Exploit Your Weakness…Then You Will Be Strong

This morning’s run was only two and a half miles, which is short by definition; but running any miles on already tired legs becomes a strength workout, for body and mind. I knew I would likely struggle to stay mentally positive given the condition of my legs, but the simmering early morning temperature beckoned me out of doors before the sun rose high and hot.

So today’s run would require a suitable mantra to keep my mind off my tired legs. I thereby chose words that would make me think I was something which I was not altogether actually feeling. Today’s mantra would be: “I am strong…I am fast”. And with every breath in I would think, I am strong; with every breath out, I am fast.

The power of a focused mind is an amazing thing! This morning’s run was everything I hoped (thought and breathed) it could be: refreshing, revitalizing, inspiring and FAST! But then, a funny thing happened as I walked the final steps up my driveway to the front door. As I was relishing my short run accomplishment, a thought came to mind: “It is good to exploit the weakness“. Really? Exploit the weakness? How can that be good?

Exploit: to utilize, especially for profit; turn to practical account; to advance or further.

As I allowed that idea to clank around inside my head, I was beginning to see the value of working with our weaknesses. Yes indeed, this is what strength training is all about after all, which is namely, to exploit our weaknesses so as to advance our strength and balance in body, mind and soul. Yes, that’s exactly right! To exploit or expose the ‘weak links’ in regards to our fitness and strength training is to recognize those areas in ourselves in which our natural abilities have fallen short.

Admitting your faults isn’t a weakness – it’s a strength. Having your weaknesses pointed out isn’t a slur on your character – it’s an opportunity to improve your life. James A. Owen

These areas of weakness then, really become our allies for growth, if we only accept them as such. If our focus on weakness is positive, then we can embrace the opportunity to build and improve (repair) our weak links. If our focus on weakness is negative, then we may not be able to address our brokenness and thereby we become self-defeated. This attitude transcends every area of our life. We are, after all, what we think we are…

I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (from THE MESSAGE)

Run Training…Intervals

In the previous Run Training posts, I described the tools which runners typically use to improve their running performance. Whether elite or recreational, all runners bodies respond to the training effects of Base Training, Hill Training, Strides, and Intervals. In regards to interval training, many folks just beginning their exercise journey may engage in interval training to increase calorie burn. And almost all sports use some form of interval drills to improve athletes’ aerobic and anaerobic exercise thresholds. So what does interval training involve? Basically, interval training uses measured bouts of hard-easy repetitions to help athletes adapt to higher levels of aerobic and/or anaerobic exercise. For runners, interval training is meting out hard-easy running in bouts measured by time or distance (minutes or meters). Unlike tempo training (comfortably hard effort) interval training involves running at a high level (near red-line) of exertion for a short amount of time, followed by a recovery interval equal to or greater than the work interval. Novice and recreational runners should begin interval training only after they have laid down their base training. While extremely effective to improve a runner’s running form, economy, endurance, and fat-burning, interval training need only be included once a week if the runner also performs other training methods (strides, hills, tempo) in their weekly runs. Read this article from Active.com about interval training. This is an excellent resource which describes the science of intervals together with interval training plans for runners who want to improve their 5K or 10K race times.

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Faith Wears Combat Boots?…continued

If faith were for sale, how much would we be willing to spend for an ounce of faith? Would an ounce of faith be enough to carry us through one dark night of the soul? Would a gallon of faith be enough to carry us safely through that illness that threatens my life or the life of a loved one. Can I stockpile or horde enough faith to stay the storms and stresses of this life which afflict and assail from every vector? Usually, when people talk about having faith, they imply a positive attachment to it. Faith is generally thought to be something of value in one’s life. Faith is not usually associated in negative terms. Remember the definitions of faith: 1) confidence or trust in a person or thing; 2) belief that is not based on proof; 3) a belief in anything: God, a religious system, a code of ethics, etc. This is why we look to our ‘faith’ to carry us, to work for us, when the storms of life test and try us. If faith is to be of an any assistance to us, then it must be sturdy enough to maintain itself when it is assaulted and scrutinized. So when faced with uncertainty, why do we question the quality of our faith? Why do we assume that our faith is weak or that we have lost faith in the face of severe challenge. Either our faith works for us or it doesn’t. We can’t purchase or acquire ‘more faith’ when we feel our reserves are running low. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that our faith is weak because it is untested. Consider this, if an athlete doesn’t show up for his race, he will never know if his weeks and months of training were enough to get him across the finish line. Doesn’t a strong faith require similar training? If our faith is short-winded and flimsy, then the likely source of its impotence is lack of conditioning. A faith that wears combat boots is a faith that has been strengthened by quality exercise and discipline. I like to think of faith as a life force ~ it has breath, it has power to sustain. But faith, like breath and life, cannot be hoarded and stored in a warehouse like some commodity. If we want a faith that supports, protects and comforts us in the midst of life’s challenges, then we must realize that our faith is made strong and reliable only when it gets to work in Boot Camp.

