Total Fitness

10a-running-coachIt was sometime during my run on Thursday that I wondered if it was worth it.

I’ve signed up for the Monument Avenue 10K, along with about 30,000 other crazies.  We’re planning to run 6.2 miles on Saturday, March 28, and First Baptist Church is fielding a team called “Team First.”  I’ve encouraged the staff to run or walk in this race as a way of setting an example before the whole church, and if I’m asking the staff to set an example for the church I feel obliged to set an example for the staff.

So, there I was on Thursday, my day off, bundled up against the sub-freezing temperatures and trudging west on Monument Avenue.  My lungs were cold, my eyes were watering, and I had a stitch in my right side that produced an awkward, limping gait.  I was hoping to run four miles, but with three miles to go I wanted very much to stop, turn around, and walk back home.


This is new for me.  I was a distance runner in college and used to knock out five miles before breakfast and then practice with the team in the afternoon.  If you had asked me to run four miles in the cold back then I would have done it in swim trunks and flip-flops.  I don’t want to think that I’m getting older—none of us do—but apparently I am.  All the more reason to give some thought to staying fit.

I used to talk to college students about “Total Fitness.”  I would tell them that human beings have four essential aspects—body, mind, soul, and spirit—and that it’s important to keep all of them in shape.

Body:  That one seems obvious enough, doesn’t it?  Even if you don’t run ten miles a day you can eat right and exercise.  There are plenty of books and articles that give good, sensible advice on those subjects.  On my refrigerator at home I used to have a note that said “Eat less; move more.”  It really can be that simple.

Mind:  For those college students it wasn’t a problem: their minds were getting a regular workout.  For those of us who are no longer in school it can be too easy to let our minds get soft, to watch something lighthearted on television instead of sitting down with a good book, joining a discussion group, or taking a class. 

Soul:  Have you exercised your soul lately?  Have you spent time in prayer, done some devotional reading, journaled, or immersed yourself in Scripture?  Have you been to worship, sung the great hymns of the faith, opened your soul to a sermon, listened to a glorious anthem?  All of these are ways of keeping your soul fit but of course these are not the only ways. 

Spirit:  I like to distinguish this one from the soul, although the two are closely related.  I like to think that you exercise your spirit by doing the things you love, by spending time with friends, by going to an art museum, by canoeing down a quiet river, by turning the music up loud and dancing.  Ask yourself, “What do I love to do?” and then do that.  It will probably take some effort.  The best things in life usually do.

I would be glad for you to add to this list or tell me some of the things you like to do to keep your body, mind, soul, and spirit in shape.  Just click on the word “comments” below to share your suggestions.

And just so you’ll know, I did finish that four mile run on Thursday, and when I practice with “Team First” at 1:30 this Sunday afternoon…

…it’s going to show.

5 thoughts on “Total Fitness

  1. Having just returned from a handbell festival at Eagle Eyrie, I am high on handbells right now. But even without the festival, ringing handbells just really moves me. It helps me with body fitness. Just try hefting those larger handbells for an hour at a time–or even the small bells four in hand ringing sixteenth notes! Handbell ringing also nurtures my mind by keeping my mind active with ringing and reading mucic. My soul is nurtured by playing beautiful music based on great hymns of the faith or just plain joyful music. My spirit is nurtured by ringing with those folks who are my brothers and sisters in the faith, those who share my love of the Lord and of each other.

    One great activity supports my total fitness!

  2. Body: Wait until you are my age, and see how many miles you run. Smile. I did the Richmond 1/2 Marathon in 1981 and I had issues with my knees – no more races/running after that. I told the guy at the fitness store, that I needed just one piece of exercise equipment that didn’t take up much space – something easy on the knees that I could use until I was 99 years old. He suggested the recumbent bike, so that’s what I purchased. I force myself to walk upstairs and get on the bike (how lame is that?) and I do 30 minutes every other day. I like to walk when the weather is nice, so I alternate between walking and “biking”. My eating habits are about as healthy as anything – fresh produce/whole foods – few sweets, except dark chocolate. After applying most of what I read in a book called, “Eat To Live” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., I rarely have problems with fatigue!!

    Mind: I read, “Jim’s Blog” (is that considered a discussion group?). Since I use my eyes so much in my profession, I often get books on CD. I recently purchased a book called, “Get Your Brain in the Fast Lane” (Michel Noir, Ph.D. & Bernard Croisile, M.D., Ph.D.) It’s full of “brain building” exercises, and it is MUCH more fun than crossword puzzles!

    Soul: I do all of the above, but I look forward to the day (hopefully, in the next few months) when I will be able to spend more time serving others through/with my church family.

    Spirit: Late in life, I changed careers to follow my passion, which was a risk, but I have no regret. Painting in my studio and listening to music (especially classical) is uplifting. How many people can say that their jobs are uplifting? My former office job paid very well, but the art career – well . . . I have learned that LESS is actually so much MORE! Another favorite pastime of mine is one on one conversation with a good friend over a cup of coffee at Barnes and Noble. I miss going to the Symphony, and need to make the effort to put that on my schedule this summer! Thanks for reminding me, Jim!!

    Good luck on your run, March 28th!! Does FBC have a cheering squad in place? 🙂

  3. As I just turned 80 in December and I live in a retirement home, I see much need for this topic. I teach Tai Chi for seniors with arthritis twice a week and walk everywhere I can – no more running due to bilateral knee replacement. I got this Mac several years ago to keep the old brain working, and it keeps me up past my bedtime most nights. My life is one of constant prayer for my children, my church family, my life-long circle of friends and family across the country, and I am constantly seeking a more thorough understanding of the life of our Lord.My first time through college, I was a music major, and I am always in the presence of the Lord when I am listening to or participating in anything musical, classical to The Gospel Chicken House. My cup runneth over!

    Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Even though we don’t have time to talk very much, we can be in touch through this magic box.

  4. I exercise my mind in the classroom with my students. I try to walk as much as I can to exercise my body, sometimes I take dance lessons. My soul is fed by prayer, reading and fasting. I just had a soul’s devotion this past weekend. When computer and cell phone are turned off. We do not watch TV in our house, we prefer books and conversations. We do have one unit for guests. My spirit is delighted when I am in contact with nature, I like to camping, walking, hiking, you name it.

  5. Mind, body, soul, spirit. That covers a lot!
    Non-fiction books for the mind and Sudoku. Gave TV up about two years ago and don’t miss it. Get the news and weather from the Internet!

    Body is harder. Bad hip and no cartilage in knees. Need double knee replacement. Walk as much as I can until the pain takes over and do stretching exercises mornings. Seems like I am always working on weight gain also!

    Prayer and scriptures for the soul, and also something a little unusual: Beach vacations give me the opportunity to “get my soul washed out” — as I like to call it. All the junk that accumulates, I toss out to the ocean and call on God’s power to wash it away. Then I am free to live in the “now”! “Dream new dreams; discard the old; build a life that tickles your soul” !!

    For the spirit there are flowers and butterflies and the laughter of children playing; beautiful music, the sounds of birds in the Spring, and those times of great inspiration from sermons that do make a difference!

    And for life’s ups and downs, I always try to remember that God sometimes bestows mysterious burdens, odd mercies, and sacred opportunities! >^.^<

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