plank

Praise in Pictures

firstdaybackRather than write you a novel describing my joy, I thought I'd let a few pictures do the talking. Given my permission to engage in more activity, last Saturday I reached for dumbbells. (Five pound dumbbells may as well have been a ton.) And I worked virtually every upper body muscle using these dumbbells and a bench. Nearly 1.5 years since being able to train, I can't...quite...describe. (I'll let you know when I graduate to ten pounds.) PreachercurlThe next picture shows me getting creative. I can't sit and lean over on a preacher bench, so I kneel on the floor and stabilize myself with my non-working hand on the wall, then I sit back and straight, and then use the bench as my platform. Fun stuff.

The final pic shows me at the exact moment I failed on my plank. You can't see my face, but I'm smiling because I'm actually able to fail again. Anyone want to take a stab at how thankful I am? failing

And as the Lord is seeing me out of this valley, I hope this pic is a helpful reminder of my perspective, both from a spiritual and physical one. In a word, grace.

madewithOver

--Jimmy Peña

FOR DISCUSSION: What praises do YOU have to share? I don't want to do all the talking and sharing. Let us know so we can celebrate with you.

MY WORKOUT: Seeing as I used weights and actually targeted body parts, in case any of you were curious what the moves work, the first exercise you see is a chest-supported dumbbell row. I can't bend over with weight just yet, but as long as I am supported, it's ALL mine. For this move, I like to primarily use a wide rowing motion, with what's called a pronated (palms-down) grip. The wide grip (as if I had a bar in my hands) helps target the highest part of the lats (upper lats) as well as the rhomboids and the middle traps. Had I used a neutral grip (palms-toward my body) and pulled the dumbbells up and toward my hips, I'd be hitting primarily the lower lats with little middle back involvement.

The preacher curl, of course, is a biceps exercise which targets the short, inner head of the biceps. Although, I can't quite see mine anymore!

The plank you see me failing on hits the core, specifically the transverse abdominis which is one of the most important muscles we have to help protect the spine. Trust me on that one.

NOT SHOWN: I also hit chest, shoulders and triceps. Next week I'll show you those exercises. You guys want to see my workouts? This is me doing a poll. Also checking who actually read this far down the page!

It's No Wonder

"Know that the Lord is our God. It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." --Psalm 100:3

Read: Psalm 100

toolsShe should have been a carpenter. If it had been a priceless work of art, she wouldn't have put any more effort into it. Sitting on the kitchen floor, Loretta (who is the handyman in the family), measured, marked and re-measured to make sure the new kitchen hardware was going to be centered perfectly. Of course, I "eyeballed it" and knew everything would be even, but that wasn't good enough. No sir. She even made me hold the tools as she steadied the level. But you can't blame her. After all, these were her cabinets for a room where we spend the most time and have have so much fun.

Putting my arm around her, I kissed the side of her head as we surveyed her work. In that moment, I wondered if this is how we should be treating our time, resources and our health. Our gifts deserve more than an "eyeballing" but rather a genuine care and concern, amen? Of course, not to boast in our possessions or to gloat about how "fit" we are, but all because of the One who made us.

"Fearfully." "Wonderfully." "Knit together." "Formed." "Created". These are just a few of the ways the bible describes how God lovingly built us. Just imagine Him with a level as He designed our souls with integrity. Picture it as He wipes the dust from our rough edges, smoothing tempers and molding character. It's no wonder He chose to be a carpenter. We're a masterpiece that He signed with His blood and framed with a body; what a privilege He's given us to care for His work.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Push-Ups & Planks If you’re short on time, but long on enthusiasm, today’s workout will meet both needs. No equipment required — all you need is some open space, your own bodyweight and 5-10 minutes. Even if you had other plans for the day’s workout, indulge us and give it a try anyway.

>> Click here for the workout!

Lord, Do You See Yourself In Me?

"The Lord looks at the heart..." --1 Samuel 16:7

Read: 1 Samuel 16

When Prayfit VP Eric Velazquez describes seeing his resemblance in his daughter's faces, this weeping writer fights back tears. He says, "Jimmy, it's one thing to know they're your own flesh and blood, but when you start to see yourself, it's simply amazing. I'm at a loss for words." (That says a lot coming from Eric, arguably one of the best writers in the country.)

But you know what? I want to be like Mya and Ella. Not that I want to look like Eric (handsome as he is), but the only thing I want more than being a dad one day is to be a child that resembles the Father.

