“I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.” — Psalm 121:1-2
Prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, most people outside of his native Norway and the cross-country skiing world had never heard of 24-year-old Petter Northug. But he would prove to be a star at those Olympics, bringing home two golds, a bronze, and a silver.
He was a beast when it came to endurance and fitness, always seeming to have an extra gear that his competitors couldn’t find. But there was also one gift that continually propelled Northug to success: the power in his legs. That might seem obvious for a skier, but Northug was just a special talent when it came to finding that push, particularly toward the end of a race.
The course at those Olympics had a long, memorable hill that skiers had to climb before entering the stadium and finish line. In short races, this climb marked the last push to the end, but in longer races, skiers had to climb it multiple times. This proved to be a weeding-out point for a lot of racers, sorting out who had the gas to keep going and who didn’t — the pack stringing down the hill as some gained momentum and others lost it. And this is where Northug set himself apart.
During a race, he wouldn’t look to pass other skiers on the flats very often. But he would inevitably get them on the hills, especially that infamous final one. He trusted his legs and knew that, where others would falter, he could succeed. This strategy proved correct on multiple occasions as he was able to work his way toward the front and move into a winning position.
What if the same idea applied to life? What if we made our best gains in the hardest parts of our life? When challenging areas of the course reveal the lack of spiritual stamina in others, what if that’s where we could find an extra gear? Could gain ground when others are losing it?
Let’s face it: You cruise on the flats for awhile, thinking the race will be a breeze, but then inevitably, the burn will begin in the legs, the lungs will start to heave, the tiredness will set in. The race will begin to take its toll. It always does. And when the hills come into view, it might seem easy to think it will prove your un-doing. And everyone around you likely is feeling the fatigue as well. What if you saw your breaking point as your opportunity? Began to make your move when others around you were doubting, staggering, losing speed?
Perhaps it just might change your life if you trained for the hills. Skiers like Northug know the courses won’t be flat all the time. They’ll have those places where they’re pushed to their limits and forced to call on resources mentally, physically and emotionally that they didn’t think they had. So will we. But if we take advantage of the times that test us beyond what we think we can take, we just might surprise ourselves.
— Katherine Singer
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