Shackles and Heavy Burdens

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed. --Mark 1:35

Read: Mark 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWay back in the day, I would often incorporate various tools and tactics into my training in order to become stronger, better. One of my favorites was the use of big, heavy-linked chains. Yes, chains. Boy how times have changed. Seen rarely, and often only in shipyards, these chains were massive. Popeye would be so proud. Well, depending on the exercise, you attach them to the ends of the bar (which already have free weights on them) and perform the exercise.

I got to thinking about those old chains recently. See, chains provide a unique value to training. As you raise the bar higher and higher, the bar actually gets heavier. Why? As you lift the bar up, more links of the chain leave the ground. As you lower the weight toward the floor, one-by-one, the links begin piling up and the load you're carrying gets lighter. Simply put, the load is lightest the closer you get to the floor.

What are you lifting? What burden are you carrying? In many ways, our obligations and daily demands -- linked together -- create a pretty heavy load. Family, work, bills, deadlines, grades, health, illness, link, Even if you love the calling and the work, the occasional rest is necessary.

Friends, why do we stress quiet times? Because burdens get lighter the closer we get to the floor. If the day were a heavy set of deadlifts, then the quiet, prayerful rest periods do a soul good. Matter of fact, back in the weight room, it's proven that short periods of rest help the lifter sustain the workload with greater success. Beat that with a stick. I just knew those old chains would come in handy someday.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. For the old-school among us, sing with me some Gaither Music...

"Shackled by a heavy burden. 'Neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me. And now, I am no longer the same.

He touched me. Oh, He touched me. And oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened, and now I know, He touched me and made me whole."


Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat. Their research pointed out that this type of diet, where you get 33 percent of each day's calories from these three sources, limited inflammation as well as certain type of cancers by acting favorably on key genes. In addition, this type of eating provides enough healthy dietary fat to support joint and heart function, enough protein to support muscle repair and metabolism and enough carbs to power your daily activities.

What else can this type of balance do for you? Find out here!

You Know The Story, Part II

"So he got up and went to his father." --Luke 15:20

Read: Luke 15

We had a rule growing up. If my brother and I got in trouble for doing something wrong, we weren't allowed to keep pouting about it. No sir. Once it was done, and my brother got what he deserved, it was over. Finished. Like it never happened. Well okay, we suffered consequences, yes, but it wasn't held over our heads. In fact, if I was pouting about it later on, you guessed it, I got in trouble for pouting. You know what that taught me? Trust. I trusted my parents. I knew what to expect. Periodically reprimanded, constantly loved.

Although he came back with memories of deeds as stinky as his pig-slopped clothes, yesterday's prodigal couldn't stray beyond his father's love. Before he knew it, a robe replaced his rags, a ring dressed his hand and a feast filled his belly. And while you and I may not have mud on our shoes, there's not a person reading this sentence who doesn't need that kind of grace from a grace-giving God.

You know, many of us have treated our bodies -- our inherited health -- much like the prodigal treated his promised pay. We've over spent and wasted it. But something tells me the prodigal son took better care of the things he was given after he got home. And so can we. For some, there's a family waiting for you, too; waiting for you to start eating better, to stop smoking, to start exercising. They're waiting to celebrate you. Who's coming home, been home, staying home? You're the life of their party. It doesn't begin without you.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Knowing that God sees our hearts, not our waistline, should invigorate and empower us to be better stewards of health. We're constantly loved. Doesn't that fire you up to live your entire life to its fullest? Let's see a few "YES" comments. We ask again: Who's coming home, been home, staying home?

NUTRITION TIP: Eat in Balance for Sustained Health

With all the fad diets out there that promise to help you lose weight for good, the best one may have been under your nose this whole time. Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat.

>> Click here for more on the study!

A Precarious Position

"For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling." --Psalm 116:8

Read: Psalm 116

Today, on a short walk around our complex with my girls, my oldest daughter ran ahead a bit. When I finally caught up to her, she was halfway up a small embankment, princess dress, flats and all. This small hill is a familiar one to us -- we use it as a shortcut on our walks to the neighborhood play area -- but we usually hike it together because it's a bit too steep for 2- and 3-year-olds to manage on their own.

"Mya, stop right there," I said calmly as she struggled with the ascent. "Your shoes are very slippery, baby, let me help."

She turned to me and momentarily lost her footing. Once determined to proceed to the small summit on her own, Mya now looked to me in desperation, reaching out to me for help. While the climb to the top would certainly have been no picnic, coming back down had its own set of dangers -- if she were to do it alone. Taking her small hand in mine, we carefully negotiated the slope and continued on our walk together.

When we walk with God, we enjoy balance and security. When we trek ahead without Him, we often find ourselves in daunting, precarious positions. But no matter how steep the climb, no matter how dangerous the descent, when we get stuck He'll always be there to offer His hand to help us down so we can continue on our walk...together.

