How Fitness Goals Help You Grow in Purpose
The post was originally published at Wellness Witness. I had the privilege of sitting under Kara's teaching at the Revelation Wellness Retreat, and she continually pours out solid wisdom and encouragement with a smile on her face. Check out Wellness Witness: For Your Heart, Your Health, and Your Home and then read on!
I recently competed in my first strength competition. The events included a dead lift, sled push and tire flipping, clean and press, farmer’s carry, and sandbag throws. I’m tiny, and it was tough. I decided a month prior that I would start training for it, and my workouts from then on revolved around that competition. I made sure to practice all my lifts to the best of my ability during each session and recovered with intention (AKA asking hubby for massages and begging baby girl for more sleep).
Usually, I workout because it gives me more energy and lifts my mood. But I often feel aimless and do what I feel like doing instead of pushing myself to work harder. I deprive myself of experiencing the joy of growth and progression.
This time, I had a purpose. I started to understand Paul when he talks about running to receive the prize:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
By training my body for a competition, I was teaching my soul what it looks like to press on for the prize.
All runners run...
But only one receives the prize. I do not live just to get by. I want to use everything I have for the glory of God. Focusing on the prize and not yielding to distraction is true ambition.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. When I was in the month-long training season, I abstained from alcohol because I knew it would wreck my sleep patterns. I rearranged my schedule to make it to my pre-planned gym sessions. I prepared post-workout protein drinks and stayed away from processed sugar. My flesh wanted to be lazy and indulge in Dairy Queen blizzards, but an inner drive for the goal stuffed selfish wants in favor of self-control. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
They do it to receive a perishable wreath...
One athlete that inspires me is track and field Olympian Alyson Felix. When asked about how she chooses her meals, Felix responds, “Nutritious food makes me feel good and perform well. Processed and junk food makes me feel tired and bloated — not a gold medal feeling!”* Everything she does is for that medal. But the medal will fade and the crowds will forget. These are perishable prizes.
but we an imperishable…
For the Christian (whose name means “belongs to Christ”), the ultimate prize is wholeness with Christ the King, owner of all the crowns. His death on the cross paid our ticket for the race, so everything I get to do is a free gift.
Everything for the Prize
Let’s follow Paul’s advice and imitate the life of an athlete! Let’s run the race with self-control and do everything for the prize of wholeness in Christ.
The question we can continually ask ourselves is, “How can I express my thanks for the Lord?” We are only in the race because of Him, and He prefers our gratitude over gold medals.
If I first present myself with this question before I pick up my phone first in the morning during my scheduled training time, I know what my heart’s answer will be. The test of faith is whether or not I will obey. But if I can keep the prize in view by reminding myself of what Jesus has already done for me, listening to the life-giving gentle voice of the Lord will become easier. It will become a part of my character, a part of me: "And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:4).
A competition not only sets you up to train your mind, heart, and soul, but reveals the strength of the Lord. On a good day of training for the strength competition, I could only perform 8 deadlifts at 135 pounds. The day of the meet, I did 28 deadlifts in the allotted 60 second time period. I say that only to give glory to the Lord, because it was only through His grace and the cheers of my competitors that I could have done that. I did not win the first place prize, but I still felt like I won. I had fellowship with people, felt at one with the Lord, and whole in my being.
Reflect and Respond
Do you have any fitness goals? How do they help you grow as a person?
Have you considered a life goal? Seek the Lord and ask Him what His purpose is for you.