Goals, Gamuts, and Getting It All Together

I did something today that was a little different and exciting for me: I tried on two pairs of pants. You may wonder about the significance, but when you’re on a weight loss journey like I’ve been on for a year and a half, trying on clothes is a significant event every time! These pants are also not the kind I’m used to either. I’ve been in the mood for a few changes, and I was excited to try on those pants. Even though they didn’t quite fit (they are very close), I’m still keeping them. One day in the very near future, I will be able to fit comfortably into them. The reason is because I have learned to set goals for myself with fitness and weight loss. I have an ultimate goal for both areas, but I have also learned to set small attainable goals along the way. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment and freedom to look back and see all of the things God has accomplished in and through me during the last year and a half. Fitting into those pants is one of the many ways I can celebrate my weight loss victories.

My running is also slowly improving. Again, I have an ultimate goal, and I am gradually chiseling off my running time by a few seconds at a time. I am learning the importance of strength, balance, and core training to keep every area of my body in sync.

When I look back at the whole gamut of things, I see how fitness and weight loss go hand in hand with my overall health. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that my dad’s death was a huge wake up call for me. That was one of the hardest times I have ever faced. Watching someone you love go through what he did and knowing there is nothing you can do to make it better is absolutely gut-wrenching. During that time, I responded to my anxiety by shedding lots of tears, not exercising, and eating everything in sight. I was trying to trust in God to take care of Dad especially during his last few days, but I was having a hard time. During a particularly difficult night, God gave me a sense of peace that He was taking care of everything. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew at that moment that everything was going to be okay. I was still neglecting my own health though, and it was quickly catching up with me. Even though none of us would have ever asked for Dad’s death, I know now that it was God’s best for him. Dad is in no more pain, and he is sitting at the feet of Jesus at this very moment! As a Christian, it is such an encouragement to remember that nothing is EVER a surprise to God, even when we feel like the circumstances are insurmountable curveballs. Everything that happens to us is custom-made by God Almighty specifically for us . . . from the plans He has for us here on earth as He said in Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

. . . to the details of the mansions He describes in John 14:1-3:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you [emphasis mine]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Did you get that? Every single mansion in Heaven has been pre-planned and custom-made by God Himself specifically for the person He has reserved it for! How incredibly AWESOME is that!! We must all remember that everything that happens to us has been chosen by God especially for us to draw us to Himself and to make us more like Him. When we look at the entire gamut of our lives, we have to realize that every aspect . . . whether it be health, fitness, occupation, creative talents . . . everything works together to bring honor to God. The beauty is that even if I fail, I can learn from the failure, get back up, and keep going.

That’s one of the things I have learned with running . . . I must keep on going no matter what! Even when I feel like I’m not having a good run (and I do have those times), I just keep reminding myself that every run is better than no run at all. I focus on all of the calories burned each day, and I don’t give up. When I see that weight loss at the end of the week . . . even if it’s only 1/2 pound . . . I finally begin to see how all of the pieces . . . good food choices, portion control, cardio and strength training . . . fit together for optimum health.

The same goes for the Christian. We may feel like we are beating our heads against a wall, but we can’t give up no matter what the circumstances may be. We must daily stay faithful to God even though it seems our efforts are in vain. Jude 23 & 24 says:

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

When I can’t, God can! Nothing is too big for Him. He can help me with the small things . . . like doing what it takes to fit into my new pants or running a race . . . and He can help with the big things . . . like dealing with the death of a loved one. He just wants me to trust Him to guide me every single day . . . one step at a time.

Until next time, let’s keep on running!!

Back in the Groove . . . With a New Perspective

This week has been all about slowly getting back to a new sense of normal. It feels great to return to my running routine. I didn’t pack any exercise clothes when Mother and I evacuated from Hurricane Florence since we only thought we would be gone for a few days. I was also unfamiliar with the terrain where we were staying, and there was a lot of mental and emotional unsettlement going in inside me regardless of what I did to try to ease my mind.

One thing I have learned to do as a Christian is to ask God what He wants to teach me every day. I ask Him daily to show me areas in my life that need to change, and to do whatever is necessary to make those changes. One of the areas God has shown me that I need to change is in the area of self-centeredness. When Mother and I returned home a few weeks ago, I began to notice all of the devastation from people whose houses flooded just five minutes down the road from my house. It made me start to think outside of my box. I started to ask myself what I could do to try to help others. As a single woman in my fifties with no children, I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever I choose without having to consider anyone else. As enjoyable as that sounds, that’s not how God intended for us to live our lives. As Christians, we are to live in such a way that will point others to Christ and encourage them in their walk with God. That does not mean that we have to stand over them and beat them on the head with a Bible. It means that everything we do should be others-focused in order to influence our communities and our world for God. We must find ways to reach out to others, and make an effort to do what we can to help them. If we never step outside of our comfort zone, we will never experience the joy of making a real difference in someone else’s life!

I am definitely staying on my running/health/weight loss journey, but it’s with a new perspective. I’m not just doing it for myself. I have reached out to friends and family in my community to join me on a run or workout. So far, I have one partner, and I’m working on a few others who have expressed interest. My running partner even dubbed me as her “coach” a few days ago. I never really considered myself as a coach before since I’m not a fitness expert. I have many fond memories of my high school coach though. He always did little things to encourage all of his students and coworkers. He would walk up behind us in the hallway and say he was “behind” us 100%!! We used to laugh at that, but deep down, I always knew what he meant. That was his way of saying he was praying for, encouraging, and supporting all of us. I guess I am a “coach” to some degree too, because I know what has been working for me with health and fitness, and I am trying to encourage others to do whatever is necessary to reach their optimum health as well. That’s what coaches do . . . they instruct, encourage, and inspire!! My running partner and I use our time not only to run, but we encourage and pray for each other. The way I see it, the better the health I’m in and the more I take care of the body God gave to me, the more chance I will have to be a productive servant to God, my family, friends, and my community.

I Corinthians 6:19 & 20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. I believe those verses not only apply to godly living, but to a healthy lifestyle as well. If we truly see our bodies as God’s temples, we will be a lot more conscientious about what goes inside our bodies as well as how we use our bodies to serve and encourage others in our communities.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Hurricanes, Helping Hands, and Hearts of Love

I decided to take a slight detour this week from my usual theme of running, workouts, etc. A lot has happened since my last post. I think I speak for many (if not all) in my community when I say my emotions have been all over the map during the last two weeks. Just a few days before Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, NC, she was still a category 5 storm. My mother and I had already made the decision to evacuate about 300 miles away to the western part of the state to be with other family members. When Florence finally arrived, she had downgraded to a category 1 which was a relief in many ways. However, what no one expected was the drudgingly slow speed at which Hurricane Florence travelled, the six or seven tornadoes that hit, nor one of the worst tropical storms that came afterward. The majority of our entire community was flooded like none of us had ever seen. Due to the huge amount of rain, the road structures on the interstates and highways crumbled in many places so that those of us who evacuated could not get back in. The state department of transportation could not update its website fast enough since road conditions changed daily. Flooding in my neighborhood occurred right around the corner from my street to the point where people had to be rescued by boat. Even though Mother and I were safe in the mountains 300+ miles away, my stomach was in knots. I was so concerned about what was happening to my house, but I had no way to get to it.

As harrowing as that experience has been, I still have so many things to praise God for. I praise God for family members who agreed to take us in, and for incredible new friends who helped us return. The day of the hurricane, a tree fell in our front yard that missed our house by about a foot! We had our roof repaired a few months ago, so we lost no shingles, and the gutter is still intact. When the flooding came in my neighborhood, not one house on my street was affected.

I praise God for His protection and provision for my family, but my heart aches for those in my church, my coworkers, and other close friends and neighbors who have lost everything. Before Mother and I returned home, I determined in my heart to do what I could to reach out and help others. People all over my community have been doing the same thing in so many ways. I have seen women carrying hot meals across the street to linemen who have worked tirelessly to restore electricity. Other friends of mine have loaded up trucks with supplies and delivered them to people who cannot get out of their neighborhoods. Churches and other organizations have given out tons of food and supplies to those in need. The most incredible thing I’ve seen is that ALL of us . . . regardless of social status, religious affiliation, or political preference . . . have come together to help each other. It’s people helping people! That’s what I call “living out the love of God”.

The truth is that it should not take a hurricane or any other tragedy for us to show compassion. Every single one of us should be reaching out to our friends and neighbors every day. I Peter 3:8 & 9 says:

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing”.

One thing I have learned . . . I should not be saying “let me know if I can help you”. I should be asking “what can I do to help”. There is a huge difference between those two phrases. All of us can do something to help each other. Like I told one of my friends, I may not know how to chop down a tree, but I can certainly walk around a yard and pick up sticks or other debris!

None of us asked for this hurricane, but my heart has been warmed by the spirit that has emerged in so much of my community as a result. My prayer is that our spirit will continue in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Let’s all make it a reality right where we are.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running . . . right along with each other . . . encouraging and constantly lifting each other in prayer!!

