cross

No Mas: Part II

He saved others, why doesn't He save Himself? Some of those at the foot of the Cross stood in absolute wonder. And why not? They had velvet rope access to the miracles. They saw the blind see, the lame walk and the mute talk. They were firsthand eyewitnesses to His power and might. And yet there He was. Hanging on a cross to die.

You'll forgive the long entry, but I knew before I began today's follow-up to "No Mas" that I wasn't going to get it right. Too many lessons to be learned, let alone teach in so few words.

First, we could easily see this strictly from an athlete's perspective. The crowd around the ring that night had seen Duran for years. They knew his power, speed and heart. Because of that, what he did was beyond their comprehension. To put it into perspective, imagine Michael Jordan at the free throw line in a tied Game 7 of the NBA Championship. With one second on the clock, he gives the ball to the ref and walks off the court unwilling to take the shot. Impossible? Well, that's what the crowd witnessed that night when Duran said, "No mas."

Or, we could also see this from Sugar Ray's standpoint. He demanded answers. Cheated out of the glory that should come with victory, Sugar Ray took it upon himself to find out what happened. And we all know from yesterday's entry how that ended. His peace came when he stopped trying to be rewarded for his work. (That thought deserves an entry for the fitness enthusiasts among us.) But of the two boxers that fateful night in 1980, I can relate mostly to Duran -- the one who stopped striving. The guy who couldn't go the distance. The quitter. Yes, that's me.

Spiritually, I quit fighting my own battle when I was an eighth grader. I knew then what I know now -- that no matter how good I tried to be or how hard I worked, I was at best a wretch. A no-good sinner in need of grace. Accepting defeat, accepting my smallness, accepting Jesus as my Savior...and it set me free forever.

Physically, however, I thought I quit fighting the biggest battles a long time ago when I hit my physical, personal prime of strength or ability. But in truth, I quit just a few years ago. After being diagnosed with degenerative disk disease -- in between my two spine surgeries -- I had part of my colon reconstructed. It was then that I realized something. Our fittest, strongest, healthiest moment should serve as life's awesome reminder of just how small and weak we really are. Sure, I press on (as I type in tears), but I quit believing the enemy's lie that health was somehow earned. Make no mistake, our health is grace dependent.

No mas. No more. We may not step into a ring, but we do have wars raging inside our hearts -- battles of our own making we need to quit. You may need to quit comparing yourself to the world. You may need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You may need to quit social media, get your nose out of your phone and into your Bible or good book. You may need to stop procrastinating about your health, or that job application or that goal. You may need to quit trying to work your way to Heaven.

I warned you I wasn't going to get this right, but friends, all I know is that when Jesus said it was finished, what looked like defeat was really our Lord going the distance for us. That's why I quit. My hands are up. Are yours? The raging war is won. The victory is ours for the claiming. Freedom for the taking. Both the Prize and the Fighter is Jesus; who we win by decision.

--Jimmy Peña

I QUIT: When Paul talked about fighting the good fight, he knew we would pay a price. Paul quit fighting on his own and then changed the world. What price will you pay when you quit? Lord only knows how the world will change once you do.

BE A PART OF THE 2014 PRAYFIT TOUR

2014 is booking up! We are so excited that more and more churches are welcoming our unchanging message; one of stewardship, of faith, of humility, of endurance. The team is actively booking April and May events! Reach out to us at info@prayfit.com for more details. As always, for churches and other non-profit events there is never a speaking fee. Talk to your pastors and leaders. Reach out to us and let's see health as a means of praise, together.

Joy To The World

Friends, today will be the last entry until after Christmas. And I'd like to simply take a second to wish you a wonderful week. Your health, family and entire lives are on my mind each and every day. Trust that. We have a lot in store next year, but we'll get to those 2014 dreams soon enough. For now, please know how much you mean to me. We'll have a gentle presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the coming days, but devotions will return December 30th. So, from all of us, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Celebrate Jesus, enjoy loved ones. Joy to the world.

Jimmy

You Don't Have To

"Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good." --Psalm 25:7

Read: Psalm 25 Earlier this week I received the most incredible and undeserved invitation. Details to come, but later this Fall, Loretta and I will be special guests at Baylor University, my alma mater. In the days leading up to a special Saturday event, we'll have the unique opportunity of speaking to students, staff and the community. We're so blessed and excited. Can I get a "Sic'em Bears?"

