We’re midway through the first month of the new year and that means many of us will be knee-deep in new diets and fitness regimens. And hopefully, succeeding.
As I shared in the first part of this blog series, Faith & Fitness: Stewarding Your Body Well, my fitness journey has been the most impactful transformation of my life behind faith. And amazingly, it was this journey that helped me realize the significance of health and fitness to our faith.
During the month of January, I’ll be sharing 13 lessons from my faith and fitness journey. Over the years, I’ve gleaned many nuggets and revelations on this journey (some spiritual, some practical) that I hope will inspire and equip you on your fitness journey to a better life.
Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health [physically], just as [I know] your soul prospers [spiritually]. 3 John 1.2 AMP
A re-cap of Faith & Fitness: Stewarding Your Body Well (Part I)
1. Good Health Pays Dividends In Every Area Of Life
Scripture affirms the value of physical training to our health (1 Timothy 4.8). When you prioritize your physical health (eating right and exercising), it pays dividends in every other area of your life: mental clarity, more energy, greater emotional stability, spiritual alertness, and an enhanced immune system.
2. Begin With What You Can Do Consistently. No More, No Less
Taking on too much too soon can often result in it all falling apart. This applies to more than just fitness, but work and anything else in life. The key is to start simple with what you know that you can be faithful to and consistently. This will give you the confidence, experience, motivation, and endurance in growing to face larger challenges and winning them.
Let’s jump into week 2.
3. Set Your Goals Up For A Win
Although it’s not a 100% guarantee alone, preparation is the single most important ingredient to success in anything. It’s said that opportunities reveal themselves to those who are prepared to receive them. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to progress.
In scripture, we can find many examples of the principle of preparation, both spiritually and naturally. Consider the ant in Proverbs.
Go to the ant, you sluggard (a lazy person); consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6.6-8 NIV
The best way to set your goals up for a win is by supporting good habits through preparation. The key here is supporting good habits that are conducive to produce the end result that you want. Diligence produces good fruit (Proverbs 21.5).
For example: You can’t eat what you don’t buy. When I began my fitness journey, it was a lot easier for me to remain disciplined by simply not buying food that didn’t support my goals. That didn’t remove the temptation or opportunity completely, but it gave me an advantage. I was setting my goal up for a win.
An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
Here are some other ways that I used in order to set my goals up for a win.
Prioritize The Time You Set Aside For Working Out
It sounds like a no-brainer but we often fail in our goals simply because we didn’t allocate time for them. “I’ll get it in then” sometimes never come around and we find ourselves coming up short on our goals. By defining a set time (which doesn’t have to be the same every day) you’re being intentional about what you want to accomplish and immediately begin making progress towards it.
Too busy? Remember that you always control your schedule. We make time for what’s important to us. Make an appointment with yourself in your calendar if you have to. But prioritize the time and protect it from distractions.
Make The Convenient, Inconvenient
It’s a lot easier to remain disciplined when we remove the opportunities to mess up or miss out. For me, this meant finding a gym that was very close to my house. I even picked a route that forced me to drive past the gym before going home. I also kept my gym bag in the car at all times so that I never had to go home first for my gear. The result was that I removed (or greatly reduced) a potential excuse for not going.
Create Triggers And Boundaries
Admittedly, you might have to be wired differently for this one . But if you are, this can be an added help to push and motivate you from the outside in.
For my workouts, this meant selecting specific clothes (workout clothes) that I strictly wore during workouts only. It became like uniform suiting up to take on the challenge. When I was done, I took those clothes off so that I would “exit” that mode.
I created playlists that I only listened to while working out — not while driving or during leisure time. When those specific songs hit, it cued up me for workout time.
The core idea here is to create spaces and prompts within your mind and life routines that cue you for the task at hand. In another situation, for example, this might look like you creating a space in your home just for work. Over time, you’ll begin to associate that space with work thereby creating an external trigger that cues you for the task at hand.
There’s nothing magical about this technique of creating triggers as you still have to do the task and work. You’re simply creating mental associations that are tied to the outcome that you want. Creating these trigger cues and boundaries will often help get you into the mood especially when you don’t “feel like it.”
4. See Food As Fuel For The Journey
As former WWE Heavyweight Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin, always says, “you can never out-train a bad diet.”
All too often, we adopt the mentality and practice of living to eat instead of eating in order to live. God desires that we enjoy food as a part of His creation (Ecclesiastes 9.7, Genesis 1.29). But He never desires that food or any created thing rules over us and assumes worship in our hearts (Philippians 3.19).
Food is more than just for enjoyment and pleasure. It enables you to do what you need to do and accomplish. Food is really fuel for the journey. And not just our fitness journey, but every journey in life. Remember: Nothing that we do in life (even spiritual matters) happens without a functioning body.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 1 Kings 19.7-8
What we consume or don’t will directly help or hinder our bodies. Garbage in ultimately means garbage will come out. A clean inside prepares you for a clean outside. We can’t expect to feel and perform the best that we can be if we’re not properly nutritioning our bodies. Similarly, many people never reach their fitness goals and ultimately lose confidence and hope in doing so because their diet didn’t support their work and goal(s).
