In 1988 as a sophomore, I ran in the Oregon high school state cross-country meet held in Eugene. It would be the last time I would go running for almost 20 years.
To be honest, I hated running. I only ran those two years in high school thinking it would get me more fit for basketball season. Basketball was my true passion back then and continued to be my sport of choice until my mid-thirties.
Even though I played basketball a couple times a week at our local YMCA, my weight was gradually increasing as each year passed. A steady flow of Lucky Charms cereal, pizza, and sweets of all kinds were not only adding to my waistline, but also influencing my emotional state of mind. Sugar crashes were a regular occurrence. I became moody and dissatisfied with many areas of my life and this negatively impacted my relationship with both my wife and God. I found that these mood swings increased my stress and anxiety as well.
In the spring of 2008, I was ripe for change. For some reason, I picked up a book titled Ultra-marathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by a guy named Dean Karnazes. Dean colorfully shared his own experiences with running and how he also gave the sport up for nearly fifteen years before picking it back up. Reading this book lit a fire in me to try something new. At first, I had the idea that I might one day run a 100 mile trail race like Dean did. After suffering through a couple 31 mile trail races, I changed course and decided shorter races were a better fit for me.
Since then, I’ve participated in over 150 races of varying distances on the roads, trails and mountains. I’ve lost over 50 pounds and continue to set new personal bests in races I run. I never would have imagined being able to get back to my high school weight and lower!
And though it’s been wonderful to see the positive physical changes take place as a result of running, it’s also been exciting to see positive changes leak into my mental, emotional and spiritual areas.
Running has been a tremendous blessing that I believe God has used as a catalyst to jump start these other areas. For example, studies have shown that exercise that raises the heart rate releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with brain receptors to create a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. No wonder I’ve found myself feeling addicted to this natural high!
My wife Shelley & I are always commenting how going out for a run tends to inspire creativity and ideas really start flowing. Our bodies were created for movement and running has been my choice these last 8 years. Thousands of people are prescribed depression and anxiety drugs in order to help put them in a different state of mind. But for many of us, exercise like running has served that purpose quite effectively as a natural alternative. Perhaps you enjoy swimming, biking or tennis. Whatever your choice, getting outside or to your local gym can have many positive effects that leak into every area of your life.
Participating in these activities also puts us in contact with others who seek these positive benefits. I’ve met so many great people in the running communities I’ve been involved in. I’ve been inspired by others and God has used me to be an inspiration as I share my own story. When we set new goals for ourselves, it can also be very helpful to have accountability from people who understand.
It may feel a little overwhelming at first, but taking that first step can help build momentum. Before long, you’ll find a groove that becomes a natural part of your day. Hang in there and see for yourself!
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But here I want to do something different...