fitness

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?

 

Strength and Honor

"This is what the Lord says, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast in his strength..." --Jeremiah 9:23

With so much on my mind yesterday, I walked into my physical therapy session. Progress is slow. Parents need prayer. PrayFit at a crossroads. Swirling and swirling inside my little pea brain. After my daily evaluation, one of the therapists asked that I follow them to the other side of the center. We walked through the machines, the cable stations, and then we finally reached the free weights -- first time in a weight room in close to two years and sentimental me had to pause.

As I looked at the corner of heavy dumbbells, I immediately thought of the movie Gladiator. Remember the scene?

Maximus is about to fight the final battle. As he walked by, his men stood to salute and pay honor. So, I took a deep breath and began to walk. "Weary from battle," I limped through the dumbbell area, and I could faintly hear the iron whispering, "General", "Sir", "Strength and Honor." (Go ahead and humor me by smiling.)

As the therapist and tech worked me through my required stretching, I told them that I used to lift a lot of weight -- even wrote an article (or two) about it. While I laid on my back, they manipulated my legs about me, and I found myself looking up at the ceiling, recounting my personal records -- what I used to bench press and squat. Ah, the glory days. Then in an almost doubtful tone, the young tech said, "Oh yeah? Pretty good." I couldn't help but grin. Then the Holy Spirit spoke, "Tell him what (Who) you really lift." So I did.

Jimmy, circa 1990, with 315 pounds on the reverse-grip bench press.

"It's amazing how the Lord used those old lifting days, and still does," I began. "Today I spend my time describing the weight of God's mercy, and how it crashes down on us. These days, I try and teach others to do more with their health than just be healthy. And of all the things this body should remind us of, our frailty is one of them. All that weight merely helped me realize my smallness. Truth is, our dependence on grace is really our greatest strength."

He looked at me and nodded. I asked him to check out PrayFit.

Oh my friends, although I'm struggling to tie my shoes from a seated position (which I did for the first time yesterday, say "Amen"), I'm grateful for the weight I used to lift -- it helps me remember the weight that only HE can. And yes, as I left the weight room to go back to my therapy station, I couldn't help myself. I turned to that heavy corner, paused and said with a grin..."Strength and honor."

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What does your health help you realize? How can our grasp of our weakness help us get closer to the Lord? Aren't you glad we don't have to lift the really heavy things of life?

eatqBOOST YOUR EatQ: Using Your Mind to Maximize Weight Loss

Need a quick tactic to cut down on your calorie count? Use your non-dominant hand to eat. A recent study showed that this strategy can reduce your eating by 30%. This action breaks up the automatic hand to mouth flow. You have to think about each bite similar to writing with your opposite hand.

This mindful-eating strategy represents the tip of the iceberg for those who pick up Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence, the latest literary offering by licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.

"EatQ is an easy, 3-step program to help you stop overeating for good and lose/manage your weight," says Albers. "I created this concept because many of my clients are whiz kids when it comes to nutrition knowledge. In fact, many of my readers could rattle off the fat grams and sugar content of every food you could imagine. But what they don't know is how to talk themselves into making the healthy choice."

>> Pick up your copy of EatQ today by clicking here!

The Purpose Fulfilled Life

Hope you're enjoying the week looking at some of life's closers. First Mariano Rivera, and then of course Joseph. And while Joseph was unavoidable, the next two, I argue, are undeniable. If you've been with us for any stretch of time, you know they're a couple of my favorites.

"See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My children and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want  you to immediately remember this suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember that I know where I'm going." 

The man who said that is none other than Billy Graham. What a way to live and finish, amen? Sure sets the bar high, doesn't he? So does this next one.

There he was. Tied up. Who knows how long he'd been waiting? The most insignificant of animals with a seemingly inconsequential life. No thoroughbred blood running through his veins. His next meal was his only solace between chores. A helpless laborer, a meaningless creature. When, all of a sudden, Jesus asked for him specifically. In that day, donkeys were known to protect sheep, but that day he carried The Lamb. God chose him. Uniquely qualified, his purpose was to carry Jesus to His. He delivered. I suppose you could say he was born for this moment.

You may have heard me say it before, but I like to think that a donkey nobody had ever ridden knew exactly who he carried. And I bet he did his best to make Jesus proud. Of course, we don't know what the Lord said to him as He got off and walked away, maybe nothing. But this writer likes to think that as the crowd took Jesus the rest of the way, that little donkey stood taller than ever. The only one who noticed him and needed him was the One he just carried.

