A changed image

What does it take to change theimage you have of yourself? Would you even want to?

My self-image as a cyclist changed significantly after my foot surgery last spring. I hobbled around on crutches for seven weeks; when that was over, I was ready to move. Dr. Glass wouldn’t let me run on my new foot yet, but he did approve cycling. I was so happy to be doing something, anything, moving, I rode 16 miles every day. Not only was I regaining fitness, I could feel my pace quickening and my comfort on my bike improving. I felt like a real cyclist for the first time since I started riding again.

Then, for some reason, I had an inspiration to ride 56 miles on my 56th birthday, which was June 23rd.

Actually, I’ve had a long-standing dream to run my birthday, but there was no way I could run 56 miles, foot surgery or not. And even if I could, running that far in Texas in the June heat would be crazy. I’d have to do it all at night, and where would I go? At the track - 224 laps?

But biking 56 miles seemed doable. Just a small stretch.

The previous summer I rode 50 miles with Todd, Kara, and David, my first big ride after buying my Specialized. But I didn’t follow it up with any more long rides. Since then, my furthest rides had all been in the 25-mile range.

So riding 56 miles was a significant increase (124%), but once the idea rooted in my consciousness, I couldn’t shake it off. What was the worst thing that could happen? My legs could crater and I’d have to sit down beside the road and wait for a ride home. But I would have my phone to call for help and my iPod for entertainment, so the risk seemed minimal.

Friday morning, birthday-eve, I rode out-and-back on 191, with one excursion up to Greentree, and another on Billy Hext. I had to stop and fix one flat at Cornerstone Church, and I took a well-deserved break at the Stripes Convenient Store. By the time I got home, I had actually ridden 58 miles. Happy birthday to me.

My average speed for the day was 13.13 mph. Not fast, but not terrible, either.

The thing is, that ride changed me. I realized the limits I’d set for myself were way too short. I was capable of much more. I saw myself in an entirely different category. I had changed my image.

Still full of myself, and confident in my superhuman strength, I rode 45 miles the next Friday, this time averaging 14.6 mph. I know the average speed thing is not an exact measure of effort or fitness since it depends on wind and temperature, but it is the only real indicator I can measure and compare.

Again, the ride felt good, and I wasn’t especially sore or tired when I got home. I learned I could work very hard for three hours straight, pushing my legs, lungs, and heart, and still feel good the rest of the day.

Since then, through the summer, I rode another five or six rides in the fifty-mile range, some with friends (Cory, and Todd), but mostly by myself. And my average speeds have crept above 15 mph, which used to be my major goal for much shorter rides. I am looking forward to more giant leaps forward in the months/years to come. If I can ride 50, I can ride 100. If I can ride 100, I can ride around the world.

So what’s the point in writing about all this?

Because we all get stuck in our present selves, afraid to move forward, afraid to take risks, afraid to change. It happens to me all the time. I only wrote about cycling because that was an easy change. I’m afraid to write about things that are hard. Things like changing my image as a husband, a parent, a teacher, a follower of Jesus.

How about you? What image do you need to change? Maybe all it would take is a 124% step up. It’s risky. You might fail. But failing isn’t so bad … just keep your phone nearby so you can call for help

QUESTION: Which image do you need to change? How can you make a big step forward?


“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 www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: berry@stonefoot.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org