Thursday, December 12, 2013

Five Reasons to Run Outdoors this Winter

Five Reasons to Run Outdoors this Winter.

       1.   You Don’t Get Hot
The first and most obvious benefit to running outside in the winter is that you aren’t likely to overheat. Because of this, winter running is actually somewhat easier. Heat and humidity slow you down and can make you want to stop running before your planned mileage is up. Even in the gym, the air can get sticky. But outside in the fresh air you can maintain a comfortable temperature for a long time with just a couple of moisture wicking layers on.

       2.     It Builds Mental and Physical Toughness
Pulling on the gear and heading out into the 20 degree day can be a hard thing to do when your house is (and your toes are) nice and warm. Not to mention the fact that there’s dirty snow on the ground, the trees are nothing to look at and your running partners have all disappeared.  We’ve talked about suppressing the lizard brain – the voice in you head that tells you – “I can’t”; well, this is a good time to learn how to quiet your lizard brain.
Running in the cold improves your physical endurance; the intense weather can program your body to operate better in adverse conditions, thereby increasing your stamina. Also, you’ll get used to the cold after awhile, and the increase in blood circulation can keep you warmer while you’re at rest. Learn to love racking up miles out in the chilly tundra, and you’ll become a much stronger runner.

3.     It Curbs the Winter Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) gets to a fair amount of us, especially after the holidays are over. But even if you don’t get the winter blues, a dose of fresh air and sunshine is good for you. It can boost your mood and keep you motivated while everyone else is sleeping late and complaining about the snow.

4.     Keeps You in “Movie Star” Shape
The term “bathing suit season” was coined for a reason: most everyone spends the spring and summer on some diet trying to lose the winter weight and regain their shape. But you don’t have to let the colder months turn you into a lazy pile of mush.
You can stay motivated and challenged all winter long by keeping up on those outdoor miles. Your swimsuit will thank you. So ask for some running gloves and a neck-warming gaiter for the holidays, and run outdoors this winter. You might even surprise yourself and find that you love it.

5.     Positions You to Reach Your Personal Best For the RUN OF THE MILL!!!
Athletes not in a winter or spring sport rapidly lose their stamina, endurance, and strength if they stop working out and do nothing.  The benefit of winter outdoor running is the maintenance of your level of fitness.  The goal should be to maintain your fitness so that you are ready for THE BIGGEST RACE OF THE YEAR.   Just maintaining your fitness level puts you ahead and will undoubtedly lead you to unprecedented personal best times in our small town race.

It is important for athletes not in a winter sport or in a low-cardiovascular spring sport (such as golf or baseball) to try and fit in runs when you can, otherwise your performance will go backwards or your improvements at best will be minimal.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marathon Motivation

How do you find out if someone has run a marathon?  Those that have finished one have already told you.

I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon as a way to support my wife as she tackled running a marathon for the first time.  Last Sunday I went into the race having just recovered from a couple of running injuries.  The injuries prevented me from training as much as I would have liked.  I was nervous for the run, as my longest run leading up to race day was six miles.  But I made it to the starting line!  Because of this, my goal was to finish the marathon before they closed the course in the 6-hour time limit. 

Something interesting happened during the race.  Enthusiasm.  All throughout the race people cheered all the runners on.  Thousands of people, who have no idea who you are, cheered for you, because you were doing something that less than 1% of the population have ever done before.  Running is sport where your mind tends to control how well you run.  If you are not in the right mind-set, you will not run well, even in you have fresh legs.  But if your legs are tired, your mind can help push through pain and finish the race. 

The crowds acted like a huge boost of energy.  They cheered for you, they clapped their hands, they held signs that read, “I don’t know who you are, but I’m proud of you!” You’ve trained longer than Kim Kardashian was married!”  “You know the first person that ran this died, right?”  All of the encouragement and motivation pushed me to do the best I could.  Which reminds me of the Zig Ziglar quote, “Motivation, like showering, doesn’t last, so we should do it daily.”   I was showered all throughout the race with the crowd’s encouragement that I went on to finish the race in 4 hours 22 minutes - a full hour and 38 minutes faster than my goal!  Before the race I didn’t think 4 hours 22 was possible, and wouldn’t have been possible without the support.  

So my challenge to you is: Whom can you encourage today?  How can you motivate yourself and others?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remind Me Who I Am

Last Friday night I was able to see Jason Gray live in concert.  His music was great, but his message of the motivation for writing the song, "Remind Me Who I Am" was even better.  Being February and the month of love, I thought it very appropriate to share.  (I italicized the part that was an "A-Ha!" moment for me. )
June 29, 2011
Originally posted in The Rabbit Room) by Jason Gray

