The third lesson I learned on the run is the value of stretching. Often times, after I returned from a run, I moved right into the rest of the day. I didn’t take time to cool down or to stretch. Then I developed injuries.

The days when I took five minutes to stretch at the end of a run were my best days. Running is hard on the joints; stretching helps muscles to remain strong, flexible and healthy. Healthy muscles maintain their range of motion and I needed that to run strong. Without stretching, muscles shorten and become tight, making a person more injury prone.

You know what kept me from stretching? Two things come to mind. First, it takes time. I had to slow down and put a pause on the rest of my day in order to stretch. I didn’t think I had the time.

Secondly, no one else was doing it. Specifically, my running partner didn’t stretch. It’s not that she didn’t value it or understand the importance of it; she just opted not to stretch. But that’s her story; I didn’t have to let it be mine.

I knew that taking the time and effort to stretch benefited my body. It is one aspect of running that I carried with me to my new exercise routine.

Stretching is to muscles what pausing is to spiritual health. We all need it. Physical stretching gives my muscles what they need to remain healthy, strong and flexible. Then when I use them, they are ready to work for me.

When I build pauses, times of silence, solitude, meditation or gratitude into my day, my spiritual health receives the nutrients it needs to thrive. When I consistently feed my mind and spirit in this way, it is ready to take on the challenges life presents.

5Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 

1 Kings 19:5-8

Elijah had just fought a mighty battle with the prophets of Baal. He was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I think it is the equivalent of participating in an Iron Man triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run). He needed to pause – the equivalent of an extended stretch.

Elijah did just that. He slept, ate, slept, ate and slept again. This strengthened him to be able to make a forty day journey where he met with God in a profound way.

Stretching is to exercise as pausing is to spirituality. Why aren’t you doing it?

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