I am not a sporty person. Bookish—yes. The kind of person who sings to musicals—yes. I was the kid with asthma and the one for whom just standing on the grass on the playground made me break out into a rash.
But for nearly three years now, I have been determined to get in shape.
Maybe it was the extra time the pandemic handed me on a plate. Or when I realized those who were healthy had an easier time when/if they contracted the dreaded illness-that-should-not-be-named.
Or maybe it was that a special big birthday is coming up, and I understood it was now or never.
All I know is I am now in the best shape of my life.
When I started making an effort to exercise and to be mindful of what I was eating, many of my other health problems improved: respiratory issues, body pain; even my skin cleared. And something spectacular opened up in my psychological and spiritual health.
I started to think and see more clearly.
Depression and anxiety started to fade away. I could see God at work in the world around me more clearly. I started to realize so clearly that physical, mental, and spiritual health were all related. And I was happier.
When I’m out walking in my neighborhood or running on the treadmill or moving weights, I think about how Jesus was God incarnate. God came down to us in a body so we would know him.
St. Paul said our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, so we should be good to them. He even says to present our bodies “as a living sacrifice” as worship to God. When we do this, it transforms us and renews our mind, “so that [we] may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2)
My exercise routine is a type of worship. In the early hours of the morning before the rest of my neighborhood and family are up for the day, I run. I lift up the names of my friends and family and enemies as I keep my feet moving. Sometimes I pray prayers of praise, thanking God for this body that moves, the time to be with him, and the overwhelming goodness of the day ahead of me. I didn’t always feel this way. I know this outlook comes from my time with God.
Tending to my body has made me more aware of God’s presence in the world around me. Instead of seeing only darkness, evil, and things that make me worry, I see Light. I see how God is working in my life, my friends, and the community around me.
I know all of this can seem overwhelming to someone just beginning. I’m not saying be in the best shape of your life; I’m saying be thoughtful to this body so that you are a little better than you were yesterday or this morning. Tell yourself, I’m going to spend 10 minutes moving my body, and while I do, I will lay all my worries and cares and, yes, even praise at Jesus’s feet—as worship.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.
Thanks for the reminder, Shemaiah! I too am more “bookish” than “athletic.” Nice to know I’m not the only one! One thing that has helped me integrate my love of study with exercise, has been reading about the positive impact of exercise on the brain.
Also, the Transfiguration seems to inspire me to get in shape. Our Lord revealed His glory to the three, only after a long and vigorous hike. He just might do the same for us!
I have a God-daughter who has cerebral palsy. She once told her mother, “Mom, I want to run with the other kids!” It must be some kind of sin that she can’t run… while I’m overweight…
My doctor knows I just want one thing. At the end of my life I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” I do NOT want to hear “Whoa! You’re EARLY!!” God get us to the finish line! Thanks for reading!
WOW! Thank you for all these thoughts on this topic! We need to sit and write a book about fitness and hit all these topics. Such a beautiful witness.
Thanks Shemaiah. Indeed health is wealth. A fit mind in a fit body is the way forward. Mahatma Gandhi understood life and human body as precious gifts, given, and received for the service of humanity and Planet Earth, our Common Home.
I have always been a fan of exercising in some form or other and have always believed that doing something physically can take things off your mind mentally.
I haven’t always thought of it as a way to pray but I thank God my body can do what it is meant to do.
Sometimes, now, when I swim, I say the Rosary and try to focus on the Hail Mary’s instead of how many lengths I am doing.
Have you read/listened to ‘The Athlete Inside’ by Sue Reynolds? It’s an incredible story of a woman who loses 200lbs by starting to do triathlon and finds God along the way (and becomes part of Team USA age group triathlon)!!
I’m in my 70s and continue to enjoy a 30+ mile cycle a couple of times a week throughout the year…weather permitting.
The first part of my ride is always alongside saying the Rosary. Great to pray whilst out in the open air, normally just at sunrise, whilst exercising.
I like the above comment regarding the Examin. Now on my agenda.
What a blessing that this is an option for you. Remember there are those in the world with eating disorders where exercise is used as a form of purging and “eating healthy” is a way to restrict and leads away from God and health.
Agreed. This was my premise. It is all related.
Thank your for this. I walk every evening and that’s when I have “my time with God”. I usually do my Examen then. I’ve had others want to “walk with me”, but I decline politely because for me that’s God’s time.
I love that you do the Examen during your evening walk and also that you guard this time as holy.
Thank you for these thoughts. I also try to pray without ceasing for those God puts in my path and for the world. Walking or running outside refreshes body, mind, and spirit. We serve an awesome Saviour. Have a blessed day!
Thank you! I needed this encouragement today.