One of the effects running can have on those of us who run regularly is that our hearts can become bigger and stronger. It makes sense since we are working an important muscle. While the effects may not be visible like those we see in our arms and legs, we can feel the benefits in many other ways.
Still there are some who challenge the benefits we experience. They will often refer to tragic stories of athletes such as Ryan Shay or Jim Fixx who died tragically as a result of a cardiovascular event while running. Others who make comments such as “your heart only has so many beats per minute” fail to realize the fact that the heart of an inactive person beats MANY more times each day than that of an active person since their cardiovascular system is less efficient.
From the Physical to the Spiritual Heart
The impact our faith and love can have on our hearts is also not necessarily visible or even understood, but as we spiritually nourish our bodies, our hearts grow in a different way.
One of the best examples is when Alison was pregnant with our second child. Our son was barely a year old and we found ourselves stressing out about something other than the baby’s health, finances, and others concerns parents always have. The new worry was one we hadn’t anticipated: “How are we going to give this new baby the same amount of attention and love” while not cheating our son?” Four children later I can now laugh at how ridiculous that was!
The love in my heart that I have for God and my family continues to grow and is challenged at times. What I understand more each day is that while we may experience an amazing range of emotions from being happy to sad and many others, Love is more than an emotion. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that while faith, hope, and love are important, “the greatest of these is love”.
Taking care of our physical and spiritual heart requires work and continual vigilance. For the runner this involves regular training and should include check-ups with a doctor. Sometimes this may involve a sports therapist and I always encourage anyone who is just starting to run or is looking move up to a longer race distance to check with their regular doctor or even a cardiologist to be safe.
Strengthening your spiritual heart requires reading the bible, prayer on a regular basis, and spending time with fellow Christians from your family, church, or maybe your running group who can support you on an ongoing basis.
Doing all of these things can have a profound impact on our lives as the Holy Spirit within us allows us to experience and achieve more than we ever could on our own.