Pick Your Pain


Jennifer McAlister
July/August 2014

I have been advised by many a non-runner about how horrible running is on the body. Some of the more popular warnings I have received are:

"You will ruin your knees."

"All that pounding the pavement is dangerous."

"You won't be able to enjoy life when you get older because of the damage you are causing with all this running..." and the list goes on.

I find it ironic that those who are the quickest to counsel me on the dangers of running are those who have an aversion to exercise. I've thought many a time on how I should respond to their well-meaning (though not always accurate) advise and I think I finally came up with the answer - "Pick your pain."

We will all suffer from some form of pain, exercise induced or non-exercise induced. For me, the aching feet and sore muscles after a long run are a small price to pay for the health benefits gained. Inactive people may not experience this but could very possibly suffer from the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle; obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure...just to name a few. This pain is far more dangerous so I choose the pain that provides the better alternative. 

"Pick your pain" is something I say to myself everyday. I realized a long time ago that I hate the feeling of being out of shape more than I hate going to the gym, or going for a run. Therefore, I pick my pain. As much as I love exercising and running, if you are pushing yourself, you will feel discomfort.

Getting up early to workout while everyone is sleeping is painful, but the results of an active lifestyle are very rewarding. Physically I have found that the body becomes very efficient when you are a runner and it doesn't want to carry more weight than it has to - so maintaining my goal weight is a benefit. Emotionally, the joy of crossing a finish line after a hard race, far exceeds the pain of getting to the finish line. One of my favorite quotes says, "the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, you choose." The pain of discipline is temporary, the pain of regret is lifelong. Temporary pain is the much wiser choice!

Pick your pain doesn't just apply to the running world but also to society as a whole. If everyone understood that there is no such thing as  "pain-free" route in life, we wouldn't have the entitlement mentality that is becoming more and more prevalent in today's world. Starting a business is hard, getting an education takes discipline, being a good parent takes endurance and patience, achieving goals takes commitment... but oh the reward is so great and desire realized is sweet to the soul.(Proverbs 13:19). 

The road to success, happiness, and fulfillment is the road less traveled because it is the hardest route to take. Only those who understand the consequences of the alternative dare to step foot on this path. It can be hot, hilly, and at times treacherous.  Ironically, those on this  journey are happier than their flatland counterparts who chose the seemingly easier route. They have come to realize that there is joy in the midst of pain. They have learned that  faith, hope, goals, dreams, and purpose, provide strength to put one foot in front of the other and the journey becomes an adventure.

What the easy road travelers don't understand is that a pain-free life doesn't exist. The more they try to avoid "doing hard things" the harder their lives become.  The Bible reminds us that there is profit in all labor but mere talk leads only to poverty. Profit is the reward for labor (physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting; work).  Poverty is the reward for trying to avoid pain. I feel so sorry for those who take this path because they will never know the joys of accomplishment or the reward of hard work. 

In conclusion, when you wake up tomorrow morning you will have a decision to make. My advice to you is pick your pain!

About the Author

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  • Jennifer_McAlister's picture
    Jennifer McAlister is a graphic designer and web designer who combines her love for God, fitness, and design and started a website called Witness Thru Fitness where she designs workout-wear with a Christian message. Jennifer lives in Fort Worth, TX with her family and enjoys running. She will complete her fourteenth marathon in January. You can see her design work at JenniferMcAlister.com. She lives with her family in Fort Worth, TX.

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