exercise

Hope Does Not Disappoint

"Hope does not disappoint." --Romans 5:5

Read: Romans 5

I've always loved today's verse. Read it again. I've purposefully held out the surrounding verses, because I want to focus on this phrase for a second. See, when the world mentions the word "hope," its tone is usually one of question or doubt. I hope I get an "A". I hope she likes me. I hope nobody notices. I hope....

Well, the Bible says that strength comes to those who hope in the Lord. No question there. No sign of doubts. It's a done deal. Why? God...will...come...through...for...us. How do we know? He died for us. That's why Paul said in Romans 15, "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace." Look up and read the verse again out loud.

Are you in need of a sure thing? When dreams allude us and people fall short, and all we want is a glimmer:

"We know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." --Romans 5:3-5

It's the ultimate catch-22. If we invite the God of hope into our hearts, He delivers it on impact.

And you know what they say about hope.

--Jimmy Peña

DID YOU KNOW? There are two times of the day when simple (fast-digesting) carbs, such as white bread and sugars, are less likely to impact your waistline: first thing in the morning and after a hard workout. During sleep and exercise, your body burns through stored sugars, leaving you in something of a carb deficit. At most other times of the day, excess carbs or fast-burning carbs are more likely to result in stored body fat.

(Page 59, The PrayFit Diet)

WORKOUT: PRAYFIT 33

We've been talking a lot about nutrition lately and we hope that you are all enjoying the abundance set forth in The PrayFit Diet. But if you're looking for workouts that can truly send your results off the charts, we've got just the thing. Either of PrayFit's two at-home workout DVDs can help you build strength and burn body fat, taking greater advantage of the food prescriptions we lay out in The PrayFit Diet. Try this sample workout, led by Jimmy, then pick up your DVDs to help accelerate your results by clicking here.

Light Your World

We're people watchers -- me and my best pal, Ms. Josey Wales -- and last night was no exception. Sitting outside Trader Joe's waiting for mama to finish shopping, we watched all sorts of people. Some of them even noticed Josey's grey beard and eye brows. We took it all in. But then we watched a sweet older couple arrive. He slowly got out of the driver's side only to reappear with a wheelchair and proceeded to help her out of the passenger side. After getting her situated in front of the store, moving slowly himself, he went back to close all the car doors and she simply sat there in the entry way, alone. As if the scene wasn't tough enough, what happened next really got me.

As if she were sitting in the middle of a busy subway station, most were completely oblivious to her as they passed by on both sides. Some rushing along their way, others had their faces in their cell phones. But who would blame them? Probably just ready to get home to their families and begin their night. We've all been there. But then a woman with her young son walked out, and here began the lesson.

As she and her boy walked by, the mother immediately noticed the elderly woman sitting there. Letting her son push the cart, the woman would look back with nearly every step. By the time she got to the parking lot, it was just too much for her to handle and she sent her son back to check on her. Sweet boy, too. With super thick eyeglasses, he walked up to her and after a quick, bashful glance toward his shoes the little gentleman asked, "Are you alright? I mean, um, do you need any help?" I couldn't quite hear her reply, but the little boy just nodded, smiled and ran to catch up with his mama. (Bravo, mama.)

Now, you'll forgive the long entry, but I don't know who was blessed most. Maybe the woman in the wheelchair; someone cared to ask. Maybe it was the older husband; that little boy checking on his girl was just fine with him. Maybe it was the mom; her mother may have special needs, too. Or perhaps it was the little boy; learning to notice others as well as develop courage to reach out. Yeah, I don't know. For all I know, it could've been the sentimental fool sitting on a bench with his dog.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: I love moments. I think the Lord does too. And isn't that what our health is for? To live in the moment? Make it a point today to notice something and then light someone's world. Who's in?

 

Jars of Clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." --2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

Today's verse is as motivating as it is convicting. Take a look again. Notice what he said. "Treasure in jars of clay". That verse is coming from a man who was given 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods five times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, and who would go without sleep, food and clothing; all because of his heart for churches, people, and the message of the inconceivable grace of Jesus.

Compare what Paul said to something I read on a picture quote recently where someone boastfully warns, "Before you judge me, step into my shoes and walk the life I'm living, and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you'll see how strong I really am." I admit, I'd love to hear Paul's graceful response to such a misstatement, because if the most influential man this side of Christ knew anything, He knew where his power and strength came from and from where it didn't.

But today's verse is also a comfort, not simply because of the physical metaphors of hardship, but for the reason to get up at all. "So that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." See -- to Paul -- surviving the shipwreck or sustaining the beatings weren't so much as death defying as they were life-revealing.

And to think, you're a jar of clay, too. So am I. A malleable, bendable, breakable, fillable and spillable jar of clay. I know, some days we feel more like a piñata than a Godly jar of clay. But if it's any help, just remember, if you hit a piñata hard enough, what happens? People get the treasure inside. And that's what I get from Paul. He bled Jesus. He bled the treasure.

So dear friends, let's invite others to step into our shoes and live the life we're living. And when they get as far as we're going, maybe, just maybe, they'll get to see exactly just how strong we're not.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: The jar of clay typing this sentence has been known to lose his wallet, his truck keys, and his health, to say nothing of his daily sins and filthy rags of good deeds. I've said it before and I'll say it again, getting up from a trial doesn't reveal our strength. The fall reveals that. Getting up reveals God's grace. What are you thanking God for today? Any praises? What has He given you the health, strength and grace to continue? As for me, I have one. You're reading it.

 

DEFINING INTENSITY

The fitness world continues to parade high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as one of the best ways to improve body composition, improve athleticism and increase general health markers. You may be thinking, "I'm not really capable of high-intensity training." Hey, we're right there with you. Even the youngest and healthiest among us get uncomfortable with the idea of pushing your physical limits. But here's the good news: intensity is relative. And you may be able to start reaping the benefits of this simple training principle today, no matter where you are on your health walk.

