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25. Using Exercise as a Tool to Deepen Your Faith

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What is the importance of exercise?

There is proven science that backs up the benefits of exercise–combat health conditions, moving the blood around the body, improves mood, etc. What does God say? In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” This verse reminds us that exercise is a part of mind, body, soul wellness. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says that there is a clear supportive response to connecting your body to your spiritual self. Your body is a gift from God and it’s connected to our spirit as well. God desires for us to take care of our body in how we eat, how we behave, how we exercise, etc. St. Ignatius of Loyola says, Remember that bodily exercise, when it is well ordered, as I have said, is also prayer by means of which you can please God our Lord.” 

When exercise is well ordered, it can be a prayer. Society says that exercise is a punishment or to look a certain way. God describes it in 1 Corinthians to share that our bodies are a gift and we are to glorify God in our bodies.

How have you used exercise to grow in your faith? What does it mean to you?

“I grew up playing sports which I believe is a great thing. Playing sports teaches you a lot about discipline and showing up even when you don’t feel like it. That can apply a lot in our faith. When we show up to prayer, even when we aren’t feeling it, we show up for the Lord for something outside of our own feelings. 

I’ve also grown my faith but offering up hard practices, or lifting one more rep when it feels like I can’t go anymore. Exercise is also a great way to encounter others. There is a lot of shared physical exercise through playing a sport or going to the gym. It is a great way to unite other people.

Exercise has taught me a lot about how to take care of my body as a whole. When I ate certain foods that weren’t fueling my body, I wouldn’t perform as well. It helped me heal my relationship with food. When I would eat good foods, I could perform well at practices, I would feel better throughout my day, etc.

I’ve also been able to see the gift that my body is. God wants us to and believes that we can do hard things. When I engaged in hard practices, hard lifts, hard competitions, it was a means of understanding the gift God had given me and the talents He gave me. God desires for us to strive for excellence and to give our best, no matter how we are feeling or the anxieties we are feeling.” -Helen 

How can we use exercise as a way to deepen our faith?

When we participate in exercise, it’s challenging because we are often pushing our bodies outside their comfort zones. When you experience pain or suffering, it is a way that you can experience a small fraction of what Christ experienced at Calvary. Helen says, “I use this as a way to unite my cross to the Lord knowing that He’s gone before me in this pain. I love meditating upon how the Lord must have felt while on the cross—where His lungs burning? Where His quads on fire? Did His feet hurt? He has felt all of it so being able to share a fraction of what He went through is such a special gift that we have.” -Helen

What are some good resources for someone who wants to start exercising but doesn’t know where to start?

Exercise does not have to be fancy. You can walk to a gym and see all these shiny machines and it can be so intimidating. Start with bread and butter exercises–natural movement squats, lunges, jumping jacks, push-ups, etc. You can also modify all of those too. These are ways that your body is naturally supposed to exercise. 

It is also super important to warm up and cool down. 3-5 minutes before and after–it can look like a walk or a short jog and some movements that open up your joints. It helps prevent injury and helps your body recover for the next day. Avoid static stretches before a workout, keep it all dynamic and short. For example, swimmers before they dive in, they are flinging their arms all around. That’s a dynamic stretch.

When you are starting out, exercise doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. 10-15 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week. You can create your own rounds—for example, 5 reps of pushups, squats, etc. then taking a minute rest between rounds, and do it for 15 minutes. Another great time is to exercise during TV commercials. 

For someone who is looking for structure, SoulCore is Catholic and is huge on incorporating the rosary through their exercises. Viva Crouse does 1:1 fitness & nutrition coaching with Hypuro Fit. Pietro Fitness and Prayer motion are two other great Catholic resources. These aren’t as “readily” available as doing body weight “DIY” exercises but are out there for those looking for more. 

What is one piece of advice that you want every young Catholic woman to know? 

“God sees the little things. Society projects messages of feeling like you have to go in all the way right off the bat. Start small and do what works best for you, not what Instagram portrays. If that means taking your kids outside for a 10 minute walk, that’s amazing. If that means, doing a short 15 minute workout before you get in the shower, that’s also great! God sees you in every moment, big or small. He meets you right where you are.” -Helen


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