You know, the idea of going back and showing Loretta some of my old stomping grounds after all these years is already making my heart pound. I've even started taking notes on things I want to be sure and discuss with the students in particular. Oh man, to be able to go back and talk to a younger Jimmy Peña.  What would I tell him? (Other than to enjoy his hair line while he can and to eat more fiber. He'll just have to trust me on both.) So many things come to mind. But one thing I know, I'd make sure to find my way to old Russell Gym. I'd stand right next to young Jimmy as he eyed his next lift. While the gang of Russell Rats yell and scream in one ear, I'd whisper in the other, "You don't have to. You don't have to lift that much weight."

Carrying the weight of the past gets heavy, does it not? Yesterday's mistakes can feel heavier than a 500-pound bar across your back. I know, because I've carried both. But like the old Gaither hymn reminds me as I type this sentence:

"I'm free from the fear of tomorrow. I'm free from the guilt of my past. I've traded my shackles for a glorious song. I'm free. Praise the Lord, free at last."

If you're carrying yesterday's burden today, the Cross of Jesus says we don't have to. And we have the most incredible and undeserved invitation to embrace it.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Even though I know I would change some things in my past, I believe the good Lord has worked it all out. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I hadn't gone through some of my mistakes and wrong turns, I wouldn't be living the life I live today. Share your story. Give us your comments below. And have a great weekend everyone.

LISTEN, WATCH, INVITE: Life is not about the body. Our health is a means of praise. This fundamental message, which has become the heart of PrayFit in the last several years, has always been at the heart of Jimmy's philosophy on exercise and nutrition. But to put it in a paragraph here doesn't do it justice -- to hear it from the man himself is a convicting experience for anyone who has the opportunity. Use the links below to explore what we mean...

Listen >> Many of Jimmy's favorite devotionals are available here as audio files. Click here to "hear" PrayFit's founder articulate his passion for your health.

Watch >> The mission of PrayFit isn't six-pack abs -- it's stewardship. Click here for a video compilation of Jimmy's heartfelt message about caring for the bodies that carry these souls.

Invite >> Finally, if this is a message that you feel your family, your church or your community, then reach out to us today to find out how you can bring Jimmy to your next Sunday service or event. Click here for more info.

For additional PrayFit resources, such as books or DVDs, click here.

The Scars & Stripes

"...and by His stripes we are healed." --Isaiah 53:5

Read: Isaiah 53

One day while driving along the canyon in Los Angeles, I came across a tall, old tree in the front yard of a beautiful home. Next to the tree stood an equally tall flag pole. Now, most days I probably wouldn't have noticed, but as I went by I realized the flag was tangled around some branches, evidence of some recent high winds. Now, you may be just like me, but something stirs inside when I see the stars and stripes helpless like that. I don't know, but our symbol of freedom shouldn't be stuck to a tree. It was wrapped so tight in fact, I literally said to myself, "Oh, someone has to climb up there."

With amazing pity for my crimes and yours, our Freedom willingly crawled up that old rugged cross. We were helpless, so someone had to climb up there. And Jesus, with His scars and stripes, embraced it.

--Jimmy Peña

Happy 4th of July everyone. Celebrate freedom! Please look for our next PrayFit entry on Monday, July 8th!

PRAYFIT USA!

6710-GreyRepresent your dedication to faith, fitness and country with our new line of PrayFit USA gear. Both guys and gals can find a style to suit them in the newly updated store. Get yours today while supplies last! Click here to browse the selection now!

 

Opening Day

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." --Romans 8:1

Read: Romans 8

Yep, I'm too predictable aren't I? For me, today marks the beginning of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Of course, many of you know we're thrilled that the Boys of Summer have taken the field. In fact, I'm not kidding when I say I've been whistling "Take me out to the ballgame" a lot lately. (And maybe now so are you.)

But as I'll watch my beloved Yankees take the field today, it occurs to me that Opening Day can teach us a lot about grace. Reason being, right before player steps into the batter's box, each person's average on the screen will be .000 -- a clean slate. Reverend Scotty Smith says, "Jesus didn't just die to give us a clean slate, but to give us His righteousness." Take a swing at that for a second.

