Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interval training

The plaque is small, only three by six inches at best, but that doesn't mean it isn't special. It doesn't signify any great accomplishment - third place in the age twenty to twenty-four division in a 5k race that only attracted two hundred and thirty four runners is far from the New York City Marathon. Yet, this little award has given me inspiration. Never before have I received an award for running (or any other sports activity). In fact, in high school I was anti-sport. I believed my body was not created for athletic ventures. This award tells me otherwise. 
Now that I am the recipient of an award for an athletic accomplishment, running the third fastest time in my age group in a 5k that took place in a snow storm (might I add), I am thinking ahead to how I can get my next award. This time I'd like it to say second place. That means I'll need to run faster. 
To gain insight into how to improve my performance the next time around I've turned to running magazines. The training section of Runners World and Running Times is always filled with articles and tips on how to improve speed. This is a great help to a newbie runner who needs guidance. One particular article tells the story of an Olympic runner and then shares some of his exercise strategies that he swears by. Another article targets runners at their individualized level of running. One plan is devised for the marathon runner, the half-marathon runner and the 5k runner, like myself. If you are not a "plan" type of person then tips might be more your style. The magazines offer this, too. Quick fixes that can be thrown into a runners normal routine to help improve speeds are always available in each magazine edition. 
This would be great for me. This could really help me improve. Maybe I could even get a little plaque that says "first place" if I put into practice all of this advice. The trouble is I don't want to put any of this good advice to work in my workouts. 
You might be wondering why a person who is seeking improvement, wants to excel and wants to get better wouldn't feast on all of this useful information. That would be a logical question. My problem is that these workouts and tips are hard! They require that I run intervals - something that is taxing on the body. There is sweat involved. I can't keep my same, easy going pace. I have to pick it up a notch, then two and then three. I'd really like to be a faster runner but getting there is going to be painful and exhausting! 
Dear Reader, that is the same predicament we face while running our race of faith.
How many of us want to be better Christians? More devoted? More useful for the kingdom? More spirit filled? More prayerful? Slower to anger and gentler of tongue? I know I want all of these things. I want my heart to be so on fire for Christ that anyone who gets near me will be practically burned by the heat I emanate! I want that kind of passion. But to get there is exhausting because to produce those results God has to put us through excruciating workouts. 
The only way to boost running speed is to do intervals and progressively run faster and faster for longer bursts of time. The only way to boost your faith in God is for Him to throw intervals into your life. Sometimes the road will be smooth, then it will be full steam ahead up an incredibly steep incline. Other roads will be narrow and some will be rocky. The question is are you going to keep pushing forward so that you can improve your faith and walk with Christ? Are you going to allow God to be your ultimate coach, pushing you further than you thought possible? Will you surrender yourself to God entirely, submitting to His rigorous regimen that He has in store for you? Or will you stop and say, enough is enough I want to lay down now! 
If you want to win the race you will have to first of all remain upright. Then you must train harder than ever before. Your fastest times will have to be increasingly pushed, your legs moving faster than they ever have before. You will have to run up hills, over and over again. I can promise you that sweat will be involved, so keep a water bottle handy. 
But while you run something incredible will be happening. God will be strengthening you. The limits you thought you had will be crushed. As you run, calling on God's power, you will break your own personal records. God will show you that your abilities and endurance is much greater than you ever realized when you are running in His name, calling on His power. 
I want to run my next road race faster than before so I'm going to start taking the advice I keep reading in all of these articles. I'm going to push myself by introducing interval speed workouts. I'll do sprints and run hill repeats. I want another one of those awards with my name on it - preferably one that says "first place." I dream big, friends.
In my faith I want to win the race, too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24, "Run in such a way as to get the prize." That is how I want to run. I want to endure the challenges God brings my way, the grueling training He has in store for me, so that at the end of my life I can say that indeed I did run so that I could claim victory. I want to run, eyes fixed on Jesus, reaching for the reward of heaven. I want to run faster, stronger and further to glorify my mighty God. I want to show other people His love. I want to be on fire for the furthering of His kingdom. 
I have to run with endurance and strength so that I can win the prize and be a light to other people, showing them the joy of running in this race. God wants to make me a better runner for His kingdom. When I run with God as my coach I know the workouts won't be easy. He is going to challenge me and push me harder than I want to be pushed. But there is one thing for certain. When I submit to His plan and allow Him to train me up in His ways I am sure to win the prize. 

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