The Elliptical and the Christian Life

A couple of months before my Alaska trip, I came down with a case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot, a condition common to runners and power walkers like me. High-end shoes and home therapies helped, but I realized I would have to trade my treadmill (my inclement weather standby) for an elliptical to avoid stress on the foot.

And my elliptical has become my greatest ally and my archnemesis.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of conditioning. Perhaps it’s the arthritis from all the sports injuries I’ve inflicted upon myself over the years. Perhaps it’s asthma. Or perhaps I’m just getting old. But the thing is kicking my rear.

I walk (or whatever you call what you do on an elliptical – ellipticate?) while I go through my memorized prayer lists each day. It keeps me focused and energized. On the elliptical, the first couple of minutes are great. “This is easy,” I’ll think. And then it hits: the burn in my thighs, my calves and even my lower back. Then comes the sweat. And more sweat. So much sweat, in fact, that you can wring me out when I’m done. And this from a woman who typically barely cracks a sweat during a workout.

After 15 minutes, I really want to quit. My muscles labor as I concentrate on my breathing. I think about things I would surely enjoy more, such as running with the bulls, cliff-diving blindfolded or having my fingernails removed one by one.

But I can’t give up, because I know that sets a bad precedent for subsequent days. If I give up now, I’ll make excuses every time I’m a little tired or a little achy or I’m just not feeling it. That’s a dangerous place to be in a fitness routine – or in the Christian life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1

I realize that once I step off the elliptical, my prayer time will be unnaturally shortened as I focus instead on wanting to cool down and get into clothes less wet than a bathing suit. This is both a physical and a spiritual discipline for me.

The Christian life is one of constant self-discipline, and believe me, “no discipline seems pleasant at the time” (Hebrews 12:11). At first, we are caught up in the euphoria of the goodness and grace of God, in the newness of it all. But it doesn’t take long for the drudgery to set in. This daily dying to yourself thing gets tiring. And then there are the battle scars – the heartbreaks, the scorning, the losses, the waiting.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. – Revelation 14:12

When you grow weary and want to give up, remember one thing: Christ Himself is our reward. And no eye has seen, no ear has heard or mind conceived what the Lord has prepared for those who love Him (see 1 Corinthians 2:9). And you can take that to heaven’s bank.