You know, each morning you and I step up to the plate ready to swing away at whatever the day throws at us. Thankfully, no matter how many strikeouts we had yesterday, God's mercy is new with each plate appearance. And with Easter fast-approaching, it feels so appropriate, no? Jesus conquered death so we can have life; an abundant life with no record of wrongs. When Jesus rose from the grave, He gave us every reason we need to look alive. You know, I'm now whistling a medley. "Take me out to the ballgame"...because I know "He Lives".

--Jimmy Peña

FAREWELL to THE CAPTAIN Today will be my favorite athlete of all-time, Derek Jeter's, last first bat of the season. I won't try to explain what it means to me, but I will express this. Many of the things I'm doing at PrayFit may very well be my last. I'm not sure - neither are you - of how many at-bats we have left. And much like Jeter demonstrates in this picture, I thank the Lord everyday for inspiring PrayFit. Maybe you're saying the same thing about a dream you're living. If so, here's a virtual fist-bump from me to you. Here's to a new day, a new season, a new opportunity to swing away.

The Captain

It's Friday

"Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the skull (in Hebrew, Golgatha)." --John 19:17

Calvary 2Friday. Today we'll do like the angels and stay silent.

Friday. Like the criminal on the cross -- despite the miracle in our hearts -- we can't move.

It's Friday. No hitting the gym to lift or taking to the road to run. Call me old fashioned or sentimental, but there's something about the day Jesus was on the cross. If we were there that day, I doubt we'd be focused on our bodies. I think we'd be focused on Him. Let's go to the cross. It's Friday.

--Jimmy Peña

Dad Hands

"So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'"--John 20:25

Read: John 20

The older I get, the more my hands are looking like my dad's. I'll be typing or writing something, and I'll pause to look at my hands and immediately think of his. But unlike my clumsy paws, Dad can actually put his to work. He can fix everything or put anything together. Weld it, untie it, prime it, paint it, dig it...you name it, if we put it in his hands, he's able.

It's funny...despite that knowledge, I've often handed something to Dad for help, and immediately began to tell him how do it or what I think should be done next. To which Dad simply says, "James, am I doing this, or are you?" Gulp!

I think we have the tendency to do the same with the Lord. We pray for His guidance, ask for His help, and we "give it to Him," yet we never really let go of worry, doubt or control. (A show of hands of those who can relate...)

But we need to remember that the very same hands that reached for a sinking Peter on the water, and rubbed mud into the eyes of the blind, are the very same hands that still reach for us today. They assure us in hospital rooms and lead us through the dark times. It's no wonder Thomas wanted to see His hands. He can hold us like a newborn baby in one, while holding off Satan's army with the other. He wants us to bring Him our knots each day. It's what He does. He's got Dad hands, and He is able.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: During this holy week, what about you needs to be in His hands today? Your job? A relationship? Anxiety? Your heart? Whatever it is, He is right there. You can touch Him. You will never be the same.

STUDY: Obesity Linked to Chronic Pain

Knees hurt? Back sore all the time? Before reaching for another dose of ibuprofen, you might wanna check the scale. A recent study reaffirmed what you might already know -- that carrying around excess weight puts you at much higher risk for chronic pain.

>> Click here for the story.

Uphill Battles

"Carry each other's burdens." --Galatians 6:2

Read: Galatians 6

>> AUDIO: Click here to listen to this entry, as read by Jimmy Peña. [audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/PrayfitAudio/Uphill+Battles.mp3]

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Simon did. Simon of Cyrene was of course the man who helped Jesus carry the cross up the hill toward Calvary. In one moment, a bystander. The next, a cross bearer. He did literally what you and I are called to do figuratively. Little did he know the example he was setting. I wonder if he knew his sin would soon be nailed to the tree he carried.

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Jesus did. Yet Jesus knew that what He faced, He had to face alone. Nobody on earth, above or below, could take His place as He took ours. But the thought of you and me facing our days without hope was enough to kill Him. The weight of the cross and our helplessness were more than He could bear.

Simon, Jesus. Two men, one cross and an uphill battle.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Build & Burn Getting leaner isn't just about burning more calories. How much weight you can lose is determined in large part by how much muscle you are able to build or maintain. The best body-changing type of workout helps you to use up calories while also challenging your muscles to rise to the occasion. This workout does just that, working all of your major muscles groups with a quick, at-home, equipment-minimal scheme that's sure to leave you better for the effort.

