The Truth About Training

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“So, I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”  ~ Charles Dickens

Just about every worthwhile thing I’ve pursued involved some training.

It’s the least enjoyable aspect of any pursuit, and I’ve often wondered when I’ll find an interest that doesn’t involve some uncomfortable regimens. It takes intention to get spirit, body and mind on the same page. And it’s been the case whether I was training for a marathon, pursing an education, building a business, or making pilgrimage across a country.

These are some training elements I’ve learned through personal experience:

  • Most importantly by far, you have to know what it is you’re training for. That sounds simple enough. Ten years ago when I trained for my first marathon, the goal of running 26 miles in four hours and thirty minutes was paramount. I wanted to “beat” that time, and virtually made the clock my enemy. Fourteen months later, and four hours and fifty minutes after the starting gun at the Memphis St. Jude Marathon, I crossed the finish line physically and emotionally depleted, nearly in tears. I’d blown the goal by 20 minutes. The goal should never have been more than a pure finish. Begin at Point A. Finish at Point B. Then rejoice. That’s all I really needed to achieve. I trained completely for the wrong goal. It was a true lesson learned. My goals for trekking the Camino de Santiago next month are radically different. It’s not about a finish time. I’m working to prepare my body to deal with the discomfort of a million steps, but moreover making ready my mind and spirit for conversing with God along the way. On the camino, I hope for nothing more than “to be.”
  • For most any endeavor, training takes time. How do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time. It’s the toughest thing in a world that calls for immediate gratification, but there’s always unknown purpose in training. It’s the very best process for self discovery, and beats lieing on a psychiatrist’s couch. I’ve done both, and far prefer the former to the latter.
  • It takes discipline. Training’s a lonely job. Everyone loves to cheer you for the big, final event, and show up for the afterparty but no one  cares about the relentless, Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.12.11 AMmonotonous, tedious days of training. Consistently, the best time I’ve found training for anything is between 4 and 6 a.m. You inconvenience almost no one during this time. No one’s going to set the alarm but you. Tougher yet, no one’s going to get yourself out of bed but you. If you have a “quiet time” or a daily time of devotion or just talking to God, I think early morning is the best time. It just starts the day well. Discipline is the toughest part of any training, yet so beneficial because, when mastered, it  can spill over into so many additional areas of life. Waking up is a good thing.
  • It involves lots of ups and downs and considerable discomfort. By nature, training hurts, whatever the realm of discipline. And it can have its surprises. Years ago, I couldn’t resist the lovely early Sunday evening weather to run a five-mile route along one of my favorite thoroughfares. I was listening to music, enjoying the sunset without a care in the world. The next thing I knew I was laid out flat on the sidewalk trying to put two thoughts together, wondering what the heck just happened. I’d been knocked completely unconscious by a full Dr Pepper can a couple of young guys tossed from a car moving 40 miles an hour in the opposite direction. It hit me square between the eyes. It might as well have been a comet. Probably should’ve gone to the hospital, but no one stopped to help, so I walked home, dazed and in moderate shock. Unexpected things happen during training. Highs and lows.
  • Visualization is a key, and often overlooked component in maximizing training. The hard work over the long haul is sometimes just too much to manage if you don’t see yourself crossing the finish line, holding your finished product, or imagining the joy of any job well done.  It’s so important to SEE yourself in the place of victory.
  • Training involves overcoming temptation. The notion of a Zinger with some chocolate milk crosses my mind at least once a week. Occasionally, I cave. Most times, I resist the temptation. Life involves much temptation. Recognize your temptation isn’t weakness. It’s your humanness. Jesus managed temptation through the recollection of God’s word. He came back to the truth He knew as foundational, firm and fixed. It may be the most difficult of all things we manage as we train through life.
  • The most beneficial aspect of any training regimen, may be the best and most enjoyable. It’s rest. Do you realize the time during which your body and mind get stronger? It’s when they rest. As you walk, or exert any physical energy over time, you’re actually destroying muscle tissue. You’re breaking it down. As you sleep, the muscle tissue rebuilds itself, stronger than it was before, so you can do more the next time. I love that you get stronger as you rest both your body and mind.

So many people have asked why I’m training for pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago when it’s such a long journey anyway and the body will adjust after a couple of weeks.

It’s because I want to maximize the experience and avoid as many unnecessary problems as possible. It’s an experience with the potential to reveal so many things, so minimizing the distractions is important.

It’s Sunday morning. Dana and I walked 13 miles yesterday and my physical body is enjoying rest and new strengthening. I’ll be stronger tomorrow. So, I’ll focus on my spirit today with fellowship and learning at our small church and our growing family and friends.


Intentional Stress

My book editor, Bradley Harris - stretchmaster.

Without even knowing it, I’ve created intentional stress in my life … and those who are doing the pushing and pulling tell me it’s a good thing.

That’s easy for them to say.

I’m trying so hard these days to keep focused on what’s important: Study of the Word; using my gifts for a higher purpose; family; health; business; personal time; and investing financially in the future.

It’s time to forget the Harley Davidson, the dream of being a BBQ grillmaster and making a fortune …for now.

For now, it’s time to stay focused on what’s important, the theory being that all of the above may come later.

Earlier this week, I had my first meeting with my career/spiritual coach, Dick Savidge of Ministry Coaching International. His number-one job is to keep me focused on these things. Keep me disciplined. Keep me harnessed. Reign me in from the tasty distractions that satisfy my fleshly appetite. Oh, the mouth-watering hunger…

Then there’s my book editor, Bradley Harris, a Canadian born, expatriate, now living in the Deep South of Memphis, TN, who informs me now that his job is to stretch me, take me beyond what I might imagine and savor all the possibilities.

Then, there are my respected bosses and colleagues at my day job who envision a new product line, and want me on the front line of sales to make it happen. They don’t express it as sink or swim, but if you’re a guy like me, my self-imposed nature sure makes it feel that way.

So I pointed out to Brad yesterday “…you guys are pulling me in half a dozen different directions, when what I’m looking for is FOCUS.”

“So?” he responds.

He says it’s a good thing.

Have you ever bent an iron bar, or even a coat hanger back and forth. When bent back and forth, to and fro, the properties of certain metals have a tendency to heat up as the molecules become more and more active.

And you know what eventually happens as the bending and stretching continues? It breaks.

Lord, don’t let me break. I asked for the tension and the stress and you handed it to me on a silver platter.

You know what You’re doing. I sure hope I do.