Week five: Elephant legs and other maladies

Top view runner in yellow sportswear resting lying on a black as

In case you’re wondering about elephant legs, no, I’m not referring to big legs.  What I call elephant legs is when, during a workout, I feel tired, low energy and every limb feels incredibly heavy.  I just don’t have that pep in my step, and even after exercising for a few minutes the adrenaline rush just doesn’t happen.  For example, when I’m jogging and my legs feel as though they’ve been filled with cement, incredibly heavy to lift.  Every step takes intense concentration and willpower to continue.

Elephant legs happened to me recently.  It was a Thursday afternoon and, due to Daddy’s knee surgery on Monday, exercise time had not been easy to come by that week.  I was really looking forward to getting back into my jogging routine and allowing the exercise to clear my head.  Toby Dog and I started out at our normal brisk, walking, warm-up pace for about 1/10 of a mile before breaking out into a jog.  I knew right away I wasn’t up to my normal energy level but didn’t give it another thought at that point.  Usually after the first mile is gone the adrenaline and endorphins kick in and the runner’s high hits.  If you’ve ever experienced euphoria and high energy levels at the most intense part of a workout, that’s a runner’s high.  You feel like you can conquer the world.

The first mile went by.  My steps still thundered heavily to the ground.  I felt like I was in slow motion and trying to lift cement-filled legs.  Where was my energy boost?  Even Toby Dog was beginning to glance up at me quizzically from time to time as if to say, “Come on ma, what’s the problem?”

I wish I could say I finally got over the hump, the energy kicked in and I ran like the wind.  It didn’t happen.  Every step from finish to end was laborious and I had to talk myself through the entire run.  I even had to go to my mantra (and I haven’t had to do that in a long time!) which is to repeat over and over, “Your strength, Your will, Your strength, Your will!”  I had to make God the focus of every single step and breath or I would have quit and lay right there on the ground just like the guy in the picture at the beginning of this article (I wanted to very badly!).

So what happened?  What was so different about this one day?   Why are some days full of energy and then, seemingly out of the blue, one like this hits you?  In my case, it didn’t take a genius mind to figure it out.  I had been staying at my parent’s house helping to care for Daddy and not only had not been able to exercise much, but I wasn’t getting the usual amount of nightly sleep.  To top that off, I had been on a dead run for several days and, while I was still eating healthily, I would grab what I could eat on the go.  Translation, I wasn’t getting enough fuel into my body.  By Thursday afternoon my lack of sleep and nutrition was taking a toll and I had a bad case of elephant legs.  It’s miserable.  I hope you never get it.

It just goes to show you how important the correlation is between sleep, nutrition and exercise.   The condition of one affects another, which in turn will affect the third.  A good amount of sleep triggers a balanced appetite.  A balanced day of nutrition helps you to exercise at higher energy levels.  When you exercise at higher energy levels, you sleep better.  The next day it starts all over again.  When one is out of kilter, it affects the others.

Let’s start with sleep.  The average person needs 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night (I have a friend that only needs about 5 hours per night and she’s up and raring to go – I envy that!).  When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re obviously going to be tired.  But what you may not know is that when you’re tired, your body will crave more food or unhealthy fatty, sugary foods to make up for the loss of energy.  If you’re well-rested, you will on average eat a healthier, balanced diet.

It’s more obvious how nutrition affects our workouts.  I’m sure most of you have heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” and it’s so true.  Put junk food, refined sugars, artificial ingredients and other items that are on the unhealthy list in your body, you’re going to walk around all day with little to no energy and won’t get the most out of your workout.  In other words, you’ll feel like all the junk you’re putting into your system.

However, there are weeks that happen like mine did two weeks ago, life just happens and you don’t get the sleep and nutrition you need.  When you feel like you’re possibly coming down with elephant legs, there are some things you can do to help just before your workout.

  • Make sure you’re well hydrated. Water is the most utilized nutrient in your body, and if you’re low on water it will make you feel weaker.
  • Have a high fiber, complex carb snack about 45 minutes before exercising, such as a smoothie, a piece of whole wheat toast and a serving of fruit or a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds.
  • Take a coffee nap. Yep, that’s right a coffee nap.  Sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ve tried it and it did give me a little boost.   It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to have an effect, so consuming a cup of coffee before taking a 30-minute nap can boost your energy and performance.
  • Or, you could take a regular 30-minute power nap. But that’s not as fun as a coffee nap, and it gives me an excuse to drink coffee in the afternoon.  Not that I need an excuse!

Elephant legs and other such maladies will happen occasionally, and it is okay to have a low-key day every now and then, but don’t let it keep you on the couch.  Try to exercise even if it’s not at your normal pace.  The way to avoid coming down with it is to take preventative measures – make sure you get enough sleep nightly and eat well-balanced meals daily!