>> Click here for the workout! For additional exercise tips and routines, visit our fitness page.

>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Total Loss

"For you formed my inward parts. My frame was not hidden from you." --Psalm 139:13, 15

Read: Psalm 139

As a little boy, I spent many a summer day sweeping floors and washing cars at my dad's body shop. I felt right at home amidst the bondo dust and paint fumes -- even though I could often be found asleep in dad's office. But while I didn't pursue the family business, little did I know that the body shop was a great place to learn about grace.

Each day, customers would come in to either pick up their cars or schedule a drop off, but then there were those who came in just for an estimate. They'd wrecked their car or truck, and all they wanted to know was what it would it take to make it good as new. And whether the damage was their own fault or caused by someone else, sometimes dad would have to tell them it was totaled; their car wasn't worth anything. A total loss meant the insurance company wouldn't touch it, and they'd have to pay for it all by themselves.

We've all wrecked our lives in one way or another, be it with work, a relationship or our health. Thankfully, a total loss is no match for the cross. What the world gives no value, He gives grace.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Abs

With Thanksgiving a few days away, we thought we'd encourage a good midsection training session to begin the week off right! Got 15 minutes? Try this at-home abdominal blitz before you hit the road. Do each exercise to failure before moving on to the next without resting in between. Take a one minute rest only after all the exercises have been performed.

Reverse Crunch Standard Crunch Double Crunch Plank --Rest and repeat as many times in 15 minutes

BONUS! - Click here for exercise descriptions and demonstration videos

>> We start the workout with the reverse crunch which targets the lower abs, since for many of us, the lower abs are our weakest part of the midsection. However, because we're working with just bodyweight, feel free to mix the order up as you see fit. And if you try this workout along with other bodyparts, make sure to do this after your other bodypart moves. Reason being, you want your abs/core fresh to stabilize your body throughout a typical workout. Then you can move on to work your abs and train to fatigue.

>> PRAYFIT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to start receiving the PrayFit Daily in your inbox each morning!

Now What?

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastes 3:11

Read: Ecclesiastes 3

Now what? Have you ever asked yourself that? If so, you're not alone. It may not comfort you to know that this ham-and-egg writer has asked himself that question many times, but a few others you'll recognize just might. Abraham when he reached the altar with Isaac, Moses when he reached the sea, or Joshua when they finally reached Jericho. The same question they whispered to themselves after being obedient was the same question Satan shouted when Jesus was on the cross: Now what?

In response, God left Heaven's hall for Bethlehem's stall. He then climbed out of his crib and onto the cross. He became the answer to our biggest question and our direst need. Are you facing a now what moment? Maybe your health is taking a wrong turn or the job you wanted is already filled. Whatever you're dealing with, the next time you look up at the stars with unanswered questions, think of Abraham. When you run into a sea of obstacles or walls too tall to climb, remember Moses and Joshua. Just like you, their question just before the miracle was Now what?'

--Jimmy Peña

86% of American workers are above normal weight or have chronic health issues

CALLING ALL PASTORS, CHURCH LEADERS, TEACHERS, AND INFLUENCERS >> Dozens of churches and small groups around the country are using our book, "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," as bible study curriculum. From California to Texas to Florida, PrayFit groups are enjoying an enormous blessing, combining fitness and fellowship in His name.

If you're interested in more info on how these groups got started and how you might begin a small group in your city, reach out to us at info@prayfit.com. We'd love to share the stories of others with you. This is our life's work. Let us help you and those you love be healthier for all the right reasons. For a sample of the message, click play below.

Salvation Carpentry

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." --Galatians 6:14

Read: Galatians 6

Wendy, you complete me. Sorry to start with such a tired, borrowed phrase but it's true. She does. My weaknesses in this marriage are balanced out perfectly by her strengths. She speaks Spanish pretty well, which has helped on our travels and with living in Southern California. She's tall, so that means I have someone to reach my supplements on the top shelf. But she's also a do-it-yourself maniac which is great since I am challenged by even the most remedial of home improvement projects.