Let's make it our life's purpose to close-out life -- like Billy and the donkey -- and be remembered for where we're going, and who we carried along the way.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What a contrast in closers, don't you agree? Bill Graham and the donkey. One life spent evangelizing the world, filling years with special moments. The other called to be ready for just one. Man oh man. That's tough to type. You and I are no Billy Grahams, but I would have proudly been the donkey.

 

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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Unearned Health

"Every good and perfect gift comes from above." --James 1:17

Read: James 1

You've likely seen someone boast that health is "Always earned, never given." Sounds reasonable, right? You put in the work, you get the reward. Sounds reasonable, but it's not true. Health is not earned. Granted, some people appropriately celebrate their health (and hopefully more and more of us each day), but even the byproducts of that discipline -- toned muscle, greater endurance, increased strength -- gift...gift...gift. Oh we don't like to admit it. We like to think we've earned the right to raise that banner and boast, "I EARNED THIS!" But in truth, it's when we realize we have undeserved and unearned health that we can make the greatest impact with it.

You might also consider the flip-side. There are those among us who are statistically apparently healthy, but who choose a sedentary lifestyle over an active one. Those who opt for poor food choices over balanced, sensible meals. Despite great genetics, honorable stewardship is the furthest thing from their minds. If you're like me, you may have people close to you who have absolutely no health issues, but have no issue with abusing it; alive but not living. Healthy vital signs? Sure. Earned? No. A gift. Unopened, but a gift nonetheless.

Whether they're opened or still neatly wrapped, the bible says that every single gift comes from above and that includes the body. So just remember, as you wake up with grace and mercy, check and see if your limbs work and if your heart's beating. If all systems are go, then celebrate! Treat life like a Christmas morning kind of present. Open it up! It's when you see what's inside that you can really see what's inside you! And you can't give God the glory and claim it at the same time. Christians have to choose. So choose to walk, train, run, swim, strive, push, claw, climb, and reach with every single, grateful, thankful, humble, undeserved, unearned gift of health you got.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: All you have to do is visit a children's cancer hospital and the idea that health is earned quickly evaporates. Are you a fitness person? A runner? A lifter? Is it difficult for you to accept the truth that you don't earn your health? 

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Complete Cardio

Try this workout to jump-start your week. Build muscle, burn calories…all at your own pace. Everyone has a “best.” What’s yours? That’s what your effort should be everyday.

>> Click here to start sweating!

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!

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

A Little Ditty

"For physical training is of some value, but training in godliness has value now and in the life to come." --1 Timothy 4:8

Read: 1 Timothy 4

I'm likely giving away my age when I remind you of one of my favorite praise and worship songs, "I Just Came To Praise The Lord." Anyone?...Anyone?

"I just came to praise the Lord. I just came to praise the Lord. I just came to praise His holy name. I just came to praise the Lord."

Classic, right? On more than one occasion, I've felt like that in church. Shake hands, wave at friends, but get me to my seat, I need to talk to Jesus. I felt like that on my walk yesterday. I didn't set any land speed records, but I logged 3.12 miles. It's always such a good time talking to the Lord, cleansing my heart, clearing my mind, praying for family, asking for wisdom, planning excellence. Far beyond the physical benefits the walking is doing to my recovery -- being over a month removed from major back surgery -- my training has always been an extension of my quiet time. Sure, each stride sends vital nutrients to aid in healing, but my "walk" is more important.

Try it. Next time you hit the gym or go for your jog, remember today's little ditty. As you raise those weights overhead, remember the ultimate burden He lifted. As you run your miles, recall the distance He went to call you His own. And I know, the world will demand that you "focus" on the goal, the reason you're in the gym or on the road. And your response can either be spoken or sung, because in truth, you are focusing on the goal and the reason you're in the gym.

--Jimmy Peña

A Little Ditty with Jimmy: Old habits die hard, because 20-plus years ago -- during my really heavy lifting days -- my best lifts always came when my heart was right, my mind was focused and my motives were pure. If I was worried, convicted, or struggling somehow, I just wasn't my best. The habit of praying before each workout became a habit I would take into each set and each rest period, until my training became an extension of my quiet time. Trust me, while I had the Rocky soundtrack blaring in my ears, I had grace and forgiveness coursing through my heart. I even remember specific prayers, mantras even, that I'd say to the Lord. Funny, I still do. Even as I blaze through -- okay, limp through -- my 3.12 miles.

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Double Crunch

One of the most challenging exercises that you can do for your abs is the double crunch -- which is featured in our workout of the week -- because it hits your abs hard from top to bottom. Here's how to get it right.

Double Crunch | Focus: Upper abs, lower abs | (VIDEO) Lie down on the floor with your legs straight, feet together. Place your hands gently behind your head and raise your feet off the floor roughly six inches. Crunch your upper body off the floor while simultaneously bringing your knees toward your torso, so that your upper body meets your lower body in the middle. Squeeze and return to the start, allowing your legs to remain above the floor throughout.

