them started because of a friend’s encouragement. One said, “After some conversation with friends where I said I could NEVER run a half marathon, they signed me up for it anyway…I got bit by the running “bug” and have been running ever since.” Someone in their life made them feel like they could, so they did. Then once they started, they became part of a community. Not only do their loved ones cheer them on at races, but so do complete strangers. There’s nothing like a crowd of people you don’t even know cheering you on and telling you that you can do it.

2)      Physical wellness- There’s lots of benefits to aerobic activity. It helps with weight management, prevents a sedentary lifestyle, and keeps the body regulated. One shared proudly, “My doctor has told me that since running my cholesterol looks good. My blood pressure is, and I quote her, “beautiful.” These Jennifers seem to eat better, sleep better, and feel better when they run. Sounds like good reasons to me.

3)      Emotional wellness- Each one mentioned running as a form of stress relief. It offers a solace to process the issues of life. One shared how healing it is for her. “When I was going through a painful time in my life, the marathon training helped me process my emotions and feelings by replaying what had happened until it stopped hurting so badly.” Running is her therapy.

4)      Spiritual wellness- Lastly, running is about nurturing their spirit. “It gets me outdoors enjoying God’s creation, and gives me time and space to clear my head and just get with God.” Through that consecrated time of prayer and meditation they learned these key life lessons: a) Keep moving, b) Be patient with yourself, c) Do it for you, d) Embrace all seasons, and e) You can do anything you set your mind to     

I have tremendous respect for the Jennifers in my life. I've heard their stories. I've witnessed their setbacks and triumphs. I'm blessed to be running life's marathon with them. They are truly overcomers and they inspire me. You might read this and not be any closer to running around the block, much less a marathon. But that's not the point. It's about taking this New Year and finding whatever your thing is. Discover what gives you life and teaches you about yourself. In this next year, I challenge you all to be like my Jens and do what moves you. I know that's my plan.