A Strong Start: Practice (Pt.1)

A Strong Start: Practice (Pt.1)

So, we just finished the end of what – to some – seemed like the worst year ever. But, to others, their best year. Despite the impact of 2020, around October, I started hearing the chants of those who always tell you to “finish strong” and “go harder.”

Do not get me wrong. I absolutely love the idea of “finishing strong,” but there is something to be said about the way that you start a matter.  At this very moment or this month, women of Judah, I want you to consider how you will start your year off.

When society talks about ‘finishing strong,’ they like to reference the greats.

Lebron James finishing the game with a 1-dunk finish.

Michael Phelps winning a gold medal by a fingertip or even Michael Johnson’s historic 200-Meter Dash at the Olympics.

When we see an athlete’s ability to turn on the afterburners in the last ten minutes of a game or the 10 to 20 meters of a race, we immediately think – they are just born that incredible, or they are only getting out there and running and leaving the rest up to God.

But – did you know that sprinters have very complex routines as to how they approach and start a race in the sport of track and field? Faith without works, right?

Please get this.

If you ask the average person, “how does a track athlete practice their skill?” they would most likely tell you that they just “run.”  Heck, if you ask the average person, “how do you get from point A to point B?” they’d say, “you just do it!”

But – you do not, “just do it.” There is a path that must be taken, and there are steps and routines that make you ‘race-ready.’

A sprinter’s approach to a race breaks down into two significant steps:

1) practice (mental and physical) and

2) and race day.

As we prepare to sprint through 2021 with much fire and gusto, let us approach it physically and mentally with the same tenets as a track star preparing for a race at the top of their game.

Let us take a closer look at the PRACTICE process:

PHYSICAL PRACTICE

THE WARM-UP

Before we can impact the world, our bodies must allow us to do so. “Warming-up” is a term defined by the Oxford dictionary as reaching a temperature high enough to allow it to operate efficiently. It is the same with our temple; we must make sure that our bodies are healthy and ready for the work before us in the kingdom.

Sis, your mind, body, and spirit deserve to be well. Take care of them.

DRILLS/TECHNIQUE

If I were to name something that every runner should do, it would be drills. Drills include various movements tailored to the type of race that each runner has to run. They improve form, power, efficiency, and best of all, it creates muscle memory- so that on race day, the runner’s body isn’t reacting; it is performing – as it is designed to do.

It is just like that with our vision casting and goal setting, too! When our goals are specific, there is no ambiguity. We know what our aim is.  If you remember, in (Habakkuk 2:2). it reads, “Write the vision, make it plain on tablets, that he may run that reads it.” If your vision is not clear to you or to the assistance that God sends your way, you will have problems trying to run with it.

SPEED WORK (RUNNING)

When a runner, practices – he practices running. But did you know that runners never practice at 100% of their capacity?  Did you know that they only push to 70-90% of their best speed? Why, do you ask?  Because training is about getting your body ready for the race while doing the least amount of work. If you burn yourself during training, you will not be prepared or physically fresh for the actual race.

Read that again if you need to.

It does not matter how successful or talented you are, burnout can and will happen if you’re always pushing yourself at 100%. Don’t give up on your goals, but do allow room for rest.

SPEED WORK (ENDURANCE)

Usain Bolt is widely considered the greatest sprinter of all time. If you have seen a race of his – you probably wondered how he got so fast at the end of the race? Well, the truth is, he does not. Usain’s talent is his ENDURANCE.

He starts his race at the same pace that he ends it in. So, what you really see on the screen is that Usain maintains a particular speed over a long time, while his competitors slow down.

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (NLT).

We need this kind of exhortation not to grow weary in doing good because “the spirit is willing, but OUR flesh is weak.”  In this passage, Paul is painting a picture of a sower. He reminds the Galatians that while in the immediate, we may not see the rapid growth or the victory that we would hope for, we must continue to fight, and we must continue to do the work – for the victory will come.

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

Floyd Mayweather is another athlete known for his intense training regimen. When he was fighting, he had the discipline to train his strength and conditioning year-round, not just in season. “He even has a chant with his team that reinforces his philosophy: Floyd shouts out “commitment” and his team chants back “determination.””

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

Floyd’s discipline and determination have earned him the title of champion. Has your discipline and determination earned you the same?

MENTAL PRACTICE

As blessed as these professional athletes are with their physical gifts, the mental side of the game often separates those who make it from those who do not.

FILM STUDY

Film study is an essential practice for athletes because it allows them to study their competition and review their past mistakes for improvement.

Evaluating oneself is a necessary part of becoming a better person — both professionally and personally. To become better at anything in life, we must access where we are in the moment and what we could be doing better, learning, or unlearning.

Proverbs 16:16 says that having wisdom and understanding is better than having silver or gold. Nice and expensive items can be enjoyable, but there are very few things in life that can never be taken away, will never go out of style, and that truly makes you a better person.

VISUALIZATION

To visualize something is to ‘faith it’ before you see it.

Kobe Bryant, the NBA star, known for his extreme work ethic, would visualize the game by playing them in a gym without a ball.  There are tapes showing Kobe practicing and dribbling on the basketball court without the ball, literally running through plays while actively visualizing the game around him.

It’s like when God told Abram to go outside, look at the stars, and count them. “So shall your offspring be?”

God showed Abram the stars and told him to count them. At that moment, he took Abram’s eyes off his limitations and put them on the spiritual world where God is unlimited.

THERAPY

Did you know many professional sports franchises have full team mental health staff for their athletes?

Yes! And sis, it is ok for you to love Jesus and have a therapist, too. Therapists help us to deal with our disappointments, to a range of issues, from anxiety to sleep to relationships to trauma. Whatever it is that may be preventing you from being your ‘best self’ can be discussed within those safe walls and with a licensed professional.

As Dr. Anita Phillips best puts it, “prayer is a weapon, but therapy is a strategy.”

Women of Judah, as you embark into 2021 with promise in your heart, I encourage you to consider the preparation of athletes, for a race.

Their will,

Their determination.

Their discipline and their faith.

2021 will be a year where we emerge stronger, more flexible, and better equipped for the future.

We will discuss STEP 2: RACE DAY, next week.

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