For the last few years my journey has circled around the idea of identity, where we find it, and why it matters. Our resident expert on the issue of identity here in the Rabbit Room is Ron Block, whose posts and comments are fragrant with the hope of the new creation alive and available to each of us. He knew something that I want to know, and so I wanted to talk with him.
It had been on my mind to give him a call for several months already when, sitting on a plane in Seattle one night in January, I watched him board. Not only is Ron a really kind and intelligent guy, but he also happens to be in one of the most accomplished bands in the world, Alison Krauss’s Union Station. Heck, he even made an appearance in one of my favorite movies: “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. So when he spotted me, smiled, and said “I’m sitting by you!” I guess I felt a little like the girl from America’s Got Talent – “Ron Block wants to sit by me?” I thought to myself.
It all had the whiff of a divine appointment, and thanks to Southwest Airline’s open seating policy, Ron was soon seated next to me and for the next three hours I got an education that brought some clarity to my understanding of myself and the way the human heart works. Much of what inspired this song grew from that conversation.
The idea I absorbed in my formative years was that I sin because of my willful disobedience. And while that may be true in part, another truth is that most, if not all, of the time I really don’t want to sin, so that I do so seemingly against my own will. Or as the apostle Paul famously said, “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway…” ( The Message)
So sin begins to look more like addiction than anything else, as though there is a ravenous hunger deep inside of me that demands to be fed. What is that hunger, I wonder?
Genesis chapter three tells us that one of the first consequences of sin entering the world is that the ground would be cursed, that we would eat by the sweat of our brow and the soil would produce weeds and thistles. This carries in it the idea of futility: that our efforts are frustrated, that no matter what we do, we feel it’s never enough – that perhaps we are never enough.
The constant, nagging fear that we don’t and never will measure up is like a pebble in our shoe that troubles every step of our journey. Surely this is the curse.
We can’t live under the oppression of inadequacy long before we start looking for ways to escape the shame and loneliness of it, and things go from bad to worse as we flee from the curse by running to things we hope will make us feel loved, desirable, and worthy.
We run to affairs. We surround ourselves with symbols of status that we hope will convince us of our worth. We escape into the fantasy world of pornography where for a moment we can imagine ourselves desired and wanted with no risk of rejection. We flee to workaholism determined to prove our value – our life and vocation shaped by a fear of failing. We hide in the bottle. We turn inward and refuse to risk disappointing those we love by withholding ourselves from them.
But of course all of these desperate grabs for significance leave us worse off than we were before — more empty, more ashamed, and with more regret.
If only we could learn to run to Christ, the one who calls us his beloved, his bride, the child that he chose to welcome into his family. We would hear him tell us that we are enough because he says so. We would hear him call us his treasure, and we would come alive.
There is that parable where Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God being like a man who, having found a treasure in a field, sold everything he had in order to buy the field and gain the treasure. I was always taught that I was the man in the story who needed to give up everything in order to “gain” the Kingdom of God. But our own Andrew Peterson pointed out to me years ago that in the other parables surrounding this one, the “man” in the story was always God. What if God cast himself as the man in this parable, too? Is he the one who gave everything he had in Jesus in order to recover us? Could it be that we are God’s treasure?
When I’m tempted by sin these days, I can feel beneath it a desire to feel worthy and loved. This desire tells me that I’ve forgotten who I am and need reminding. I’m learning to run to the only one who can tell me, the One who carved my name in the palm of his hand and gave everything he had so I could be his.
It is heady and humbling at the same time to be so highly regarded by one so worthy. It makes a difference.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letters to Dad

For Anne Ylvisaker, ideas come from asking questions. 

Ylvisaker, posed a deep question to her aunt, “What was it like to lose your father while in elementary school?”  In the conversation, Anne’s aunt replied she had written a letter to her father before he died.  However when replaying the conversation in her head, she didn’t remember correctly and thought that her aunt wrote a letter to her dead father after he died.

So Anne wondered, “What would a nine year old write to her father after he died?”

She put herself into the mind of that nine year old and wrote a letter.  Sadly, Anne lost her own father not long before and missed telling him all about the details of everyday life, so that’s what she had the nine-year-old write about. 

Anne wondered where the story might lead, and then soon had enough letters to compile a book – which she titled, Dear Papa.

My own eight-year-old daughter and I just finished the book as part of her bedtime routine.  As I was reading Dear Papa to my daughter, one letter struck a cord with me.

Dear Papa,
Happy Birthday to you! I knew right away when I woke up this morning that it was your birthday.  I looked at everyone’s face at breakfast to see if they remembered….
On the way home, I invited Ian (her brother) to come to my room for a party after school.  We snuck up candles and crackers and milk and taped paper candles to the crackers.  We told 44 things we remember about you.

This particular letter caused me to pause and think, “What if I were to die and my daughter would start writing letters like this to me?  What if when I’m in heaven I can see what is happening on earth and read the letters my daughter is writing?”  This thought brought tears to my eye about the love between a father and his children.  What for the daughter is a simple gesture of writing a letter about what is happening in her life, for a father it is a huge sign of love.

And for the first time I thought, could this be what prayer is like on the receiving end?   To me, it was a realization that my simple thanksgiving prayer that I offer up each day is heard.  It is heard and means more to Him than what I probably give it credit for.

He is crazy about us.  He craves that relationship with us.   It isn’t unlike the love between parents and their children, except His love for us is greater.   To make our Father happy we can engage in a simple conversation with prayer. 

I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe He knows that the physical distance between us is hard, that the lack of audible response puts doubt instead of hope in our hearts – and so when we pray it is backing up our faith and it sends a powerful message to Him that we believe. 

So how do we pray?  Before I answer, re-read the letter in italics above. 

What did you notice?  What I noticed is that the letter begins by remembering the Dad’s birthday, and how excited she was for him.  The letter centers on the cool things about their dad.  Interestingly (or coincidently) enough my birthday was just last week, and my daughter wrote the 10 best things she liked about me.   It touched my heart.  So when you pray, I think an important component of prayer is thanking God for our blessings and listing off things that are cool about your Father.

If you look at prayer in the perspective of a parent child relationship - a heartfelt prayer is best.  Think about it.  When I ask my child how school was, I usually get the same response, “Good”.   What I hope to hear is, how recess was, what did they learn, and if they struggled with anything.  I don’t get frustrated with the one word automatic reply, but it sure is fun hearing about the details of their world.   

Prayer is important, especially because I feel the relationship you have with your Father is the most important relationship we have.  I typically don’t share my faith quite so publicly, because of the fear of being judged.  But I looked at prayer in a new perspective, and felt compelled to share it with you.