I don't think I've ever put something together without having an inordinate amount of parts leftover. While she savors opportunities to tool, tinker and fiddle -- or as she says, "to do it right" -- I prefer to just duct tape it and be done with it. And the tape may hold -- for a time -- but eventually, it fails. But crafting things to last should be my goal, as it is hers, which reminds me of a great sign I saw once:

"People use duct tape to fix everything. God used nails."

God knew that our eternity was too fine a construct to employ inadequate materials. The cross -- which stands as the definitive, finishing touch on our salvation -- was built to last. It was built as a sign that heaven wasn't a "do-it-yourself" project. And the hands and feet of the Great Carpenter held the nails to prove it.

--Eric Velazquez

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: 10-Minute Bodyweight Cardio Blast

No treadmill? No bike? Not a problem. It's short-sighted to think that you need some piece of gym equipment to get your heart racing. The greatest piece of equipment at your disposal is your body. Hit this intense, at-home cardio session to burn calories and start the day off right.

TRAINER TIP: To increase the amount of fat you burn, try this workout on an empty stomach. After a night of fasting, available blood sugar is low, meaning that your body will tap into stored fat for fuel faster than normal.

Perform each exercise for one minute and move to the next exercise immediately, with no rest between moves. More advanced exercisers can rest 1-2 minutes and tackle the entire sequence once more. Use this routine 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days. Walk in place Jog in place High knee running Jumping jacks Fast feet (Squat down, spread your feet and tap your toes as fast as you can) High knee running Virtual jump rope (Feel free to use an actual jump rope if you have one) High knee running Jumping jacks Walk in place

>> MONDAY "TO DO": If you haven't already, please visit the Official PrayFit Facebook page and click "Like," then suggest us to 10 friends.

Work Backwards

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

Read: Matthew 6

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 mentally 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 so we can 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? Well, you'll find what you've lost and what you're looking for, so long as you retrace His steps: The view of the cross changes everything.

--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!

Two Tributes

"Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" --Luke 9:23

Read: Luke 9

Undeniably effective for building strength and changing the way your body looks, feels and performs, the squat also happens to be remarkably humbling. As I was looking at today's scheduled workout, I started to look for excuses to avoid my date with the barbell, but then it hit me: I should be thankful I can squat at all.

You see, while I was here racking my head for reasons to avoid this workout, a close friend of mine was struggling with a physical ailment, longing for the day when he could once again test his mettle in the squat or any kind of physical fitness for that matter. He would do anything to get under that bar, to feel the weight pressing him into the floor, to tremble through that uncertain descent skilled squatters so willingly endure -- and to rise again.

This friend of mine who would give anything to trade places with me on my toughest training day of the week reminds me of another Who traded places with me for all my days to come -- of One who willingly carried the crushing weight of the cross and a certain descent into the tomb, only to rise again.

So today, tossing aside my fears and hesitations, I paid physical tribute to two friends. For one, I squatted. And for the other, I knelt.

--Eric Velazquez

Questions: Do you take your ability to exercise for granted? Do you think training can be a God-pleasing act? Do you have people in your life that are physically unable to workout? Does that change your perspective on utilizing your physical gifts or striving for better health?

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: BODYWEIGHT SQUAT You don't have to settle yourself under an Olympic barbell to reap the benefits of this exercise

Bodyweight Squat | Focus: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, lower back | (VIDEO)

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, a light bend in your knees and your toes turned out slightly. Keeping your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach a 90-degree angle, then forcefully drive through your heels, extending at your hips and knees until you arrive at the standing position.

50 - Percent greater calorie burn when performing the squat, as compared to the leg press.

4 - Percent greater strength when performing squats in a Smith machine apparatus, as opposed to a free standing squat.

1000 - Total, in pounds, of Robert Wilkerson's (UK) record-setting raw squat in 2011.

Unlock the Door

"They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." --Acts 1:14

Read: Acts 1

Peter denied. Thomas doubted. Fear filled the upper room. Both the cross and the tomb were void of any sign of their allegiance, so they hid. But then they heard His voice, felt His scars and were filled with the Spirit. Before long someone said, "Unlock the door."

You and I? We deny. We doubt. And boy do we ever let fear fill our days. But the same reasons that sent the disciples underground -- an empty cross and tomb -- are why we have faith in the first place. So as we begin a new day, take a few seconds and pause. Stand in the room with Peter. Imagine for a second you're with Thomas and the others. Look around at everyday men and women with an extraordinary mission. See the look in their eyes? Like them, beyond your door is a world that needs the gospel according to you. Could be at work, at the gym or even at school, but as you leave your room, imagine the disciples doing the same. Same Jesus, same mission.