--Eric Velazquez

DID YOU KNOW: This summer, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña was selected as the first advisory board member to Pastor Rick Warren's The Daniel Plan. This worldwide faith-and-fitness initiative by Warren's team at Saddleback Church, helped participants lose 260,000 pounds in 2011. For the full story and more on The Daniel Plan, click here.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: BODY TONING SYSTEM You can always browse our fitness page for cool workout ideas to take into the week. But if you're looking for something more structured that can take your body on a journey, we've got just the thing for you. PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System (Lionsgate) is a more advanced system that toggles between targeted exercises that build lean muscle and high-intensity cardio to blast through body fat. By repeating these intervals, you’ll see results faster than you would by doing cardio alone. This DVD will help you improve steadily each day, building your fitness and your faith. This DVD incorporates toning exercises with “PrayFit Minutes” – encouraging, weekly devotionals aimed at helping you become healthy in body and strong in Spirit.

“If you thought the first DVD was fun, effective and challenging, you won’t believe our newest edition,” says Jimmy Pena. “Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the most respected names in Christian publishing, is exclusively releasing our second DVD through retailers everywhere. We hope you order it and are blessed by the message and workout. Get ready. You are going to love it!”

>> For other PrayFit products to help boost your faith and fitness, click here.


September 6, 2011Read: 1 Corinthians 6

" were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." --1 Corinthians 6:20

C.S. Lewis once said, "Aim at Heaven, and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you get neither." This week, our focus is our focus. Since we know God looks at the heart, what does that mean in terms of our physical health? Truth is, somewhere between vanity and gluttony lies abundant living. And ironically, the mirror exposes that dual reality; that our reflection doesn't matter for Heaven, but it can point to it. Our balanced approach to physical fitness can be an indicator to others of not only our gratitude, but also of how serious we take God's commands.

So, whether you're too focused on what the mirror reveals, or you haven't given it enough thought, it's time to pursue abundant health. For Heaven's sake, it's time.


Do you need prayer for physical needs? Let us know in the comments section below so we, and the PrayFit community, can lift you up.

>> WELCOME BACK: How did you do eating- and exercise-wise over the long weekend? Need a workout to get you back on track? Visit our fitness page to get plenty of workouts, exercise tips, descriptions and more to head into your week supercharged.

>> EATING, BUT BETTER: Looking for a few ways to start eating better without depriving yourself? Click here for eight simple strategies.

>> READ: To order PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days, click here.

>> WEAR: To set yourself or a friend up with some cool PrayFit gear, click here.

>> PRAY: To pray with other members of the PrayFit community, click here.

Please also be sure to use our social networking features — Recommend, Tweet, Share and E-Mail — at the top of each page if you see something you like or want to share with others.



September 2, 2010Read: Matthew 16

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” –Matthew 16:25

I recently watched a documentary about the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, also known as Easy Company — arguably one of the most elite group of soldiers of World War II. Those who didn’t lose their lives shared their stories of bravery, battles and brotherhood, the likes of which had this weak shell of a writer in a flood of tears.

But prior to D-Day and long before the beaches of Omaha, the group of men who would come to be known as the angels from the sky had to first prove their readiness. After months of testing and training, only those left standing were given their wings. Interestingly, while their worries were few, the one common fear they all had was whether their chutes would open correctly — as they were responsible for packing their own parachute the day before each jump.

Please forgive the comparison, but if you and I were responsible for providing a safe landing from our fall, we’d live in fear too. But since God’s love reaches lower than our worst mistakes and higher than our greatest accomplishments, we have a green light to stand up, hook up and jump.

Which reminds me, once those boys boarded the plane, despite it all, they couldn’t wait to hit the ground and fight. That took uncommon valor. But when Jesus took our place on the cross, that took a miracle of love and grace.


3 STEPS TO A BETTER STRIDE Protect your feet, run easier and conserve energy with these tips

I’ll leave more testimonials to the avid runners, but in grad school, we spent semesters studying the mechanics of a running stride. Pretty detailed stuff. Maybe that’s why I headed to the weight room. But if you feel you’re running inefficiently and a bit out of control, your entire body could need adjusting. Your best plan should be to have an experienced runner or fitness professional examine your gait. Have them watch you and give you credible advice. A few things he or she will be looking for are:

Foot Plant One of the most important phases of running mechanics is the position of your foot when it lands on the ground. When your foot strikes the ground it will land toes first, ball of the foot first, flat footed or heel first. Many runners make the mistake of reaching out in front of their body and landing heel first. Your most efficient foot plant is one in which your foot lands directly under your hips or your center of gravity. You may land on the ball of your foot or flat footed. The ideal landing position is slightly toward the outside edge of your foot, just behind your little toe.

