Turning Thirty

About ten years ago, at my 30th birthday party, my wife gave me the best birthday present I have ever received.  At a surprise party that she went to great lengths to successfully keep me in the dark about, in front of more than forty of my  friends and neighbors, and amidst a gaggle of over the hill gag gifts meant to make me feel the impact of the milestone, my wife gave me a Polar heart rate monitor.  Now a heart rate monitor may not seem like a romantic gift, but to me, it said that my wife cared very much about my health, and as it turned out, this simple device transformed the way I exercised.

I wasn’t a “runner” yet when I turned thirty.  I had dabbled over the years with a few laps around a track followed by immense knee pain and swelling, mainly due to the 50 extra pounds I had put on during college, so my focus around this time in my life was on the exercise bike I kept in front of the small TV in the unfinished basement of my first home.  While I certainly had grand plans to exercise faithfully, I had fallen into a pattern of a month of intense exercise followed by three to four months of burn out and attempting to get back into a routine.

I had managed to shed the weight I had put on after college; however my weight was still fluctuating over a twenty pound range depending on whether I was exercising or not.   Every time that I found the motivation to get back on the bike, the cycle would begin anew, with my legs pumping furiously and my over trained body never being allowed to recover.  When I received the heart rate monitor, and maybe more importantly the little instruction booklet that came with it, I learned that I had been spending way too much time in the vigorous training zone.  I could go on now about VO2 Max and what percentage of maximum heart rate you should train at, but I’ve found a much easier way to express the intensity level at which you should spend most of your aerobic training like cycling, running, and using the elliptical machine.  What it all boils down to is this basic premise: 90% of cardiovascular exercise should be completed at a conversational pace. What this means is that if you’re out of breath and can’t have a conversation without halting and/or gasping for breath, you’re working too hard.  It seems simple enough, but countless people have injured or burned themselves out by trying to do too much too soon.  This is not unlike someone in a church, who having found some inspiration to become more active and participate, heads out full steam only to become disenfranchised and discouraged when their efforts don’t immediately produced results.

Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9:25 – “All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”

Discipline is what I was missing in my training until I received that birthday present.  It was at that point that I started to transform into an athlete and kept to a regular training regimen.  And what I found was that I enjoyed it!  Daily job stress stopped taking a toll on me mentally as I found this consistent outlet.  In fact, on many a run I’ve found solutions to a problem I faced at work or home.  Also, I think it’s no coincidence that as I found discipline with my physical training, my spiritual training began to take on a whole new shape just a short time later.  Just as the heart rate monitor had changed my physical well being, an invitation to a small group Bible study at the home of some members of my church transformed my faith and spiritual well being, but I’ll save that story for another post.