God

A Dad Who Shows Up

"Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." --Joshua 1:9

Read: Joshua 1

A few years ago, I was living a fitness writer's dream -- working at Weider headquarters in Los Angeles, contributing to two of the most widely-read publications in the industry. But it came at a cost. Hopelessly long commutes and deadline-packed work weeks meant that I was arriving home in the evening with just enough time to kiss my baby girls goodnight and spend a few hours with my amazing wife before heading to bed to do it all again the next day. Though I was flourishing in my role at work, I was far from fulfilling my role as a father. My girls needed a dad who showed up.

I left Weider HQ, along with my bi-monthly paychecks and generous benefits, in hopes of remedying the situation. The overwhelming uncertainty was worth the risk. Today, I am still blessed enough to write for several fitness publications, only now it's out of a home office. With my girls now at school age, they can count on seeing dad in the seats for every school performance and on the sidelines for every sports camp. They can depend on me to be there to prepare them for the school day and to be there when class is out. They have me to guide them along when it's time to ride on two wheels and to pick them up when their balance fails them. I may no longer be at the center of the industry but I am at the center of their childhood and that's alright by me.

Like my girls with me, I draw comfort from the unfailing, divine presence of our Father (Joshua 1:9). He is there when we struggle and when we succeed. We can look to Him when we crave guidance and reach with certainty for His outstretched hand when we fall. We can absolutely depend on His love to find us, each day, and always when we need it most. We never need to ponder whether He'll be absentee in our life story.

He could have stayed in heaven but the distance and disconnect were simply too much for Him to bear. He needed to be closer to His children and was willing to bear the consequences to come. He didn't want to miss a thing. Architect of the heavens, Author of our DNA -- there's no disputing His resume. But by a grace we can scarcely understand, He is most at home in a much simpler role: as a Dad who shows up.

--Eric Velazquez

NUTRITION: Stir-Fry Basics Stir-fry is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. They make a well-balanced meal with a bit of protein, tons of veggies and healthy carbs from rice. We’ll run you through the basic steps to get you started, then share a few ideas to liven things up.

>> "Wok" this way for better stir-fry! (Click here)

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Meeting His Eyes

"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter." --Luke 22:61

Read: Luke 22

Have you ever stopped to think about all the great and odd ways that God gets the attention of His people? Lazarus woke up and Jonah saw the inside of a whale. Just run through the bible and we find countless examples of jaw-dropping, head-swiveling surrender to God's presence and authority.

And though you and I don't cheat tombs or choke whales, we can all identify with Peter at the fire pit. Heard any roosters lately? How many opportunities to witness for Jesus have we allowed to go up in smoke? Perhaps around the fire pit of jobs, school or the gym? Like Peter, we all know how it feels to disappoint Christ, and though we'd like to turn back time, Christ turns back our attention. (Notice today's verse.) Just like Peter, it's when our eyes meet those of Jesus that we're broken -- in heart and in spirit -- and His work through us truly begins.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash (peeled, seeds removed and chopped into small cubes) 1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste 1 teaspoon fresh thyme 6 cups chicken stock 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 tablespoons unsalted butter ¾ cup chopped red onion 1 ½ cups Arborio rice ½ cup white wine 1 teaspoon saffron 1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ¼ cup chopped fresh basil 4 cups baby spinach ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Place squash on a large sheet pan and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender and edges begin to brown. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat with oil and butter. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add a ladle of stock, salt, pepper and saffron; stir and simmer until stock is absorbed. Continue to add stock (a ladle at a time) stirring every few minutes. Continue until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender (about 30 minutes). Stir in the basil and spinach, followed by the cheese and butternut squash. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Info Per Serving: Calories: 360 Total Fat:  15.5 grams Saturated Fat:  7 grams Carbohydrate:  44 grams Protein:  13 gram Cholesterol:  24 milligrams Sodium:  815 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

This week's recipe is courtesy of Dana Angelo White, contributing dietitian to PrayFit and adviser to The Food Network. Find more of Dana's delicious recipes at www.danawhitenutrition.com

The Sufficiency of Grace

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." --2 Corinthians 12:8

Read: 2 Corinthians 12

Yesterday morning I was a guest on Moody Bible Radio out of Chicago -- my second week in a row to help support their faith and fitness initiative. Well, one caller in particular came to mind as I sat down to write this entry. See, she struggles with a physical ailment; one she can't shake. Lord only knows how many times she's gone to the foot of the cross for healing. The sleepless nights, the prescriptions that don't help, the brokenness untold. Perhaps she asks Heaven if this is how she'll have to endure earth. Maybe you can relate because you've whispered similar on your own tear-stained pillow.

Paul could. We don't know for sure what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was but we do know he was soul-stricken by it. Whether it was physical or spiritual, Paul begged God to remove it. God's response? Let's hear it from Paul:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Paul mentions that God said, "No" in order to prevent him from becoming conceited. And yes, it's only God who knows what He's protecting you and me from or, like Paul, what God is enabling us to do in an even better way when the answer is no.