>> What is intensity?

BRING PRAYFIT TO YOUR TOWN

Churches. Community events. Schools. Corporate events. PrayFit is on the march in 2014 with its unchanging message; one of stewardship, of faith, of humility, of endurance. The team is actively booking spring and summer 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.

We Can Take It

"We are well able to conquer it." --Numbers 13:30

Read: Numbers 13

Of the twelve spies to survey the promised land, the Bible says that only two came back positive that they'd be victorious with God's help. Two dream chasers. Two true believers. When everyone else was negative, these two were wide-eyed and hopeful. We can take it, they said. (You know how I am with a good theme.) Well, this week we're going to take a look at Joshua and Caleb and what it meant for them to stay faithful and true to what God had called them to do. Their story of courage is both spiritual and physical and one that I know we'll be able to apply to our daily lives. I hope you don't miss a day.

PrayFit RISE logoSpeaking of chasing a dream, I'd like to show you something special. You'll recall way back in early January my #OneWord? Well, over the last few months, Loretta and I have been in discussions about something God placed on our hearts: A PrayFit Conference. An event that celebrates health with speakers, experts, preachers, an expo, food and music. A place where grace meets health and where faith and fitness collide. I'm too excited not to share this. We have approved the logo and have decided upon the city and month: Los Angeles in September will host PrayFit RISE.

I can't articulate what it means for me to be able to show you this logo. Suffice it to say that when God puts a dream in your heart, you fight for it. Thank you for the inspiration, Joshua and Caleb. Oh how we want to apply your kind of faith and courage in our lives. We can take it.

Have a good week, dreamers.

--Jimmy Peña

HEALTHY MOTIVATIONS FOR THE WEEK

Ahhh, Mondays. The good news is that each Monday can mark a renewal of health -- a time when we can recommit to eating better and moving more. Let's focus on the good news with these quick tips to keep us on the right path.

1 FOCUS ON DOING...MORE What's your activity of choice? Walking? Swimming laps? Dance? Lifting weights? Riding your bike? All good choices. But don't let yourself slip into the same old routine this week. Focus on doing a bit more to challenge your body. Go a little farther or a little faster. Take that extra lap or ride that extra mile. Add 1-2 reps to each set with the same weight, or add a few pounds to the bar. As Jimmy always reminds us, "The body will only change to the level at which we stress it." This week, add a little "stress" and watch your body respond in kind.

2 FOCUS ON FOOD TYPES Most of us fall into two camps when it comes to nutrition: counting calories or not caring about calories at all. Neither group is really right, but neither is really wrong either. Instead of focusing on quantity this week, shift your focus to quality. Getting a healthy mix of protein, carbs and healthy fats at each meal and snack will be far more valuable in the long run. Studies show that a balanced, 33-33-33 macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) ratio can yield more positive health markers than other types of "diets." It also keeps you feeling fuller and provides plenty of activity for "doing more" this week (see tip No. 1).

3 FOCUS ON YOUR "WHY" The PrayFit team has been a part of a lot of "how to" when it comes to fitness. "The how is easy," Jimmy says. "The how can only take you so far. It's the why that is going to keep you that way." In other words, ask yourself each day why you are making an effort for better health. It could be your spouse, your friends or coworkers. It could be something as simple as the promise of walking your daughter down the aisle. Or maybe it's your recognition in the importance of better stewardship of the body you've been gifted. Whatever the case, remind yourself of your "why" each day -- set yourself a reminder, hang a Post-It, jot it in your journal or, if you're feeling bold, share it with us here.

Life's Greatest Pleasure

"People will be lovers of themselves." --2 Timothy 3:2

Read: 2 Timothy 3

I happened to run across one of those motivational posters this weekend. You know, the kind with those powerful statements meant to inspire you to be all you can be. Well, even though it wasn't exactly new to me, this one caught my attention nonetheless. It said, "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can't." Evidently, people agreed because it had about a million "likes" underneath it. And why not? Who doesn't want to show the world? But then it dawned on me: How many times someone has actually said to me, "Jimmy, I don't think you can do that." How 'bout you?

You know, if there's one thing I've noticed about the fitness industry it's that there's a self-placed chip on its shoulder and the delusion that someone is daring to knock it off. For whatever reason, Godly confidence has been replaced with a harsh, in-your-face tone, backed up with visuals. That topic demands a week's worth of devotions on its own but let me take it further. Even if it was true -- even if the world placed bets against one's "ability" to be do something, in fitness or otherwise -- is proving the world wrong really life's greatest pleasure?

"If man says I can't, and God says I shouldn't, I'd rather show Him than show them."

The correct answer brings me a long way to this point, and one that we try and get across at PrayFit: Let's not take so much pleasure in doing what others say we can't. Let's instead take pleasure in doing what God says we can. If they intersect, great. If they don't, even better. Besides, if man says I can't, and God says I shouldn't, I'd rather show Him than show them. But God runs this body. If you're jumping through hoops of comparison or climbing mountains of ego, stop. Drench your day in the gospel. The taunts and dares around you are subject to Jesus.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Can you spend so much time in the gym or counting calories trying to "prove" the world wrong (whoever that is) that you actually miss what God is calling you to do with the health you're building? What if the world said, "Believer, I bet you can't invite a perfect stranger to church. I bet you can't give to the homeless person on the corner. I bet you can't be modest." If that's what the world said we couldn't do, I wonder if we'd try to prove it wrong. Would it help us if we realized those things are God's will already? Share your thoughts below.

