Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Spirituality of Advent, Day 4, Week 2

Today, I want to address preparation for running.  There are many activities that are part of preparation for running and some of them have changed over time.  

One activity that used to be part of preparation when I was a teenager but is not part of preparation now is stretching.  We used to do a lot of stretching on mostly cold muscles.  The evidence these days suggests that stretching cold muscles is just as likely to lead to a pull as to help to prevent a pull.  So, I stretch some these days, if I stretch at all I usually stretch at the end of the workout or at least after a warmup.

Before a fast and hard run one thing that I still do is a warm-up.  This gets the muscles ready for the stress that the harder workout will put on them.  A bit of slow and easy running.  Or when at the gym, even some other type of exercise.  This does help to prevent pulls and strains when doing a harder workout.

Then there is dressing properly.  In Baltimore this sometimes means wearing as little as possible while not being indecent.  At other times of year, it means figuring out how many layers I can wear while still being able to run.  And sometimes, it means choosing just the right number of layers and right clothing for each part of the body.  

Then there is making sure that I have whatever liquid or nutrition I need for during the workout.  Sometimes just water.  Other times Gatorade.  Then I might take a variety of nutritional supplements.  All to make sure that during the run, my muscles are ready.  

Finally, there is the need to make sure that my digestive system is as empty as possible of everything I ate before the workout.  Even if it was the day before.  I find it very uncomfortable to run with anything in my stomach.  This is interesting when it is paired with making sure that I have the right liquid and nutrition to take with me to ingest during the run.

All of these are pretty basic and very functional aspects of preparing to run.  So how does any of this come back to the spirituality of Advent without repeating that there are many aspects of preparation for anything and this is just another example of an activity that requires me to undertake a large number of activities to prepare.  

Perhaps it is useful to think about analogies.  Stretching and warming up muscles is like preparing the heart and soul to focus on being ready to accept God when I go to church.  I contend to this day that God does not care how I dress for church and that any expectations for clothing are a human convention.  However, I think that considering how to dress is like preparing myself for whatever challenges the particular trip to church will present.  Some readings are tougher to deal with.  Some priests are more difficult to appreciate.  There are other situations that lead to variation in my experience of the community experience of mass and in the same way that I can be best prepared for them, I need to prepare myself to face whatever weather I face along with many other runners.  Making sure that I bring liquid and nourishment along the way makes me think of being ready to receive the spiritual nourishment that the community experience of church offers.  And finally, clearing my digestive system is like trying to leave everything that may be troubling my heart and soul behind so that I can appreciate the community experience of church in the most meaningful way possible.  

So, I really think that there are some cool ways to think about how preparing for running is like preparing for a spiritual and communal experience at church each week.  

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