Today, if you're like me, you may be searching for the answer to the question Why? If so, rather than strain to see clearly through that prism of uncertainty, shut your eyes and pray for God to be seen through you instead. Though many of us are hurting, be encouraged. If your body is failing, He won't. If your limbs have stopped working, He hasn't. Let's stand close to Paul and let our pain be bathed in that same promise..."My grace is sufficient for you."

--Jimmy Peña

HEALTH TIP: TAKE IT OUTSIDE Do you workout in a gym? In your home? Well, if you are finding it tough to reach your fitness goals or if you're looking to rejuvenate your program, you may want to take it outside. Research offers some positive research on just how important a little Vitamin Sunshine can be for your training this summer.

>> For the full story, click here.

Waving Over Walls

"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call on Him in truth." --Psalm 145:18

Read: Psalm 145

As a young boy, watching my dad leave for work was more than a habit or tradition -- it was a son's ritual. We'd say bye to him at the door, then I'd run to my room and watch for him from my window. I remember we had a big rock wall, over which I could barely see the top of his truck. As he drove down the street he'd wave goodbye out his window and I'd be waving from mine. And all was right with my world.

But boy oh boy, if I happened to miss his truck, you'd think the sky had fallen. I still remember the anxiety. "Did I miss him? Did I look down or turn away? As much as I wanted to watch him wave, I needed him to know I was there waving back. And if I thought he didn't see me,  I was a mess. Mom would get me on the phone with Dad once he got to work, and he'd calm me down. He'd assure me that he sees me waving, even if I can't see him.

I don't know when I grew out of that, but I didn't outgrow the need to see my dad.

God, we're at the window. We've run here to watch you go to work in our world. We're on our tiptoes, and our little eyes are looking for you over the walls of fear and doubt that we ourselves have built. But even if we look down or turn away, you're there. Lord we need you so much. You see us waving, even if we can't always see you.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYER REQUESTS? God sees you and me in our physical struggles. Whether if it's to lose weight or if we're suffering from a chronic condition with no end in sight, He sees us. So keep waving at Him. And if we can be praying specifically for you, please let us know in the comment section. If not specifically, simply write "Unspoken Request" and we promise to pray.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: EZEKIEL STYLE Below is a recipe with one of our favorite healthy carb choices: Ezekiel bread. Great as a pre-workout food, Ezekiel bread will stay in your system longer, allowing you to get a lot of good energy from it. Ezekiel bread takes grains and legumes, mixing them together and making bread that contains no flour but is instead a mix of organic sprouted whole grains like wheat, millet, spelt and barley and legumes like lentils and soybeans. This makes the bread not only a source of very low GI carbs, but also a good source of complete protein.

Cinnamon-Apple Peanut Butter Toast 1 slice Ezekiel bread, toasted 2 tsp natural peanut butter 4 pieces thinly sliced apple Pinch ground cinnamon Spread peanut butter on toast, top with apple and cinnamon.

Calories: 159 | Protein: 6 grams | Carbohydrates: 19 grams | Fat: 6 grams

Alternative Recipe: Replace peanut butter with 2 Tbsp of low-fat cottage cheese.

 Calories: 109 | Protein: 8 grams | Carbohydrates: 18 grams | Fat: 1 gram

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Shepherds In Suits: Part II

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." --Psalm 91:11

Read: Psalm 91

So yes, Part II. I didn't plan to write about those Shepherds in Suits again, but what happened Sunday just begged it. Sitting in an intimate gathering to celebrate the life of a fitness publisher who recently passed away, I listened as men and women shared their memories. The room was full of familiar faces. Writers, photographers, publishers and editors that I've worked with for over 14 years; a bit of a reunion. But one familiar face I didn't expect to see, was a face nobody recognized or even noticed.

Wouldn't you know it, standing against the wall a few feet from the guest speaker was one of my shepherds from across the world over three years ago. Same suit of armor, same focus, same purpose. This particular shepherd had the previous honor of protecting one of our former Presidents on Marine One. So to say the speaker was in good hands on this day is an understatement. In that moment, I squeezed Loretta close to me. I couldn't help but think of the angels that God has sent to protect me and my family. We can't see them, but I know they're there.

Max Lucado once wrote, "God sends his best troops to oversee your life. Imagine the President assigning his Secret Service to protect you, telling his agents to motorcade your car through traffic and safeguard you through crowds. How will you sleep knowing heaven's finest are doing just that? You are not alone. Heaven's mighty angels watch over you." Someday as we celebrate Heaven and honor Jesus, we too will have a reunion. Loved ones who went before us, and strangers who are no longer strangers will all be there. And so will our angels. I hope I get to thank mine. You know, we are safe to pursue an abundant life. We're watched. How bold does that make you feel as you tackle your day knowing you're flanked by God's army? Let's show them.