ONE-MINUTE LESSON: CRUNCH Build abdominal strength by mastering this do-anywhere exercise

In 2014, many of us will be trying to get in better shape. We'll be training our bodies to lift more, run farther, swim faster, jump higher. But no matter the demand we are placing on these bodies, a strong set of abdominal muscles is of paramount importance but maybe for a different reason than you're thinking. Infusing your abs with strength and endurance helps you to do all of those other things that you were counting on doing better this year because all roads pass through your core. A fitter middle means greater success, literally, in everything else. The crunch is a great move to get you started. Here's how to get it right.

http://youtu.be/bSarSds5Whg

Crunch | Focus: Upper abs

Lie face-up on the floor with your hands cupped gently behind your head (do not pull on your neck). Keeping your knees bent and with your feet flat on the floor, crunch your upper body up until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Squeeze your abs then lower yourself back to the start and repeat.

TIP: New to crunches? Try performing 15 slow, controlled repetitions for 3-4 total sets. Rest 30 seconds between sets. If you're more advanced, try setting a clock by your work, starting at one minute of continuous crunches and adding 10 seconds every workout.

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If God Asks...

"We live by faith, not by sight." --2 Corinthians 5:7

Read: 2 Corinthians 5

I know we typically end our study with a question, but today we're starting with one. I'm wondering: Would you forfeit your health for the Lord? More specifically, would you give up your fitness lifestyle if God asked you to?

Maybe you're a runner. An avid runner. Your calendar is marked -- not with holidays and birthdays -- but with 10Ks. Or perhaps you're a fitness junkie. You lift, you sprint, you jump rope, you sweat and you repeat it...six days a week. What if God asked you to give it all up? And no, He doesn't give you His reasoning because He doesn't need to explain Himself to you. All you know is that the one passion you have in life -- that one thing that fulfills you and makes you you -- He wants you to relinquish. No more gym. No more road. How would you feel? Sad, confused, both? What would you do?

Well, before you say, "Jimmy, I doubt God would ever ask me to give up something like that," let's visit a couple guys who would beg to differ...

When Abraham got to the top of Mt. Moriah, he was confused and saddened. "Daddy, where's the lamb?" asked Isaac. But Abraham took the son he loved more than life itself, set him on the altar and raised his knife.

When the rich young ruler approached the Lord and asked Him what he needed to do to have eternal life, Jesus said to sell all his possessions, give to the poor and then follow Him. But the bible says the rich man walked away sad because he was rich.

Two men, both asked to sacrifice the love of their life. One was sad but obedient, the other was sad because he couldn't be. The difference? Faith. Faith saved Isaac and spawned generations that outnumber the stars. Faith loved. Faith sensed guidance. Faith followed. Faith swallowed fear. Faith didn't walk away sad.

Now, Lord only knows what He's calling you to do (or not do) when it comes to His purpose for your life, but is there anything you need to sacrifice in order to be closer to Him? Since He's likely not asking you to give up your pursuit of fitness, could it mean you need to carve out time alone with Him? If He's asking for time with you, do you walk away sad because you're so "fit"? Or on the flip side, if you're not honoring your health like God desires, perhaps stewardship is your sacrifice. Maybe the hill of discipline is your Mount Moriah. What is God asking you to do?

--Jimmy Peña

ONE-MINUTE LESSON:

Fitness books and even websites like this one are filled with ideas on exercises and activities that can help you get healthy. But one exercise that comes up on everyone's list -- the one area where there is little dispute on effectiveness -- is the squat. Unless you are limited by injury, the squat can help you in a number of ways: it builds muscle, burns fat, improves bone density, enhances athleticism and improves metabolism. But since anything worth doing is worth doing right, we offer you this one-minute lesson on how to squat well.

>> VIDEO: ONE-MINUTE LESSON

A Healthy Fear

"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God..." --1 Peter 2:17

Read: 1 Peter 2

You may have anticipated today's entry -- for the other shoe to drop. Well, you'd be right, because there is a healthy kind of fear. Back in my heavy lifting days, after the warm-up and light sets, we'd gradually load more and more plates to the bar. As I wrapped my wrists and knees for the heavy stuff, the fire of fear would build inside me.

By the time I put my belt on and chalked-up, it was an inferno. A slap across my face and a deep inhale through the nose and I'd get under the bar for battle. Indeed, I respected the bar too much not to respect it. Plainly said, fear dictated my posture for the moment, kept me sharp, alert, strong. Fear was a friend.

When the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, it's not referring to a scary fear -- it's talking about a reverence, an awe, a holy respect that brings wisdom. When we seek Him daily in prayer and Bible study, we gain wisdom from a love born through awesome fear. As Christians with a mind for health, our fear of the Lord should dictate our posture -- first in our kneeling and then in how we conduct ourselves. Our fear of the Lord is what separates us from other fitness enthusiasts or athletes. We respect Him too much not to. Fear keeps us sharp, alert, strong. Make no mistake, fear is a friend.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: How else can fear be healthy? What do we fear more, not getting the approval and applause of others or not having God's approval? Is our life a posture that proves it?

 

Strong Community

"Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." --Luke 5:5

Read: Luke 5

Smelly. Dirty. Grimy. These are just a few of the ways to describe Peter and his buddies. After all, they spent their days baiting hooks and cleaning fish. I'm smiling as I picture Jesus the Recruiter walking up to this motley crew. Did He pause and grin, crouching down to watch and listen to them work? Maybe after a few minutes, He looked skyward with a smile as if to say, "I found them."

I'm not sure, but I like to wonder what happened in that moment just before the call. What we do know is that of all the fishermen that came off the water, this bunch caught God's attention. And not long after Christ borrowed Peter's boat, the two were catching fish in water too deep for the nets to reach; Peter's preview to the depths of His love.

Friends, remember. Like that little bird reminded us yesterday, you and I have God's attention. So as we start our cars, open our offices, enter our cubicles, prepare for housework or hit the exercise routine, let's do what Peter did and abandon control. Let's just imagine Him saying with a grin, "I found them," and this is that moment just before the call.

