One hot summer day after my first year of law school, I went to Taco Bell and spent $12 on an assortment of nachos, tacos and burritos. When I got back to the office where I was interning, it was hard to sit down at the desk without feeling uncomfortably full. My gut was chock full of gross food, and my belt felt like I had tightened it a notch.
I suddenly realized I was on the road to becoming overweight, and I thought, If I’m going to start living a healthy lifestyle, I’d better start doing it now. I’m young and my metabolism is only going to get more stubborn as the years go by.
The problem was that I had never been good at anything gym related. The gym was for athletes and models — not a guy like me whose exercise regimen consisted of occasionally jogging down the road a mile and then walking home breathing hard.
A couple of weeks later, I went on a hike with my friend Steve, and I said, “You know what? I’m going to ask God to give me the will to work out every morning, and I think He’s going to give it to me.”
I was right.
I got some fitness advice from a super-athletic attorney named Heidi who worked at the firm where I interned. She worked up this little five-day plan for my workouts. I was excited about it, but I was also intimidated by words like “dumbbells,” “planks,” and “stretching.”
Nonetheless, I asked God to give me the will to follow through and show up at the gym every weekday morning (I needed divine intervention because I had never ever been a morning person). Lo and behold, the day of my return to school, I showed up at the gym first thing on Monday morning. But I was soon flustered.
I couldn’t find the “pec deck” — whatever that was. So I just kept walking round and round the equipment, feeling my masculinity slipping into a coma, until finally, I asked the girl behind the counter for help finding my exercise apparatus. She obliged, but she also gave off the vibe that I probably shouldn’t ask her for any more help.
Keeping it Up
When my alarm went off at 5:20 a.m. each morning, I was tempted to hit the snooze button, but then I would say to myself, “If you sleep in today, it’s going to be the beginning of the end of your workout routine.” I would roll out of bed and drive to the gym, where I would occasionally try something that wasn’t on Heidi’s regimen. And my confidence started to grow.
With grace, grit and a gang of friendly guys at the gym, exercise went from being a chore to being a habit that now feels as necessary as brushing my teeth in the morning. And 14 years after I first walked into a gym, I’m still going five days a week, first thing in the morning.
The Big Victory
If this sounds over-the-top impossible to some of you, let me tell you something: If I can stick to an exercise routine, anybody can. Here’s my advice: Don’t make any big promises about working out for 90 minutes each day and burning off 28 pounds in three weeks. Just pray for the will to show up — whether that’s at the gym or taking a run through your neighborhood — and then do it at a time that’s not going to be interrupted by life’s other obligations. Even if your only exercise is going to the stretching mats at the gym and rolling around on the floor for half an hour, it’s a victory. You’ve arrived — literally!
No matter how late you went to bed or how useless it feels, drag yourself there and get moving. And whatever happens, don’t say you’re going to “try” to have a regular routine — do it.
This may not feel like a spiritual experience, but remember that a Fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Establishing an exercise routine is a great opportunity for the Lord to work more of that into you and teach you how to slough off impulsive habits that undermine your effectiveness in other areas of life.
So pick an exercise routine that’s realistic, show up and work it out with Jesus. He might just use the experience to help you get healthier in more ways than one.