--Jimmy Peña

1.5 - Hours of leisurely walking per week shown to improve cognitive function among women, compared to those who walked less than 40 minutes (Source: MedicineNet.com)

Benchwarmer

"So Sarah laughed to herself." --Genesis 18:12

Read: Genesis 18

Benchwarmer. Not something that sat well with me. But during my sophomore year in high school, I endured it for the first time in my life. See, I was a baseball player, and a good one. But basketball? I probably should've hung up the Air Jordans as a freshmen. Sitting at the end of the bench during a blowout game, I hoped my friends and family would assume I was injured; maybe I twisted an ankle during warm-ups or something. But with a little over a minute on the clock, the unthinkable happened. Coach called my name.

"Reluctant" would be putting it mildly. I literally peeled myself off the chair. I stripped my warm-up off my cold body and joined the otherwise sweaty and necessary group of kids on the court. What's the use, I thought. The clock ran out, we shook hands, and I put my warm-up on as slowly as I had removed it.

Well, leaving the locker room that night to face the awkward "good game" from loved ones, Coach stopped me. He said something that I'd carry the rest of my life. He said, "I wanted to see your reaction when I called for you late in the game. Jimmy, it's never too late to make an impact."

Maybe you're wondering what kind of influence you can have. Perhaps you think it's way too late in the game for God to use you. That family member? Too far gone. That group of friends? Too set in their ways. No way God is calling me from the bench at my age, with my past. 

Folks, God has a way of doing the unexpected. And if He noticed Sarah laughing at the news of her baby on the way, rest assured He sees our reaction. So, take a minute to consider what the Spirit is whispering to your heart. If it's too lofty, too lowly, too late...God just may be looking for our reaction to His call. Carve this into your heart...If God calls for you, it's never too late to make an impact.

--Jimmy Peña

WALKING FOR HEALTH Just an hour of this low-impact activity per day can make you 50% healthier

Watch some TV? No judgement here. We like NCIS: Los Angeles, too. Just make sure you go for a walk after. New research put out by the American Heart Association showed that an hour of walking per day can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity as a result of watching the picture box by half.

"In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," said Qibin Qi, Ph.D., study author and a post doctorate research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent."

The study included 7,740 women and 4,564 men from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers collected data on physical activity and TV watching two years prior to assessing BMI.

>> For the full story, click here.

Worthy of a Frame

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. --Psalm 139:14

Read: Psalm 139

Where do you keep your pictures? I’m not talking about fun, random, cell phone snaps or Facebook profile images. I’m talking about the special ones –- those worthy of a frame. That’s where we need to start…the mantle of your heart.

You know, we’ve all heard the statement that if God had a mantle, your picture would be on it. And while I love knowing that, I wonder what you and I would actually look like? At first, that thought might sound a bit weird, awkward or even irrelevant. I suppose it would be if we were talking about the body, but God sees our hearts. And like we’ve said many times, life is not about the body, and our bodies -- these frames -- will most certainly not last heaven.

But if anyone knows our bodies, what they’re capable of, and most importantly, how healthy they were intended to be on earth, it’s Him. So I guess you could say, we’re just pictures of grace; souls He saw worthy...of a frame.

--Jimmy Peña

QUESTION: God loves our souls so much he framed them with bodies. How does knowing that change the way you view the importance of health? Please give us your comments below and please share this with your Facebook and Twitter communities.

DID YOU KNOW? Obesity is threatening national security, according to a new study, because one in four young adults is too overweight to join the military. In some states, as many as 44 percent of young adults, age 18-24, are obese and unfit to serve and protect.

Source: Mission: Readiness

COMMUNITY: Plug yourself into the faith-and-fitness discussion by joining our social networks! FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/officialprayfit TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/prayfit YOUTUBE - http://www.youtube.com/prayfit

My Redeemer Lives

"I know my redeemer lives." --Job 19:25

Read: Job 19

In a recent sermon, my good friend Dr. Aaron Tyler said, "The story in the book of Job is a story that tests the foundations of faith." As you know, God allowed Job to be tested beyond belief. His family, wealth and even his health were taken from him. But like Dr. Tyler said, "Job suffered faithfully." And in a remarkable surge of faith Job said, "Etch this in stone...I know my redeemer lives."

Friends, we might be going through all kinds of tests -- from finances, to relationships, to our health. But may we follow Job's example, that even as our lives unravel and our bodies break, our foundation of faith remains. Oh, we may not have books written about us, but our little stories are no less important to God or those around us. And if you happen to be asked why you care for a body that will surely fade and die, just remember Job as you reply, "Because my redeemer lives."