 

Press Play

"I will remember the works of the Lord." --Psalm 77:11

Read: Psalm 77 Ever notice that the first song you hear in the morning is the tune that somehow your brain plays all day? You don't even have to hear the whole thing -- just a few notes and you got yourself a theme song. Better make it a good one, amen? You know, it's neat how the Lord can show you something, be it a story in a book, a movie theme, or even the words of a song, and you don't realize why until -- well -- until you realize why.

Back in March, Loretta and I downloaded an album by JJ Weeks Band called All Over the World. At first, it was just an incredible CD that Loretta wouldn't leave the house without hearing. (I'm the resident DJ, of course.) And it's so good, I've even written devotions with their music playing in the background. But what I loved hearing in March, I needed to hear in June.

Can you relate? Ever gone through something, and you're immediately reminded of a lesson God taught you some time in your past? Books, conversations, music. I like to imagine God doing neat things like that. Since all things work together for my good, I like to think that the notes He puts in my head one day, He gracefully leads to my heart the next. After all, how many times in my life have I whispered, "So that's why."

What song do you have in your heart today? As we start a new week, are you battling fear or doubt? Facing financial pitfalls or health struggles? Whatever your day has in store, let's recall the lessons we've learned. Extend the grace. Pray for courage. Summon your song of praise. So that when the enemy begins to hum that unwelcome dissonance of failures and weaknesses that seek to rob you of joy...close your eyes and press play.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S. If you want to bless your life, go to iTunes and download "Is It Ever" and "Sunrise" by JJ Weeks Band. Listen to the words. Write them on your heart. And when you need them, you'll say to yourself, "So that's why."

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Abs & Calves

Today's workout will hit your midsection and your lower legs quickly and effectively. Even though you can't completely isolate any one portion of the abdominals, you can involve one section over another based on angles and which portion (upper or lower) of your body is moving at one time. As far as your calves, the standing calf raise targets the gastrocnemius, tthe larger, diamond-shaped muscle atop the smaller, deeper, soleus muscle.

>> Click here for the abs & calves workout!

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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>> 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!

"Let The Healing Never End"

"Jesus wept." --John 11:35

Read: John 11

If you haven't read today's chapter, Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem. And when Mary finally reached Jesus, Lazarus had been dead four days. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn't hurry or didn't notice. Either way, the grief and pain that Mary and the others were feeling moved Jesus to tears. Although Lazarus would soon be having a good laugh, Jesus cried. Why? Because their loss was His too, and their pain hurt. Imagine that for a second. Their agony hit His heart and...gush.

Yesterday I received encouraging news with one of my surgeons (last year's). But it wasn't an easy appointment. So important was this check-up that I had my wife, mother, dad and small corner of friends hitting their knees for me. I even bet my mom went old school -- like biblical -- and prayed in a closet. And it was the doctor who delivered the good news to a teary Loretta. But he wasn't crying with her. He didn't console her, hold her and he definitely didn't cry. Why? He knew the outcome. He saw her tears and quickly knew how to dry them.

You know, if Jesus could instantly dry the eyes of a broken Mary, surely He could prevent His own from welling up. But aren't we glad He knows how we feel? And shows it? Which makes me think, that probably wasn't the last time Mary cried, or cried out to a healing God. And yesterday wasn't the last day we'll follow her example. I'm learning that it's true that on this side of Heaven, the healing never ends. Like you, I often want Him to hurry or notice. If I didn't know better, I'd say this life looks a lot like that short road to Bethany.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Incidentally, tomorrow is my 14-day check-up with the neurosurgeon. Let the dust fly, and like my boys of the group Salvador sing, "Let the healing never end". Amen?

REPORT: ROOT OF THE PAIN Are you walking around each day with chronic pain in your knees or back? It might not be the thrashing you put on your body in your formidable years. It may be the few extra pounds you've accumulated since. The good news is that there's an easy fix.

>> Get the full report here.

LISTEN: Want to take in some of your favorite entries direct from Jimmy? Click here for a selection of audio devotions and be sure to share the link with your social networks!

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 the uncertain descent that 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

PRAYER REQUEST: This morning, as most of you read this, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be undergoing surgery on his lumbar spine. We ask that you join the rest of our family in praying for him.

