Recently, I returned to my gym following an absence of 5 months due to quarantine restrictions. After a week of soreness, I was back to my routine and felt the mood lifting benefits as I had in the past.
I am quite pleased with my ability to maintain a level of physical fitness and to be creative when I need to make changes, and to step it up when I am hitting a plateau.
However, I’m not as satisfied with where I am with my spiritual fitness and agility. When I think of the physical workouts, I started to explore how some of the techniques applied to maintaining a regular workout habit can also be applied to building spiritual fitness.
Fitness is important.
The need for a physical workout regimen seems clear to everyone: Exercising your body with cardio and weights helps to improve your overall health, increase strength and stamina, helps you lose or maintain body weight, boosts your mood, etc. We can go on and on, but a quick Google search will provide all the top benefits.
The need for spiritual health and fitness should also be obvious. We are on the earth on a spiritual mission. And to fulfill and accomplish this mission, we need to interact in the spirit realm. And for that we need to be spiritually fit, not spiritually out of shape. Spiritual fitness includes being able to hear and receive guidance more precisely and, as a consequence, being able to execute on your divine blueprint and fulfill your purpose. And, of course, you can respond to spiritual attacks more swiftly and stand your ground more securely when you are spiritually fit.
So, below are 7 Fitness Tips from the natural to apply to the spiritual.
- PACE YOURSELF
One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is to pace myself when exercising or staring a new regimen. Often we can be so eager to see results, we start off aggressively and get burned out too quickly. This happens usually after January 1st, when we set lofty resolutions for the new year and get started with gusto, only to fizzle out by February. I’ll have a later post on how you can maintain motivation for the long term. However, the key here is to pace yourself.
Similarly, you need to pace yourself with spiritual fitness activity. If you have not started with a bible reading program, don’t begin by aiming to read an entire book of the Bible each week. Or, don’t commit to praying every morning for an hour if this is a new practice. Pace Yourself. Start with small steps. Set easy and achievable goals. And keep a comfortable pace.
2. KNOW YOURSELF
To start and maintain a workout, you should do the type of exercise you enjoy as a core element of the program. If you like cycling or running, then make this central to your program. If you like weight lifting or hiking, then make those central to your program. Personally, I like weight lifting and HIIT (high intensity interval training) so my fitness program is built around my gym days – which is why I was so thrown off when the gyms were closed due to the quarantine.
In your spiritual fitness workout, understand what spiritual fitness activity you particularly have a knack for; is it praying in the spirit, praying in the early, pre-dawn hours, or is it doing praise and worship during your workday or commute. Then, make this a core feature of your spiritual fitness program. All activities should be included, but choose one or two as your core.
And knowing what works for you may take you some time. You may need to try several spiritual activities until you know exactly which is the core for you. I have found writing (like this blog post) and posting motivational spiritual quotes are both for those who support the GOE principles, but also something I can do easily and with enjoyment. So now, it is a core part of my spiritual fitness regimen – to get a word from God to share with others.
3. LEARN WHAT YOU NEED
In addition to knowing what you enjoy, you need to understand what you body needs. In the physical context, if you need to increase your cardio function, then you need to understand how the system works and why certain activities are better than others. Or, if you have a weak area, you need to know what may be best to strengthen that area, such as yoga or stretching.
Similarly, in the spiritual context, you need to know what your spirit needs to be strong and sustained. This is why you need to read the Word and understand your nature and the nature of the Creator. The whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:11 is a good place to start to understand the level of spiritual fitness you need. For indeed, if you are to use the armor as intended, you need to be spiritual fit.
4. SET GOALS
Goal setting allows the human mind to focus on a target. And when the goal is achieved, you feel a sense of accomplishment which in turn motivates you to keep moving ahead. In physical fitness, your goal can be weight loss or endurance:Perhaps you want to be able to run a 5K or a marathon in a year. Good for you! Whatever it is, set this as your goal and post the goal in a visible place where you can see it easily.
In the same vein, set a spiritual fitness goal. This should be an activity or state where you are not now, but desire to be in after a very specific timeframe. Do you want to be able to pray for an all night session (I consider this equivalent to a marathon!)? Or do you want to be able to read a chapter per day and journal about it by the end of 6 months? Or is your goal to review your Sunday church message during the week and read all the scripture references? Whatever your goal is, like with a physical fitness goal, post it visibly where you can see it as a reminder.
5. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Setting a goal is important. And the follow on to this is to track your progress toward your goal. Even if you do not have a goal, per se, tracking your progress can help you measure how you are moving forward.
In the physical fitness area, I use my iWatch to track my daily steps and an app to track my weight lifting progress. These allow me to review my accomplishments daily or every few days to see where I am slacking or falling short. Of course, now with all the tracking systems, you can even compare your performance against your friends, share updates and join challenges.
In the spiritual fitness area, you can use a journal to track what you plan to read, or even a bible reading app to help you read through the Bible. You can measure your prayer time and your intercession time. The GOE Planner is specifically designed to allow you to record both physical workouts as well as inspirational Bible verses for each day and to record successes. You can also customize the daily pages in the digital planner to record whatever you wish to track.
Measuring anything helps you to see your progress and, inevitably, you will find yourself making greater and greater progress. Whatever gets measured, increases!
6. MAKE FITNESS A HABIT
The more often you exercise, the more it becomes ingrained in you and the less effort you need to stay motivated. In fact, if you create a habit, you will not need to motivate yourself to do the activity, the habit will kick in and you will find yourself doing it almost instinctively.
I found this to be the case with taking a daily walk in the evenings; Again this was during the quarantine period when I did not want to take public transportation home. Eventually, after about two weeks, it became a habit and I no longer had to prompt myself into walking. It became my default way to get home; it was an hour’s walk, but it was worth it.
So too in spiritual things. Create a habit around an activity, whether it is an early morning reading or prayer session, or listening to audio of Psalms each night. This latter practice is now on my list of habits I am working on creating in my life: As I wind down for bed, I tune into the audio Bible.
Researchers have found that it takes approximately 66 days to create a habit; though the easier the habit the fewer days required and the more difficult the habit, the more days required. Consider this as you identify a spiritual fitness habit you wish to incorporate into your regimen.
7. ADD VARIETY TO YOUR PROGRAM
If you stick to one physical activity, you are not only more likely to be bored, your body will also no longer be increasing in fitness. And this is why variety is recommended.
In the physical fitness area, I incorporate jogging, running, rowing and long walks into my regular HIIT and weight lifting program. And in the spiritual fitness area, I have been adding listening to praise and worship songs and YouTube videos during my walks.
And when you are adding variety, be creative and innovative. Think of out of the box activities to push your brain in a new direction, and move you toward your goal. I started to use the indoor stairs in my building as a workout during the cold winter months. I did not even realize I had a flat open rooftop in my building until then!
So too, with spiritual fitness, be sure to think out of the box. One activity I started was to record my own voice reading the scriptures and then replaying the voice memos. There is something very powerful about hearing your own voice declaring the Word over your life.
As we said above, build your core activity and then add some new and creative types of spiritual fitness activity along with the core elements .
These are 7 tips for a better spiritual fitness regimen.
And why is this necessary?
Because we are spirit, soul and body. We interact with our natural surroundings with our natural senses and our physical bodies. And we need to strengthen our spiritual muscles and have spiritual endurance to engage in long term spiritual engagement with the spirit realm. It is when we are spiritually fit and agile that we will be quick to hear and implement the directives and guidance we receive from our Creator as we pursue his Purpose for us in the earth.