Monday, February 23, 2015

Truths I've Learned from Working Out


Due to various circumstances in my life, I'm missing my regular early-morning workouts this week. 

My emotions regarding this turn of events are mixed. While I love sleeping in and having a more relaxed morning routine (one that includes much less anguish and way more coffee), I know that in a strange way, my body will miss the punishment it normally endures.

For some reason, although my brain loathes rising at 4:30am and driving across town to max out on push-ups and tap spar with people coordinated well above my pay grade, my body seems to revel in the rhythm of this grinding discipline.

This shocking truth about myself is the first of the many truths I've learned from working out.

Truths I've Learned from Working Out:

Truth One: I am a giant baby. 


Whenever I catch myself whining over a difficult circuit, I hear the echo of my own students over the years, crying over what were (in my opinion) only moderately-challenging tasks. I then hear an echo of myself telling them not to be such giant babies -- that it's not so hard -- that they can do it if they just buckle down and stop crying.

From a teaching standpoint, it's been helpful for me to remember what it feels like to struggle. 

Truth Two: It's possible to love something and hate it at the same time. 

The gym isn't the only area where I experience such mixed emotions. The feeling I have for my workouts almost perfectly mirrors the feeling I bear for writing and teaching. All three disciplines are equal parts glory and terror, thrill and horror, challenge and euphoria. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem possible to reach the heights without experiencing the lows.

What I have to keep asking myself is this: "Are the highs worth it?" If the answer is "Yes," then the lows must also be worth enduring.

Truth Three: If you're going to put on boxing gloves and shin guards, it's wise to put the shin guards on first. 

Ask me how I know this.

Better yet, don't ask.

Truth Four: I always think I can't take one more step, but I always can. 

Knowing this fact changes more than the way I think about the seemingly-impossible tasks set by our coach. It echoes other challenges in life.

When I write, the most daunting point for me comes right after I get a new idea, when all I can think is I can't believe I have to write the whole thing.

Incidentally, the same feeling hits at the beginning of a run, when I just can't believe I have to run the whole way, and I can't imagine such a thing is even possible for someone like me.

So I cope by telling myself things like this: "You don't have to worry about doing it all. It's not time to worry about that yet. You just have to run to the next block." Or the next mailbox. The next crack in the sidewalk. The next blade of grass. Whatever.

The point is that instead of thinking, I can't do all the push-ups! or I can't run all the miles! or I can't write 50,000 whole words!, I've learned to think smaller. 

Do the first set. 

Run the first block. 

Write the preliminary outline. 

That's enough to get started, and sometimes that's the biggest mental hurdle.

* * * *

I'll be the first to admit that working out, teaching, and writing are not all the same. But there is some overlap, and that overlap hinges on the word discipline.

If this post proves anything, it's that developing discipline has benefits across the board.

The best disciplines to develop, of course, are spiritual ones. Prayer, Bible study and memorization, solitude, fellowship, fasting, worship, service, personal reflection, giving, and regular self-denial are just the tip of the iceberg.

Everyone starts somewhere, that's true. But where we start isn't as important as the fact that we start at all. With the help of the Spirit, we each can take the next step toward true growth. 

One thing's certain: neither physical nor spiritual development will happen by accident. 


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