Journal entry 052311: Better together

When it comes to working out, I have consistently avoided group classes. The way I saw it, if you went to a class, you had to go on someone else’s schedule, at someone else’s location, do someone else’s workout, follow someone else’s rules, and listen to someone else tell you what to do and when to do it. One of my longstanding life goals has been to avoid letting someone else tell me what to do or when to do it.

But a few years ago I started going to a group weight training class at Gold’s Gym (Body Pump). I first heard of it from friend Jim Sales. When Cyndi decided she wanted to go, I wanted to go with her. Much to my surprise, not only did I enjoy the class, I got a lot stronger. In fact, I’m stronger today than I’ve ever been my entire life.

What I learned was that joining a group made the workout better. I worked harder and longer than I would’ve worked by myself. I lifted heavier weights. I couldn’t stop when I got tired, since there were girls in the room. I never had to think about what to do next, I just followed the instructor. I saw real results, and I kept going back. I was surprised to learn that I needed a group to do my best. I never suspected that.

And that brings me to what happened last weekend - which we spent along the Mansfield-Dallas-Plano axis. Cyndi had a workshop and I did my favorite thing - hang out by myself. I tried running at White Rock Lake Friday afternoon but I got rained out. But for me the highlight of the weekend - that is, besides playing with granddaughter Madden - was a Chi Running class we took late Saturday afternoon.

As the arthritis in my knees has progressed (I doubt that’s the correct word; it doesn’t feel like progress) I’ve realized my best strategies are to lose weight down to the 170-175 lbs. range (so far I have been dismal at getting that done, however) and Chi Running. It’s a running technique created by ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer to “heal and prevent injuries, to run faster, farther, and with much less effort, at any age.” It is rooted in a principle and philosophy similar to Tai Chi. I learned about it from reading Dreyer’s book in October 2006.

I’ll admit a bit of discomfort with the Chi part of it. I read the parts of the book that talked about the energy in our body that ties everything together, and while I am happy to admit we don’t know as much about human body as we think, and what we do know is just an approximation of reality, and while spending miles on the trails has convinced me there is more to the mind-body-spirit connection than I was taught in my conservative evangelical upbringing, I’m not buying into the Chi theory. It’s a little too spooky for me. But regardless of the philosophy, the resulting running technique should keep Cyndi and me running longer with fewer injuries.

Like all technique-centric activities, you need personal coaching to get it right. You can read the books and listen to the podcasts and watch the DVDs and learn the terminology, but you can’t know if you are doing the technique correctly without someone else observing, and it works best when the outside observer is a trained instructor who knows the clues and can teach the subtle differences.

Some sports, like golf, or tennis, or baseball come with the expectation that the participant needs expert coaching to get really good. But since we’ve all known how to run since we were children, running isn’t usually considered to be on that list. However, even something as simple as running can be improved, and with people like us, over 50 years old who intend to run for decades longer, incremental improvements can have lasting benefits.

So I researched the internet for instructors in the Dallas area and wrote to two of them. David Saltmarsh was the first to respond, so I set up a session with him for Saturday morning. But then Cyndi told me she wanted to go as well, so I moved our session to Saturday evening.

I’ll admit that, at first, I wasn’t happy that I had to share. Typically, if we both go to something like this, Cyndi gets 75% of the instruction and the instructor’s attention. But this time I was wrong. The session was great and David was specific and patient and gave both of us lots of individual attention. And of course, we learned more by being there together (a group).

David told me to work on my posture, straighten my right foot, peel my feet from the ground instead of lifting my knees, and relax my ankles. I don’t remember what he told Cyndi to do, but I’m sure it was a lot, knowing how sloppy she runs. (I do remember that my arm swing was perfect and Cyndi’s was deficient. There’s that.)

It was a good session, and while I don’t do Chi Running very well, yet, I can do enough to know it will help me - I’ve seen the future.

But my lessons learned these past few years are bigger than running or weight training. Coaching and groups have been a big part of my growth as a Christian man. I’ve heard speakers say that the fruits of the spirit - love, joy, peace patience, etc. - should grow out of us naturally as we allow the Holy Spirit access to our lives, and that we shouldn’t have to work at it, but in practice I’ve never met anyone who grew in spiritual maturity that didn’t take deliberate and intentional action, usually in the form of spiritual disciplines and coaching (or, as we call it, discipling or mentoring). Every strong believer I know has become strong by learning from others.

Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with a series of leaders and teachers who’ve taught me how to live as a Christian man. And even today, I am being taught by a community of men around me.

I’ve learned that you cannot do this alone. You cannot find healing alone. You cannot find peace alone because God did not create you to do it alone. You cannot live a significant life without others – no matter how intelligent you are, how gifted you are, how creative you are, or how many books you read. Your fate is not the result of your faith alone, for no one stands alone. Without the involvement of others in your future, you have no future.

Once we decide to invest our lives into each other – not for personal gain – but to help us live out our own dreams – we’ll both be changed forever. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be good enough to give Chi Running lessons to you!


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to , or “Retreating With God,” go to ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: