“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” Isak Dinesen
As a distance runner in the southeast, I am very familiar with the healing power of sweat. And, as a long time scuba diver, I am equally aware of the serenity of the sea. As one who has been known to cry at a Disney movie, I can also vouch for the cleansing nature of a nice, healthy cry.
These were my thoughts yesterday as I ran in the South Mississippi morning heat. We’ve had a slight cool front move through, and it wasn’t quite as hot and humid as it normally is. Even so, by the end of my 5 miler, my clothes were soaked to the dripping point and my eyes were burning with the sweat that had run unchecked into them. I don’t really mind running in the heat. It is much more appealing to me than running in the cold, but I do have to be careful and run smart. So, it’s very early morning runs, or, in the event that I oversleep, it’s the dreadmill. I’ve learned not to press the snooze button – the dreadmill is like walking the plank.
My mind has been very full lately with different things. Work that needs to be caught up on after our extended vacation time last month, the troubles of some precious friends, family illness and issues, looking for God’s hand in some of my endeavors, missing precious family who have recently moved away. I’m not a worrier. By nature I probably am, but I’ve learned to let God handle all those things that I can’t seem to control, and it’s made me a much happier person because of it. One of the gifts God has given me to deal with worry is running. The cleansing of a hard run and good sweat. There are no problems that can withstand a hard run in the heat of a Mississippi summer morning. By the end of the run, the problem may not be solved, but it is safely relegated to its place in my life as one of the many things over which I have no control. There is an entire closet in my mind of those things that I’ve had to release to God. Funny how He always knows what to do with them.
A boat ride on the ocean, or better yet, a nice, long dive in warm, blue water has the same effect on me. In the event I’m unable to do either, a beach chair, umbrella, warm white sand, and the pound of the surf can work magic on my soul. What is it about saltwater? I’m not one to seek answers to unanswerable things, so whatever it is, I’m thankful.
I’ve noticed that since running (and profuse sweating) have become a routine part of my life, I no longer seem to have the need of a good long cry. Don’t mistake me, now. I still tear up at a sappy movie, and there are some life events that have to be baptized with tears. But, my mood stays pretty constant, as long as I can get my run in. I know there have been many studies on the mood lifting power of exercise, and I am proof positive. There have been times of deep depression in my life, and I’m humbled and grateful beyond words that God has given me this gift of running to show me how to overcome that without the need for medication.
In addition to learning to embrace the power of sweat through running, I’m in the midst of overhauling my eating plan to a much more natural way of life. My general rule of thumb is if my great grandmother would not or could not have served it, I don’t either. I think about the lives of my ancestors, and I know that running was not a part of their daily routine. Not for exercise, anyway. But, their lives were filled with physical labor, some easy, some overwhelmingly hard. Some of the main scourges of our society today come from the fact that we eat highly over processed foods and sit on our bottoms most of the time. We’ve forgotten the healing properties of sweat.
The following verse is from one of my favorite descriptions of who a woman should be, in Proverbs 31.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17
My prayer for myself, and all the women that I love is that we will set about our work vigorously, and prepare our bodies and minds for the tasks ahead. Embrace the power of sweat.