Check the Calves

Walking for exercise is such a bore, and running is even worse. I appreciate God for the ability to walk and run, but for the sake of physical fitness, this exercise is the one I hate most. I think it’s something about the monotonous pat pat on the pavement. Or maybe it’s the steady, unbreakable beat of the foot moving up and down. Up, and down. Snoozer.

For some runners and walkers, the rhythmic beat of tennis shoes kissing the sidewalk provides a therapeutic sound, and the challenge to push past the burn and monotony is part of the game. “Run hard, live easy!” I’m more of a sports person. I love playing tennis or shooting a basketball on the court. Sweat equals calories. As long as I move, I feel productive. And sports make me forget I’m even “exercising.”

But sometimes I don’t always have a tennis partner. Or sometimes I don’t feel like hooping on the courts. On such days, I walk. I don’t run. I just walk.

While walking, I always notice the calves of the runners. I haven’t developed an unhealthy calf fetish or anything, but the writer in me remains observant of everything as I circle a lake or some path in the park, and I definitely notice toned calves. I kind of envy them. I also take not of flabby ones. Some calves also seem to be in-between. Mine remain in training.

Maybe I am becoming a little calf crazy, but I’m starting to see these calves as a great indication of physical fitness and the consistent walking and running behaviors of the people who own them. Have you ever watched a runner arrive to a park, jump out his car, stretch a few moments, and then take off running? I’ve even seen ones who pat pat down the stretch in perfect stride with no headphones, no music. I imagine the runner is listening to a certain sound of movement in his body. The pat pat is a melody of reward and motivation. I watch in awe as these runners pass me and turn the next bend, and then they jog out of sight.

If they run like that, then certainly I can just keep walking. I wonder if they know how much they motivate me. Those beautiful calves. I check them often.

I also notice new runners. Amateurs who stumble around and try a maniacal sprint right out the blocks, but they only last a short time. Untoned calves do strange things. Depending on the path I walk, I see them do a short jog, grow winded, and then leave. Obviously, I can’t fully ascertain their efforts, but I do see patterns. The sprinters who have calves use them well. I may see them do a short sprint too for one lap, and then walk the next lap. Repeat.

Calves indicate fitness.

Many readers of Scripture know the Apostle Paul compares the Christian journey to a race, and in 1 Corinthians 9, he writes about discipline. And you know what discipline looks like to me nowadays: calves.

Some Christians try to do too much too soon, and they grow weary in well doing. They neglect training and immediately run into the race with flabby calves. They may turn into infrequent walkers who jump in and out the race. Too often the fickle runners want the finished product of amazingly toned calves without the work those experienced runners did to develop them. It’s funny, but we sometimes neglect to talk about the “training” that should probably precede the race.

The training looks like learning some of the Word. It looks like mentorship and watching the calves of elders and mothers who run well. We need to develop discipline in our prayer lives and fellowship with the people of God. These things help our spiritual calves to tone. We might need to start out walking as we learn the rhythm of the pavement and understand the pat pat of shoes that carry the Gospel.

Spiritual calves also help us to recognize sound doctrine to avoid deceptive messages. Sometimes people sound like God and profess to be all sorts of things—the devil did it well—but calves don’t lie.

I often ask experienced runners and walkers how they developed longevity. What makes them put on clothes and take the time to exercise on a regular basis? How do they avoid boredom and burnout? What type of injuries have they received along the narrow path? What other disciplines do they have to stay in shape?

Every single day I keep looking at my calves, waiting for the definition to materialize. I’m not there yet, and I probably have a long way to go. But I will keep walking until my calves tell the story of faithfulness, discipline, and determination, and maybe new walkers or runners will be motivated when they see my toned my calves walking down the narrow path and turning around the bend too.

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