Friends, we hope that's the message you've heard here at PrayFit. Some enjoy the fitness tips, others the recipes. But don't miss this: Nothing matters unless we have Jesus in our hearts. If we're at a loss for words, our approach to wellness merely serves as a back-up to A) praise Him with our lives and B) help spread the gospel. Despite our highest highs and lowest lows, when He looks at us, it's His own reflection He longs to see.

--Jimmy Peña

Lord, we love you. Our utmost desire is for you to live in our hearts. We seek your resemblance. See yourself, we pray. Amen.

DISCUSS: Are you a believer who feels compelled to take better care of yourself? Are you a fitness enthusiast who feels compelled to demonstrate more modesty? Whoever you are and whatever you feel called to do, we're here to support, motivate, and inspire to you to stay that course. It's our life's work to help your lives work with a deeper faith and better health.

EXERCISE IN DEPTH: The Plank

Today we take a closer look at one of the simplest, most effective exercises you can do for your core: the plank. This exercise has no movement whatsoever but has plenty going on. The plank primarily works the muscle called the transverse abdominis -- the muscle most responsible when we breathe out air. Try it, as you read this sentence, take a deep breath and then blow out as much as possible. Keep going....keep breathing out....feel that? Well, that muscle ache deep in your gut is exactly that, deep in your gut. In fact, the transverse abdominis is highly responsible for the strength of your spine and helps prevent low back pain. The stronger the transverse abdominis, the better your posture and the more likely you are to enjoy abundant low back health. Try it. Each day, shoot for a longer plank time. Here's how to get it right:

PLANK | Focus: Core, abs, lower back Lie facedown on the floor with your body straight and forearms resting on the floor. Slowly press your body up off the floor onto your forearms and toes. Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position.

>> Does God call us to be fit? Let us know what you think by offering your comments on this discussion, either below in the comments section, or by clicking here to leave your thoughts at our forum.

FORUMS ACCESS: Login or Register

Total Loss

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

Read: Psalm 139

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Abs

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

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

BONUS! - Click here for exercise descriptions and demonstration videos

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

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

Breathless

"Weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head..." -Luke 7:38

Read: Luke 7

Back in graduate school, we had our share of underwater weighing assignments. Underwater weighing is regarded as the most valuable tool at determining body composition. However, in order for the subject to be seen accurately, it takes an extreme amount of effort and courage on the part of the person being tested. See, as you're lowered into the water, you have to empty your lungs, breathing out every drop of air possible.

The woman in Luke 7 defied ridicule and disregarded the rules to do one thing: to pour everything she had at His feet. Broken, she just had to break free and nothing was going to stop her from seeing her Lord. After her tears cleaned His feet and her hair dried them, she courageously emptied her alabaster bottle of valuable perfume for Jesus to breathe in.

Friends, don't miss it today. When we're empty, we allow Him to see us. When we breathe it all out, He breathes it all in. If only for today, let's pour our health at His feet like perfume and tears. Lord, here is all our praise, expressed from the top of our lungs.

--Jimmy Peña

EXERCISE IN DEPTH: The Plank

Appropriate for today is our exercise of choice: the plank. This exercise has no movement whatsoever but has plenty going on. The plank primarily works the muscle called the transverse abdominis -- the muscle most responsible when we breathe out air. Try it, as you read this sentence, take a deep breath and then blow out as much as possible. Keep going....keep breathing out....feel that? Well, that muscle ache deep in your gut is exactly that, deep in your gut. In fact, the transverse abdominis is highly responsible for the strength of your spine and helps prevent low back pain. The stronger the transverse abdominis, the better your posture and the more likely you are to enjoy abundant low back health. Try it. Each day, shoot for a longer plank time. Here's how to get it right:

PLANK | Focus: Core, abs, lower back Lie facedown on the floor with your body straight and forearms resting on the floor. Slowly press your body up off the floor onto your forearms and toes. Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position.

>> Does God call us to be fit? Let us know what you think by offering your comments on this discussion, either below in the comments section, or by clicking here to leave your thoughts at our forum.

FORUMS ACCESS: Login or Register

Unlock the Door

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

Read: Acts 1

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

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

Now, somebody unlock the door.

