why exercise?

I recently laced up my running shoes again. Nine years have passed since my last (and only) 5k. After having babies, the impact just didn’t jive with my post-delivery body. Can I get a witness?

But with my youngest nearing four years of age, I recently decided to give it another try. So I turned in my gym membership and hit the pavement.

Something therapeutic takes place when I step outside. I head out just as the sun hints of waking my kids. The neighborhood lays still and quiet with only a few windows lit along my route. My shoes meet with the ground creating a rhythm to match my tunes. And I run.

I think of Him. I talk to Him. I listen to Him. And then mingled in my conversation with Him, I play the mental game reminding my feet, “You can do this. You did it yesterday,” willing them forward. And I run some more, red-faced and sweaty.

But more than the running itself, I’ve pondered the why. Why exercise?

I don’t think I can say it any better than Jim Elliot. He wrote a letter home to his mom while he was studying at Wheaton College. In an explanation as to why he went out for the wrestling team he penned these inspiring words:

I wrestle solely for the strength and co-ordination of muscle tone that the body receives while working out, with the ultimate end that of presenting a more useful body as a living sacrifice.
(p. 16, Through Gates of Splendor)

I love that. Ultimately, I run for Him. I exercise for Him. As much as depends upon me, I strengthen this physical body of mine that He might use it for as long as He wills. A living sacrifice.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers (and sisters), by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

A living sacrifice is exponentially more than the physical. In fact, there have been pillars of the faith that couldn’t run or walk or even move, yet were passionate living sacrifices unto the Lord.

You can be a living sacrifice unto Him regardless of your physical state.

But for those of you who are able and desire to strengthen your physical body, I want to encourage you with a few quick tips from my very unprofessional perspective:

  • Determine your why. Why do you (want to) exercise? Create a “mission statement” that will motivate you when your feelings tell you to give up. Write out Jim Elliot’s words and remember the ultimate “why.”

  • Set some goals. Determine what suits you and set some goals. If you’re a wannabe runner, consider trying the Couch-to-5k running plan. It worked for me.

  • Recruit a friend. We need the encouragement of others. Find a friend to workout with or at least one you can call for encouragement. There are also some excellent places online that you can connect with others for accountability. My newest discovery is DailyMile.com. (I have 3 whole “friends” so far.)

Fill me, Lord…

Why do you exercise?
If you struggle to exercise, but have the desire, what is your greatest hindrance?