Now, somebody unlock the door.

--Jimmy Peña

[exercise in focus]

Yesterday's Workout of the Week included a move that many are unfamiliar with: the straight-arm plank. This challenging core move -- which also lights a a bit of a fire in your shoulders and triceps -- is worth a closer look today.

Straight-arm plank | Target: Core

The straight-arm plank is basically holding the top portion of a push-up. Hold the position as long as possible, keeping your abs, lower back and glutes tight. Within the context of this workout — following push-ups and squats — this move is incredibly difficult. Planks are thought of as an "abs" move but they emphasize the muscles beneath your six-pack -- the transverse abdominis. And by training these deep muscles harder, more regularly, you can better tone and flatten your entire midsection while also adding greater core stability.

Try this: Challenge your core by beginning in a straight-arm plank. Once you reach failure, go into a standard plank, again holding the position to failure. Once you fail on the standard plank, simply drop your knees to the floor and go as long as you can. This three-position plank series will fry your midsection from the inside out -- literally.

Two Men, One Cross

"Carry each other's burdens." --Galatians 6:2

Read: Galatians 6

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Simon did. Simon of Cyrene was of course the man who helped Jesus carry the cross up the hill toward Calvary. In one moment, a bystander. The next, a cross bearer. He did literally what you and I are called to do figuratively. Little did he know the example he was setting. I wonder if he knew his sin would soon be nailed to the tree he carried.

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Jesus did. Yet Jesus knew that what He faced, He had to face alone. Nobody on earth, above or below, could take His place as He took ours. The thought of you and me facing our days without hope was enough to kill Him. The weight of the cross and our helplessness were more than He could bear.

Simon and Jesus. Two men, one cross and an uphill battle.

--Jimmy Peña

IMAGINE: It took both Simon and Jesus to get our cross up the hill. All our debts, cancelled. Satan's threats, cancelled. Imagine having to deal with those alone. What would you say to Simon for helping Jesus with your cross?

COMMUNITY COUNTS Here's what people are saying on the PrayFit forums. Let your experiences bless others! PrayFit book versus PrayFit DVD - How are the two related?

John's Challenge 33/33 - Following a PrayFit newbie's journey

Any servicemen or servicewomen on here? - Bringing our homeland defenders into our forums

The Prayfit workout question - Giving sound advice and inspiration to a motivated member

Post-exercise headache - What's normal? What's the fix?

>> Not yet a member of the PrayFit forums? Register by clicking here.

He Couldn't Move

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." --1 Peter 5:10

Read: 1 Peter 5

We talk a lot at PrayFit about the countless biblical examples of people who had physical reactions to Jesus, either to be near Him or because they had just been with Him. Shepherds sprinting to see the baby Messiah, John leaping in his mother's womb, or friends lifting their paralyzed friend through the roof so Jesus could heal. We've said it before, but He moves us!

But there was one person who didn't move a muscle.

The thief had just been given Heaven. Every sin of his wasted years had been forgiven, his name had just been written in the lamb's book of life, and soon the angels would be teaching him to sing. And yet, despite this gift of grace and mercy, He didn't run to embrace Him. He didn't leap for joy, lift his hands in praise or kneel in worship. Why? Well, he couldn't move. See, the nails were too deep, the pain was too great. If he could've descended the cross, he probably would've demonstrated physically what his heart had experienced spiritually.

What about you? You may be 18 or 80 and Lord knows this brief life is not about the body, but have you been given Heaven? Then tell your body to react. Walk the block, lift some weights, swim a few laps. And by all means, kneel. Don't wait. Celebrate in this life the free gift of eternal life.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Rise n’ Shine Breakfast Wrap First thing in the morning, you need protein to fight off muscle wasting, carbs to replenish energy stores and some healthy fat to aid digestion. This recipe provides all that and more in a tasty, waistline-friendly dish that'll get your day off to a perfect start.