Run Training…Strides

It’s time to mix things up a bit in your running workouts as you near the end of your 500 mile base training. In a previous post, I discussed the value of tempo training for runners of every fitness level. In today’s post, I would like to introduce you to another tool for your running toolbox: strides. By definition, strides are short bursts of swift running usually held for 60 to 100 meters. Strides are valuable for runners who want to improve or promote better running form while also engaging fast twitch muscle fibers. Also known as pick-ups, strides can be interspersed into any of your conversational pace training runs. Perform 3-5 strides after your initial warm-up; divide your each stride into thirds (first 10-20 meters at conversational pace; increase speed and intensity over the next 20-60 meters; slowly decelerate to conversational pace for the last 10-20 meters). If you are not sure what 100 meters looks or feels like, go to the nearest running track a jog the straight sections. These sections are roughly 100 meters long. So one stride (divided into three parts) would last as long as that straight section of track (give or take several meters). Once you have a feeling for how long 100 meters is, you can add strides to your next easy run. Practice these once or twice a week and you will surely build your strength, stamina and speed! Want to read more about strides? Go to this article from Runner’s World.

Strength Begets Strength

Similar to the way we gain unwanted pounds over months and years, we can accumulate strength over months and years when we engage in focused fitness activities. I train older adults in physical fitness using running, strength, and Zumba Gold group classes. It is always a delight to hear from these folks during and after their weeks of training that they are able to complete activities of daily living (lifting, shoveling, pulling weeds, walking, etc) with greater ease and no muscle strains or joint aches as a result of their improved physical fitness. They seem amazed that they are now able to do tasks that require a measure of strength and endurance which their younger selves could not perform only a few months or years ago. I assure them that their improvements will continue for as long as they maintain their fitness programs, yes, even into their 7th, 8th and 9th decades. How is this possible? Because it is an immutable law of nature. A body in motion, stays in motion. When once the habit to stay physically active is engrained onto the hard drive of our psyche, it is possible to delay, maybe even stall, the aging process with regular bouts of  moderately intense exercise. Many elders have gone before us and proved this true; and many more 70, 80 and 90+ year old athletes continue to complete in competitive athletic events and break records every time they show up. For myself, and I think it may be true for most adults who are not sporting competitors, the most alluring reason to stay strong and fit into our later decades is to become the best that we can be (in body, mind and spirit) when we cross our final finish line. Whether you are 50 or 70 or 90 years old, it is never too late to become more active than you were in your youth. If you have even the slightest inclination to get moving, then take that as your inspiration and move it! Walk, run, dance, hop, skip, jump…don’t wait another day…just move it. Strength begets (gives birth to) strength, not by thinking about being physically active, but by being physically active…every day.

It is my prayer that none of us will allow where we start to determine how we finish. T.D. Jakes

I have always had the initial faith that if God put something on my mind and in my heart, it could and should be done, but both elements must work together-mind to initiate it and the heart to propel it.
Sister Madonna Buder ~ 85 year old tri-athlete

Forgiveness…A Repetition Worth Repeating

This morning I was considering the fundamentals of strength training and how weight training plans are designed to build strength into our muscles and our physical body. Weight training jargon always uses ‘sets’ and ‘repetitions’ to describe how many times an exercise participant should lift, push or pull a given amount of weight to obtain the desired fitness outcome. In weight training, muscles can be trained for power, or strength or endurance. The amount of weight used and the number of sets and repetitions varies depending on the participant’s goal. For some unknown reason (maybe inspiration?) when I thought about how many sets and repetitions are required to build endurance in our muscles, I immediately thought about a question that St. Peter once asked Jesus: “How many times do I forgive my brother who has wronged me? Seven?” (Matthew 18:21-22). In weight training, seven times (or repetitions) is the range that a participant would use to build power in their muscles: fast, ballistic, scary big muscle power. In a sense, Peter was flexing his big, powerful ‘faith’ muscle by suggesting a forgiveness repetition of seven times. He knew it took a lot of strength to forgive the SAME person, for the same transgression, seven times in a row; but his forgiveness building goal was too short sighted. It was a short term goal that could not overcome a long term problem. Jesus wanted to teach Peter something about endurance, because that’s what a repetition range of seventy times seven will build! Those kinds of repetitions are designed to build stamina into our muscles, wherever those muscles are located, body or soul. Realize this: the weight required to build endurance is LIGHTER THAN the weight required to build strength or power. Forgiveness repetitions are meant to be light enough that you can forgive those who transgress against you many, many, many times throughout the days, weeks, and years of your life. Some heavy forgiveness repetitions are required in every life too, but overall, if we practice high repetitions we lay a foundation to build strength into our muscles as well. So the next time you flex and extend your muscles, think about how this translates into your relationships:
FLEXING = receiving forgiveness  ~  EXTENDING = giving forgiveness

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