God deserves our physical best. And if we’re going to run for the long haul, the journey will demand it.
5. Attack Problems From Multiple Angles
For years, I wanted the famous 6 pack abs that ever so eluded me. When I got serious with my fitness regimen, this was one of my top goals. Though I was all in and putting in the time and diet, I was still coming up short and arriving at the realization that what I was doing wasn’t working. I needed a new strategy and some help.
I consulted with a nutritionist (something I had never done before) and started a modified diet tailored to my specific goals, body type, age, and activity level. This changed the course of my life — literally. More on that some other time .
Seeing the door peak open for me a bit, I doubled down and added a waist trainer/sweat vest, increased my cardio between sets, and became more diligent with my sleep schedule. The result: The midsection fat burned off and the 6 pack was on the come up. The combo of changes to my diet, workout equipment, regimen, and rest cycle created a superteam effect towards my goal. It didn’t take just one thing to move the needle for me, but a combination of different things [and perspectives].
As in the case in business and other areas of life beyond fitness, don’t limit your solutions to just one approach or school of thought. More often than not, there may be more than one answer. And it may actually take more than one answer. The answer just may be starting with something you’ve never done before, or done in the traditional way, or under new circumstances.
Remember, I had done everything that I knew to do. And only then did I realize that I needed help and change beyond my means and understanding, and what I was familiar with. Our greatest growth will happen outside of our comfort zones or familiarity. It’s how we learn and consume new things.
Our spiritual walk is often like that. When we don’t listen or “look up,” God will allow us to come to the end of ourselves before we realize that we need something more and a new direction.
When it comes to fitness or any other journey for that matter, embrace a holistic approach. Don’t just settle for doing one thing, one way, ex. going to the gym and working out, but not changing your diet or sleeping habits, or even the type of workout itself. Good health has multiple factors and strings attached. Pull them all until you get what you want.
6. Create Positive Associations And Rewards
Earlier we talked about creating positive associations and spaces. Let’s unpack that some more.
When something is challenging, intimidating, or we just don’t want to do it, a helpful motivator is to find positive things and rewards to associate it with it. These external motivators don’t cure internal fear and complacency — that takes the Spirit of God. But they can be a helpful boost and something to look forward to. Finding things to look forward to within the things you don’t like or are challenging will help motivate you to do them.
Make The Time Enjoyable, Not A Drag
Time flies when we’re having fun. And we’re usually left wanting more. A great way to stick with a goal or regimen is to find ways to enjoy the time and make it worthwhile to you.
In my early days of working out and building my regimen, it was difficult for me to commit to the time each week because I had other things that I wanted to get done with that time. So during my workouts, I started listening to podcasts and audiobooks.
This excited me because it made the time seem more worthwhile. At the end of a workout, I would’ve fed my body [with physical fitness] and fed my mind [with knowledge]. I got the best of both worlds in the same time! That changed the game for me and helped me to internally justify spending the time working out. I was getting healthier and learning — a win-win.
Over time as my workload increased, I gravitated more towards music during my workouts as a release from the day. Music also helped me hone in and focus as my workouts intensified. If you’re not a podcaster or audiobooker during workouts, it’s so important to find music that moves and excites you. Internally, it helps you get motivated for the work, keeps you focused, and gives you something to look forward to. I’m not sure if I could complete a serious workout without my music today .
I also found ways to gamify the process within my regimen. If I did 5 sets before, I was determined to beat my own score and get to 6 and then 7. If you’re competitive like me, this may come easier for you but the point is to make it fun.
Celebrate Your Milestones
As my regimen began to build, I took a strong liking to faith fitness wear (t-shirts and shorts) that I happened to stumble upon. Not only did they look dope and hold up well, but they also came with some powerful messages and reminders about our God.
A gym buddy who really liked my faith shirts, and wanted to start upgrading his gym gear too, lamented that it wasn’t in his budget to replace his entire athletic wardrobe right now. I shared with him that it wasn’t in my budget either. Instead, I would “reward” myself with a new gym shirt everytime I met a milestone. The pacing of this was friendly to my budget and gave me a reward to look forward to. And it was so much better than working out in my dingy old white beater tank tops!
Get some work out gear with a message that you like and helps motivate you. I started wearing my faith gym shirts primarily for me, but also so that I could wear my faith on the outside. And people noticed. The memorable faith messages on my shirts have sparked several conversations and witness opportunities over the years — even still to this day. They speak to many people before I’ll even get a chance to.
You may not get excited about faith t-shirts, and your idea of an award may be different, but remember to celebrate your milestones in a meaningful way. “If I meet this metric or goal, then I will get to do this” can be a powerful internal motivator when employed with discipline.
Cheat days are permissible [and encouraged] on your fitness journey but every day isn’t a cheat day . Always be mindful of any “reward,” food or otherwise, that could set you back when pursuing a goal. Going on a shopping spree to “reward” yourself that you paid down some debt doesn’t help you.
The Next Step
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
God wants us to have good health and we can achieve it with the right motivation and equipping.
What inspired you about these lessons from my own fitness journey? What are some of your favorite lessons from your own journey? Sound off in the comments below.
Check out part 3 of our Faith & Fitness blog series — Believing Is Seeing.