Staying Fierce, Focused, and Moving Forward

If you read my post “Things I Have Learned” from a few weeks ago, you know the frustration I felt after my third race. I was not focused at all, and I was aimlessly trying to improve my speed without having a plan. My head was everywhere except for where it should have been . . . in the race!!

Going back to my idea of proving to myself that I am physically able to do anything with God’s help (see my earlier posts), I proved it to myself at least twice last week. Since my cousin and I have gotten into a routine with Map My Run, I wanted to test my strategy in another official race. I went online to see if there were any local upcoming races, and I found one that was held last Saturday morning at 8:30. I work a night shift on Fridays each week, so I wasn’t sure I could handle running a 5K that morning. After talking with one of my coworkers who also runs lots of races, I decided to go for it.

On race day, I was determined to remain focused unlike the last time. I also had a plan. The first item on my agenda was to make sure I found the tent where we were starting (see my last post). I was given directions the day before when I picked up my registration packet, and I found it with no problems. The next item on my agenda was to remember to pull up Map My Run to keep track of my progress during the race. When the race started, I just followed the same routine I did during my workouts. I kept checking my app from time to time, and I had a really good feeling. My goal was to knock off a few seconds from my best race time which was 48:55. When I looked at the clock while crossing the finish line, it said 46:55!! Not only did I run a 5K after finishing a 12-hour night shift, but I also turned in my best race time to date, and I did it with two severe clubbed feet . . . talk about fierce!!

As Christians, we cannot wander aimlessly through life and expect to accomplish anything. We’ve got to know what we’re after (stay fierce), have a plan (stay focused), and daily work toward our goal (move forward). I love what Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-27:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

When God has clearly given us a calling, we must stay fierce and be determined to do whatever it takes to accomplish that calling. We must stay focused on the plan, and keep moving forward no matter what happens along the way.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Switching It Up

Now that I’ve been using Zen Labs Fitness since January for my 5K training and endurance, I’ve also started using a few other apps to kick up my training to another level. I downloaded the Map My Run app to help with timing accuracy. I ran a 5K in 46:02 this morning with an average pace of 14:45. I’ve also learned a few tricks to help me increase my speed. For instance, I’ve been power-walking the first 5 minutes, and then I run until I reach a mile, alternating 60 seconds fast/60 seconds slow. Once I reach a mile, I power-walk the next 5 minutes, and then start running again using the same routine. I’ve found that incorporating the 5-minute power-walk between each mile helps get my heart rate back to normal. It also prevents me from running out of energy so quickly. Due to my work schedule, I cannot run in very many races since most of them are held on weekends, so I downloaded the Yes.Fit app and ran my first virtual race. It was a lot of fun . . . I even got a medal for just completing it!

Switching up my training from time to time keeps it from getting monotonous. When things start getting mundane, that’s when I know something needs to change. My body starts getting used to the same old thing, so it starts taking longer for it to respond to the same workouts. Our bodies need a “revival” from time to time.

My spirit needs a daily “revival” also. When I start getting satisfied with the status quo in my Christian life, it is time to switch things up. I have to start evaluating why I do what I do. Am I reading my Bible every day just so that I can check it off of my spiritual to-do list, or am I doing it because I truly desire to learn more about God so that I can show His love to everyone I meet? Have I found someone who I can mentor so that they can experience the same love of God that I do now? Is there something in my own life that is keeping me from having a pure relationship with God?

The Psalmist David was heartbroken when his eyes were opened to the sin he committed with Bathsheba. He experienced a revival in his own heart:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. . . . Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:10, 12

We should never be afraid to switch up our routines from time to time. If our bodies are remaining the same each week, we must be willing to do an honest evaluation to see what needs to change. I am daily learning how to switch things up in my Christian life as well. God is working with me every day by very patiently showing me what needs to change, and He is helping me to learn ways to make those changes . . . one day at a time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Just Wait

For a few weeks now, my weight has started to plateau. I know it happens. When we lose weight, our bodies change, so we have to learn how to change with them. The process can be frustrating though! When we don’t have as much weight to lose, it becomes harder to get that last stubborn twenty pounds to come off. Part of my problem over the last few weeks has been my mindset. When I did not see the weight coming off, I got frustrated. I started to fret every time I stepped on the scale. I decided to change that last week. I chose to focus on the total amount of weight I had lost up to that point. I also chose to celebrate and be thankful for the things I have learned on this journey instead of browbeating myself if things weren’t going the way I thought they should. When I stepped on the scale last week, I lost weight! I lost more this week too! Both losses were small, but that’s okay. I learned that stressing over my weight can actually add to it instead of helping to take it off. I just have to stay dedicated to my healthy lifestyle and let my body do the rest.

