Interview: Jimmy Peña on Taking Care of the Body that Carries the Soul

Jimmy Peña, trainer of celebrities and writer of numerous articles and contributer to health books, talked to The Christian Post about the importance of taking care of the body that carries the name of Jesus Christ. Peña is calling Christians to be the ones to set the example of living a healthier life.

CP: What made you decide to work on this book? You have written hundreds of articles on fitness geared to the general public, why Prayfit?

Peña: It has been great. I've been so blessed over the years. I've written hundreds and hundreds of articles for great magazines and I've been helping celebrities get ready for a roles and magazines and videos. It's interesting, one day I'm sitting in my office in at the prestigious headquarters of Muscle and Fitness Magazine and down the hall, our boss, one of the founders of Fitness and Bodybuilding, Joe Peter, he's about 90 years old, he comes out of his office and with the help of a walker and a nurse bent over 90 degrees and he's walking right out of his office real slowly and he walks right in front of a statue of himself, a bronze statue of himself, his arms folded and looking proud. And it dawned on me as he walked right in front of that statue, it hit me, life is not about the body.

Here I am, a believer, I am a Christian working in this fitness industry and I thought what is a fitness expert to do when I realized that life is not about the body. It kind of confirmed to me at the moment what C.S. Lewis said, "You don't have to have a soul, you are the soul, you have a body" and I really believe that it is very important to take care of the body that carries the soul. So at that time, about five years ago, I began to develop in my mind the idea of a daily fitness devotional where people can take care of their soul and take care of the body that carries it. That's kind of the idea how Prayfit began. So I got on the phone with some great people to help me formulate the idea and here we are.

CP: Do you plan on doing something different with the book?

Peña: Yes, we started a couple of years ago and we are going to branch out to various types of population, such as for couples and families, to runners. So we are hoping we can communicate the basis of what we are all about. We really believe that as a country, as the world becomes unhealthier it's really time that we all take back our health. It's interesting, in 1 Timothy 4, the Bible says, "For physical training has some value but training in Godliness has value now and in the life to come." The first part of the verse says "have limited value." I think what happens is that as believers we skip over that first half of the verse and we concentrate solely on the second half.

Obviously, it's important training in godliness but I think what that first part of the verse says something pertaining to this life. And we know that this life is very fast, it's not going to last but I think what has happened is we have devalued what God has already put a certain value upon. So we what want to do at Prayfit is give the relative contribution of time, energy and focus that our bodies deserve while remembering that our soul is the most important.

We are so excited about the future, we are excited about this current book it's getting great attention; great buzz people are loving it. The great thing about this first version is that it's body weight only, meaning you don't need equipment or gadgets and gizmos at home basically it's your own body's weight resistance and everyday trying to do a little bit better than you did the day before. It's very simple and it's for everyone. It's all relative to what you can do in just minutes a day in the comfort of your own home.

CP: How does your Christian faith inform your work as a fitness expert?

Peña: Some might say our faith is a means to be fit that we need faith to be fit. It doesn't take faith in Jesus to be fit but if we have faith in Jesus we should strive to be fit. If we have faith, we should at least try to be healthy. I think that in every aspect of our live because of who we have embodied into our lives we should strive to be the best and I think it's a shame that this area of our health of our bodies has been completely neglected and the believers; we are lumped into the rest of the world. The statistics and how we are so oversized and what we need to be doing is setting ourselves apart in our churches in our youth groups, in our homes.

We need to start setting ourselves apart in the area of health but not as a declaration of independence saying, "Look what I'm doing for God;" it should be small steps, pushing away from the table sooner than later realizing "I'm satisfied, I don't need to overdose' or turn the TV off 10 minutes early and take a walk with a spouse or go out with the kids, go do small things, those small sacrifices can be elements of praise and say "thank you for this food God, I'm satisfied, thank you that I can go outside and play." We need to introduce ourselves to those common elements that can get us healthier and thank God for that way of life. That is what Prayfit is all about.

CP: What do you do before you begin to work out?

Peña: That is kind of one of the reasons why I started I get out and have some quiet time and spend some time on our knees with my wife and we have good prayer time together. We have a good devotional and a good book by Max Lucado or Charles Stanley that I love. So spending some time in the heart, getting the mind right and hitting the workout.