--Jimmy Peña

[exercise in focus]

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

Straight-arm plank | Target: Core

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

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

A Cry at the Door

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." --Joshua 1:5

Read: Joshua 1

As a new dad, one of the toughest things to do was to leave my daughters. Each morning, when I would head out into the garage to depart for work, I'd have to endure the heart-wrenching sound of their screams from behind the kitchen door. They were so distraught that I was leaving that my wife's explanations of my eventual return seemed to do little good. But that was then. Older and more confident that I'll always come back, they hardly notice my departures now. Whether I'm heading to the store for milk, or dropping them off at grandma's for the weekend, I'm lucky to get a second look when I'm heading out.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss them missing me so much. I know they love their daddy but part of me wishes that they were always a little more aware of my absence, a bit more hungry for my presence -- anything to make for a more dramatic, lasting embrace when I return.

At times, it may feel as if we've been left alone -- like our desperation has us crying at door for a father that is ambivalent to our desperation. But our heavenly Father never leaves our sides. We are His work so while there's never occasion for such a conspicuous exit, just know that He still loves it when we hunger for His presence and that our eventual reunion with Him will be all the more sweet as a result.

--Eric Velazquez 

PRAYFIT GARNERS ENDORSEMENT FROM JOSH COX Elite ultramarathoner voices support for faith and fitness

"Jimmy and the PrayFit team embody the words Paul penned to Timothy, 'For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.' (1 Tim. 4:8) Their daily devotional feeds my spirit and inspires my sweat!"

--Josh Cox, elite ultramarathoner, American record holder in the 50K

--Come back tomorrow for an in-depth Q&A with Josh Cox! Visit his website today at www.joshcox.com.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: RUNNER'S CORE

an effort to become more efficient runners, people will often train their legs harder. A few more miles per week, a few more lunges in the gym -- legs, legs, legs. But as any experienced runner will tell you, legs are only part of the equation. Core strength and stamina are incredibly important for maintaining proper mechanics, whether you're training for a 5K or running out a double in a softball game. Muscles in your abdomen, such as rectus abdominis, obliques and deep transverse abdominis, help to keep the torso stable when running, allowing the legs to do what they need to. But simple crunches won't suffice. Your core needs deep and dynamic work in order to strengthen your stride. If you're a runner, or just someone looking for a more athletic core, this routine will come in handy.

Plank - 30 sec. Side plank - 30 sec. (each side) Ab rollout - 10-12 reps Bicycle crunch - 30 sec. Mountain climber - 30 sec. Medicine ball twist - 30 sec.

--Perform all exercises as a circuit with little to no rest between moves. Do the entire circuit 2-3 times total, 2-3 times per week on non-running days. If you must perform your core work and runs on the same day, go running first -- doing your abdominal work first could compromise your running form, putting you at risk for injury.

Breathless

"...weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head..." -Luke 7:38

Read: Luke 7

Back in graduate school, we had our share of underwater weighing assignments. Underwater weighing is regarded as the most valuable tool at determining body composition. However, in order for the subject to be seen accurately, it takes an extreme amount of effort and courage on the part of the person being tested. See, as you're lowered into the water, you have to empty your lungs, breathing out every drop of air possible.

The woman in Luke 7 defied ridicule and disregarded the rules to do one thing: to pour everything she had at His feet. Broken, she just had to break free and nothing was going to stop her from seeing her Lord. After her tears cleaned His feet and her hair dried them, she courageously emptied her alabaster bottle of valuable perfume for Jesus to breathe in.

Friends, don't miss it today. When we're empty, we allow Him to see us. When we breathe it all out, He breathes it all in. If only for today, let's pour our health at His feet like perfume and tears. Lord, here is all our praise, expressed from the top of our lungs.

--Jimmy Peña

EXERCISE IN DEPTH: The Plank

Appropriate for today is our exercise of choice: the plank. This exercise has no movement whatsoever but has plenty going on. The plank primarily works the muscle called the transverse abdominis -- the muscle most responsible when we breathe out air. Try it, as you read this sentence, take a deep breath and then blow out as much as possible. Keep going....keep breathing out....feel that? Well, that muscle ache deep in your gut is exactly that, deep in your gut. In fact, the transverse abdominis is highly responsible for the strength of your spine and helps prevent low back pain. The stronger the transverse abdominis, the better your posture and the more likely you are to enjoy abundant low back health. Try it. Each day, shoot for a longer plank time. Here's how to get it right:

Plank | Focus: Core, abs, lower back Lie facedown on the floor with your body straight and forearms resting on the floor. Slowly press your body up off the floor onto your forearms and toes. Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position.