--Jimmy Peña

STRENGTH IN YOUR NUMBERS Pastor Randy Frazee of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio once wrote, “The experience of authentic community is one of the purposes God intends to be fulfilled by the church. The writings of Scripture lead one to conclude that God intends the church, not to be one more bolt on the wheel of activity in our lives, but the very hub at the center of one’s life…" Are you plugged into a good church community or small group?

PRAYFIT NEWS: Team PrayFit Gets Stronger From a Team PrayFit standpoint, we grew in strength yesterday. Details to come but we added to our team in a mighty way in terms of representation and management. We're so grateful to the Lord for allowing it. We'll unveil soon, but we're praising God for answered prayer. Join us!

EGGS FOR MUSCLE How did the incredible egg earn its nickname?

Many of you may think that eggs are just a simple breakfast food — something that’s been on your plate every morning since you can remember. But it is so much more, particularly if you’re looking to gain muscle, says Jim Stoppani co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days”(Regal Books). Researchers found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day.

EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

Start Pulling

I'll never forget it. I was 19; the newest member of a very small band of brothers. We weren't an official group on the Baylor University campus, by any means, these "Russell Rats." We had no membership roster, no board of directors or rules and regulations to speak of, but we were very exclusive. And although we weren't organized, we did pay our dues -- dues of a different kind that were collected daily. As far as acceptance into the group, well, it just happened. Call it a nonverbal recognition of pure heart. If you had it, you were in. And rather than Greek letters across our chest, we had chalk and sweat across our backs. There was no mistaking our crew.

In the late 80s, a small family of guys came one by one into the best (and only) fitness center on campus, Russell Gymnasium. The gym itself was actually a corner hole-in-the-wall within a bigger auditorium of basketball courts, with a two-tone, green concrete wall separating the outdated Universal equipment and rusty dumbbells from the courts next door.

Well, one sunny Waco afternoon, at a campus-wide celebration called Diadeloso (Day of the Bear), the group decided to enter itself into the annual tug-of-war competition. We wanted nothing more than to show the fraternities what real strength felt like. After a lot of hooplah, we marched -- in slow motion if I recall -- onto the sand. We could hear the audible gasp from the opposition. We nodded to one another with pre-victory smiles. After all, not only were we obviously strong, we had ourselves a plan. We reasoned that because we outweighed the competition, only half the team would pull when the whistle blew. And when one of us gave the signal, the rest of us would begin pulling. Trust me. We had it covered.

Well, we found our grip as our competition found theirs. I remember they were a preppy bunch. Handsome. But no doubt mismatched. We did our best not to giggle. The referee raised his hand to alert the start of the match and the whistle blew. And?!.....We got crushed. Within 20 seconds, we were pulled across the line. It honestly felt as if the rope was somehow cleverly tied to an F-150. What happened you ask? Well, a couple things actually. First, they had seven guys and we had six. Completely fair because the only limit was total weight, but an extra pair of arms pays off come to find out. But I think we lost miserably because we were overly confident and planned poorly.

Why the long stroll down memory lane? Well, I'll be a special guest at Baylor University this November, speaking to students and greeting faculty. And if I learned anything that day as I lay face down, swallowing dirt and pride, it's that we can never underestimate the enemy in life, and we can't wait to start pulling. Plainly said, we have to give it all we have, never saving anything for the second half, the second set, the climb down, or the swim back. We can't wait to share Christ, visit the widow, give to the needy. The fact that you're reading and I'm typing means we're knee deep in sand and it's quick.

Friends, we have to be humble constantly and plan wisely. In every area of life, be it with quiet times, workouts, relationships, school, work...a humble heart and wisdom will please God every time. So hang on tight. And when the sun comes up and you've given God your day, just start pulling.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Four years later, I led a team of seven onto the sand. We won every match but the last one; to a team of eight.

For Discussion: Are you waiting to pull with your life? Your quiet times with the Lord? Your health? If I can help you start pulling, talk to me. I want to help. And if you have similar memories where you were humbled, please share!

RECOVER WITH R.I.C.E. When you start a workout program or return to activity after a long layoff, it's not uncommon to suffer a few aches and pains. Muscles strain, ligaments groan and pain springs up in places that you wouldn't expect. In most cases, these injuries are minor and can be treated at home with a few easy steps. So before you go schedule an appointment with your general health practitioner, take stock of this four-step process.

>> 4 Ways to Treat Soft-Tissue Injuries at Home

Live, Eat and Sleep

There he is. He's been up all night. If you've been with us the last couple of days, you know what he's writing and to whom. He's almost to the end of one of his letters. The rhythmic regularity of the occasional drop of water echoes off the cold walls of the prison, and the light of the lamp is now competing with the small ray coming from a window near the ceiling. Staring at the new patch of light on the floor, he finishes this sentence. "...training it to do what it should."

Paul knew that athletes live, eat and sleep their sport. He understood the rigors, the devotion, the sacrifices, and the quest to be the one to win. If you're a competitive runner, he could've easily been describing you. That up-at-dawn discipline inside you? The dedication toward winning your next race? Paul got it.

But unlike the runner who trains for a race, we train during one. We train daily and compete daily, don't we? So with that in mind, notice carefully his choice of words. Training (a process) it (the body) to do (to act, proceed) what it should (the right thing)Paul wants us to train our eyes to notice the lonely, our ears to hear the helpless, and to deny the flesh. We're to run to Christ, run away from sin, run to those in need, and to do it all the time.

And he knew that in order for us to do that, we have to live, eat and sleep the Word of God. You know, like athletes. The kind that -- like Paul -- train to win.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Tomorrow we'll finish our study, but as you may have realized, Paul isn't talking about a concern for how the body looks, but he's claiming the kind of spiritual discipline in his life that athletes have in their sport. Imagine how equipped spiritually we would be if we studied God's word as much as we trained physically. That's what Paul is talking about. Are we training to win?