A lot of people ask me what's the best way to get into shape and I always tell them the same thing, it's whatever you'll do. If you are a runner or if you enjoy walking, whatever you enjoy doing. That's why professional athletes are good at what they do, because they love doing it. So I tell people, have quiet time and spend some time with God's word and prayer and then do something that you enjoy and everyday work at doing it better, that's how the body changes.

CP: What do can you say to people who have different body shapes? Some people say they don't eat much and gain weight faster than those who eat a lot and don't gain weight at all. They are often discouraged to try anything.

Peña: Everyone is made differently, everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses and we have to tackle those and we have to know that it's a complement. What we have been given it's a complement. God believes that we can handle what He is allowing us to endure. So if we look at it what way, this is a complement, this is not a disadvantage, it's not about living someone else's life, it's about living the life you've been given, it's learning what suits your own body. It's learning what exercises you enjoy, what activities you enjoy. It's learning and gravitating towards those things to change your life.

Again, it's not about having a great body; we know that those things won't last. It's all about the approach. We look at it as a means of praise; we look at it as a means of fun and as a means of family and togetherness. When we look at it that way it becomes less focus on others and then it all changes on perspective. When we focus on what others have we will get discouraged because that's not what we should be focusing on.

CP: Why do you connect someone's waistline with God and faith?

Peña: A lot of people say that God only looks at the heart, and it's true, but I think what we've done is taken that phrase and we have clouded the idea and license to neglect the body. There are a lot of things that will not last in this life that we are called to pay attention to. Like money, we are told to be good stewards of money and yet we know that money is not required for heaven and yet we are told to be good stewards of it. Same thing with our bodies, we are told to be good stewards of the temple, of our bodies, even though our bodies are not necessary for heaven our physical strength is not required for heaven yet we are told to be good stewards of it.

I think we stopped paying attention to our health. Not necessarily to how slim our waistline is; however, if we lose body fat, we lower our blood pressure and we get our health in check, those things are byproducts of obedience, I think those things are just byproduct of praise. We should start looking at our health as a means of thanking God as a means of praise and when we look at it that way and we start giving our bodies the attention it deserves then we will start losing weight fast, we will be more fit, more healthier and be able to function better on a daily basis.

CP: It is estimated that people have forgotten or given up on their new year's resolution by now; what can you say to people who will start the plan but lose focus? How can they get back to the plan? Should they start all over again?

Peña: That is one of the great things about the book. It's completely relative to where you are at the moment. Even if you started a resolution and stopped, with Prayfit you can always pick it back up and start again. That's the call; we are called to take up our cross, whatever that might be. Whatever struggle we're in, whatever plan or mountain we want to climb and every single day is brand new. When that sun comes up we are called to live abundantly.

One of the things that I like to encourage is that for new years, find a good plan, do it daily, change your heart, have that paradigm shift in your mind about physical health every single day and then find someone to hold you accountable and keep a journal because I really believe that when you see and write down what you have done and the next day try to beat that, it really does help for those individuals who have started a resolution and who have fallen off. When you see how far you've come it actually motivates you to keep on going. That's why the journal factor of Prayfit is so critical. A lot of people are telling us they love the idea of writing down their progress and see where they have come in 3 to 10 days. So those three things, do it daily, find yourself and accountability partner or a community and keep a journal and helps you with all three.

CP: Do you think church should get together and just start doing it as a community?

Peña: Yes, absolutely. We have churches that have begun Prayfit groups. We have to start incorporating the idea of health as a means of praise, as a means of thanksgiving, if we don't we will never get in control in this country. So we have to, it should start at church. In six to twenty years from now when Americans look back we are looking at a group of people who lead the way to a healthier lifestyle across this country, across this world, it should be the church, it should be the believers because something so fearfully and wonderfully made deserves better attention. And if there is a group of people that ought to be that example and leading that way it should be the believer. And I believe it 100 percent.

CP: Do you have any further comments?

Peña: I'm so blessed. I truly believe that all of the years of magazines and books and celebrity work that I've done, all of that was to prepare me for Prayfit and I just want to thank the Lord publicly for allowing Prayfit to happen and thankful to the publisher. I'm thankful to you and others that are publishing this and putting it on radio and TV. We just want churches to start looking at life and health differently and we are so excited to be part of that movement.

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