(Serves: 4)

Ingredients: 4 eggs plus 4 egg whites 3 tablespoons water Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup chopped tomato ½ cup chopped poblano pepper 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 4 (6-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas Nonstick cooking spray

Directions: Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine eggs, egg whites, and water in a large bowl and whisk well. Spray skillet with nonstick spray and pour in eggs. Season with salt and pepper and gently scramble until eggs begin to set. Add tomato, pepper and cheese and cook until eggs are cooked and cheese is melted. Evenly divide egg mixture into each of the tortillas; roll up and serve immediately.

Nutrition Info Per Serving: Calories: 349 Total Fat: 17 grams Saturated Fat: 6.5 grams Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: 21 grams Cholesterol: 242 milligrams Sodium: 521 milligrams Fiber: 2.5 grams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently a nutrition expert for the Food Network, and has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine. She has appeared on Good Day Street Talk, Food Network.com, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. Visit her at Dana White Nutrition.

Run Your Route

"But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground." --John 8:6

Read: John 8

Question: What do the most gifted, talented football players in the world have in common? Seeing as it's Super Bowl time, I thought I'd ask. Is it their speed? Strength? Endurance? No. It's much simpler actually. They huddle before every play. If they didn't, the receivers wouldn't know where to run, the linemen wouldn't know who to block, and the poor quarterback would be left to scramble for his life. Imagine the chaos, not to mention the penalties. Sure, even though everyone knows the end zone is the ultimate goal, they still have to stop, get their routes and execute.

As Christians, our ultimate prize of Heaven isn't based on our performance. Jesus paid the price and defeated the enemy for us. But our daily walk to victory would be so much more fulfilling, rewarding and effective if we stopped each day to talk and listen to Him. Remember the verse of Him writing in the sand? Try to imagine Him doing that each day for you and me. With a nail-pierced hand, He writes our routes to show us how love wins.

--Jimmy Peña

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Jump Squat

Our gym-focused Workout of the Week targets your legs and shoulders. One of the most difficult yet beneficial exercises in that routine is the jump squat. This plyometric move recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs, which are the ones most responsible for explosive strength. Mastering this exercise can help to drastically improve your leg size and shape, strength on other squat-based exercises and boost overall athleticism.

>> VIDEO: Jump Squat

PRAYFIT IN THE NEWS: The world wide web is abuzz with reviews of the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge. See what the press is saying here.

Pledge Allegiance

"...and by His stripes we are healed." --Isaiah 53:5

Read: Isaiah 53

Driving along the canyon in Los Angeles this week, I came across a tall, old tree in the front yard of a beautiful home. Next to the tree stood an equally tall flag pole. Now, most days I probably wouldn't have noticed, but as I went by I realized the flag was tangled around some branches, evidence of some recent high winds. Now, you may be just like me, but something stirs inside when I see the stars and stripes helpless like that. I don't know, but our symbol of freedom shouldn't be stuck to a tree. It was wrapped so tight in fact, I literally said to myself, "Oh, someone has to climb up there."

With amazing pity for my crimes and yours, our Freedom willingly crawled up that old rugged cross. We were helpless, so someone had to climb up there. And Jesus, with His scars and stripes, embraced it.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT: WEEK IN REVIEW Use this quick-access guide to the week's greatest hits

FAITH >> BAGGAGE HANDLER: Drop off your luggage and remain seated -- God doesn't need a co-pilot on this ride

>> WHO WANTS THE BALL?: If God had a blackboard, He'd mark our path straight to the cross

>> FEELS LIKE REDEMPTION: Your trials don't make you -- it's how you come back from them that matters most

>> HE'S MY BROTHER: Moses and Aaron complemented each other perfectly. Who makes up the rest of your team?

FITNESS >> WORKOUT: Use this mini-program to build strength and shape in your calves

>> TIPS: Courtesy of Health.com, 51 ways to fight fat

>> RECIPE: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions

>> STATISTICS: How closely related are obesity and heart disease?

33 DAYS: How have your New Year's resolutions held up? We're eyeballing the end of January (and heading into the weekend) and some of you may be starting to see your motivation wane. We've got just the cure. Jump start your routine all over again with our 33-Day Total Body Challenge DVD (Lionsgate Entertainment), hosted by PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena. This structured routine calls for 33 minutes a day for 33 days, honoring the One who gave us 33 years, and includes weekly devotionals to inspire and invigorate your efforts. Click here for more information!

