I've come to the conclusion that there are a few themes that keep popping up in my life, and that one of the major themes in my life that God is showing me is this: Relax.
There's a whole lot I could say about that. Posts I could write. Speeches I could give. Amazing connections and wisdom pouring forth from my brain. Maybe even a book deal; I dunno (that would make me nervous). But another thing that's true about me is that I hear Him speak big truths in ordinary places, so I'll offer this thought from one of my jogs last week...
I felt a little antsy that morning, so I ran in a completely different direction from my normal route. It was refreshing. The terrain was fairly similar to my usual, and the scenery not exactly profoundly different, but enough to keep things interesting.
About halfway through I realized I was really dragging. My feet felt a little like lead boots, and I was all hunched over. Not at all tall and commanding as I've been taught to visualize.
Once I realized it, I was able to straighten up a bit and pick up the pace some, but it really got me to thinking things over and kind of evaluating. I've been working on increasing my pace lately, so I'll do some loosey-goosey intervals sometimes. But I was really tired now, and it made me worry a little. What was my problem? Was it a bad run? I'd started out really well--why was my stamina suddenly down? Maybe I'd estimated the distance wrong and I was going waaaaay farther than I thought, and I was just that tired out. Maybe I needed to work on drinking a little more water before starting out, or eat a banana or something and get some fuel into my body. Maybe I needed to work on my foot mechanics, or overall running form, or have my stride or foot-strike analyzed. Maybe I needed to run with people to develop more of a community feel and get feedback and stuff. Maybe I just needed to suck it up and run harder more.
Then--and only then--did it occur to me to look around and realize that I was on a very long, very slight, very subtle incline. In other words, I was running uphill. Which, you know, is at least a little hard most of the time, particularly when compared with the easier flats or downhills.
And God said, "Relax." (He also may have chuckled at me a little; this was not my first time getting all worked up over things.)
When you're on an uphill, there are things you can do to help. You can lean a little to let gravity help propel you forward. You can swing your arms to help move your legs better. You can get up on your toes more. Being conscious of where you are lets you be more intentional about dealing with it.
But no matter what you do, you can't make an uphill feel like a downhill (which, by the way, has its own dangers and difficulties, but that's another post). It's okay that it's hard--an uphill is difficult by its very nature, but other than turning back toward where you were, the only way to get out of it is to reach the top so you can head down again. Can't go around it, have to go through it.
So guess what I did? I swung my arms and leaned forward just a touch. I went on to get past the hill and finish in a reasonable time, feeling very good indeed. When I went back later to drive the route, I found that it was in fact a little longer than my norm (3.6 miles total). All told it was a good run.
So the next time you're plodding along with your feet dragging and your shoulders hunched over, and you're thinking about freaking out, remember to take a moment and look around. It's entirely possible you're running uphill...