Lord, we thank you for the miracles that are our bodies. While we know that our bodies won't last Heaven, we pray that you would help us to be good stewards of our health however long we have on earth. This morning, Father, we pray for Jimmy -- we pray that You would ease his anxiety and fortify his body and mind for the procedure that he is to endure. We pray for his physicians -- we pray that you would bless them with wisdom, discernment and steady hands as they work to repair Jimmy's spine. Finally, we pray for his wife, Loretta -- we pray that you would fill her with courage, energy and her usual, exceptional strength as a woman of God. Lord, we know that You are in control and that you will be by His side throughout it all. We ask that You would whisper your presence into his heart and that you would instill in him a courageous, unwavering trust in knowing that the doctor's hands are in Yours. Lord, today we pray for the body of the man who has made a ministry out of helping so many others take care of theirs. In Your name we pray...amen.

>> Share your own prayers and thoughts for Jimmy below, if you'd like, or drop him a personal message at jimmy@prayfit.com. Thank you for your support!

>> Next week, May 20-24, PrayFit will be going on temporary hiatus, with no new daily devotions or health content being posted to the site. We will be taking the week to commit to prayer for Jimmy's recovery. You can still find tons of valuable content throughout the site (see links below) and can expect delivery of the PrayFit Daily to resume Monday, May 27.

Training - Workouts, training tips and health news

Nutrition - Recipes, eating strategies, weight loss advice

Devotions - You can search our entire library of devotions here

Listen - You can hear select devotions read by Jimmy here

That's The Spirit

"But the helper, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." --John 14:26

Read: John 14

"Well, that's the spirit!" Someone who changes their attitude towards a task or who chooses optimism over the alternative is often given such affirmation. You've likely said it to someone. Why? Because it's great to watch a friend, coworker, or family member have a change in heart for the better. With that thought, when we as believers feel a stirring inside of us to witness for Christ, or to stress honesty at the office, where does that come from? Or when you and I are comforted during trying times or soothed during periods of loss, who is that we hear?

I thought about that recently when a reader wondered why she can't seem to heed the longing inside her heart to make better decisions about her health. And all I can do is pray with her and offer my own version of encouragement. But if it helps her or you perhaps, try and remember that when a Christian hears that still, small voice inside to be a better steward of their time, or to share financial blessings in church, that's not an accident. It's not karma, the universe or your own set of values. No, the source of the call is far more critical than the call itself. So when you hear, "It's time to take better care of this body God made with his own hands with better food and more exercise" be encouraged to follow through. Why? Well, that's the Spirit.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What are you being encouraged inside your heart to do this week? Is stewardship of time, money or health among them? As we begin this Monday, jot down the things you know the Holy Spirit is urging you to do. Make a list. Etch on paper what God has etched on your heart. When you do that, it becomes His list. Have a great week everyone.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Total Body 10

One way to constantly challenge yourself, and therefore effect change in your body, is to outdo your previous performance. And to do that doesn’t require a gym — just the willingness to push.

>> Click here to learn how to get stronger and leaner, head to toe, in just 10 minutes.

The Silent Symbol

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another." --John 13:35

Read: John 13

Fingers crossed. Early Christians, in order to avoid persecution when they prayed in public, as well as to quietly identify themselves with other believers, would cross their fingers. Can you imagine if the only way you and I could share our faith was in such a way? Or even more unbelievable, by making that quiet gesture our predecessors risked their very lives.

What in my life says believer? If I couldn't say a word, what in my life would be that silent symbol, alerting another Jesus-follower that I am one of them? What about in yours?

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of radio, hoping more and more churches would invite us to speak or that listeners would look to find our new DVD. And the most common question I get from radio hosts isn't about the DVD itself. No, they routinely ask me why Christians are known to be unhealthy. That question always makes me pause. Is that how we're identified by the rest of the world? By risking our lives through neglect? Is that our silent symbol?

I hope not...fingers crossed.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Realizing that God only sees the heart, how is our approach to health a way to witness? Can someone be too far involved with how they look that they actually hurt their witness? We think so too. Also, shouldn't we be known for something other than things physical? Like our love for one another? Our giving and serving? Share your thoughts with us below.

ENERGY SYSTEMS 101

Your body is relying on three energy systems to replenish ATP, or adenosine triphosphate (the energy within our cells) to accomplish any task. The systems -- creatine phosphate (CP), anaerobic glycolysis (AG) and oxidative metabolism (OM) -- literally get us through the day. Basically, the sum of all three systems work simultaneously to supply the energy needs of any activity (athletic or otherwise) we choose to perform.

And while each system is constantly at work, the kind of activity will determine the relative contribution of each energy system. If you’re in the middle of a long run, for instance, you’re relying predominantly on oxidative metabolism. But if you’re shooting for a grueling set of squats or 40-yard dash, you're relying heavily on the CP system.

So mix it up. Have fun. Compete with yourself to improve day in and day out.

>> Looking for more fitness wisdom? Visit our fitness page by clicking here.