Now What?

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." —Ecclesiastes 3:11

Read: Ecclesiastes 3

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT SUCCESS STORY Team Prayfit wants to publicly recognize Roy Gonzalez, of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Roy describes himself as a Christian and family man. He says he's finally getting fit after 20 years of neglecting his health. He's a 49ers fan, a wannabe golfer, husband, dad, son, brother, and uncle. And one more thing...Roy has lost over 51 pounds since turning his health into praise with PrayFit. Congratulations, Roy! So blessed to know you. You inspire us all.

>> You can follow Roy on his journey at Twitter @RoyJr4753.

>> Got a success story of your own? We want to hear it! Share it with the PrayFit community by clicking here.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: PUSH-UPS AND PLANKS

If you're short on time, but long on enthusiasm, today's workout will meet both needs. No equipment required -- all you need is some open space and 5-10 minutes. Even if you had other plans for the day's workout, indulge us and give it a try anyway.

Plyo Push-Up: Akin to a normal push-up, this version requires you to have your hands leave the ground on each rep. The plyo push-up stimulates and innervates the fast-twitch fibers (the ones most responsible for tight, toned muscles). Upon failure -- the point at which you can no longer continue with good form -- go right into the...

Standard Push-Up: Do as many as you can. The push-up works the chest, front shoulders and triceps, not to mention your core musculature. Upon failure move right into a...

Straight-arm Plank: Basically, you're in the start of a push-up position with your arms straight, palms pressing into the floor, back straight and abs tight. Hold that position for as long as possible. When your arms begin to shake and fail, lower yourself to your elbows and begin the...

Standard Plank: Hold that position above the floor until failure. Like the straight-arm version, the plank works the innermost core muscles (transverse abdominis), the muscles that support your spine and ultimately your entire body.

After a brief rest, repeat that sequence. Chart your reps (or total time) for each exercise and strive to do better the next time you try this workout.

>> For exercise descriptions and videos, click here.

Just Before the Call

"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. You have God's attention. So as we start our cars this week, open our offices, enter our cubicles or prepare for housework, 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

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Abs Alas, the quest for "six-minute abs" continues. While we won't tell you that great abdominals are a six-minute pursuit, we can tell you that it's possible to get a great workout without spending all day in the gym. The following routine is short but intense and can be added to any existing training program, 2-3 times per week. No prescription for sets -- simply perform as many segments of work as it takes to reach the number listed, resting as little as possible, then move on to the next exercise. The key, as ever, is insisting on progression. Each week for 6-8 weeks, add 10 reps to each abdominal exercise (add 10 seconds to the plank).

Double Crunch - 50 Reverse Crunch - 50 Crunch - 50 Plank - 50 seconds

>> For video demonstrations, click here. BONUS TIPS 1 Never train abs before performing weight training. This can reduce core stability, reduce strength and put you at risk for injury. Save abs for after weights, or do them in a single, dedicated session. 2 Follow this routine with a good cardio session to maximize your body's ability to burn fat locally from that area. Studies have shown that higher-rep abs training followed by cardio can lend itself to "spot reducing," which was previously thought to be a myth. 3 Add in two consecutive low-carb days each week. Recent research has shown this to be more effective for burning fat than extended low-carb dieting or not going low-carb at all. 4 Try tapering your carb consumption in the evening. Your body's metabolism slows as the day wears on, making carbs consumed later in the day more likely (although not certain) to be stored as bodyfat. (Note: If you train in the evening, this is not as important.)

>> To train abs along with PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena, pick up the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge today!

You, He Knitted

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

Read: Psalm 139

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

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Build, Burn

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

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

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

Breathless

"...weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head..." -Luke 7:38

Back in graduate school, we had our share of underwater weighing assignments. Underwater weighing is regarded as the most valuable tool at determining body composition. However, in order for the subject to be seen accurately, it takes an extreme amount of effort and courage on the part of the person being tested. See, as you're lowered into the water, you have to empty your lungs, breathing out every drop of air possible.

The woman in Luke 7 defied ridicule and disregarded the rules to do one thing: to pour everything she had at His feet. Broken, she just had to break free and nothing was going to stop her from seeing her Lord. After her tears cleaned His feet and her hair dried them, she courageously emptied her alabaster bottle of valuable perfume for Jesus to breathe in.