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: The Gideon

This week, you'll target legs with this test. As you may already know, at PrayFit, we're fans of the squat. That's because it hits your entire lower body musculature, making you stronger, leaner and more athletic. In fact, a hard leg day, particularly one that includes the squat, offers you the best chance of the week to make a positive and drastic effect on your overall body composition. Because of the amount of muscle mass worked in a single, well-scripted leg routine — like the one offered here — you enjoy a greater caloric burn and hormonal response in the days that follow that workout. So do yourself a favor — don’t skip leg day. Ever. The long term benefits are too great to sacrifice for the sake of a few days of discomfort.

For today's squat-based routine, we're challenging you to record your results online in your very own PrayFit Workout Journal. (Not yet a member? Register here.) This will not only keep you more accountable but it may also pique your inner competitor to grind out a few extra reps or a few extra seconds of work. The routine is as follows.

Warm Up: Jog in place or use a treadmill for 5 minutes. This often overlooked part of your routine elevates body temperature, increases blood flow to working muscles and lubricates your joints for the work ahead.

Jump squats for 30 seconds | Record total jumps Bodyweight squats for 30 seconds | Record total squats Wall Squats for as long as possible | Record total time

>> After reaching failure -- the point at which you can no longer hold this position -- on wall squats, stand and rest for 1-2 minutes.

>> Complete the entire lineup 3-5 times total in one session. Perform 2-3 sessions per week, allowing 1-2 days recovery between workouts.

>> For more exercise descriptions and videos, click here.

He Gets Us

"For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." --Psalm 103:14

Read: Psalm 103

If focusing on creation and how we were wonderfully made has taught me anything, it's that God gets us. He gets why we worry. Why else would He constantly encourage us to have faith? He gets why we suffer. Why else would He urge us not to lean on our own understanding? And yes, He also gets the body.

As He formed us, He set limits. As He encased our soul with flesh, He numbered our days on purpose. See, most sculptors never hope to reunite with their design, but God does. We're all He thinks about! Artists may pour heart and soul into their work, but our heart and soul is His work, and He wants us back. His biggest desire for our lives is that we meet the source of our lives. And if Jesus is in our hearts, He gets us.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT: WEEK IN REVIEW Revisiting a week's worth of faith-building and healthy living

Faith

BE HEALTHY, QUIETLY: No need to brag...let's let the byproducts of our obedience do the talking

A TRAINING PRAYER: A prayer to take into your next training session...and the one after that

BE STILL AND RUN: Today, kneel, bow your head and run

STILL TIME TO DANCE: It's never too late to start moving more

Fitness

WORKOUT: An at-home workout for bolder shoulders in 10 minutes flat NUTRITION: How soy can help you recover faster, boost health

COOKING TIP: Learning how to make a healthier banana bread

FAT-BURNING TIP: How training hungry can burn more fat

Be Still and Run

"Be still and know that I am God.""Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us."

Read: Psalm 46, Hebrews 12

If you've ever watched a track meet on TV, you've noticed that as the runners enter the starting blocks, there's a moment of absolute silence. After the athletes find their place, they kneel, bow their heads, then -- pow! -- off they go.

Well, if you're new to PrayFit, we're a lot like that. In a sense, we represent two bookends of the day -- stillness and movement in one. We believe God was as serious when He said "be still" as He was when He said "run the race." And at PrayFit, we take these orders both literally and figuratively.

So welcome to the start of a new day. Find a good place to kneel, bow your head and run.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Banana Bread

The smell of a still-baking loaf of banana bread is an olfactory experience that we at PrayFit do not take lightly. Only we know all too well how dangerous this indulgence can be if eaten by the loaf instead of by the slice. Luckily, PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, knows how to take the sugary sting out of banana bread without sacrificing flavor.

"There’s no better way to use over-ripe bananas than banana bread, but all the butter and sugar in traditional banana bread recipes can clobber you with calories and fat," she says. "Use our tips to make this breakfast classic more figure friendly."

Nutrition Facts There’s a lot of variation in the nutrition info for banana bread recipes. Those made with butter and eggs come out higher in unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol, while those made with vegetable oils are still high in fat and calories, but contain more heart-healthy fats. On average, most breads come out to 110 calories and 4-5 grams of fat per ounce — and slices can vary from anywhere from 2-5 or more ounces.

Lighter Options There are numerous ways to tone down your favorite recipe. Try a couple of these easy fixes:

>> Bananas add moisture and sweetness so you can cut back on the fat and sugar. Try using 25 percent less fat and sugar than your usual recipe calls for. >> Applesauce or apple butter can also help replace the fat and added sugar. >> Downsize the portions to muffin or mini-muffin pans. >> Cut a standard loaf pan sized-bread into 12 slices. >> Make a cholesterol-free version using canola oil, apple butter and soy milk. >> Nuts and chocolate chips are great add-ins, but keep portions to no more than one tablespoon per serving.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

>> NUTRITION: Looking for more recipes and healthy eating tips? Visit our nutrition page by clicking here.

