Hitting the plateau

Earlier this summer, I took up running/exercising. I started pretty slow, walking at first, then doing some gym cardio, then integrating some jogging in with the walking. I set a goal (along with my wife) to complete a 5k next spring. The reasons for this were two-fold. First, and most obviously, I wanted to lose some weight. I’d already started watching what I was eating, which was bringing with it some decent results, but I hit the point where I was ready to take it to that next level, thus began the cardio. The second reason, though, was just the desire for the typical benefits and advantages to those who exercise regularly. More energy, maintaining a healthier all-around lifestyle, etc., were all part of the bigger motivation.

I have noticed something over the last few weeks, though, something I really, really don’t like.

I hit a plateau.

Anyone who’s at all familiar with any kind of exercise routine knows this stuff happens from time to time. When I first hit the plateau, I was initially devastated. What was I doing wrong? Why am I having such a difficult time? I began overthinking my situation, getting frustrated, and taking time off as a result. HOW that was supposed to help me, I don’t know, but I did nonetheless.

As I went out on my first run after that week off, I remembered all the things I knew from my younger days of running more frequently (and much faster). I remembered the plateaus, hitting “the wall”, and the fact that, when you hit those rough spots, the most important thing you MUST do is keep going. You cannot stop, cannot get discouraged, because if you do, you’ll lose heart and lose the will to keep focused on whatever your goal may be. I think this is probably the point where most people get frustrated and give up. It’s usually the time the New Year’s resolution goes from diehard to “maybe next year”, and where the determined seperate themselves from the well-intentioned.

I do alot of thinking when I run. I often find myself thinking about a variety of things, whether it’s reflecting on the day, thinking about a conversation Theresa and I had, or the general state of all things life. As I ran that day, I thought about the things I had learned before regarding exercise. I also thought about my spiritual life. I thought about some of the ups and downs of the past year. I thought about the accomplishments, like writing a book with one of my best friends, and recording a full-length album with him as well. I thought about my kids growing up, becoming the Godly kids (and boys in transition) that they are becoming and are already. I thought about my wife, our wonderful relationship that I am so blessed to have with her, and the joy we share as a couple on a daily basis.

But I also thought about the struggles; the internal conflict, questions, and issues that I’ve battled in my mind. I thought about the times in the last year where I felt so frustrated that I wanted to throw in the towel in certain areas of my life. The times when I knew the right thing to do, but wanted so badly to do the opposite. Worse still, I thought about the times I did the opposite instead of just thinking about it or battling it in my mind.

As I considered all those things, both good and bad, I found my fallible human side wanting to sit in the negative rather than bask in the positive. I wanted to dwell on the things I had been struggling with for what seemed like an eternity, and allow those negative thoughts to pervade my conscious.

Running down that road, though, I thought about my current situation regarding my exercise routine also. I had hit a plateau, and just my going out for a run that day was my determined way to accomplish just one goal that day: break through. I was running so that I could keep running. I trudged down that road because I knew the alternative of sitting complacent and not moving would eventually be the death of me. Maybe not the death of me today, but eventually, it would kill me.

It was right then, in the middle of that run, that God revealed Himself to me.

Keep going.

When the road is hard, and you don’t know why you’re going through it.

Keep going.

When you feel like you hit the wall, and you don’t want to move another step.

Keep going. Persevere. Push forward.

Don’t.
stop.

It reminded me of something I told someone once: It’s easier to praise on the mountaintop, but it’s more important to praise in the valley.

Whether running on a road or in life, it is impossible to progress by standing still. Staying still only brings with it complacency, apathy, and eventually, regret. It’s not unlike I wrote about a few days ago. Staying still will get you nothing. Moving forward, though, can gain you everything. I don’t mean everything as in the things we possess and all we can materially attain. I mean that you can gain everything in the way one controls who they are, who they become, and how they reach that goal of being all God has for them.

It’s in the times that we hit the wall, question the state of our situation, and get stagnant that the enemy tries to get a foothold into our lives and feed us the things that will get us off course. And that is all he wants for us. He doesn’t have to completely ruin us, we’re good enough at doing that to ourselves. What he does is stray our attention just a little bit; get us focused enough on something else that our vision gets blurred to the goal in front of us. The rest is a product of our own action (or lack thereof).

And so we must do as Paul said in his letter to the Phillippians. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Phil. 3:14-16) I think it’s also why, near the end of his life, he was able to tell Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Press on.
Persevere.
Fight the good fight.
Keep. the. faith.

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