5 Habits for Getting and Staying in Shape

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The New Testament uses a variety of athletic metaphors to describe the life of a Christian. These references were certainly understood by those to whom the letter was written since the Olympic games, along with the Isthmian Games, the Nemean Games and the Pythian Games, had been held for hundreds of years prior to any New Testament events taking place. And these metaphors are understood well still today in a culture where exercise and healthy lifestyles exist on a continuum from obsessiveness to belligerent avoidance.

These athletic metaphors were used in Scripture because many of the same habits for getting and staying in physical shape hold true for getting and staying in spiritual shape as well, not the least of which are similarities regarding the necessary mindset needed for both. Better understanding of these connections can lead us to effectively,

“run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Perseverance. Discipline. Self-control. All essential elements, along with many others, in both physical and spiritual vitality. These elements, all laced within the athletic metaphors used in Scripture, work with other related habits to create a solid training program applicable both spiritually and physically.

athletic-1For me, the following 5 habits for getting and staying in shape are crucial for my continued physical and spiritual health, both continual struggles even within consistent victories.

  1. Accountability. Physically, a gym membership and/or an exercise partner provide accountability, a key component to staying physically active. Likewise, membership in a Bible-believing fellowship along with connection to individuals through deepening relationships establish the essential element of accountability needed for spiritual fitness. Surrounding yourself with others for support and encouragement goes a long way in remaining consistently strong, both physically or spiritually.
  2. Variety. Exercise can become boring very quickly without variety. For this reason, my workouts vary from running and elliptical to biking and boxing to weights and video workouts. Relating this idea to spiritual fitness, avoid limiting yourself to one way of serving or studying God’s Word. Yes, serve in your area of strength (play on the worship team if you have musical ability) and have systematic approaches to reading God’s Word daily, but be willing to go outside of your comfort zone too (work in the nursery even though you normally teach adults or do a key-word study once in a while). Healthy variety not only helps prevent boredom, but it allows space for God to work in weaknesses, which ultimately makes us stronger overall (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  3. Rest. Neglect adequate recovery time between workouts, and injury will eventually occur. Spiritually, this equates to regular quiet time with God as well as getting physical rest since lack of proper rest inhibits the ability to confidently say “Yes!” when asked, “Are You Giving Your Best?” Being tired physically as well as spiritually significantly impacts effectiveness in every area of life.
  4. Stretching. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Are you will to try new activities? Stretching physically means trying new activities as well as regularly stretching muscles to make them better able to handle activity without injury. Spiritual stretching might involve getting to know new people, especially if you’re an introvert like me, doing an in-depth Bible study if you always just do a short devotional, or joining the choir even though you’ve never performed in front of an audience. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading for opportunities to stretch physically, mentally and spiritually.
  5. Refueling. Our minds and spirits are like cars with regard to fuel; they need it in order to function. Physically, a healthy diet gives us the energy we need. Mentally, proper fuel (what we eat as well as drink) allows us to think and reason clearly and effectively. Spiritually, our spirits need filled up regularly on the truth of God’s Word. They need constant filling by the Holy Spirit through prayer, praise and submission. Life constantly asks more of us, which continually drains our energy. Refueling properly allows us to give without being drained and to do so on a consistent basis.

Adding to the connection between spiritual and physical fitness is the realization that both involve also ridding our lives of negative influences. Physically, this means avoiding unhealthy habits such as a poor diet, smoking and drugs. Spiritually, this means avoiding those things like that Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5-9 to “put to death.”

Developing positive habits and eliminating negative ones helps strengthen our perseverance, discipline and self-control, all essential elements of getting and staying in shape physically, mentally and spiritually. Development in this way increases our effectiveness and productivity in amazing ways.

“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)

What habits can you adjust to become physically and spiritually stronger?

Consider studying this topic further by meditating on the following Scripture:

  • Philippians 2:16
  • Galatians 2:2
  • Galatians 5:7
  • 2 Timothy 2:5

How to… Survive Mornings if You’re a Night Owl

Friday’s post entitled Confessions of a Night Owl hopefully illuminated the perspective of individuals who struggle to function well in the morning. Today’s post looks toward helping night owls successfully live in an early-bird society.

A Guide Navigating Mornings Successfully2-25-13 navigate

Over the years, many techniques have increased my ability to become a morning person. Yet, no matter how much effort I put forth, being a morning person has yet to become easy or natural for me. Because of my physical makeup, mornings will always be more of a struggle for me than the rest of the day. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive and positive before 10:00AM.

The following suggestions have developed over many years of trial and error. Keep in mind that these suggestions work best for individuals adhering to healthy lifestyle principles. Also keep in mind the importance of individualizing your approach.

  1. Get thinking, but do it gently. For me, this means reading scripture, checking the weather, and drinking something warm. Find simple warm-ups that gently coax your brain toward action.
  2. Do what works. A warm drink, sometimes green tea and sometimes coffee, exists as an essential part of the first ½ hour of my morning. While I don’t like depending on caffeine, sometimes it is necessary for the sake of relationships. Oh yeah, I brush my teeth right away too. Just better for everyone that way.
  3. Don’t make decisions. When I worked outside of the home, I prepared everything the night before. This meant the coffee was ready, my briefcase was ready, my clothes were laid out, and my lunch was packed. Now, I make sure my boys have everything ready for the next school day before they go to bed. They also need to do any “asking” the night before too. No requesting extras the next morning. The fewer decisions to make in the morning, the smoother the morning.
  4. Don’t think about the day ahead. This means I just do what’s next in my routine, knowing that the prep work for the day is already done.
  5. Say as little as possible. For some reason, my tone is either sarcastic or nagging before 10:00AM without great effort on my part to sound otherwise. Even with great effort, I usually sound slightly irritated anyway. So, I simply say as little as possible in the morning. I listen, I hug, and I say goodbye. All are happier that way.

My kids and husband – who are all morning people, by the way – know that I struggle in the morning, and they do their very best to not push my very sensitive buttons. I promise to try not to scowl, and they promise to try to keep to the routine.

As I reflect over my life, I am thankful that my morning personality has gotten gradually friendlier. But, I also realize that the struggle for this to happen really has not gone away, lessened a bit perhaps but not gone.

Establishing a solid routine and developing positive habits can allow the night owls in this world to function and even be productive in the morning, and, dare I say it, even have positive conversations before 10:00AM.

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DISCUSSION: How does growing outside of our natural tendencies help our relationships? Why is struggling in these ways important for connection?

Related Reading: Please read the excellent article entitled “How to Become a Morning Person” by Michael Hyatt at Intentional leadership. He also has a podcast on a related topic entitled “Become More Productive by Reengineering Your morning Ritual.”

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