Misfits Seldom Do

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." --1 Corinthians 1:27

Read: 1 Corinthians 1

If he were your neighbor, you'd move. If choosing teams, he'd be the one last picked. Without a doubt, on the island of misfits he'd be king. But he didn't care. More bold than beautiful, John knew the act to follow was really the act to follow. So he used whatever God gave him to get his message across to a world in need.

Friends, our bodies are merely tools. In the end, they simply get us from life's A to B. But our short trip was so important that Jesus made His. So this week, let's add how we eat and exercise to the list of strange ways God makes Himself known to those around us. Will you be popular? Maybe not. Regarded or rewarded? It's doubtful. But then again, the only attention that's really important is the attention you're paying to the body God designed for you. So go ahead. Be the last one standing. In a world that disregards the body as a means of praise, you'll be in good company when you don't fit in. Misfits seldom do.

--Jimmy Peña

THE POWER OF THE JOURNAL

Keeping a consistent workout journal is one of the best ways to keep yourself accountable. Here are some of the key things to note in your daily journal:

1 Exercises, sets and reps: Consider this the workout blueprint. Jotting all this down is a good way to ensure that your workouts have structure and that you have a clear plan of what work there is to get done each day.

2 Weight used: Whether it's your own bodyweight or a heavy barbell, keeping track of the resistance you're using serves as a mental note to consistently add more. Whether your trying to add muscle or just get stronger, gradual increases in weight are crucial.

3 Rest periods: How long did you take between sets? The shorter the rest periods, the more intense the workout. If you are lifting heavier, then longer rest periods may be helpful. In either case, keep a careful eye on the clock between sets.

4 Intensity techniques: Did you use drop sets today? Did you have your spotter help you through a few forced reps? Knowing which intensity techniques you're using to make your workouts more challenging will help you continue making gains. Knowing when and how often you're pushing it will also help you keep from overtraining.

>> What else do you keep track of in your journal? Let us know in the comments below, or on the PrayFit forums today.

>> Start a journal - Click Here

>> Got a journal already? Update it today, view other PrayFit workout journals, by clicking here!

PRAYFIT NEWS: PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be appearing on FOX's Good Day Atlanta this Wednesday, February 8, between 9:00 am and 9:45 am EST. For the full story, click here.

What Do You See, Lord?

"You saw me before I was born." --Psalm 139:16

Read: Psalm 139

Awaiting my turn on a recent TV broadcast, I sat in the green room watching the first hour's guest. A woman -- maybe in her late 50's -- was there sharing her fundraising efforts for the homeless and orphaned. Her reply to the host's last question caught my attention. He asked her why she thought God placed this burden on her heart. Through a flood of tears she said, "I just think God saw something in me I never could have seen for myself."

Wow. It felt like she was accepting an award; honored beyond words. Believe me folks, a child is going to find a home, a meal, or both because of this woman. Her words resonated in my head (and heart) as I took my place on the couch. It was my turn. But honestly, I don't remember the host's first question. I struggled to concentrate. "We're back in 5, 4, 3, 2..."

Sarah, David, Mary Magdalene, Peter. To the rest of the world, outcasts and misfits. Too little, too late. But that's not what God saw.

Is this your prayer? Mine too:

"What do you see Lord? What you can see means more to me than what I can't. So show me. My back is strong. My shoulders are steady. I don't want to be empty-handed. Give me the burden that you see me carrying."

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What has God called you to do? What burden has He laid on your heart? What can we help you pray about today?

FAITH & FELLOWSHIP

You don't have to be in the same room (or gym) with other PrayFit members to meet them. Join in on these discussions, offer encouragement to someone, or start your own thread today!

Certifications - which one is best?

How many calories should I eat each day?

Detox: Worth the hassle?

Questions for the trainer

Fitness helps faith make sense

>> Not yet registered? Sign-up here today.

You, He Knitted

"You knit me together in my mother’s womb." --Psalm 139:13

Read: Psalm 139

God spoke, and there was light. He breathed the stars in space and put the moon in place. But you? You, He knitted. Imagine, the God who filled the oceans with water made your eyes to blink. After spraying the cosmos with trillions of galaxies, He gave you goosebumps. (And then you did the same to Him.)

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Build, Burn

Try the following workout to jump-start your week. Build muscle, burn calories...all at your own pace. Everyone has a "best." What's yours? That's what your effort should be everyday. Walk in place with high knees - 1 min. Jog in place - 1 min. Jumping jacks - 1 min. Jog with high knees - 1 min. Rest 30 sec. Push-ups - 30 sec. Straight-arm plank - 30 sec. Standard plank - 30 sec. Push-ups - 30 sec. Rest 30 sec.

Repeat the entire sequence 2-3 times. Perform this workout up to three times per week, allowing 24-48 hours between sessions. For your push-ups, regardless of what type you are doing, count your reps and strive to increase that number from workout to workout.