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EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Bodyweight Squat

Many of our workouts here at PrayFit.com revolve around bodyweight training. Why? The reasons are numerous but this form of resistance training can be done by practically anyone, anywhere and at anytime -- no equipment or expensive gym membership necessary. But to get the most out of these exercises, it's important to become a student -- then a master -- of the fundamentals. Today, we take a look at the best lower-body exercise around: the squat.

TARGET MUSCLES: Quads, glutes, hamstrings

EXECUTION: 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.

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

>> Looking for a workout to develop your squat proficiency? Try one of the many options available at our Fitness page.

The Light of the Lamp

You like themes? We like themes. Every once in a while we'll begin on Monday by talking about a principle -- such as grace or faith -- and we'll embrace it all week, infusing it into each day's message of health. Welcome to such a week. But rather than circle our wagons around a singular truth or Godly characteristic, a verse will be our central theme. And while there are no ordinary verses, this was no ordinary verse. I'm even guessing some of you know it by heart.

But whatever you do, don't miss a day. We're going back. We're going back to sit with Paul in prison cells and dark corners. We'll watch as he painfully and poetically places each word of this sentence in its place. Of the many treasures he crafted, this was worth its weight in gold. If he were writing sheet music, this was a high C. If this were his closing argument, consider this his exclamation point; a point he made to help meet the needs of the people in Corinth, and a point that meets ours.

So as we begin a week full of every kind of obligation -- obligations we've scribbled on our to-do lists -- let's meet each day right here. Let's share the light of the lamp as he dips his pen. In order to do that, we have to get close. Let's gather around him. No time to be shy, squeeze in. There's room, so don't hesitate. He's about to write his first words.

"I discipline...

--Jimmy Peña

PrayFit - 33 Day Body ToningWORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Home-Based Fitness

"The best exercise you can do is the kind you will continue doing," Jimmy always says. That's why we created the PrayFit DVD series. Our first disc, produced and distributed globally by entertainment stalwart Lionsgate, is one of the best growing line of PrayFit resources which already includes an Amazon bestselling book.

The DVD, hosted by PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS, features a 33-day, 33-minute program that allows viewers to build strength, stamina and flexibility using only their bodyweight and includes four “PrayFit Minutes,” which provide inspiration for each week of work. DVD viewers can also visit prayfit.com for diet advice, encouragement and to connect with others in the PrayFit community. This type of program carries wide appeal, Peña says, because of how user-friendly and effective it is but that “33” holds a deeper meaning.

“We chose 33 days because, scientifically, a month-long program is proven to help establish good habits while also seeing noticeable changes in body composition,” he says. “But we also chose 33 days to honor the life of Jesus. He could have given us a day or even a week. But because He lived 33 years, we know He can relate to our day-to-day issues.”

>> For more information or to order yours today, click here!

Distance Yourself

"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but he who walks with fools suffers harm." --Proverbs 13:20

Read: Proverbs 13

Leading up to her third marathon, my wife had a simple plan: find her pacer and stay close to him or her no matter what. See, most marathon organizations provide the runners with all sorts of tools and techniques to help them through the grueling course -- from seminars on stride, tactics for tackling hills, and perhaps most notably, they offer the runners a pacer.

A pacer is a man or woman capable of finishing the race at an exact time. And when I say exact, I mean exactly that. Kevin (pictured here) ran through the finish line at three hours and 35 minutes -- just what he was asked he'd do. Now, Kevin didn't know who was counting on his pace. All he knew was that someone would be relying on his experience, strength and endurance to help them along their way toward their goal.

In our daily pursuit of spiritual and physical stewardship, we all need pacesetters. People who God places in our lives to help us stay the course. Not only that but God may, in fact, bless us with the privilege of being that for someone else, and it's an honor we can't take lightly. Like Kevin, we may or may not know who is, but someone is depending on us to know the way and show the way. So let's take inventory. Who are we running with? And more importantly, who's setting the pace? Is he or she helping us make Godly choices when it comes to our life and health? Are we helping them with theirs?

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Kevin was a little surprised when I asked him for a photo. Perhaps it's typical for the pacers to be invisible after a race. But I had to ask him to stop, especially when I read the back of his shirt. "Distance Yourself" it said. Wow. Perfect for our verse of the day. Thanks for inspiring us Kevin. We want to keep up.

TWITTER QUESTION: Yoga

Yesterday on Twitter I was asked if I thought yoga was a conducive form of exercise for the Christian. It's not the first time I've been asked the question, but I've never addressed it here. So, for the fitness section today, we're talking yoga.

My first true experience with yoga came not too long ago. I wanted to improve my core strength, flexibility as well as pelvic floor issues in the weeks and months leading up to my spine surgery. Now, mind you, this is a former heavy-lifting, chalk-flying, barbell-hoisting (you get the picture) kind of guy, so I definitely felt like a fish out of water.

I started at home with a beginner's DVD on core and flexibility. It was good, tough and I felt like I was getting stronger. So I decided to take it up a notch and buy a membership to a local studio. With mat in hand, I marched myself into class. My first class. And here's where my thoughts on yoga kinda begin.

The first thing the instructor did after we were all in place was to begin a chant. I'm not sure what language it was in -- I really didn't care. all I know is that I started talking to the Lord; and fast. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this, but it was offending my spirit. The instructor continued to chant and I remember going so far as to say the Our Father. True story. Anything I could say to the Lord in my mind to help me drown out what I knew wasn't being said to Him. Alas, before the chant was over, I quietly and discreetly rolled up my mat and left. They didn't miss me.

Now, I tried a few other classes that month, the ones without any hint of chanting, and I enjoyed the instructors and classes and I know I was improving physically. Then came the surgery and almost three months later, here we are.

