This morning I deviated from my normal workout schedule. I awoke early this morning when my wife jumped up and down on top of me in the bed telling me how much she loved me. Last night was date night, and to be honest it was great Date Night following a very difficult weekend (some times we need those). We laughed together for a little bit longer and she retired to the bathroom to get ready for her day. Normally I workout in the afternoon, but since I love to run and have been wanting to get in a morning running schedule, this was the perfect opportunity. It was 70 degrees outside, not raining, and my running shoes were taunting me … So I jaunted out the door, down the road, and into the morning. Here are some lessons I’ve learned while running (some specifically this morning): + Always plan your routes. This morning I made a mid-run adjustment that added 2 miles to my route. I wasn’t ready for those extra miles and that hurt towards the end. + Attack the hills. If you passively try to run up steep hills, they hills will win and you’ll be gassed when you finish with them. + Stretch before you run. It really doesn’t matter for the first little bit for me, but if I stretch I feel better later in the run. + Enjoy the pain. Running hurts. It’s exercise; its supposed to. I’m running out of a different necessity that those in other parts of the world, but it is a necessity. + The more you monitor your stride, the better you’ll run. The better you run, the quicker you’re done. When we get weak we tend to take shorter strides instead of full ones, which are much less effective as a workout and make the whole thing last even longer. As I was reflecting on these observations, I thought I’d make some application to the observations above (in order): + Plan your routes: Know where you’re going in life. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going there – nowhere. Good plans make things easier. Bad plans make things more difficult. God has a great plan for your life. It involves turning to Jesus, repenting for sinning against Him, and following Him. What’s your plan? Where are you on your journey? + Attack the hills: When there are problems in life, don’t sit back and wait for the problem to solve itself. Get your hands dirty. Get messy. Get involved. Don’t let your kids walk out the door to school wearing that; bring them back in and make them change. Don’t let that dude at the game make that comment about your wife, stand up for her. When you know somethings broken inside of you … attack it too. Turn to Jesus and ask for the restoring work of the Holy Spirit to be made manifest in your brokenness and seek help where you need it. + Stretch before you run: Life takes preparation. If you’re not taking time to prepare for a great life with Jesus, you won’t have a great life with Jesus. The work of preparation involves reading and studying the Scriptures and spending time with Him in prayer. You may be able to start out with a bang with Jesus without little preparation, but if you’re not spending time doing the work of preparation to support your life with Him … You’ll dry up. +Enjoy the pain: Growth takes resistance. It’s natural. You see it in running; you see it in bodybuilding. People who’ve worked out for years, runners who’ve ran for decades know what I’m talking about … and they’re kind of addicted to it (in a freaky kind of way). They love the pain. It’s no longer pain to them, but a sign of growth. Spiritually, it hurts to sacrifice and grow closer to Jesus, but, let’s be honest, these light and momentary pains are gaining for us a great reward. +Monitor your stride: In running if you stop thinking about what you’re doing, you start doing something stupid. You end up looking like that little old man on the side of the road shuffling, because the pain is shortening you stride. In life, we need to be introspective – to look inwardly and ask honestly “how am I doing?” But, we also need to have a few trusted friends that speak into our lives and help us monitor how we’re doing. Because they can see us from a different perspective, these friends can encourage us and challenge us in ways we can’t ourselves. I’m still learning as a Christ-follower and as a runner. I have a nagging feeling it’s much more about the run than the race, and that what we’re learning along the way is just as important than the destination.