Friends, don't miss it today. When we're empty, we allow Him to see us. When we breathe it all out, He breathes it all in. If only for today, let's pour our health at His feet like perfume and tears. Lord, here is all our praise, expressed from the top of our lungs.

Jimmy Peña

EXERCISE IN DEPTH: The Plank

Appropriate for today is our exercise of choice: the plank. This exercise, which is a part of our Workout of the Week, has no movement whatsoever but has plenty going on. The plank primarily works the muscle called the transverse abdominis -- the muscle most responsible when we breathe out air. Try it, as you read this sentence, take a deep breath and then blow out as much as possible. Keep going....keep breathing out....feel that? Well, that muscle ache deep in your gut is exactly that, deep in your gut. In fact, the transverse abdominis is highly responsible for the strength of your spine and helps prevent low back pain. The stronger the transverse abdominis, the better your posture and the more likely you're going to enjoy low back health. Try it. Each day, shoot for a longer plank time. Here's how to get it right:

Plank | Focus: Core, abs, lower back Lie facedown on the floor with your body straight and forearms resting on the floor. Slowly press your body up off the floor onto your forearms and toes. Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position.

Cut to the Chase

"Come. Follow me." —Matthew 4:19

The phrase "cut to the chase" originated in scripts during the silent film era. After dramatic story lines, these mute motion pictures would routinely end in chase sequences on dusty roads. Today, the phrase has come to mean "get to the point." Fittingly, with our first entry of 2012, that's exactly what we intend to do.

At PrayFit, we believe that a pursuit of health is all about enabling us to follow Christ with reckless abandon. Frankly, everything we have should help us chase Him; our money, our time, and yes, our bodies. The more fit we are, the better we serve Him—not for health's sake, but for heaven's. So let's get to the point.

This year, our health should do nothing less than assist us in our pursuit of Him. Like it's been said, let's follow so close that we're "covered in His dust." He's calling for us. And our story lines of life will become motion pictures of grace the sooner we cut to the chase.

Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Home-Based Start-Up Get your body moving this week with this 10-minute routine

Jumping jacks - 1 minute Jog in place - 1 minute Push-up - 33 seconds Plank - 33 seconds --Repeat sequence for 10 minutes

While we note the importance of pursuing health with reckless abandon in 2012, it should be noted that we are referring to the big picture. Think of it more of a year-long pursuit than a blind charge out of the gate. If you've been to your gym already in 2012, you've likely seen throngs of gym newbies and returners attacking their fitness goals with a Rocky movie montage-like determination. But you can't undo all of 2011 in the first month of 2012. Getting fit and staying fit is a matter of building consistency and a rocket start could see you fizzle fast.

This workout is measured, both in its aim and its intensity. The goal? Get moving. That's it. This head-to-toe lineup of exercises allows you to use all your major muscle groups, without going to the gym, in a way that won't overtrain you too soon. Try this routine 2-3 times this week, or beyond, to start increasing your baseline fitness levels for whatever routine you'd like to try next.

>> WHAT'S NEXT?: If you're ready for something more challenging, you can try the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, by Lionsgate. This at-home program, led by PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena, helps you push your training to the limit while using only your bodyweight. Click here for more info or to order!

READING LIPS

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”— Matthew 5:16

To a lot of people, the cliche "Actions speak louder than words" means something. But if you can't hear, it means everything. I thought of that the other night while sitting outside of Trader Joe's grocery store with my lab Josey. She and I have become somewhat of regulars outside of the exit door. Well, at this particular Trader Joe's, there's a very nice man (we'll call him Matt) whose worked there for years. He mans the cash register, stocks shelves, and is often outside helping organize shopping carts. I've never seen Matt without a smile on his face. Seeing Josey, he walked over to us, knelt down and began to give her love as he often does. I grinned in appreciation, then noticed a mother and her small boy holding hands walking up behind him. Cue the lesson.

"Excuse me...why is the light off?" I looked up at them before glancing back to Matt. Speaking a little louder she said, "Excuse me, sir..." Now, at this point, Matt was getting Josey good behind the ears (and she's milking it of course) until the woman tapped Matt on the shoulder. He turned as he stood up, and she repeated herself, "I'm sorry to bother you, but my son is curious why the light is off on the side of the building." The two simultaneously pointed up to the marquee, which by that time of night should already be on. Matt looked up, nodded in recognition and then enunciated as deliberately as he could, "Light. Off."...then the three of them walked inside together.