All of that to say this: The Lord sees the heart, and if something’s not right, you know it. He knows it. Trust me, there’s enough going on in weight rooms to fill a dozen entries, so I’m not trying to single out yoga as something that nobody should do. I think the physical benefits of yoga are outstanding! But me, personally, I would rather do yoga with other Christians and listening to Christian music if I have the choice. Speaking of, I do know of some amazing and wonderful Christian yoga experts, some of which I’ll be speaking alongside in September at the International Christian Wellness Conference, and I’m thrilled.

And it’s not to say that I won’t try yoga classes in a limited way as I recover from surgery, but here it is: Any teachings intended to infect the heart and mind that aren’t biblical shouldn’t be anywhere near the Christian. And if I can avoid those situations, I will. I know that sounds narrow-minded, but we’re on a narrow road. My health is a means of praise and my center is Jesus.

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Worn-Out Tools

"So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart." --Nehemiah 4:6

Read: Nehemiah 4

Like it was yesterday, I remember walking out of my English professor's office angry, upset and embarrassed. Gritting my teeth and holding back tears I marched, but I didn't get very far. "Excuse me, Mr. Peña!" And Coach Jim Loweree proceeded to alter my life. See, I had poured my heart into a project. Gave it everything I had. I stayed up late, studied early, went the extra mile. That's just what you did at the prestigious Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. It was the home of The Fighting Irish -- a place of faith, unparalleled scholastics, sport, and most of all, tradition. But alas, I bombed it. To make matters worse, Coach Loweree was a man I idolized. I wanted nothing more than to maintain a perfect GPA and impress him along the way. And in a matter of seconds, both goals were gone.

Speaking of goals, earlier that year, I successfully recited the famous poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling to Coach Loweree. I never missed a beat when it came to recitations. I loved that part of class. Speeches by President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, all by heart, not one word missed. But a line from "If" has been rolling around my brain lately:

"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools."

Worn-out tools. Midway through my three-month spinal fusion process, I'm walking steadily and doing my prescribed bends. Yes, to Rocky music, no doubt. We're just praying that the new hardware fuses perfectly with the bones, and that the same success we saw with my neck replacement occurs in my lower back. God's will we pray.

I wonder, have you ever had to rebuild anything? A business or a home? Perhaps another aspect of your life and maybe even your health. Well, rebuilding is a faith issue. Not in our ability to make things as they once were but for Whom we build. Because when things fall apart, when we watch the things we gave our life to break, He's why we stoop.

And remember how I mentioned that Coach changed my life? Well, he did. In the schoolyard that day, he told me that I was going to have to start all over. Yep, he stole a line from Kipling himself. But Coach also told me not to take grades so seriously, to keep working hard, keep honoring my parents and to stand up straight after a test if I did my best, regardless of the grade. Funny, I took his advice. I never made straight A's again. But after six book projects, 15 years of newsstand articles and my highest honor -- this website -- I hope Coach knows his freshman English class and that afternoon talk in the yard changed a kid. So thanks, Coach. I'm still stooping. Still rebuilding. My life's work is my faith and health. Perfect for worn-out tools like mine.

--Jimmy Peña

GYM TIP: There's more than one way to use a treadmill. A recent study found that those who pedaled backward on treadmills and elliptical machines gained greater quadriceps and hamstring strength and had greater aerobic capacity than those who went forward. Click here for more.

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Step Into Delight

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and enter his courts with praise; be thankful in your hearts to him and bless his holy name." --Psalm 100:4

Read: Psalm 100

During their years at Baylor University, Brooke and Mattie were like peas and carrots; always together. Not only were they roommates, they went to the same classes, same after-school activities. Together they volunteered, worked with charities, and counseled local school children. Suffice it to say, they were tight. Brooke, the musician of the two, loves to play the sax and she's played piano since she was four years old. She's so good at music, in fact, she has perfect pitch. In other words, she doesn't need to hear Middle C on the keyboard or need a guitar strum as a reference. She can identify between any two notes without help. Mattie on the other hand, although she never learned an instrument, was likely at every rehearsal and performance.

Being an old Baylor grad myself, their story caught my attention recently. See, after graduating in May, Brooke moved back home to pursue her Master's degree at Colorado State. And I'm guessing Mattie will be there too. I'm only guessing because Brooke was born blind, and Mattie is her 6-year old seeing-eye German Shepherd, who according to the story, slows down before steps, avoids obstacles and stops before drop-offs. That's some pedigree if you ask me.

It's Monday. Let's step into delight. No matter what your day or week has in store, let's turn our attention to the good Lord. Let's do like Brooke and find what's bright where there seems to be no light. Let's give thanks. And when it comes to health, please give me a show of hands for those thanking God for their health today. How about a show of hands of those asking God for health today. Curious, how 'bout a show of hands for those with both hands up. Oh friends. If you're raising yours, God can hear you. He hears your hurts and your joyous praise. He can hear both at the same time. And He has perfect pitch.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. There might be one walk Brooke takes without Mattie, and that's when she marries her fiance Dean Bisogno, whom she met while at Baylor. But I like to think that Mattie won't be too far away.

>> Enjoy Brooke's story in the WacoTrib.com: CLICK HERE

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Mastering the Push-Up

The push-up is a tough but fantastic exercise that targets your chest, shoulders, triceps and to a lesser extent your core musculature. So mastering it, even through the initial road bumps, is a good idea. This workout will get you on your way to push-up mastery!

>> Click here for the workout!

Fit Together

"For where two or more gather in my name, there I am with them." --Matthew 18:20

Read: Matthew 18

Among the things I miss most about playing sports in high school and college are those times when coach would huddle us up to give us words of motivation. We'd all take a knee and, at the end of his talk, he'd say, "Everybody in." He'd put out his hand, and we'd stand to put ours atop his. At that very moment, there was nothing more important. I learned then that powerful things happen when people come together with a common purpose and a serious plan.

