Pastor Spotlight: Rev. Laura Hayes Mitchell: Minister, Mom and Marathoner

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This piece is offered by my fellow wellness advocate, Lisa MacKenzie:

I first met the Rev. Laura Hayes Mitchell, pastor of Burgaw UMC in Burgaw, NC, at the 2011 Spirited Life winter workshop at Oak Island. While there, she shared with me that she had a vision of where she wanted to be with her health and what she wanted to do about it.

Before having children, Laura was a runner; therefore, her vision included wanting to run a 5K. But when you have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, how do you find time to get yourself conditioned for a race?  Talk about a challenge! Laura explained, “It’s fine if you have a live-in nanny, but some of us have to learn how to juggle responsibilities, and it’s particularly difficult if you’re a pastor without a predictable schedule.”

So Laura set goals based on her vision.  She made time for the gym, followed Naturally Slim, and began to think a 5K was within reach. She began to see that she needed to carve out the time regularly for herself. She noticed that she felt good and had more energy when she exercised.

Then, it was time for the first race. “What a hoot!” Laura reported. She finished the race with a “respectable time,” but more importantly, she emerged with even more motivation for longer races.

Since then, her family has cheered her on at her races, and her boys have discovered that Mom is quite the athlete. In fact, Owen, her youngest child, likes to stretch with her, and TJ, the big boy in the family, runs the last block with his Mom on her way home on Saturday mornings. After two years of hard work and perseverance, Laura has moved on to half-marathons and is feeling well. She says that “running has now become a habit.”

I found her last statement interesting, especially as I’m reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Duhigg draws on research in experimental and applied psychology along with neurology, highlighting just how interesting — and powerful — the brain really is!

Thanks, Laura, for inspiring us. It’s amazing how quickly habits can change!

— Lisa MacKenzie

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