Sunday, March 6, 2011

Exceed Your Expectations

I went to the gym yesterday, after missing a session during the week due to my arthritis flaring up. I'm still trying to work out where my chronic health issues fit into this fitness gig - if my back's hurting, I ignore it, because I can't make my injury worse with increased activity (in fact, it only makes it better, even if it does hurt more for a while afterwards, if that makes sense!!) The arthritis, however, is a different story, because I'm still trying to get it under control with medication and diet, and re-introducing regular fitness is only a recent focus of my life. When I woke up the other morning in a flare up - which this time affected mainly my right foot - I didn't know if running would exacerbate it further. Usually when I'm in a flare, the pain and swelling is worse in the morning, and is usually more settled by the afternoon. Of course, because I wanted to do something that involved my feet, that didn't happen, and it was several days before I was game enough to try running on my sore foot.

When I woke up, I tried to justify to myself why I didn't have to go to the gym, the strong contender being 'I don't want to hurt myself more', but really, I knew I was just making excuses. Even driving to the gym, I tried to bargain with myself 'ok, I'll do either weights or treadmill today, and come back and do the other tomorrow'. Once I was there, I bit the bullet and decided to do my normal thing - weights and treadmill - and resolved not to let my body's physical shortcomings to become an obstacle in my journey if I could help it.

As I started my intervals on the treadmill, I happened to look over at the wall, on which there is a super-sized picture and quote. I've been going to the gym for 2 months, and it wasn't until then that I noticed what the quite said:

'Exceed your expectations..........Because you can'

It was one of those moments where life jumps up and smacks you between the eyes. Of course I can run. Of course I can run with an imperfect body. Of course I can run, even if my self-doubts and attempts at self-sabotage try to convince me otherwise. The activity of running is simply putting one foot in front of the other, and picking up the pace. It's making the decision to run that takes us through the process of consideration and evaluating all factors involved - do I feel like it? Can I do it? Do I want to do it? I'm tired/sore/busy/unfit/not good enough. It's this decision making process that determines what the outcome will be, and for me, my natural leaning is not to attempt something that I can't guarantee the outcome of. It takes a lot of mental energy for me to override the part of my brain that says 'I can't' and make the choice to say 'I will', regardless of whether I think I can or not. This applies to pretty much all areas of my life, not just running, or fitness in general.

When I hurt my back, I never thought I'd run again. When I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, that was just another nail in the coffin, so to speak. So to be where I am now - week 4 of the Couch-to-5K program - I've already exceeded my expectations, in regards to running. My job is not something I ever thought I would be doing, so I've already exceeded my expectations. When I stop and look around at the incredibly blessed life I get to live, I can see so many examples of where I have exceeded my expectations, and yet I constantly feel like I'm not living up to some expectation, that I'm constantly trying to do better, to be better, to make up for past mistakes and not let them happen again. Which is an exercise in futility, because of course I'm going to make mistakes, of course I'm going to fall short of someone's expectations - including my own - and that's simply because I'm an imperfect human being.

I had a conversation with a dear friend yesterday that made me rethink the quote I saw at the gym. She was telling me about being open to God doing big things in her life, and I immediately thought of the quote, but in the light of what God can do and certainly does in our lives:

Expect Him to exceed your expectations............Because He can

In our own strength, and on our own steam, we will always fall short, and fail to live up to the expectations put on us, but in God's strength, and by being open to God's will, we can achieve the goals set before us, we can face the challenges that life throws at us and know that whatever happens, He is bigger than us and can exceed anything we expect of Him. Someone please remind me of that next time you see me throwing myself a pity party???

I posted this verse only the other day, but it came to me again whilst I was writing this, but in it's entirety

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

He has set the path before me, and in Him, I can throw off everything that tries to stop me from getting to where I'm going. In the context of the scripture, the 'end goal' is eternal life in Christ, and life is the race marked out for us. The scripture reminds me that whatever goal I'm pursuing in life, I can run towards it in God's strength, and that includes something as simple as literally running. God has put the desire in my heart to run again, and I will exceed my own expectations, not because I can, but because He can.

I saw this advertising campaign from Asics in a magazine recently, and then followed a link to the television advertisement. I love it, it really shows how running can help you leave everything behind, and focus on the journey ahead. Running doesn't do this for everyone - obviously, not everyone runs - but I believe we all have something that takes us away from the weight of life, even if we have discovered what that is yet :-) Enjoy :-)

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