Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking a Sweat

Today I had the rare opportunity to hit the pavement sans the kiddos. Without my sidekicks, I could focus on my running/walking rhythm, the beat of my heart, and the sweat beads forming all over my body. It was hot – an oppressive kind of hot that only comes when you live in a city that shares roughly the same latitude as Beirut and Casablanca. But I was happy to be alone in the elements, moving my body, even if I could no longer physically cover as much ground as I once did.

Just three years ago, I was what you'd call an avid runner. I’d easily log in 20-plus miles a week. Sometimes I’d run with friends, but mostly I liked to run alone. This was my time to think without any distractions. I’d fall into the rhythm of running and my thoughts somehow became looser and more free-flowing. It was during my runs when I problem-solved, made goals that had nothing to do with fitness, and often prayed.

I don’t run much these days. A chronic injury has sidelined me for a few years now. However, I do make an effort to exercise consistently. Of course, I no longer find much time for what I refer to as contemplative exercise. I take regular walks, but my little ones are usually with me. I’m not complaining; our walks together are fun. In fact, I realized that even today I was staring at a puffy cloud and seeing the profile of a triceratops since Madeline and I try to find objects floating in the sky. I also saw some bright pink blossoms and imagined Madeline saying, “Can we plant some flowers like ‘dat’ someday?” When I’m with my kids, I notice things my adult senses gloss over – the neighborhood dog barking (“Can we have a dog like ‘dat’ someday, Mommy?”), the sunny daffodils, the airplane in the sky, or even the dried, dead worm on the sidewalk. Kids’ perpetual wonderment is such a gift!

Still, it was nice to be alone today with no distractions. I picked up the pace and ran for a mile or so before my hip started screaming at me. My lungs were slightly burning. Sweat was starting to slide down my body. I felt the sun’s heat burn on my skin. I was thankful for my body’s response to the exercise. It reminded me of all that I’m capable of and of my strength. I realized that this is why I regularly break a sweat – whether with my kids or solo. It’s not really because I want to look a certain way or be swimsuit-ready. It’s because it reminds me that my body is a gift from God and that I am healthy and alive. I often find that exercise it as good for the soul as it is for the body.

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