Please forgive all the detail, but that night I was at a loss for words. See, like Matt (deaf since birth) the world can't hear us. And like the little boy and his mom, you and I have to show them the light. Our actions mean everything. We can say what we want, but unlike Matt, people don't read lips. (Thank you Lord for putting us on that bench).

Well, a block away from the store, I turned back. The light was on. Only because someone who could see decided to show someone who couldn't hear.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How will we shine light in a dark world this week? How can our attempt to care for our health be one small way we do that? Please share your comments below.

Workout of the Week: Push-Ups and Planks

If you're short on time, but long on enthusiasm, today's workout will meet both needs. No equipment required -- all you need is some open space and 5-10 minutes. Even if you had other plans for the day's workout, indulge us and give it a try anyway.

Plyo Push-Up: Akin to a normal push-up, this version requires you to have your hands leave the ground on each rep. The plyo push-up stimulates and innervates the fast-twitch fibers (the ones most responsible for tight, toned muscles). Upon failure -- the point at which you can no longer continue with good form -- go right into the...

Standard Push-Up: Do as many as you can. The push-up works the chest, front shoulders and triceps, not to mention your core musculature. Upon failure move right into a...

Straight-arm Plank: Basically, you're in the start of a push-up position with your arms straight, palms pressing into the floor, back straight and abs tight. Hold that position for as long as possible. When your arms begin to shake and fail, lower yourself to your elbows and begin the...

Standard Plank: Hold that position above the floor until failure. Like the straight-arm version, the plank works the innermost core muscles (transverse abdominis), the muscles that support your spine and ultimately your entire body.

After a brief rest, repeat that sequence. Chart your reps (or total time) for each exercise and strive to do better the next time you try this workout.

COMING SOON!: This week marks the official release of PrayFit’s first DVD, now available for pre-order on Amazon and other retail websites. Reserve yours by clicking here or shop for friends.

SHOP: Looking for the best in non-DVD PrayFit products for the health-minded believers in your life? Click here to visit the PrayFit store.

 

 

A CRY AT THE DOOR

November 6, 2011Read: Joshua 1

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." --Joshua 1:5

As a new dad, one of the toughest things to do was to leave my daughters. Each morning, when I would head out into the garage to depart for work, I'd have to endure the heart-wrenching sound of their screams from behind the kitchen door. They were so distraught that I was leaving that my wife's explanations of my eventual return seemed to do little good. But that was then. Older and more confident that I'll always come back, they hardly notice my departures now. Whether I'm heading to the store for milk, or dropping them off at grandma's for the weekend, I'm lucky to get a second look when I'm heading out.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss them missing me so much. I know they love their daddy but part of me wishes that they were always a little more aware of my absence, a bit more hungry for my presence -- anything to make for a more dramatic, lasting embrace when I return!

At times, it may feel as if we've been left alone -- like our desperation has us crying at door for a father that is ambivalent to our desperation. But our heavenly Father never leaves our sides. We are His work so while there's never occasion for such a conspicuous exit -- at least there hasn't been in 2,000 years -- just know that He still loves it when we hunger for His presence and that our eventual reunion with Him will be all the more sweet as a result.

--Eric Velazquez Co-Founder, Prayfit

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: RUNNER'S CORE

In an effort to become more efficient runners, people will often train their legs harder. A few more miles per week, a few more lunges in the gym -- legs, legs, legs. But as any experienced runner will tell you, legs are only part of the equation. Core strength and stamina are incredibly important for maintaining proper mechanics, whether you're training for a 5K or running out a double in a softball game. Muscles in your abdomen, such as rectus abdominis, obliques and deep transverse abdominis, help to keep the torso stable when running, allowing the legs to do what they need to. But simple crunches won't suffice. Your core needs deep and dynamic work in order to strengthen your stride. If you're a runner, or just someone looking for a more athletic core, this routine will come in handy.

Plank - 30 sec. Side plank - 30 sec. (each side) Ab rollout - 10-12 reps Bicycle crunch - 30 sec. Mountain climber - 30 sec. Medicine ball twist - 30 sec.

