Day 23: Developing Self-Discipline


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“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

The long run is the most important part of marathon training because it teaches the body both mentally and physically tackle the challenge of completing the entire 26.2 mile event. One must become accustomed to running for very long periods of time. The mental toughness one develops from completing long training runs pays off when running the actual marathon.

After several weeks of increasing my long runs, I decided to look at the benefits of these during my training. The long runs strengthen your heart; strengthens the leg muscles needed for endurance; it develops mental toughness and coping skills; it increases fat-burning capacity as will as capillary growth and myoglobin (iron and oxygen binding protein) concentration in muscles fibers and it increases aerobic efficiency.

Long distance running is not something you just decide to do one day. In a marathon training program, a long distance run can be anywhere from 10 to 20 miles and take several hours to complete. It requires proper training, nutrition and hydration. If you do not properly prepare yourself, you may find that you collapse after a long run. Even hit a “wall” during the marathon. This wall refers to the point in time during a marathon when the glycogen (secondary long-tern energy) stores in your leg muscles become depleted, after which your pace can slow to a crawl.

Wow, that makes me look forward to the race more every day. Maybe not, but it has made me have more self-discipline during my training. The idea of self-discipline sounds stern and severe, but if you think about it, nothing in life can be achieved without some kind of self-discipline. If you want to lose weight, you have to set obtainable goals; if you want to get a college degree, you have to study for it; if you want to be a Christian, you have to live for Jesus; if you want to run a marathon, you have to train. You have to be prepared to pay the price. Nothing worthwhile in life can be achieved without some kind of self-discipline.

Here are some self-discipline tricks I’ve learned during my training:

Don’t leave room for excuses

I set my alarm for the same time each day for my runs. I give myself a few minutes to get dress and stretch and even have my clothes laid out the night before, so I know I’m planning to run. Rather than contemplate about the weather, I head out before the weather can stop me.

It’s not as bad as you think

I started my training during the colder months, something I have not been use to. Even during the coldest weather, I just bundled up a bit more and I still ran. I now prefer to run during the cold, because my breathing is better, my mind is clear and I feel great when I return. The cold weather, which use to make me procrastinate, make excuses to get out and run, now is much better than I anticipated.

Set yourself up for success

I often write my goals down, preferably in my runners journal. This has made me more accountable. This goal becomes more than just something I am thinking about; it’s something I am actively working on. I even check off my completed runs and have learned to mark my progress as I go.

Provide an escape hatch

If you have ever run long distances, you might be familiar with the “one more mile” trick. This will indeed come in handy for me on Saturday around the 20-mile mark, when I often feel like sitting down on a curb, throwing up my hands, crossing my arms, and perhaps indulging in some pouting about how the whole marathon thing is just too hard. That is usually when I bargain with myself. I will run one more mile and not a step more. I find myself breaking the miles up into segments which become suddenly manageable. And what do you know, I reach my goal!

Pray

The most effective thing we can do to improve self-discipline is to pray regularly and consistently for God’s help in this area. We can ask God to show us how. Many times in my runs, I listen to praise songs and have quiet time and ask God for His help along the way. And you know what? He reveals himself in the most remarkable ways and gives me strength when I have lost all hope.

Think of self-discipline as a muscle; flex it regularly, and it’s likely to get a whole lot stronger. It doesn’t mean that you will always succeed at what you set out to do, but taking the first steps in the right direction is often the hardest part. After that, it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and taking the right path. Start today as God directs you to gain control of your training in this race set out before us by exercising self-discipline. It is a step toward freedom which can bless you and honor the Lord.

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