Fitness Resolutions in the Coffin?
So, the “Ides of March” have passed, a phrase associated with the Roman calendar, settling of debts, and the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Caesar was not the only thing to die in March, so have most people’s New Year’s resolutions. Remember those? The ones we made full of hope and optimism as we turned the page on a new year?
Research shows that the most popular resolutions for 2021 were exercising more and improving fitness (50% of participants), losing weight (48%), saving money (44%), and improving diet (39%). Yet it also shows that most New Year’s resolutions don’t survive till February and are in the coffin by March.
Why does this happen? Is there still a way to reset? I want to share three tips that could potentially save you a million bucks, and help you live a longer happier life. In recovery fellowships we have a slogan: “Simple but not easy, a price had to be paid.” What I’ll share here is simple… but not easy.
A Fitness Plan that Works
Personally, I believe that we are often too ambitious with our fitness resolutions, or conversely not ambitious enough, and so that couch and the remote control win the battle for our long-term health.
Perhaps you’re wondering why a pastor and professor is giving fitness advice? Well ten years ago I was a 50-pound overweight workaholic serving one of the most notoriously toxic congregations in the state of Florida. I was killing myself with food, expectations, and a cycle of hamster-wheel-like-work, that generated lots of energy but went nowhere. I’m not alone, while it varies between specific fields up to 75 percent of people experience burnout at least once in people helping professions.
For the past ten years, I’ve stuck to a workout routine that keeps me the same weight and definition that I was in high school. I have four grandchildren, but I run a 5k in 21ish minutes, smoke anyone who tries to race me on inline speed skates and can press double my own weight.
So, I wanted to share a couple tips from my own journey that you might find helpful and potentially save you lots of money. Here’s a couple key things I’ve found important to staying in athletic condition.
1. The Right Motivation… Exercise is a Spiritual Discipline.
Most people fail to keep up a fitness plan, because we do it from the wrong motivation. Wanting to look good is not necessarily spiritual, that’s called narcissism. This word has its origins in the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image, staring at his own reflection in a pool of water until he died, then a flower sprouted up bearing his name. Ego will get you so far, but it probably won’t be enough to sustain a long-term fitness plan.
It was an epiphany for me to discover that God puts a lot into our bodies. They are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and our body is a “temple” of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Contrary to Western pseudo-Christianity, we will not just fly up into the sky as disembodied spirits one day, to play harps on pillowy clouds. We will be resurrected from death in our physical bodies (1 Corinthians. 15:20-23).
To separate the body, mind, and soul, is a false dichotomy. In the Judeo-Christian faith, humans are integrated beings, mind, spirit, body, are distinct facets, but inextricably linked. If we truly understand that we are stewards of these marvelous organisms, made in the image of God, then spiritual growth includes what we do with our bodies.
Exercise is a form of prayer. Click here for a whole reflection on this.
2. Stop Eating so Dang Much! (especially in one sitting)
If that sounds harsh it because it’s meant to be. In the US we eat too much. We often eat more calories in a single sitting than some people in the world have for a whole week. The global disparity between the haves and have nots should be alarming for followers of Jesus. As we throw away piles of leftovers every day, others die of starvation.
It takes willpower, but portion control is a key to having a healthy body. Rather than eating three large meals a day, perhaps we can split those meals into six smaller meals. It gives our body a chance to process calories at a rate that doesn’t overwhelm. An abundance of calories becomes stored as fat. Eating as much of a plant-based diet as possible is important, but you don’t have to go vegan to be fit. Eat what you like, just eat less of it. Also, don’t drink soda, but pound lots of water.
I personally don’t pay for weight loss programs. I just eat enough in one sitting… and stop.
3. Stink and Sweat Every Day
God didn’t create our bodies to be sedentary. A healthy body stays in motion. We aren’t designed to sit in front of screens all day. We were designed to run, hunt, forage, walk, and then sleep well.
The key here is finding something you actually enjoy doing that makes you sweat and stink. Cycling, yoga, running, skating, swimming, speed walking, or pickle ball… anything that you like doing that makes you sweat!
A good strength training routine is good as well. I don’t use a personal trainer. There are lots of strength training plans you can pull for free off the internet (I’ve attached one I’ve used in variations for the past decade below). The challenge is having the time management skills and then discipline to work your plan.
Don’t waste money on expensive proteins, muscle drinks, and supplements. I don’t take anything not naturally produced in my body. Lots of people talk about “bulking up” with muscle. If that’s your goal, knock yourself out. My focus is to shape the body that God gave me in its natural prime condition. I’m not trying to “get big or die trying” the motto of some of my beefcake friends grunting it out in the gym. I maintain a body that is lean, cut, and fast.
When you alter your natural body frame in an unnatural way, it’s harder to maintain and actually has long term negative effects on health. The lighter and lower fat index you can achieve on your frame, the more long-term advantages for your cardiac, respiratory, and digestive health. Its also much better on your back, disks, and musculoskeletal system in general.
When we add a bunch of weight that is not natural to the design of our body, it harms it, not makes it stronger. When the pandemic initially struck, I paused my gym membership and purchased a simple $20 home “multi-gym” device that can be hung from a door frame. It enables me to do pull ups, dips, push-ups, sit ups, and by hanging bags of books from the handles… curls, squats, and so on. Throughout the pandemic I sustained my weight, strength, and muscle definition using this simple device.
Like I said, “simple but not easy.” Save your money on trainers, programs, supplements, memberships, and expensive food plans. Additionally, you will save lots of money on doctors, medication, and hospital visits in the long run! These three tips could save you a million dollars, extend your life, and make you a happier person.
Basic strength training plan to get started!
Day one. Upper body.
1. Machine bench press, three sets 8 to 12 reps
2. dip machine, two sets, 8 to 12 reps
1. Lateral pull downs,
three sets, 8 to 12 reps
2. Seated cable rows
two sets, 8 to 12 reps
1. Machine shoulder press,
three sets, 8 to 12 reps
1. Cable pull downs
Three sets 8 to 12 reps
1. Barbell or dumbbell curls
Three sets 8 to 12 reps
Day two. Lower body.
Calves1. Seated calf machineThree sets, 12 to 20 reps
2. Calf presses (on leg press)
Three sets, 12 to 20 reps
1. Leg press machine
Four sets, 8 to 12 reps
2. Leg extensions
Three sets, 8 to 12 reps
1. Seated leg curl
Four sets, 8 to 12 reps
Go crazy, do whatever you want!
-Rotate upper and lower body days
-Each set is to failure (i.e. adjust weight to not be able to finish the final rep)
-Strength train 3 to 4 days per week
-Cardio other days and one day of Sabbath