If you’ve been reading my blog over the last year, you’ll know that I took up running last Summer. I was no kind of athelete when I started, but I decided I needed to do something to improve my health, so I did the Couch to 5K program, using the app on my iPhone. The idea that it could take me from Couch Potato to 5K Runner within 9 weeks seemed laughable at the start, but sure enough, by the end of the 9 week period, I was able to run 3.1 miles in about 35 minutes. The day I finished the program — day three of week nine — I got back to my house and burst into tears. I simply could not believe that I had managed to go from inactive to running within that period of time. Not only that, but I had also started to enjoy running!
The transformation was unbelievable. I dropped 2 sizes in the process, though I weighed virtually the same, and I felt great! I didn’t mind walking places, I had more energy, I slept better… I began to consider myself a runner.
Then came the time change, and with it, the opportunity to run while my girls were at their activities. With limited hours of daylight and a full schedule of homeschool subjects for my two teens, I couldn’t seem to find the time to get out and run. I did, however, find the time to still eat the same way as I had while I was running 3-4 days a week. So the weight has come back with a vengance, and I got a bit out of shape.
Right now, I’m on my way back to being able to easily run that 5K, and I’m discovering that muscle memory plays a big part in the process. Even though I’m no longer used to getting out and running for 40 minutes non-stop (and without walking intervals), I have also noticed that I am not in the same condition I was when I started running last June. I’ve been getting out again, and I can get through a 5K in under 40:00, even with walking intervals. Going back to running is easier than starting out at the beginning was for me. I even managed to set a new PR for 1 mile when I was out yesterday (though I admit that I was running downhill for part of it). My muscles, even as they groan and creak from disuse, seem to be saying, “Hey, we remember this stuff. Didn’t it used to be fun?”
My spiritual life, too, has suffered a bit over the last couple of years. I’ve taken some serious hits and fallen into some depression and even despair. It’s been hard to pray, and this is after I had gotten into a good rhythm of praying morning and evening prayers, more consistenly praying the Rosary, and growing closer to God. I start and stop with my daily Divine Office, my Rosary-praying is in fits and starts, and I often feel like I have no clue where God is, even though I know in my intellect that He’s right here with me.
But I’m working on it, and I’m determined to get back my prayer life. I know this is a key to growing closer to God, even when I can’t feel Him or His consolations. I know that if I pray more consistently, it will begin to feel more natual again, and I’ll want to pray more. Just like my muscles have a memory of running, my spiritual muscles have a memory of prayer. Getting back into saying Lauds and Vespers is easier to do than starting to say Lauds and Vespers.
We can run the race, as Saint Paul says, and finish strong. And if we take a detour — or even stop running for a while — we can still go back to the race and catch up again.
Besides, we’re not racing against anyone but ourselves. All we need to do is begin again.