Written by April Lok
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as an athlete is keeping my life in balance and not letting training take time or focus away from God. One way I’m growing in this area is by finding ways to turn training time into time spent with Him. I’ve been experimenting with various ways of doing this, and here are a few tricks I’ve learned so far:
Listen to something with a God focus.
- Pick a sermon, podcast, or audiobook with a spiritual message. If you don’t know where to start, check out the messages from LifeChurch.tv.
- If you prefer music, choose praise music. Crowder’s latest album, Neon Steeple, has tracks that will pick up your pace and your spirit. But it doesn’t have to be Christian music. Pick pop songs you can sing to God or imagine Him singing to you. Lady Antebellum’s “I Run to You” is one of my favorites.
- or -
Leave the earbuds at home, and choose a spiritual focus for meditation or prayer.
- You can use a single word and repeat it to yourself over and over again in rhythm. Let right-left-right become right-eous-ness-right-eous-ness. When I run, I like to think about establishing God’s kingdom on the earth as I make contact with the ground, so an exercise like this gives new life to the verse in the 23rd Psalm about being led in paths of righteousness.
- Choose a verse or phrase to meditate on throughout the workout. Isaiah 40:31 is a gem. You can also take a verse that has multiple parts and pray each part over a certain time interval or distance. For example, my verse for 2014 is Colossians 3:12, so I might do a 5-mile run, praying a mile for each of the 5 qualities listed there.
- Meditate on the qualities of God. Inspired by the title of the book by Judah Smith, I ran for more than 2 hours thinking about ways to finish the sentence, “Jesus is _____” and never ran out of ideas. I’ve also noticed that when I meditate on the glory of God, I get so excited, I can’t help but pick up the pace!
- Give thanks. For as many things as you can think of. I think it’d be fun to run a marathon this way, going alphabetically, using a different letter for each of those 26 miles!
- You can also simply pray. Preferably something more than just, “Dear God, please don’t let me die during this workout!” Pick a person or an issue that’s on your mind, and tell God what’s on your heart.
- Practice listening prayer. Ask God what He wants to say to you. Pay attention as He speaks through His creation, such as the birds you see and hear. Be awed by the majesty, creativity, and faithfulness He expresses through the sunrises and sunsets. Notice the beauty and intricacy of the trees, flowers, and even blades of grass, reminding us how He brings life and is infinitely attentive to detail. And it doesn’t all have to be pretty. When I saw 4 dead snakes on one run, God was saying to me that He goes before me to destroy my enemies! By listening to His voice, I found peace and confidence in what would have otherwise freaked me out!
- Couple prayer with imagery. Picture Jesus (or your angel escort) right there beside you. Or go to Him. Imagine running into Jesus’ arms when you arrive at heaven’s gates. Not recommended for easy runs but great for speed work!
These are just a few ideas for keeping God at the center of training. Knowing that God is infinite, we’ll never run out of new ways to experience Him. If you have suggestions that are not listed here, please comment to join the conversation!
April is a former asthmatic, notes-to-get-out-of-gym-class non-runner who became a Marine Corps Marathon finisher. She has witnessed God’s transformational power firsthand in her own life and in her role as a psychologist in private practice in Southlake, Texas. She explores the parallels between spiritual and physical fitness in her blog at runningwithGod.com.