As a pastor who also has a keen interest in fitness, I can't help but wonder, why are so many Christians, lay and fellow clergy alike, physically out of shape?
Wouldn't you expect followers of Jesus to be some of the healthiest people on earth?
Here's my theory...
I don't think we realize that, deep down, fitness is a spiritual issue.
Instead, we've allowed the reasoning of secular vanity to fill the void.
You know, promises of living longer, fewer chances of getting a disease, promises of looking better at your high school reunion and the like.
Those reasons, while nice, are pretty vain when you think about it. And maybe that's why they don't have staying power even in the general population, let alone among Christians.
In other words, maybe we need a bigger "Why?" A sustainable faith-based reason to get in shape.
Let's begin with a few spiritual questions...
- Do you believe that your body is ultimately a gift from God?
- Can you find it in your heart to thank God for the gift of your body (as it is now, even if it's not quite the way you hoped it would be)?
- Would you like to demonstrate your thanksgiving by simply taking good care of the gift (your body) you've been given?
If you answered "yes" to those three questions, then here are few things you can do to thank God for the gift of your body. I do them every day. You can too!
- Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning! You're basically dehydrated from sleeping all night. This is your start to replenishing right away.
- Eat a simple, healthy breakfast that was prepared the previous night. Mine is oatmeal, ground flax seed, and a few raisins, all eaten together with milk like cereal. This gives me protein for muscle development, slow-release carbs for energy, calcium for bone strength, omega-3 fatty acids for heart health and a touch of natural sweetness.
- Pack a healthy mid-morning snack. I like Greek yogurt (for protein and calcium) with a few almonds or walnuts (for healthy fats) and a few blueberries (for antioxidants and a little sweetness).
- Pack your own lunch. Lean protein like turkey or chicken or lentils and some greens. Skip the pre-packaged processed foods and minimize or eliminate the bread. Opt for water or unsweetened tea instead of soda.
Why? Because this gets you through the first half of your day (the part you have the most control over) on a healthy note. Eat healthy 80-90 percent of the time and you'll be good.
- Six days a week do at least one resistance-style exercise for the three major muscle groups of your body (upper, lower and core/mid-section).
- Do the above exercises in work/rest cycles so that you get your heart rate up without needing to do separate cardio sessions. For example, 20 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest before continuing with the next exercise.
- Here's a simple sample workout that you can do at home without any equipment (rest 25-30 seconds between exercises. Repeat entire circuit four times)
- Push-ups (or push-outs by leaning up against a wall) (12 reps)
- Body-weight squats (12 reps)
- Plank (20 seconds)
Why? Because as you get older it's crucial to focus on including resistance training (using bodyweight, weights, or exercise bands) to combat a natural loss of muscle mass and bone mineral density.
Treat the gift of your body well and you'll be expressing your thanksgiving to God at the same time! I plan to do this for the rest of my life. You can too!
Kent Wilson is an ordained Lutheran minister who now serves as an assistant to a bishop after 26 years in parish ministry. On the fitness side, Kent is a certified Functional Aging Specialist and developed his own workout system (for any fitness level) available at www.9Minutes2Fit.com. He also has a facebook page called "Fit Under the Collar" and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.