I was born to move. The first time I stood, I danced. I grew up fully utilizing our country acreage to ride my bike, swing from grapevines, roll down hills, and swim. When I was nine years old, I began playing basketball. Throughout adolescence, it became my primary focus. I simply loved the game and never tired of it, that is, until the bitter ending of my high school career.
As a freshman in college, my perspective of team dynamics and my identity as a player had changed. It was then that I gave up ball to pursue a higher calling for my life, but I never threw in the towel on fitness. My drive for physical and mental achievement remained ignited. My discipline transferred from the basketball court to the weight room, where strength and performance training became my emotional outlet, my escape from unpleasant memories, and my confidence booster. I learned I could release negative feelings, the echo of someone’s harsh words, or my mistakes through a single rep, heavier weight, increased intensity, or a sprint. Afterward, my body always felt lighter, and my burdens lifted. I exercised this way for several years, but I started developing an unhealthy pattern of associating angry, negative thoughts with exercise. As long as I continued to workout driven by memories of bullying, I would only produce short-term, unfulfilling results. I preferred exercise represent happiness, strength, and triumph for the long-run. So I made some changes that still serve me well today. I share them with you in hopes they might benefit you too.
Consider the purpose of exercising, not only the fact that it helps relieve stress and lower your blood pressure but how fitness can serve as a tool for you to become stronger than bullying.
I discovered this for myself by dedicating my workouts to God, to my family, or to someone I know or imagine who isn’t able to do what the Lord has abled me to do. For me, exercise goes far beyond proving others wrong, the world’s standard of attractiveness, or even any physiological benefit. It represents the Spirit of the Lord within me and gaining a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Before I start each workout, I choose to make the most of the next hour. I take ownership of a positive attitude, turn on upbeat, lyrically inspiring music, and visualize how I will perform and finish.
Throughout, I incorporate meditation and prayer. When my muscles are burning, and I start to feel weak, I close my eyes and breathe in the power of the Holy Spirit. I envision Jesus on the Cross and repeatedly tell myself things like, “He died for me. Surely, I can hold this wall-sit for another 20 seconds.” He helps me complete each rep, set, step, and stride—proof that I can break through my self-imposed limitations. I can better control my body by allowing God to control my heart and mind, especially when I face challenges.
When I consider all of the moments I could quit or fail, I realize the only reason I keep going is that his strength is within me. Because of this, I carry my energy and victories throughout the rest of my day and utilize them as a source of encouragement for others. Through exercise, God has shown me not only am I stronger than the experiences that try to knock me down but also that I am more than capable of lifting life’s weights and clearing life’s hurdles. Movement was a gift he gave me from the very beginning, and, in developing that gift through the years, it has become one of the areas I feel most connected to him and most capable of helping others.
Regardless of your fitness or athletic background, you too can use exercise to build resiliency and gain peace, self-confidence, and strength. In what ways can exercise serve purpose for you, support your wellbeing, and enhance your faith?