The internet is full of articles about how to achieve maximum results from your workout. A quick Google search will give offer extensive details on how much water to drink, how long to workout, what kinds of weights to use, even what to wear, all in order to make you the best version of yourself.
But have you ever wondered how working out might affect your soul?
We are not solely physical people, after all. What we do (or don’t do) with our bodies plays and intimate role in our spiritual and emotional life as well.
Earlier, we found out exercising a mere twenty minutes a day, three times a week increases your energy levels and, in turn, supports general mental health. This is an excellent starting point. We like it because it’s doable. Especially when you attend an academically rigorous college, every minute is precious.
That small amount of time can do a world of good for spirit, in addition to your body.
But let’s go back to square one. Where on the priority spectrum would working out would (ideally) fall in a world where our priorities are properly oriented toward living a good life? We’ll build out from there and see where we end up.
How am I, a physical and spiritual being, going to pursue excellence?
We humans straddle two worlds: the physical and the metaphysical. Many of us channel extraordinary resources into our academic and spiritual lives while neglecting basic physical needs like staying properly hydrated or sleeping enough. What if we integrated our bodies into the pursuit of excellence?
What physical activities best remind you of your place in the created world?
Once again, your educational and spiritual pursuits aim to help you see this, so why shouldn’t your physical activities do the same? Of all the non-school related things you do throughout the day (eating food, drinking coffee, driving, taking pictures, posting on social media, etc.) what makes you feel most human—that you belong to God and true meaning comes from Him? Under this framework, working out quickly distinguishes itself as prime candidate.
And now, here’s the theory bit...
When you exercise, you simultaneous become more aware of two things:
1. You are a finite human being.
You are a finite human being. You are incapable of so much. There are limits to your strength, your endurance, and determination. You get tired. Pushing yourself makes you weary, just as it does in the realms of work and academia.
2. You have an incredible capacity for growth—to excel and even thrive.
Say you choose to train for a marathon. Instead of waking up the next morning and running the marathon perfectly, you set aside weeks, sometimes even months of training to make your dream a reality. You set tangible goals relating to your physical strength, endurance, and determination, and then work hard to achieve each one. Only after stretching yourself can finally run the marathon. Or, as the Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9, “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Holding these two elements in balance, you have yourself an incredible metaphor for life in Christ in pursuit of righteousness, as well as a healthier lifestyle.
Of course, there are always perversions of the good. You can absolutely workout too much, just as you can eat too much, study too much, or work too much. However, as long as you place Christ at the center of your life, your goals and priorities will naturally begin orienting around Him.
Paul also exhorts us to run in such a way as to get the prize. Run for the crown that will last forever, so that on the last day you can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)