Why did I ever stop?

Why did I ever stop? This is the question that has recently plagued my thoughts. As I make a return to running after a year-long hiatus, my body screams this question through the cramps, pain, and an overwhelming feeling of discouragement. As I head out for a run my memories are flooded by past experiences of running more miles, faster. The next day my muscles, achy and stiff, beg not to be worked again. Given the glut of negative feedback from my systems, I still choose to lace up the running shoes and brave the cold New York morning air. Again the case rages in my head, “Why did I ever stop?”

This is my story three and four times a week. If running is so hard, painful, and time consuming, then why run? Is it a need? Is it a desire? What drives someone to run or workout? On the surface, we’re told by the powers that be that you must be active to be healthy.

Is this enough to silence the loud voices in my head pressuring me to stop?

Clearly the answer to this question, at least for the general population and myself, is no. The evidence is simply seen in the obesity rate that continues to climb to an all-time high. So if the powers that be can’t convince us to exercise and remain active, then what exactly is it going to take? It’s certainly going to take more than the government, educators, and officials to which we often turn to solve all our problems.

The essential truth is that without discipline, all hope will be lost. For the first time in the history of our great nation the life expectancy of any generation has been reduced. That same generation is described as sedentary in lifestyle. My purpose here is not to be negative or bash on a particular demographic, but I am here to say that something needs to change. I’m no exception.

In this author’s humble opinion, discipline is not talked about nearly enough, yet foundational and essential to a lifestyle of wellness. Without some level of discipline, one cannot be successful in anything. It requires discipline to get to work or school on time. It takes discipline to succeed at learning a new skill or perfecting one that you already know. An attitude of entitlement and mediocrity has crept into our society that has all but neutered ambition, drive, and discipline.

Don’t believe me? Consider any one of the numerous infomercials that can be seen on TV on a given Saturday. From the workout videos that promise rock-hard abs in 10 minutes only three times a week, to the ever popular electric stimulus abdominal belt, to the little white pill or packet of crystals that promise to make you thin by swallowing it or sprinkling it over your food. The market is full of ideas that make promises steeped in shortcuts and sidesteps.

We must make a return to the disciplined life. Living exemplary lives must not be defined by the shortcuts, sidesteps, and shortest distances. Can we put this cancer-like attitude of entitlement aside to be replaced by pure, unadulterated discipline fueled by grace and not guilt?

It’s not as hard as it sounds. Everyone can identify one area of life that could use some help. Make a list of items that you think should be in your life that are currently absent. Take the first step towards a lifestyle that achieves the highest level of human potential by simply adding one item at a time.

If you know that you should exercise, then pick a day. Carve out 5-10-20 minutes and go for a walk. If you know that you really should be praying more, turn off the TV for a time, and sit in silence contemplating the Creator God. Do this one thing until it is a permanent part of your routine. After it becomes part of your routine, add another item.

Trying to add too much or trying to change too much at the beginning becomes very hard to sustain. Develop the discipline to stick with one thing at a time; then start adding more and watch your life change.

Why did I stop? Simply, there was a breakdown of personal discipline. With the breakdown in discipline came a heavy price that I now must pay. Developing a disciplined lifestyle should not be a short-term goal. It is a long-term process worth the price to attain.

The runs do get easier. The workouts don’t hurt as much, and the benefits that follow improve the quality and length of the short life we are privileged to live.

-SD

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