Saturday, November 30, 2013

Getting in Shape: Spiritually

The people I know who are the most committed to their faith have one thing in common—they pray in the morning. It sets the tone for their day and frames the impending tasks, challenges and inevitable surprises in another context. Everyday is a gift; thank you Lord!

Some pray the hours, others from Living with Christ or Magnificat which features the daily readings, and another simply sits in silence. I appreciate the "trigger" that one priest uses. He pours two tall glasses of orange juice, sits down and then he intentionally turns his heart and mind to Christ for the next twenty minutes.

I have always wished I were this disciplined in prayer. I know too well how busy the day can get and how hard it can be just to carve out some time for silence and time with God. Mother Teresa said "if you pray, don't worry. If you worry, don't pray." I do both. 

A big part of me believes the same it true for staying in shape. I love working out in the morning because I know the rest of the day is mine. All too often "life gets in the way" and that run or workout I had every great intention of completing gets compromised or worse, eliminated.

I'm grateful that this school year has been a little different. Due to a new gym and a great friend who I enjoy working out with, I lift weights two mornings every week. Two other days of the week, I run along Crissy Field. It starts my day off right; I love knowing that no matter what comes my way the rest of the day, I have already logged in a few miles or pressed a few pounds. 
This is where I run 2-3 mornings a week. Ridiculous.
At some point I decided to stop putting pressure on myself to pray in the morning. As soon as I did, I realized that prayer and exercise need not be mutually exclusive disciplines. I work out as much for physical health as I do to maintain mental health. I started to pay attention to the way it determines my spiritual health. I encourage you to do the same.

When I run outside, I can't help but raise my mind and heart to God. In 2008, I "gave up" listening to my iPod while I run for Lent. It was the best thing I've ever done. I turned off the music and turned on the silence. What I have heard over the miles I have logged since is what the Lord has called me to do...who He is calling me to God loves and knows me. 

I believe I pray best when I run. My initial prayer is one to my Guardian Angel to protect me while I jog. My next prayer is always one of gratitude. Father Jack of "Franciscan Media" writes "Scientists have done research that shows grateful people sleep better, are healthier, less depressed, less stressed and have more positive ways of coping with difficulties." Sounds a lot like the benefits of exercise to me! Why not combine the two?
I'd like to tell this bad boy I run at a place as great as this ;-)
I feel so blessed that I am even able to run. I look in wonder as the sun rises. I am grateful that I live in a place where the climate allows me to exercise outside as comfortably as I do (NB: I used to run outside when I was a student at Notre Dame all the time...I've gotten soft...I need to toughen up—it's only weather! I know this). I have been blessed with access to some of the most incredible places to run. When I lived on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, I ran the National Mall regularly. I can't think of a better five-mile loop. Today, I run beside the Golden Gate Bridge. NBD.

The most grateful people I know say that "everyday is a gift." I believe every run is too. Every opportunity to physical stretch ourselves, increase our heartrates and release those endorphins can boost your spiritual self. Give it a try, and give thanks to God.

Photo Credits
My Morning Prayer

National Mall Runner

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