DVD: Looking for a new program to speed your gains along in 2012? Try the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge DVD by Lionsgate.

Feels Like Redemption

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint." --Romans 5:3-5

Read: Romans 5

Exercise is not good for you. Yes, you read that right. Strictly speaking, it's downright harmful. Take running, for instance. It's traumatic, and the breakdown puts the body at an extremely vulnerable state. But what? It's only how the body comes back from a beating that proves its worth.

Speaking of tough exercises, try and name one biblical character that didn't run into problems. (Go ahead and save your breath). But did you notice that each person that came to mind was likely restored to become a more effective God follower?

Healing, repair, growth, strength: descendants of diligence and progenies of prudence. The next time you're sore from a workout or when your soul hurts from tribulation, whisper to yourself, "Feels like redemption".

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions

Most people don’t eat as many vegetables as they should and an easy way to add a side of veggies at a meal is to roast them. Broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, onions, carrots, collards, kale, sweet potatoes, squash –- there are so many options! Starchier veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash) tend to take longer to cook, but the smaller you cut any vegetable, the quicker it will cook. One of my favorite combos for roasting is brussels sprouts with apples and onions. The sweetness of the apples balances the sprouts, which some people find mildly bitter.

Ingredients: • 2 cups fresh brussels sprouts • 1 large apple • 1 medium onion • 1½ tablespoons canola or olive oil • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, then spray the foil with cooking spray. Cut the stem ends off of the sprouts and cut them in half (or quarters if they are large). Core the apple and cut into ½-inch chunks (no need to remove the peel, there are a lot of nutrients in there!). Chop the onion into ½-inch chunks. Put the sprouts, apples, and onions on the aluminum foil in the pan, then drizzle everything with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper, stirring everything together. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, and continue to cook at 5-minute intervals as needed until sprouts are beginning to brown and the apples and vegetables are fork-tender. You may need to cover with foil partway through if they are getting too brown. Serves 4.

Approximate nutrition information per serving: 105 calories, 5.5g fat (0.5g of which is saturated), 15mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g protein. (Adding ½ tsp. salt adds 290mg sodium/serving, adding ¼ tsp. salt adds 145mg sodium/serving.)

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

ARE THEY HERE YET?

"They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was."— Matthew 2:9

This week, like many of you, we'll finally arrive at the home of family and friends to celebrate Christmas. Do you have "going home" traditions? We do too. One tradition my parents actually started during my college years was hanging a "Welcome Home, Jimmy!" sign at the house. When I got married, they added "& Loretta", and we've seen that banner for 16 years now. And no matter how quick our trip might be, that sign is waiting. It's seen its share of attics, but it brings Mom and Dad a lot of joy to pull that out of storage. That sign symbolizes Christmas, and that their children are almost home.

Beyond a doubt right now, celebration plans are almost ready in homes such as yours and of those you love. All the decorations have been hung, everyone's favorite dishes are being prepared and front room curtains are being impatiently pulled back to see if "they're here yet."

You know, I've often wondered if the star in the east was as much God's way to honor His son, as it was our way to find Him. Even though Jesus' time on earth was short, God knew how He'd be rejected, and of the cross that awaited him. So perhaps it was God's way to say, "I love you, Son" and in doing so said to us, "Here He is".

He loves us that much. And if we look forward to seeing loved ones, how much more does He? Because you see, someday God will send for us. And I like to think that after spreading the table for the great celebration and hanging the welcome-home banner across the door, the angels will pull back the curtain, peeking to see...are they here yet?

--J.P.

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ROAD TRIP SNACK: TURKEY & CHEDDAR PANINI

There's something about the crunch of a perfectly toasted panini that's hard to resist. But oftentimes, it ends up on the "do not eat" list for those of us trying to lean up or lose a few pounds. This recipe, however, is a healthier, protein-packed alternative that will serve you well, whether you're looking to build muscle, get lean or just recover from a tough workout.

Turkey & Cheddar Panini

2 slices Ezekiel Bread 2 tsp Dijon mustard 4 oz deli turkey 2 slices tomato ¼ cup baby spinach leaves 1 slice low fat cheddar cheese 1 tsp canola oil

>> Spread each slice of bread with mustard and assemble panini by layering turkey, tomato, spinach and cheese between slices of bread. Heat canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add panini and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, pressing down gently with a spatula. Cook until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Calories: 390 | Protein: 30 grams | Carbohydrates: 38 grams | Fat: 12 grams

 

RATE OF FAILURE

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"— Galatians 2:21

Much is made of the failure rate in baseball.  A successful hitter, it is said, fails to get a hit seven out of every 10 trips to the plate. Despite this otherwise abysmal statistic, those who perform up to such a strict standard are held in high regard. The familiar sound of bat meeting ball is met by a chorus of applause, the hitter greeted by high fives and offered hands of affirmation by teammates upon his return to the dugout. The spoils of a job well done.