Week five: What does your lifesong sing?


On a recent commute home, I was listening to the radio (as I usually do), and the song by Casting Crowns, “Lifesong,” began to play.  I have heard it many times and know most of the lyrics by heart.  As I was singing along, the words resounded in my heart in a way they had not previously.  Have you ever done that?  A song that you’ve heard and sung a hundred times before, then suddenly one day the message strikes you with new meaning.

That’s what happened to me; it was if I were hearing these words for the first time:

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

In my pattern of thoughts, I began to wonder, if I were really, really honest with myself and with God, what would be my lifesong?  Would it sing joyously as an example of a good daughter, a good sister, a good youth group leader?  Would it sing of Christ-like love toward others?  Would it sing of surrender, sacrifice and service to God on all levels, body, spirit and soul?

I couldn’t answer an honest yes to it all, and certainly not all of the time.  The fact is, we do all the right things (regular Sunday and Wednesday church attendance, prayer groups, mission groups and various other fellowship activities and events), and even manage to work in a quick devotional every morning.  Is this really worship, and truly living for Him on a daily basis?

To God, why you’re doing what you’re doing is more important than what you’re doing.  He wants your motivation to be out of love for Him, a desire to please Him and for Him to be glorified through your actions.  We should be motivated to action because it’s important to God and not to complete a checklist.  I went to church, check; ate healthy today, check; exercised today, check; said my prayers, check.  If you’re doing it to mark off all the items on the list just because it’s what God says you should do, it’s wasted time.

Basically, what the song means that everything we do should be about making God happy.  This includes every aspect of who you are, both physically and spiritually.  If one is out of tune, the other will be also.  You cannot focus only on taking care of your spirit and soul and neglect the physical body God made for you.  If you do, you are not living up to the potential that God intended for you when He breathed life into you and placed you on this earth.

And, I have to say, that churches are the absolute worst when it comes to this issue.  We discuss “bigger” sins and issues at length, delve deeply into them, then just barely (if ever) and briefly skim over taking care of your physical body.  We then adjourn to fellowship time with sweets, chips and soft drinks.  Note to my church family, I really do love all of you very much.  To quote Clairee from Steel Magnolias, “You know I love you more ‘n my luggage!

I find it confusing that we sit in church on Sunday morning, listen to the sermons and readily accept and acknowledge that we fall short when it comes to loving others, being judgmental, service, faith and a host of other character shortcomings.  But almost nothing will raise a person’s defenses as quickly as the issue of neglecting the gift of the physical body God gave you.  Nobody likes to talk about it, and we just don’t take it as seriously as we should.  However, God not only expects us to take care of ourselves by eating healthily and exercising, He commands us to do so.  Consider Colossians 3:17:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Notice it reads whatever you do, meaning all that you do, and that includes eating right and exercising.  The verse doesn’t give you a checklist to follow, because there isn’t one.  Everything you do should be done in His name.  Choosing not to do so is, quite simply, is choosing to disobey God.

Please understand that this is not intended as a holier-than-thou message or to imply that I am perfect.  I am in the boat with everyone else.  I am no better than anyone else.  But God allowed me to go through alcoholism, gluttony, an immoral lifestyle and a host of other sins against my own body, then redeemed me from it and allowed me to keep good health despite the way I neglected my health and took it for granted.  The purpose was so He would be glorified and allow me to show others His love by leading them on a path to a more perfect walk with Him by getting all of you in sync – body, spirit and soul.

If your lifesong were to sing out loud to others right now, what would it be singing?  Would your spouse, your children, grandchildren, family and anyone else hear the song of your righteous, healthy living and see you setting the example?  Your lifestyle is a witness to everyone you come in contact with.

If your lifesong were to sing out loud to God right now, would it be a joyful song?  Would it be full of the happiness that can only come when all of you, your body, spirit and soul are in tune with Him?

If you haven’t given every part of yourself to Him and are clinging on to something that is not pleasing to Him, it’s never too late!  You can submit and dedicate your entire being to Him right now, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.  Don’t waste another minute of your precious time here on earth holding on to those things that will always hinder your walk with Him.  He loves you so much and is just waiting to sing your joyous lifesong with you!

Scripture:  Psalm 104:33

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Prayer:  Father God, I am so humbled by Your love for me.  I am constantly amazed at the wonder of Your miraculous hand over my life, and there is a new song to sing every day because You show me Your power and presence.  In knowing Christ, my song of joy and deliverance is for a lifetime.  You refresh me and give me a new song.  Let my lifesong sing to You!

Follow this link to listen to Lifesong by Casting Crowns