Who Wants the Ball?

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." --2 Timothy 1:7

Read: 2 Timothy 1

Imagine a coach before a big football game. The team has taken a knee and their helmets are off as they await the last few words of encouragement. The coach stands before them and says, "Now listen up, boys. We got here as a team and we'll finish as one. I believe in you. But...I gotta admit, I think the other coach is smarter than me, and the other kids, well, they're a lot bigger than you. But hey, it was a fun season. Try not to get hurt. Now, let's go!"

Not much confidence in those words, right? Aren't we glad that's not how God sends us off into the world to tackle our biggest foes -- foes of health issues, financial hardships, relationship battles and good old fear and doubt. On the contrary, if God had a blackboard, He'd outline our daily route...straight to the cross. His pre-game words would be the same today as they were yesterday: "Be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go" (Josh 1:9) and "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Who wants the ball?

Question: The Bible is full of wonderful verses that remind us of God's strength, love and guidance. What is your favorite?

--Jimmy Peña

51 FAT-BURNING TIPS

You can find plenty of ways to fight bodyfat everyday here at PrayFit.com but this list, put out by Health.com and picked up by CNN, is easy one-stop shopping for those looking to get a little leaner in 2012. The full list, which includes tips on everything from rep pace to nutritional supplements, can be found by clicking here.

>> NEW! Have you visited the redesigned PrayFit Store? Click here to shop for books, DVDs, apparel and more with our retooled, user-friendly shopping cart.

>> GUEST SPEAKING: Want PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena to come to your church in 2012 to help lay the groundwork for your fitness ministry? E-mail us at info@prayfit.com for more details!

STRENGTH IN SPLINTERS

"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."— John 19:30

Playing baseball with wooden bats is the purest form of the game there is. The bat doesn't lie -- hitters' weaknesses are routinely exposed and hitters' strengths are more easily neutralized. These athletic implements, usually carved out of Northern Ash, are easily broken -- sometimes splintering dramatically -- either as a result of a bad swing, a good pitch, or some combination of the two.

Wood composites offer a stronger, albeit significantly more expensive option, for hitters looking to prolong the life of their lumber. These modernized bats are comprised of various woods and synthetic internal supports that allow them to perform like natural wooden bats but with a significantly longer lifespan. They provide a durability that typical wooden bats simply cannot. Still, the use of these repurposed trees for sport pales in comparison to the most notable, or notorious, wood in history -- the crudely fashioned posts used by the Romans to crucify Jesus. Two thousand years later, the image of the cross at Golgotha remains both evocative and empowering, a reminder that our fragility is divinely and miraculously reinforced by His.

It may be a technological triumph that composite bats offer the resilience needed to endure the rigors of constant wear on the ball field. But the strength to persevere in this life may be found in the simple, collective durability of the splinters of a cross.

--Eric Velazquez

COMPOUND MOVES If you are looking to build strength, devote your energy to multi-joint moves

The three most popular, widely-used lifts in the gym are the bench press, deadlift and squat. Referred to as “The Big Three,” these moves fall into a category of exercises called compound, or multi-joint, lifts. These exercises require movement at more than one joint, which means that more total muscles have to get involved to complete each rep. And the more muscle you work, the more muscle and strength you stand to gain. As a bonus, the more muscle you recruit on a given exercise, the more calories you burn. Finally, any measure of muscle gain will improve your metabolism since muscle is calorie-eating tissue.

Anyone looking to gain strength would be best served by doing compound moves, almost exclusively at first. Isolation, or single-joint, moves like curls, pressdowns, leg extensions or leg curls have their place in physique building, but they are secondary exercises that should only be implemented once you have built an adequate base of strength from which to work.

But The Big Three don’t stand alone in the strength-gain column. Here are a few more exercises that make you stronger in a hurry:

Barbell row Pull-up Dip Bodyweight squat Lunge Push-up

>> For exercise descriptions and videos, click here.

>> For more workouts and exercise tips, click here.

33-DAY TOTAL BODY CHALLENGE: Looking for a complete workout that includes compound movements? Pick up the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, available now at Amazon. This at-home program provides everything you'll need to start training for faster results while honoring the One who made you. "We don't strive to be healthy in order to be loved by God," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena. "We strive to be healthy because we are."

>> View the trailer here.