Speaking of small groups, we don't know what all was said among the disciples in the upper room, on shorelines, or on hillsides, but something tells me they huddled. I don't know, but when it was time to get everyone's attention, I like to think they brought it in real close like teams do. Don't you? After all, if our faith had a team, they were the first string. Wow. That's neat, huh? To think, what they said to each other before that first huddle broke, eventually got to you and me. Common purpose, serious plan. Powerful.

--Jimmy Peña

Group_Study_91START YOUR OWN PRAYFIT "TEAM": All across the country, members of the PrayFit Nation are coming together for their own weekly "huddles" using our books and DVDs as their curriculum. To find out how to start your own PrayFit-themed small group or bible study -- one that focuses on being good stewards of health -- write us today at info@prayfit.com!

FIT FACT: Research shows that one-limb (unilateral) training allows you to recruit more total muscle fibers, making you approximately 20% stronger on each rep. For example, if you were able to curl a 50-pound barbell for 10 reps, you could reasonably expect to curl 30-pound dumbbells (or 60 pounds total) for as many reps.

It's Not In Our DNA

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” --Luke 17:15-16

Read: Luke 17

DNAOur DNA is remarkable. Our microscopic fingerprint. A double-helix with 25,000 regions of genes that tell the body how to build itself. And we’re getting better at reading it. Want to know if your child has the genetics of an all-pro athlete? There’s a gene for that. Or maybe even more impressive, there’s a gene that determines motivation to become an all-pro athlete. One’s genetic make-up can tell us so much about our future. The smarter we get, the better we’ll be at predicting all sorts of things from the likelihood of certain illnesses to athletic potential.

Aren’t we glad that Heaven isn’t determined by our DNA? When ability falls short and capability fails miserably, Jesus touches our hearts and leaves a permanent imprint of a nail-scarred hand; the only statistically significant indicator of one’s destiny.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: As believers, we have to employ healthy habits in our lives. The goal of abundant life needs to become part of our DNA. If it wasn't something that we have to consciously do, God wouldn't have reminded us. Some things don't come naturally, whether it be motivation, athletic ability, coordination. But none of that matters. God sees the heart, so don't spend time critiquing the mirror or applauding it. Get moving in order to reflect Him. Serve others, be an example to kids, help neighbors, get active in church. When we say health is a means of praise, we don't mean for ourselves.

WORKING OUT AT HOME

Convenience of exercise is one of the greatest determining factors in program adherence. In other words, the easier a workout is to get in, the less likely you will be to skip it. For a great many people, home workouts are best. Team PrayFit's two workout DVDs provide challenging, results-driven, at-home workouts that are guaranteed to help you build a stronger, healthier body -- without having to venture out to a franchise gym. So far, the reviews on our latest DVD -- the PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System -- are outstanding! Click here to read what others are saying! For a sneak peek at what you can expect in our newest offering, click the video player below. To order now, click here.

Your Top Three

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." --1 Thessalonians 5:18

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5

Do you like lists? I love lists. My wife and I can be on our daily walk, and all I have to say to her is, "Give me your top three" and she knows I'm asking her to name me the three people she would love to have over for dinner. Without hesitation, Dr. Charles Stanley, Jimmy Fallon and Savannah Guthrie are scooting their chairs under our table. We've done things like that for years. And don't get me started about New Year's resolutions. We've saved every list of resolutions for 18 years. Not only that, we witness, sign and ratify them. (I wish I were kidding). What can I say? I love lists. Especially thankful ones.

Do you have one? A list of things so far this year of which you're the most thankful? Could be your relationship with the Lord, or a new job, or maybe your health has improved. Take a minute to think of, or better yet, jot some things down. Use our comment section if you'd be so bold. What are you the most thankful for as we start a new week? Give me your top three.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. In case you were wondering about my top three for dinner: Max Lucado, Brian Williams, and of course, Derek Jeter. Let's eat.

dumbbellsWORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Dumbbell Complex

Dumbbells are some of the best fitness equipment ever invented. Simple and effective, dumbbells can help you to recruit additional muscle by forcing your body to activate stabilizers to balance your body during exercise. They can also be used to develop tremendous strength and to burn tons of fat. Dumbbells are just plain good for ya. One way to put them to work for you is via complex training, which calls for you to use the same set of dumbbells for multiple exercises. Click below for more detail on complex training and a head-to-toe workout to get you started.

>> DUMBBELL COMPLEX - CLICK HERE

Grace Solves for Why

"But he gives us more grace." --James 4:6

Read: James 4

Max Lucado once wrote, "Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off." I thought of that last week as my doctor cleared me to start healing on the inside. See, my 14-day check-up was all about wound care -- no MRIs, no CT scans, no surveying his deeper work. He just wanted to make sure that both the scar across my stomach and the one on my back were healing as planned. And as Eric shared with you last week, all looks good. Now it's time to take really good care of what we can't see.

How many of you reading this today are doing just that? You eat right, get your exercise in, take your vitamins. But there's something that's been missing. Something more important. Something...deeper. A show of hands of those that have taken care of the body, but you hear God knocking on the door of your heart, letting you know He misses His time with you. Or maybe the voice inside is urging you to improve your relationship with your spouse, someone at work, or "that" neighbor. Until now, you've shrugged it off. You've done the math and you can't figure out why. Besides, the mirror agrees with you, the money isn't bad, and you suppose, "If that neighbor wants to talk to me -- then, well -- they can come talk to me." But that's what grace is. It's the solution to our toughest equations.

