One of my newer students recently signed up for the six-week Summer Session of Total Body Challenge. When she returned for the second night she jokingly said, “I told my co-workers that since I have already paid for the sessions, OCC Recreation Center could keep the rest as a donation.” The generous benevolence translated means, “You can happily keep my money, I am not coming back, and the workout was way too hard!”
The thing is she did come back. Her body was sore from the top of her head to the soles of her feet, but she came back with determination in her eyes. She assured me “I will not quit and the donation will be my dedication and sore muscles.” She did mention the sore muscles were posing a problem going up and down the stairs, and getting up and down on the commode. Let me tell you, I have been there too!
The challenge of committing to disciplining your body through exercise is, well…hard. If it were easy everyone would be in great physical shape and sticking with it well into their nineties. Let’s face it, who wants to walk up and down stairs and look as if they have been riding a horse, for days, with every muscle screaming “gently.” Muscle soreness will happen rather quickly if you throw yourself feet first into a challenging workout.
As a fitness trainer and life coach, it is important to establish a person’s fitness foundation. We discuss their exercise history, whether or not they have exercised, or if it has been a long time since they have exercised regularly. Usually my suggestion to them is to simply walk a couple of days a week for 15 minutes at a time. Walking a few times a week may sound ridiculously easy to some, but consider these factors; If someone steps into a challenging exercise class without an exercise foundation, that new student will experience very sore muscles, especially two days after the workout. Now, compound sore muscles with a discouraging, sarcastic support system and the new exercise person will probably be done with exercise.
For example, someone who has been running for years cannot expect someone who just stepped into running to join them on a long ten mile run. This same concept applies to all forms of exercise. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying about joining a group fitness class, you must be willing to do the modifications and take it easy the first few weeks. For most people it is difficult for them to hold back, they want to keep up with everyone else, it is only natural.
Disciplining our bodies can sometimes feel like we are trying to break a wild horse or gain control of an unruly child. In our flesh we will often fail to do what is best for us. In fact, we are likely to rebel against these disciplines. You must choose to allow God to help in these disciplines. Our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak! If you realize this truth, then you know God is the only one to help tame our flesh and help us do what is best. His word tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, whatever we eat or drink or whatever we are doing should bring glory to God.
While exercise can be a carefully constructed discipline, built over a gradual period of time, other disciplines in our Christian walk should be immediate, principled, and demonstrate a 180 degree change. Granted, like all serious endeavors, there is a period of training, growth and maturity, but claiming to be a new child of God should reflect change and a repentant heart. We should be bubbling over with His love, excited to show the world what He has done in our life. Most important, we should begin to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit, with one of those being self-control, or self-discipline.
In the first chapter of Daniel we hear the story of one such illustration of discipline. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken over the country of Judah, and was looking for a few good men to work in his court. The king’s chief eunuch, Ashkenazi, was instructed to give them the best training, delicacies from the king’s table, and the king’s finest wines for the men’s nourishment. Daniel, and three close friends, had hearts for God. These men refused to go against God’s healthy plan and defile their bodies with rich foods and wines. Ashpenaz was afraid of what the king would do if they looked sickly or different from the men who ate the king’s rich foods. While most men followed the King’s diet, Daniel offered a test, “Give us ten days of vegetables, with water to drink, and then see which group has the better appearance.”
Ten days passed and the vegetables and water became the diet for all the men. While the king meant well, God is always right.
We, as Christians, should be different from the world. We should be self-controlled and disciplined. Whether it is our exercise, the things we say, or the actions we take, whatever we do should bring glory to God. We have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the love of God by praying for our neighbors, our country, our leaders, and even those we disagree with. This is a critical time for our nation and vitally important for us to demonstrate Christ-like behaviors for God’s purposes.