>> Perform all exercises as a circuit with little to no rest between moves. Do the entire circuit 2-3 times total, 2-3 times per week on non-running days. If you must perform your core work and runs on the same day, go running first -- doing your abdominal work first could compromise your running form, putting you at risk for injury.

>> SHOP: Looking for some awesome PrayFit gear to sport on your next run? Visit the PrayFit store today for hot deals on tees, hats, wristbands and more.

MARCHING ORDERS

May 23, 2011Read: Joshua 6

Joshua could relate to our steep challenges. His neck cramped as he surveyed the impregnable wall of Jericho. "Gonna need a bigger army," he whispered out of the side of his mouth. You might be saying the same about your predicament. Does something at school or work have you hoping for reinforcements? If so, stand next to Joshua as he listens to God's strategy.

"But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. Then the wall of the city will fall down flat."

"That's it?...That's the plan!?" I wonder if Joshua paused when he heard the order. After all, he was among men of war (v. 3) and probably dressed for the occasion. Not sure if he hesitated, but I know we sure do. When we have to respect a less than respectful boss, or when it seems the rules only apply to us, obeying God's marching orders is sometimes the last thing we want to do (or actually do), especially if we're ready to fight.

But we all know the story. Joshua's army walked around Jericho for seven days without making a sound or saying a word. Then when it was time: the trumpet, the shouts, and the walls came tumbling down. God's enemies might have laughed and scoffed for a week, but being obedient has never proved popular or easy, just effective.

So the next time we feel like taking the wall ourselves, let's wait with Joshua. He listened, walked without talking, then praised God on day seven. Sooner or later, like Jericho, the world will see we're not just walking in circles.

--J.P.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: 10-Minute Abs

Here we go. Nothing better than a midsection blast to start the week. Even though you can't completely isolate any one portion of the abdominals, you can emphasize sections based on the way your body is moving. When you raise your upper body toward your legs, that works the upper abs. When you bring your legs toward your torso, you add greater stress on the lower portion. The double crunch -- one of the toughest abdominal movements you can do -- hits your abs from top to bottom. And when you do planks, where there's no movement at all, that hits the innermost core musculature, specifically the transverse abdominins.  So if you have 10 minutes to spare, let's work that tummy until there is none.

Reverse Crunch Traditional Crunch Double Crunch Plank

--Do all four exercises to failure in the order listed and repeat without rest. Try to repeat the cycle for a full 10 minutes. If you're up to it, repeat this workout once more during the week, allowing at least 48-72 hours to recover between sessions.

PRAYFIT SMALL GROUPS: Add some activity to your small group setting by infusing it with a little PrayFit. No matter the size of your group, you can get everything you need at the PrayFit online store. Books, t-shirts, hats -- all the tools to train and outfit your fitness fellowship! Order 20 shirts or more to receive a special small group rate.

TEMP HOUSING

May 16, 2011Read: 2 Corinthians 4

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, and what is unseen is eternal." --2 Corinthians 4:18

During a recent book tour and business trip, I spent a couple weeks with an important client who was gracious to put me up in a very nice condo for my visit. But, despite my short stay, anyone who knows me knows I don't travel well, and the more like home I can make things, the better. So Loretta sent me with my favorite movies, books, my pillow...basically, anything from home I could fit in my carry-on, I took.

But no matter how much I tried, that condo still felt foreign. Despite what I dressed it up with, it was nothing more than temp housing. Nonetheless, I kept it as clean as possible during my stay simply because of the client I represented.

You know, there's a reason why this world feels foreign, and these bodies like temp housing: they are. But because of who we represent, the best we can do is take care of them during our short stay. We'll be home soon enough.

--J.P.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Push-Ups and Planks

If you're short on time, but long on enthusiasm, today's workout will meet both needs. No equipment required -- all you need is some open space and 5-10 minutes. Even if you had other plans for the day's workout, indulge us and give it a try anyway.

Plyo Push-Up: Akin to a normal push-up, this version requires you to have your hands leave the ground on each rep. The plyo push-up stimulates and innervates the fast-twitch fibers (the ones most responsible for tight, toned muscles). Upon failure -- the point at which you can no longer continue with good form -- go right into the...

Standard Push-Up: Do as many as you can. The push-up works the chest, front shoulders and triceps, not to mention your core musculature. Upon failure move right into a...