As Christians, it can be so easy to get discouraged when we face hard times. I and all of my former coworkers got laid off from work a few years ago due to our company downsizing. I sent resumes’ and had interviews all over town for over six months before anything started to happen. I remember crying my eyes out one day. My bills were steadily coming in, and I had no income to pay them. I had reached a point where I was having a hard time trusting in God’s guidance. I would read my Bible, but my Bible reading became more of a duty than a desire to learn about God. What’s funny is that I was afraid to admit to God that I was having a hard time trusting . . . as if He didn’t already know!! That afternoon while I was sobbing, I begged God to give me the strength He knew I needed to trust Him. I told Him that I felt like I had done all I could do to find work, but I couldn’t understand why no one was calling. At that moment, it was as if I could hear Him whisper in my ear, “Just wait”. Isaiah 40:28-31 says:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

As soon as I finished praying, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. In my heart, I said, “Okay, Lord”. A few weeks later, I was employed! Looking back on that time, I can see how God was already working. He just wanted me to let go and submit everything to Him!

One thing I have learned with weight loss is that if we do our part, our bodies will eventually do theirs. We just have to relax, give it time, and trust our bodies to do their work. The same idea goes with the Christian life. Yes, God wants us to do our part to take care of our finances and our health (among other things), but we also have to remember that God is ultimately in control of every part of our lives. He will guide us in the direction He wants us to go. All we have to do is trust Him, and just wait for His Perfect Time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Things I Have Learned

I ran my third race last Saturday night. I was so excited when I found out about the race the day before, because it was one of the few races that fit into my crazy work schedule. Keep in mind, this one was at night. It was the first one I had ever run at night, and I had to work until 7:15 Saturday morning (I work the night shift). I registered online for the race the night before. When I arrived at the park for the race, no tents were set up anywhere. I kept hearing music, so I followed the sound thinking that was where everything would be set up. When I arrived, I still saw no tents. They were having a jazz festival (which was VERY cool), but no one knew anything about a race. I thought about getting back in my car and driving further, but I was unfamiliar with the park, plus I had walked so far that I kept thinking I had to be close to our starting point. I finally found a guy on a bicycle who said he saw the tent . . . on the other side of the park!!! By the time I arrived, I had already walked about 30 to 45 minutes. I was on time for the race, but my finish time was HORRIBLE . . . 53:15!!! My goal was to beat my last race time of 48:55. The lesson I learned from that is to make sure I find out ahead of time where the tent will be located so that I don’t walk around the park for 30-45 minutes looking and feeling like a complete nincompoop!!

I have also learned not to let setbacks keep me from achieving my goals. I remember when I was in school for Medical Billing & Coding, one of my most difficult classes was Anatomy & Physiology. Any subject having to do with Science was never my forte’. I was just a little apprehensive at first. I kept up with the reading (there was a LOT) and assignments, and I got an A in both the beginning and advanced courses, but there were a few setbacks along the way. I remember one section we covered that was especially difficult was the section on bones. The teacher gave us a diagram of the different sections of a skeleton, and we had to name each bone. So many of them were so similar to each other that I got confused and missed a good portion on the test. My grade was lower than a C. I looked at my teacher and told him that I was determined to get an A in the class no matter what it took. I was angry when I got home. I was not angry in a negative sense, but angry in a good way. I started on the next chapter with a new determination. I maintained an A for the rest of the quarter. The same thing happened with my running. I was frustrated with my finish time on Saturday night. Did I give up? Not on your life!! I went running again this morning and completed a 5K in 47:46! Sometimes when we have setbacks, we have to get creative and rethink our strategies in order to reach our goals.

Christians can never give up either. We may get discouraged if it seems like no one listens when we try to witness, but we have to remember that it is not our job to win people to Christ. God does that through His Holy Spirit. It is our job to be faithful at consistently planting the seed of the Gospel, and living it out so that others can see Christ in us. We must also remember that God never gave up on us. He gave His Son Jesus as the Sacrifice for our sin, and He daily leads us in the direction He wants us to go. When I stop and think of all that God is, my heart is filled with so much gratitude that I want to serve Him every day in the best way that I can. Yes, there will still be times when I will fail, but God knows that. He is the One Who gives me the strength to get back up and keep going every day!!

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!