I’ve been training for the Arizona Tough Mudder event. The Tough Mudder comes around once a year and completing it has been a fitness goal of mine ever since I decided to become more physically disciplined. Basically, it’s a half-marathon with obstacles like ice-swims, rope-climbs, barbed-wire-crawls, and electric shocks. Sounds fun, huh?

Well, I set a personal record distance record recently while training: 11 miles. It was no triumph though. I got home after that run and practically collapsed; I was useless for the rest of the day. Nausea and muscle cramps kept me miserable for hours.

This came as a bit of a surprise to me since I had just run 10 miles the week prior–and killed it. What happened?

Basically, I made a series of small, but critical mistakes.

  • I decided to run in the hottest time of the day instead the early morning like I usually do. This resulted in mild dehydration.
  • I took a new route that I hadn't properly scoped out. It included long stretches of uphill terrain I wasn't used to.
  • I ran on the painfully hard pavement instead of my usual soft trail. My knee was basically yelling at me in protest by mile 4. After the run it hurt just to walk.
  • I ran less than an hour after eating a meal (I usually wait two or three).
  • I didn't bring any electrolyte replacements or calories even though I knew I'd be running for well over 90 minutes.

Here’s the thing. I totally knew what I was getting into before my run, but I had underestimated the collective impact of these bad choices.

If all other factors had been ideal, any one of these things would have been an annoyance, but wouldn’t have knocked me out of commission.

I’m determined to get a life lesson out of this miserable experience, and here it is:

We often miss the cumulative negative effect of our many, small, unfortunate choices. Don’t do that.

Every time I make the small choice to be irritated at my spouse instead of being gracious, the likelyhood that bitterness could take root gets bigger. If I let my prayer time go today, my Bible memorization session slip tomorrow, and forget to go to church on Sunday, how can I expect to hear from God?

It’s the little things that count.

What would change for you if you began to address some of those recurring, seemingly-small bad decisions you catch yourself making?