The Body Trains the Soul

I do not like running. If you could see the thoughts going through my mind while I’m running, you would see a continuous loop of “IhaterunningIhaterunningIhaterunningIhaterunning.” I know people who put towels on the treadmill to cover the metrics. That doesn’t work for me. I lift the towel every fifteen seconds, convinced that at least two minutes must have passed.

Actually, I don’t like to work out at all. It makes me grouchy when my husband suggests that we go to the gym. He does that a lot. He is one of those strange people who thinks it is fun to be sweaty and gasping for breath. I enjoyed playing volleyball when I was in school, but we didn’t do anything especially difficult. I really prefer to be comfortable. I’m just being real with you.

If you were to look at my gym attendance record over my life, you’d see a lot of variation. You would see periods with consistent attendance, trailing off to few half-hearted attempts that grow fewer and farther between, then long periods of radio silence, and the cycle begins again.

Currently, I’m in a “consistent attendance” phase. Two weeks ago, I had never run more than one continuous mile in my life. Today is my fourth day in a row of running two continuous (albeit slow) miles, and I ran several times last week too. Am I more capable of doing that than I was last month or last year? No. Do I hate it less than I did then? No. If I can be honest with you, I counted down the seconds for the whole last quarter mile of my run today because I wanted to quit and needed something to occupy my mind.

So what is the difference between now and then? The difference is that I made myself do it. My body said to me, “You know, I’d really rather not do this right now,” and I said, “Move it.” I disciplined myself to do something that I don’t enjoy because I know that it’s for my ultimate good. Despite my body’s protests, it is in better shape now than it was two weeks ago. There are differences that only I would notice, but they’re there. The other difference is that I no longer believe I’m incapable of running two miles, because I’ve done it. It doesn’t seem nearly as daunting now. And here’s a secret: I like how I feel when it’s over. I’ve never regretted a workout. I know I’ve accomplished something that doesn’t come easily for me, and there is satisfaction in that. I have a bit of a success monster in me, and I like setting measurable, achievable goals and then accomplishing them. It’s the same reason my husband and I have completed three rounds of Whole30, even though it is a lot of work and I don’t particularly enjoy not being able to eat things I like for thirty days. The challenge of following the rules to the letter and choosing to do something that is good for my body is satisfying in ways that eating dessert is not.

While you were browsing my gym attendance record, you might also take a look at my spiritual health over the years. You might even find that the two are correlated. While we’re being real, I’ll tell you that I’ve been going through a dry spell spiritually. I’ve felt apathetic and unmotivated. I haven’t had a desire to pray or read the Bible, and so I haven’t. In the same way that I often don’t work out because I don’t feel like it, I wasn’t praying because I didn’t feel like it. I’ve felt distant from God, which is unsurprising considering that I created distance. I haven’t been disciplining myself to do what I know is for my ultimate good despite my emotions, and I’ve reaped the consequences of my choices.

That’s why I’ve been running. I know that when I’m disciplined in one area of my life, it bleeds over into countless other areas. There is a very wise woman I work with that frequently says, “The body trains the soul.” We teach our students to master their bodies, because the two are linked. Both have to be trained. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8)

If you are a Christian, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We’re called to honor God with our bodies. That’s why physical, bodily training is of some value. It’s a practice, just like training in godliness, by which I grow and progress. Paul continues on to say, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9-10) We rest in the knowledge that our hope is set on the living God, he who is mighty and faithful to keep his promises, and we continue to toil and strive. Sometimes, we toil and strive in our running shoes.


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