I know sometimes the math of life just doesn't add up. We scratch our heads. We multiply our hurts and subtract our days. We feel divided, because it's not always easy to forgive, or cope, or strive, or to be modest, or patient. But the longer I live, the sweeter the proof is that when you carry the One, grace always solves for why.

--Jimmy Peña

GRACE WEEK This week is all about grace and how our health fits inside its all-encompassing arc. Do you have any questions? Give us your thoughts or post a question and it might make tomorrow's entry. Thanks everyone. Have a great, great week!

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Scrambled Legs Tough leg workouts help you improve overall body composition because you are training the largest muscles in your body. And the more muscle you're breaking down, the more recovery needs to take place, the more calories you burn. Strong legs beget strong backs and stronger cores and keep you prepared for everything in life from the stairs at work to running around with the kids in the yard. Here's a routine that you can incorporate to challenge those legs this week.

>> Click here for the "scrambled legs" workout by Jimmy!

A Determined Rise

"Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light." --Micah 7:8

Read: Micah 7

HurdlesLast night, I had an epic wipeout on my new beach cruiser -- an "into-a-rail-and-over-the-handlebars" kind of spill. If you've ever fallen, you're probably familiar with the question you are faced with in the moments after: Do I get up and carry on, or stay on the ground and wallow in my misfortune? Two Olympic hurdlers illustrated the difference for us last summer.

In one of the heats of the women's 400-meter hurdles, two athletes met disaster but each recovered differently. Just a few seconds into the race, Vania Stambolova of Bulgaria hit the first hurdle, tumbling hopelessly to the track surface as her competition shrunk quickly into the distance. Maureen Jelegat-Maiyo of Kenya stumbled disastrously over a hurdle a few moments later. Both fell. But only one finished.

Dejected and physically beaten, Stambolova picked herself up and ambled reluctantly off of the track, conceding defeat. Jelegat-Maiyo, on the other hand, sprung up and continued on. She finished in last place, almost four seconds behind her next nearest competitor -- a lifetime in the world of elite hurdles. Despite her heroic recovery, there was little fanfare for the Kenyan hurdler to look forward to at the finish. No flash bulbs, no doting reporters -- just the knowledge that she'd picked herself up, run hard and given her best effort, both for herself and her countrymen.

How often do you charge out of the blocks on faith, only to stumble at the start? We misjudge our own power, we underestimate our weaknesses, and we short ourselves on hurdles of health. Sometimes, as was the case on my ride, the falls are catastrophic and sudden, leaving us to wonder what happened. But those stumbles are never enough to knock us out of the race. In fact, our victory -- which begins with a determined rise -- is assured because of the One who has already succeeded on the same obstacle-ridden course. As long as you commit to collecting yourself from a fall, there is no hurdle ahead you can't bound with His help.

--Eric Velazquez

UPDATE ON JIMMY'S 14-DAY POST-SURGERY APPT Great news! Jimmy's check-up went incredibly well yesterday. He's ready for a 3-month healing and rehab process. Thank you for your sincere prayers. Let's raise praise.

 

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: REVERSE CRUNCH Yesterday's Workout of the Week started off with the reverse crunch because the lower abs are typically the most undertrained area of the midsection. Leading off with it -- you should always train weaknesses first -- allows you to target this hard-to-change area of your body faster. Here's a bit more about it, and some info on how to get it right.

Reverse Crunch | Focus: Lower abs

Lie faceup on the ground with your hands extended at your sides, your feet up and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor. Slowly bring your knees toward your chest, lifting your hips and glutes off the ground, and try to maintain the bend in your knees throughout the movement. Return under control.

>> VIDEO: THE REVERSE CRUNCH

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>> SHOP: Spread the health via your apparel at the PrayFit online store. Custom hats, cozy tees and logo wristbands are all available at the click of a mouse, with easy shipping. You can also pick up PrayFit books and DVDs to help you start living a healthier lifestyle here. Click to get started.

>> CHAT: Are you already a member of our forums? Get back in on the discussion by clicking here. Not yet signed up? All it takes is 20 seconds to get started. Click here.

>> SOWING: Plant the seeds of health and fitness in your church by arranging a visit from PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. Learn more about his message by clicking here, or write us at info@prayfit.com to start planning dates!

A Holy Climb

"Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea', and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them." --Mark 11:23

Read: Mark 11

Hey everyone. After a week off, PrayFit is back online. Honestly, I probably need to write more than you need to read, but nonetheless, here we are in Jesus' name. If you happen to be new to PrayFit, we have a couple of common mountains we climb -- two objectives as we make our way up some pretty steep hills. For some, PrayFit is a place of encouragement to begin or continue an exercise program or sensible eating plan. Others don't need such nudging on the health side but have come to enjoy the fact that we're nestled in God's word and steeped in grace.

It's a holy climb, really. That's what we chat about each day as we scale. As one hand digs for its stronghold, we remind each other of our need of greater health in order to live abundant lives, serving and doing. And as we secure our grip with the other, we echo the truth that no amount of health or fitness, muscle or endurance is worth anything if God isn't behind each motive.

So, maybe you're like me. Maybe it's easy to imagine yourself clinging to the side of this cliff. For whatever reason, either by neglect or something that blindsided you, you're stalled physically. Or perhaps your fitness is just fine, but you're so focused on reaching the summit of health or even body image that you're missing the purpose of it all. Well, wherever you are on this hillside, I hope and pray you spend some time with us each day. It's my experience that the more we focus on Christ, the stronger we are to get over hurdles or to get over ourselves.

Make it a holy climb -- one you make only by reaching for His hand.

--Jimmy Peña

>> WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: PrayFit has partnered with Lionsgate Entertainment to bring you two home-based workout DVDs -- the second more challenging than the first. Train along with founder Jimmy Peña as you work to become stronger, leaner and healthier, all from the comfort of your living room. Below is a sample of what you can expect with our newest video offering, the PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System.