Straight-arm Plank: Basically, you're in the start of a push-up position with your arms straight, palms pressing into the floor, back straight and abs tight. Hold that position for as long as possible. When your arms begin to shake and fail, lower yourself to your elbows and begin the...

Standard Plank: Hold that position above the floor until failure. Like the straight-arm version, the plank works the innermost core muscles (transverse abdominis), the muscles that support your spine and ultimately your entire body.

After a brief rest, repeat that sequence. Chart your reps (or total time) for each exercise and strive to do better the next time you try this workout.

>> PRAYFIT IN PRINT: Looking for a great way to get your faith and health back on track? “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days” includes two 28-day, at-home workout programs, detailed meal plans and daily inspiration to nourish your faith. Find out what Tyler Perry, LL Cool J, Mario Lopez and so many more are talking about!

>> SHARE: Help us get others on board with this whole “faith and fitness” thing. Use the “Recommend,” “Tweet,” “E-Mail” and “Share” buttons at the top of each day’s entry to get your social network in the know about PrayFit. Also, you can “like” us, “follow” us or “watch” us by clicking the FacebookTwitter and YouTube icons at the bottom of each page.

NO BETTER PLACE

April 4, 2011 Quote of the Week:

"There's no better place to be on earth than on the road that leads to heaven." --Steven Curtis Chapman

Workout of the Week: Test Yourself

Spring is a great time to test yourself on your strength, power and endurance levels. And the simpler the better, so nothing too fancy. All we're going to do are a few exercises to exhaustion, a bit old school if you will. The jump squat, push-up (modified or standard), double crunch, and the plank (for time).

Do as many jump squats, push-ups and double crunches as you can with good form. Mark that number. When it comes to planks, hold the plank for as long as you can and record the time when you reach failure. You can repeat the four exercises as many times as you want or have time for and record the total number of reps per round. Keep that number handy for next time.

>> EXERCISE DESCRIPTIONS

>> EXERCISE VIDEOS

Welcome to Monday. In Jesus' name.

JP

THE TOUGH GEAR

December 6, 2010Read: John 16

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.“John 16:33

Who am I, Lance Armstrong? Well, as much as I’ve been on the bike, you’d think I was in the Tour de France (Well, minus the necessary aerobic capacity and superior conditioning, of course). But everyday, I jump on the bike and I start pedaling (Wait, did I mention my bike is stationary...and in the garage? Again, not important).

And even though I’m on a practice bike, I can feel that when I switch to the tougher gear, I go further. Change to an easier gear, I go nowhere. Isn’t that the way it is?

I recently read an article by Max Lucado where he cited a passage about the disciples following Jesus onto the boat. First Jesus, then the others. Sure, we all know what happened during the storm, but the getting on board part was also significant. Jesus first, the disciples followed, then came the rough waters.

Isn’t that the way it is? Life in the Tour de Faith means rough years in tough gears. But Heaven, by any other road, is not possible. And since we’d rather be on a tough road with Jesus than on an easy one without Him, I say we keep pedaling.

–J.P.

10-MINUTE WORKOUTS: Low Back and Core

It's a fact that as we age, our lower backs find it more difficult to keep up with our active-living endeavors. Frustratingly, even long bouts of sitting can leave you with an achy back. While some of this is inevitable, we can do our best to stall the aging process in this region with a short, targeted dose of preventative medicine.

By regularly targeting the deep, "core" muscles of your abs (transverse abdominis) and the long muscles of your back (erector spinae), you can strengthen your back to withstand the test(s) of time and bolster your ability to lead a more active lifestyle.

"If you want to work your low back and inner core to help protect and strengthen the muscles that protect your spine, do 10 minutes of Superman (low back work) and planks (core; transverse abdominis)," says Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS, founder of PrayFit.com.

THE WORKOUT

Superman: Lie on your stomach with your arms overhead (like superman would do) and with your legs straight. Raise your arms up off the ground until you feel tension in your low back, then lower your arms back to the floor. Then raise your legs off the floor, keeping them as straight as possible.

>> Alternate back and forth between your arms and legs for 30-60 seconds.

Plank: Rise up onto your elbows and toes, keeping your body in a straight line. Draw your navel into your spine as tight as possible and with your eyes focused on the floor.

>> Hold plank position for 30-60 seconds.

Each minute go from the superman into the plank without rest in-between until you reach the 10-minute mark.

>> PRAY-FITTER: Looking for more fitness tips? Visit the our new fitness section by clicking here.