I am not a sporty person. Bookish—yes. The kind of person who sings to musicals—yes. I was the kid with asthma and the one for whom just standing on the grass on the playground made me break out into a rash.
But for nearly three years now, I have been determined to get in shape.
Maybe it was the extra time the pandemic handed me on a plate. Or when I realized those who were healthy had an easier time when/if they contracted the dreaded illness-that-should-not-be-named.
Or maybe it was that a special big birthday is coming up, and I understood it was now or never.
All I know is I am now in the best shape of my life.
When I started making an effort to exercise and to be mindful of what I was eating, many of my other health problems improved: respiratory issues, body pain; even my skin cleared. And something spectacular opened up in my psychological and spiritual health.
I started to think and see more clearly.
Depression and anxiety started to fade away. I could see God at work in the world around me more clearly. I started to realize so clearly that physical, mental, and spiritual health were all related. And I was happier.
When I’m out walking in my neighborhood or running on the treadmill or moving weights, I think about how Jesus was God incarnate. God came down to us in a body so we would know him.
St. Paul said our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, so we should be good to them. He even says to present our bodies “as a living sacrifice” as worship to God. When we do this, it transforms us and renews our mind, “so that [we] may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2)
My exercise routine is a type of worship. In the early hours of the morning before the rest of my neighborhood and family are up for the day, I run. I lift up the names of my friends and family and enemies as I keep my feet moving. Sometimes I pray prayers of praise, thanking God for this body that moves, the time to be with him, and the overwhelming goodness of the day ahead of me. I didn’t always feel this way. I know this outlook comes from my time with God.
Tending to my body has made me more aware of God’s presence in the world around me. Instead of seeing only darkness, evil, and things that make me worry, I see Light. I see how God is working in my life, my friends, and the community around me.
I know all of this can seem overwhelming to someone just beginning. I’m not saying be in the best shape of your life; I’m saying be thoughtful to this body so that you are a little better than you were yesterday or this morning. Tell yourself, I’m going to spend 10 minutes moving my body, and while I do, I will lay all my worries and cares and, yes, even praise at Jesus’s feet—as worship.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.