In our walks with God, the only measure of success -- the perfection of Christ -- makes failure a certainty. More often than not, despite our best efforts, we will swing and miss at opportunities to glorify God in how we live, work and play. Still, despite no quantifiable measure of achievement and no earthly rewards to be won, we test ourselves, training for a contest in which the outcome has already been determined. Because we know that someday, no matter our rate of failure, we too will be greeted -- not by the roar of the crowd but by choirs of angels. The spoils of a life redeemed by grace.

--Eric Velazquez

LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AGING ATHLETE What does science have to say about your ability to train into your 40s?

Aching backs, ailing knees and rapidly-declining energy levels. Once you hit your 40s, these may be a few of your least favorite things, perhaps even to the point of discouragement. Why train if I can't do it the way I did 20 years ago? Well, science has plenty to say about that. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," some of your best years may be ahead of you yet.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando) placed untrained men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 on a 12-week periodized, twice-per-week, strength-training program for their non-dominant arm (the opposite arm served as a control). All three groups gained about 20% more muscle on their arms. The only benefit of being younger was the ability to gain slightly more one-rep max strength on the preacher curl. The older the subjects were, the more strength and muscle size they had when they started the 12-week program. Typically, the more strength you have, the less strength you can gain.

"There really is no difference in the ability to gain muscle size as you age, at least up to 40 years old," Stoppani says. "You may find it tougher to increase one-rep strength but you are likely stronger at the beginning of a program than younger trainers are. It really is never too late to start lifting weights."

>> Why not get a head start on banking some of that strength now? Try this at-home bodyweight program for starters, or visit JimStoppani.com for detailed, member-exclusive workout plans.

WORKING BACKWARDS

November 29, 2011Read: Matthew 6

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you." --Matthew 6:33

Losing stuff is easy. It's finding it again that takes a little work. But what do we do? We work backwards. Be it car keys, a book, maybe a wallet -- we retrace our steps until...ahh, the lost is found.

You know, I think that's the way God intended us to live. He said to Seek first His Kingdom because He wants us to secure our future, and sing "Blessed Assurance" for a reason. When you look at it that way, you and I are just working backwards. After all, why would He ensure our final step, only for us to be unsure of our next one?

So if you're facing tough times, do just that: work backwards. Misplaced your courage? Lost your will for a healthy life? You'll find both what you've lost and what you're looking for, if you re-trace His steps and stop at the cross.

--Jimmy Peña

THE SECRET LIFE OF PROTEIN

Almost universally, higher-protein diets are associated with greater muscle mass. While it's true that hard-training individuals should consume more protein to maximize muscle recovery and growth, protein also helps you to stay lean. A recent study published by the American Society of Nutrition showed that dietary protein stimulated thermogenesis (fat-burning) and promoted satiety more than high carbohydrate meals. While casein and soy protein were found to be more filling, fat-burning was higher after consuming whey.

Researchers at Skidmore College also found that when subjects followed a high-protein diet for eight weeks they lost significantly more body fat, particularly abdominal fat, than those following a low-carb/high-fat diet.

Minimum recommended daily allowances for children range between 16-28 grams per day. Healthy male adults should aim for 45-63 grams per day, while females should strive for 46-50 grams. Pregnant? You may need 60 grams per day for your growing baby. Protein requirements vary, of course. If you workout regularly or at higher intensities, you may need more protein -- up to 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day -- to help rebuild muscle and keep your lean body mass in healthy ranges.

>> SHOP: In need of the perfect stocking stuffer for your loved ones? Visit the PrayFit store for faith-and-fitness inspired clothing, books, wristbands and more!

STANDING UP STRAIGHT

November 28, 2011 Read: Psalm 84

"No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly." --Psalm 84:11

Isn't it interesting that at the mere mention of the words 'good posture', we automatically pull our shoulders back? (Admit it, you just sat up a little taller in your chair as you read that sentence.) Well, if it helps, I sat up as I wrote it. Many of you don't know, but a little over a year ago, I had spine surgery; a couple of fusions and an artificial disk were all my neck needed. Okay, basically I have a brand new neck. And of the many rehab mandatories, a lifetime of maintaining good posture is at the top of the list. That's why I'm constantly asking my wife to remind me of it.

Good posture. Physically and spiritually. Isn't that the goal each day? Am I eating right? Am I reading my Bible? Am I walking uprightly in my pursuit of abundant living? When it comes to my very small, brief life, there's a lot I think I need, but I want nothing more than a backbone for Christ, while protecting the frame He designed around it.

I just want to stand up straight.

Have a good week everyone. In Jesus' name, we train.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: BACK ISSUES

Speaking of good posture, a strong back can help. Next time you're at your gym, try this workout. It'll help target all the major muscles of your back.

