I had a little fun over the last couple of weeks making three lists of “Five reasons why,” focusing on running, lifting and hiking. The last of those posts got some really great responses from dozens of readers on Facebook.
Looking back, it’s important to note that these three activities aren’t the only things I do that help me stay healthy and happy. They just happen to be the biggest.
I climb a little, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I’ve been known to ski some (poorly). I ride a bike almost daily, but nothing to serious — to and from work, or maybe an easy weekend cruise.
For others, it’s different. I’ve got plenty of friends who spend a bunch of time on the saddle, pedaling their way over long stretches of road or on gnarly dirt singletrack. They get just as much out of their bikes as I do on my runs.
Other friends enjoy water sports. They kayak local lakes and rivers, and that time on the river is the tonic of physical challenge and mental peace they need.
And even more buddies of mine climb. They find local crags, they travel to famous climbing hot spot, they clip on at a climbing gym — usually, it’s a combination of all three.
I remember one friend of mine, a fella named Nathan, telling me that climbing changed him. He played sports and lifted like a fiend all the way through high school. But it’s when he moved west and discovered climbing that he found his place, so to speak. Climbing is where he’s made friends, where he’s conditioned his body, and where he’s discovered who he was as a man. It’s not that climbing in itself is a noble calling. But by facing the challenges of a big wall, a tricky problem or a burly mountain, he’s discovered strength of mind and body he didn’t know was there.
He found his thing, and his thing helped him grow to who he is now.
I’ll close this with another story, one I shared on Facebook the other night. It’s another deal where a guy found his thing, and in his words, it saved him.
The man in question is part of a running group I’m in. We got through doing a two-mile time trial, a workout we like to get in the week before a race. All of us have been getting faster and fitter under the guidance of a coach whose running experience goes back to his 20s as a collegiate athlete (he’s my age now, and can still hit 20 minutes or less in a 5K).
Anyway, I got to talking with this guy after the run. He told me that getting back into running saved him. I asked him, “How so?” And with that, he told me quite a story.
He said before joining the run group, he was 75 pounds overweight. He was working 16-hour days, and then heading straight from the office to the bars until closing time. The work stress, physical degradation and heavy drinking put him in a downward spiral that had him thinking he might be better off dead.
So he got help. He found a group of men who counseled and prayed with him. He stopped drinking and quit his job. And he took up running.
Months later, he’s centered. Fit. And getting pretty fast. Running gave him a healthy outlet, one that beat his body into shape and calmed a troubled mind.
He found his thing.
I’m sure this man, and Nathan, and any number of people I know could come up with their own list of “Five reasons why…” like I did.
The routines of our lives — work, home, and whatnot — can drain the life out of our days. Career, family, relationships and money can curse as much as they bless. It’s easy to get trapped into orbiting these things and lose who you are, who God intended you to be.
The point of the lists I made is to show how life, or God, or whatever it is that guides you, puts things in your path to help you along. We all deal with trouble. Everyone’s got problems. But what’s your outlet for all that angst? What tools do you have in your toolbox to handle it?
For me? I run. I lift. And I hike.
What do you do? If you don’t know, I encourage you to step back, think hard and find your thing.