Arms The main purpose of an arm swing is to provide balance and coordination with the legs. The arms should hang loose and relaxed, close to the body. Avoid excessive movement. You want to avoid any tenseness in the shoulders. Also, allowing your arms to cross in front of your body even slightly can cause excessive and unnecessary twisting of your spine, forcing you to work harder — futher incentive to keep them close to your sides.



August 27, 2010 Read: Colossians 3

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” –Colossians 3:23-24

My wife and I love turtles, especially those sea turtles. My dad used to say to me, “Jimmy, turtles are great because to get anywhere they gotta stick their necks out.” Well, in case you don’t share our enthusiasm, let me share some turtle trivia.

First, they’re born on the beach, even though they were never meant for the sand. And once they hatch, they don’t stick around to watch the grass grow. No sir! No sightseeing for these guys. In order to avoid the predators like birds and crabs, they run to the water as fast as they can. They might be young, but they know enough to know they’re not safe or at home.

And neither are we. We’re born on foreign soil and all we need to do is make our way to safety. The good news? Jesus has already defeated our predator, and He drew a line in the sand for us to follow. All we have to do is stick our necks out and run.


A PRAYFIT WEEK IN REVIEW In case you missed any of this week's entries, here's what you missed from the fitness side.

PrayFit Workout of the Week: The Gideon A brutal bodyweight driven workout that will spark fat loss and build lean tissue.

Water: The Ultimate Fat Burner We gained insight into what research is saying about the thermogenic effects of agua.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bars Dana Angelo White shared a delicious recipe for energy bars. One of our favorites.

Training in Balance And finally, we learned how giving all your muscle groups adequate attention can help prevent injuries to your knees, elbows, shoulders, hips and low back.

>> Please join us again on Monday and everyday for more ways  to start living more healthfully.


August 26, 2010Read: Isaiah 40

"The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever." --Isaiah 40:8

There's been a big to-do lately about the validity of expiration dates on grocery store items. Without anyone regulating the shelf-life of food, the business of labels is risky business.

But no matter how soon we buy something or how well we preserve it's freshness, time will eventually take its toll. Left to the elements, sooner or later, we discover what's foul -- and there's no mistaking when something's gone bad.

Truth be told, there's really nothing this life can offer that won't decay. Eventually, everything degrades, and thinking green won't be nearly enough to save the earth. Thankfully, God is imperishable and we are not the world. He stamps a "BEST LIVED BY:" on time itself. Not one thing about Him will ever get old or go bad. Not one promise, not mercy, and not anyone He calls his own.


FIT & BALANCED More times than not, our injuries are the result of improper training -- not necessarily in terms of improper form, but rather by not providing all of our bodyparts equal time under tension. Typically, we are more likely train the bodyparts we most frequently see in the mirror like our quads, chest, abs, shoulders and biceps. However, neglecting to train the back properly can cause undue torque on the shoulders. And not hitting the hamstrings can cause knee issues and low-back problems. So today's advice is to take a look at your routine to make sure you're training in balance.

If you have questions for the community of fitness minds here at PrayFit, head over to our boards and post a question, or leave one in the comments section below.

>> DO YOU HAVE A WORKOUT JOURNAL? If you're looking for a way to keep yourself more accountable, join the other PrayFit members who have started keeping track of their workouts at our forums. Sign up here. Already a member? Just start a new topic in the Workout Journals forum.


July 22, 2010Read: Mark 10 "Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you!' Throwing his cloak aside, he leaped to his feet and came to Jesus." --Mark 10:49-50

No need to adjust your computer screen, that's indeed the same verse as yesterday's entry. But I just had to go back to it. Ever since we posted last night, I haven't been able to get a particular thought out of my head: The crowd knew something. Read the verse again.

Typically, we focus on either the blind man, Bartimaeus, or of course, Jesus. But the crowd's response has bugged me for nearly 24 hours. The crowd They knew something. They knew what Jesus had the power to do in the blind man's life. Otherwise, they wouldn't have reacted as if the beggar had just won the lottery.

Read it again. Of all the thousand voices that were clamoring for Jesus to hear, that of a blind beggar behind all the others sitting on the side of the road found the ear of Jesus, and the crowd knew what that meant. Can't you just see the pause, the wide eyes, open mouths, and then their whiplash reactions as they run to the one who's number had just been called?

You and I stand among those who need to heed the call. Read the verse again (last time, I promise). Isn't Jesus calling everyone? Didn't He die for all the world? And if we've been saved and healed...aren't we the crowd who knows?



Time for more "broken record" rhetoric. Don’t worry about working on balance while trying to train for strength. For example, you may see people from time to time standing on one leg while doing biceps curls. That makes no sense, since both the biceps and core are not being fully stimulated. Your best bet is to focus on one or the other. Besides, the strongest cores are of power athletes, who spend their time picking up heavy stuff from a stable surface.