Lat Pulldown: 3 sets x 10-15 The lat pulldown is great as a warm-up as well as the start of your working sets. Do a few light warm-up sets with very light weight before reaching failure at the designated rep range. The lat pulldown targets the upper part of the lats, the wide, wing-shaped muscles that extend from your armpit down to your lower back.

Wide-Grip Seated Row: 3 sets of 8-12 Close-Grip Seated Row: 3 sets x 8-12 The wide-grip seated row will zero-in on your upper lats, while also hitting your middle back (rhomboids, middle traps). When you switch to the narrow grip, you shift the focus to the lower lats.

Pull-Up: 4 sets x To Failure Close-Grip Pull-Up: 4 sets x To Failure Finish your quick yet effective back workout with pull-ups and chin-ups, to failure, four sets each. Do as many wide-grip pull-ups as possible then finish with the underhand chin. Your biceps, which come into play more with this grip, will help you tax every remaining fiber in your back.

--Rest 60-90 seconds between sets and exercises. --Perform this workout once per week, preferably as one of the first in your schedule of workouts. --Do 5-10 minutes of general warm-up work, such as jogging or jumping jacks, in order to increase blood flow and elevate your core temperature. Follow each workout with a few minutes of back stretches to maintain flexibility in these crucial postural muscles.

COMING SOON!: December 6 marks the official release of PrayFit's first DVD, now available for pre-order on Amazon and other retail websites.

 

CHARACTER. FLAWS.

November 22, 2011Read: Psalm 32

"You are my hiding place." --Psalm 32:7

A friend of mine recently asked her fans and followers if they could relate to any particular character in the Bible. I never get tired of that question. If you're like me, you don't know where to start. Pick one. The disobedience of Adam? That's me, hiding in the bushes. Insecurity of Moses? Yep, I'm a carrier. What about Sarah's idea of the impossible, versus God's idea of the inevitable? Regretfully, Sarah and I would share a good, brief laugh.

Indeed, find a character in the bible and you'll find your character flaw. But of all the things I'm thankful for this week, it's not about who I can relate to, but Who chose to relate to me. To think, I can identify with so many of the bible's lowest moments, yet Christ identifies Himself with me.

What are you thankful for today?

-Jimmy Peña

CRAVINGS: BRAIN GAMES Science shows that impulse control may have to do with your blood sugar

Think back on the last time you were hungry for something really bad. When that craving for high-sugar, high-fat and/or high-calorie food hit you like a freight train, how long had it been since your last good meal? Brain imaging scans show that when glucose (blood sugar) levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Your brain runs on glucose, so in a state of deprivation -- which can occur if you go too long between meals -- it may send signals that trigger these cravings. In order to avoid said cravings, your best bet is to have 4-7 small, healthy, whole-food meals and snacks throughout the day. This constant influx of fuel prevents your brain from going into panic mode and keeps you on the right track for healthful, abundant living.

>> For the full story on Science Daily, click here.

 

FOREVER ROAD

November 14, 2011 Read: James 1

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." --James 1:12

Queensboro Bridge. Halfway through the New York City Marathon is both where this entry was written, and where my race actually began. Nearly two months of ultrasound and countless hours of therapy weren't enough to convalesce my troubled hamstring. And with 12 miles -- or roughly 24,000 steps left to go -- the grand, lofty notion of taking just one more was in question. So I wrote this entry.

In as much time as it took a thousand runners to pass me by, I wrapped my leg in a makeshift tourniquet using stored gauze, and as many white flags as I could find in my heart. If there's one thing this most novice of runners quickly realized on that bridge, was that the next step was as necessary as the eventual stride that would be needed to cross the finish line. So this week, we'll run the Boroughs together. If you recall, in the days before the race I asked God to open the eyes of my heart, and I promised you I'd write down what He showed me. Well, He kept His promise, and I wasn't about to break mine.

Friends, life is simply a bridge. Work, school, money, health...all mere mile markers that remind us that we're in a race. And while we don't compete against one another, I think sometimes the most daunting of life's fights occurs when we're surrounded by fellow runners. Fellow runners who are - by nature - each hamstrung by something, and fighting to turn another corner down Forever Road. Let's remember that each step is worth it if we know Who awaits us in the end. --Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT: RUNNER'S RESOURCES

Some may think that running is simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. To others, no performance tip is insignificant. In either case, running is an activity that can be improved upon, provided that you have the proper coaching. Build a stronger stride, better endurance, a leaner physique and a runner's heart by bookmarking some of these trusted resources on the web. Enjoy your runs this week and remember to post your distances to your workout journal on the PrayFit forums.

MarathonRookie.com: Tips for novices looking to enter half- or full-distance marathons

Runner's World Magazine: From shoe selection to race day decorum, the authoritative source for all things running

Jeff Galloway.com: Practical training tips from one of the industry's top coaches

Mapmyrun.com: Track your distance runs with this easy-to-use mapping tool

Josh Cox: Christian ultramarathon runner, TV personality, author and believer