It has been a busy few weeks for me, between the new job, adjusting to the new schedule, tornado season beginning, mentally preparing for Ryan’s impending deployment and house hunting. Rolled into all of that, was wrapping up my training schedule, because two weeks ago, I successfully completed by second half-marathon. Over the last few years, I’ve run a number of ‘races’ of various lengths, mostly as a way to keep myself motivated when I head to the gym. Aside from ways to keep myself motivated and avoid injury (and recovery when they inevitably happen), running and training has taught me a lot about the importance of nutrition. Although I’ve never been one to shirk nutrition, its importance was never quite as apparent until I started pushing my body to new bounds. It’s really, really hard to run ten miles with a beef and bean burrito and a chocolate milkshake sloshing around in your stomach!
A well-balanced diet is crucial for decent performance, and the first time you try to train or race when dehydrated or without decent food in your system, you become (literally) painfully aware of your need for good fuel. I now carefully plan the meals surrounding longer training sessions and races: high carbs (but not refined sugars!) before, high protein and some fat afterwards. Don’t down a bottle of water right before, but give yourself time for your system to absorb and process it. Fuel throughout endurance runs with easily digestible sugars (and water), preferably with some vitamins and potassium to keep you going (I like using GU energy gels, especially the kind with caffeine!). Then, cool down with a cold light beer, because it genuinely helps control the lactic acid release and thus eases soreness the next day.Our diet is the fuel for both our bodies and our brains and understanding this is vital to a proper relationship with food. When we understand how the food we eat affects how we feel, we make healthy, balanced choices.
But our food and drink are not the only aspects of our diet that affect our health. Even more critical than our nutrition is our spiritual diet, what we use to fuel our hearts and minds. I think we sometimes get a bit too wrapped up in the health of our physical bodies (which is certainly important as well) that we neglect to care for our hearts and spirits.
“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” – Matthew 15:11
Our output is not independent of our input (a truth so many of us love to deny), so if we desire to have healthy output we must have healthy input. I don’t think this is a principle that requires much elaboration, but let’s illustrate through simile a little bit. We know what kinds of foods are good for us, that fuel our bodies, but do we know what kinds of spiritual inputs are good for us?
- God’s word is our daily bread. The more we know, the more we not only grow, but the more we desire to grow. As the psalmist wrote, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:10-11)
- Jesus is our living water. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life‘” (John 4). But what does that spring of water look like? How does that manifest itself? It looks like a strong, personal relationship with Christ that manifests itself in our healthy hearts, spirits and relationships.
- Our friendships and media selections are our breakfast. These choices are our first line in feeding our hearts. These are like the sugars of our spiritual diet– the most easily digestible nutrients and thus the quickest to impact our health. When we consume too much of the wrong kinds of sugars, the kinds that give you a quick high and a hard crash, our hearts suffer, just like our heads and waistlines.
Finding the balance in our spiritual diet, just like our nutritional diet, can be difficult, but is even more critical. It is our output that defiles us, not our input. But our input helps determine our output, so we cannot minimize its importance. What we allow our minds to linger on determines what they will return to when idle.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” — Philippians 4:8
P.S. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms, biological, adopted or spiritual, out there! Thank you for all you do and all you are!