I really, really, really don’t like to exercise.
I’ve always been pretty lucky in that I haven’t had to worry about weight and could eat what I wanted without facing exercise as a necessity. The scale and I have been having conversations this year, however, and I’m starting to realize things are changing. If I want to maintain my eating habits and weight, exercise will need to become my friend.
Have I mentioned that I really, really, really don’t like to exercise?
In a rare moment of exercise inspiration, I agreed to start P90x (a popular 90-day exercise program) with my husband a couple of months ago. I must sheepishly tell you that P90x was more like P10x for me. After 10 days, I was done.
It’s just that…I really, really, really don’t like to exercise.
Despite flaming out of my first real fitness program, I learned a lot about the nature of exercise. It takes a lot of work, and if you aren’t prepared for it, you simply won’t succeed.
Exercise has many parallels with a life of faith. After 18 years of church, I left home with no notion of the work required to grow spiritually. I was wholly unprepared as a young Christian, and for many years I failed to find any real meaning in my faith. After my P90x failure, I made a mental note that when my kids get a little older, exercise will provide an amazing analogy for the work required in faith. Here are 8 parallels that can make a great conversation starter for your kids.
1. Exercise isn’t a one-time event. It’s a life-time commitment.
It only took 3 days for me to realize that no matter how awesome I did with P90x, it would all be worthless if I didn’t change my whole lifestyle to include exercise on a long-term basis. The prospect of indefinite sweat sessions overwhelmed me and I quickly started to think of quitting.
Being a Christian isn’t about the one-time event of salvation. It’s a life-long commitment to spiritual development and the working out of our faith (Philippians 2:12). We must be prepared to make our entire lives about Jesus.
2. There isn’t an immediate relationship between the effort you expend in exercise and the results you see on the scale; you have to focus on the bigger picture.
After the first night of my cardio workout, I was so exhausted I thought I was going to throw up. Surely, that must mean the next morning I would see a fabulous drop in weight. Right? No. Annoyed as I was, I ate whatever I wanted the next day. The morning after, my weight went down. If you’ve ever tried losing weight via exercise, you know you can’t predict immediate weight fluctuations based on what you ate the day before. It’s all about the long term picture.
So much of the time we look for immediate faith results to determine if what we “feel” we’ve gained warrants the time we have put into prayer, Bible study, service, etc. But faith isn’t a simple input/output system. We have to persevere over time to notice our relationship growing with God.
3. One of the best results of exercise is the change to your metabolism – something you can’t even see.
My husband always reminds me that one of the main reasons to keep exercising is to improve your metabolism (which means your body burns calories more effectively). I only want my jeans to fit better, but I objectively know that just because something is unseen doesn’t mean it’s less valuable.
In many ways, we have a spiritual metabolism. The more we work on our faith, the more faithful we become; we start processing our world more readily through a Christian worldview. Even though this happens almost imperceptibly over time, it’s one of the most important outcomes of spiritual discipline.
4. If you don’t get your heart rate up, and keep it up, the results of what you’re doing is limited.
I could do certain sections of the P90x program pretty well, as long as I didn’t have to do them for too long. Each time I hit my breaking point, Bryan (un)helpfully reminded me that if you don’t keep your heart rate up for a decent amount of time, the impact will be limited.
Unfortunately, our spiritual growth doesn’t usually come from spurts of spiritual activity. Praying and reading the Bible every day for a week might get your spiritual heart rate up, but if you then don’t do anything for two weeks, your overall growth will be limited. We should strive for depth and consistency.
5. Weight changes due to exercise are impacted by other things in your life.
All other things held constant, if you exercise regularly, you will lose weight. But you don’t necessarily see the changes you want if there are other things working against the weight loss – for example, if you’re eating more than you did before you started exercising or if you have underlying medical issues. You have to be aware of everything going on in your life.
Even if you’re working regularly on your spiritual development, if you surround yourself with the wrong people, live anxiously, prioritize the wrong things, etc., you may not experience the spiritual growth you desire. Sometimes we wonder why God is silent, when it’s really us with too much noise.
6. If you compare yourself to fitness experts, you’ll feel defeated at every step.
When Bryan runs several miles on the treadmill, he has a few drops of sweat rolling down his cheek and looks invigorated. When I run half a mile on a treadmill, I’m drenched and bitter. Comparing myself to him always frustrates me because I cannot get anywhere near his fitness level in a reasonable amount of time. Comparisons, however, are fruitless, because all you can reasonably do is measure your own progress.
It’s easy to look at “super” Christians – those who seemingly have unshakeable conviction – and think something is wrong with our own faith. But we’re all on very personal spiritual journeys and we need to focus on our own growth. Faith looks different for every person.
7. To exercise effectively, you must constantly challenge yourself to move up in difficulty when weights or speeds become comfortable.
I did far better with weights than I did with cardio. In fact, I was quite pleased with how far I had gotten in a couple of weeks. Then Bryan said it was time to add more weight. I was no longer pleased. I wanted to be comfortable, not stretch myself, but comfort would never lead to the impact I wanted.
It’s easy to live a comfortable faith, but Jesus never called us to that! When we start feeling comfortable, it should be a red flag that we need to learn or do something new to exercise our spiritual muscles.
8. The more you exercise, the more you’ll love it.
Bryan promises me this is true, though I’ve never exercised long enough to experience it myself. I’ll have to take his word for it, because I don’t plan to personally find out.
There is no doubt that the more time and energy you invest in your spiritual life, the more you will experience love for God!
Which one of these would be most helpful for you to work on? Which lesson(s) do you think your kids need most?