By Bryant Johnson

In my opinion form is the most important fitness rule. I feel that I can get a great workout with less weight, if I perform each exercise with proper form, not veering from it, swaying and swinging all over the place. I concentrate on the exercise and do it as best I can without sacrificing form.
My other big rule has to do with time. When exercising I don’t rest any more than 30 seconds between sets on an exercise and no more than about 2 minutes between exercises. Resting longer doesn’t help or improve my performance. This also means that my full routine is complete within an hour --- time is valuable. If I take more time than that I feel it is wasted.
For me, especially as it relates to my time, I can get impatient. If the equipment I want to use next in my routine at the gym is being used it used to really frustrate me. I felt like the routine was important. I had to go from one exercise to the next in the “proper” order. I was stuck in a routine and in some ways the routine was more important than the exercise. This thought is far from the truth. Exercise is more important than routine. There are plenty of exercises that can be done to substitute one for another or even a completely different exercise. The understanding helped me to change my routine from a few select exercises to having a group of about 8-10 exercises from which I choose. That allows me to be flexible.
I think we get stuck on doing exercises the media says are best. Instead you need to identify exercises to which your body will respond. We are constantly told that we should look different. We are given images of what the “right” look is. It’s simply a trap. When you can’t reproduce that image it can be easy to just give up on exercise altogether. The message needs to be to be content with who you are just as you are. Don’t worry about looking the “right” way. I think when we do that it is easier for people to commit to regular exercise.
For me it is important to have an attitude of flexibility. Be willing to try new exercises and take time to figure out what works for you. Our bodies are different and respond in different ways to things much like our personalities. Have some guidelines and then be flexible within them. Keep safety a priority when exercising.
In faith it is important to err on the side of grace. This world tends to be biting. It encourages us to be self-serving and even pursue revenge. I hope that if I can be one who demonstrates grace to others that they might get a small taste of what God has to offer. I don’t always get it right, but if I can remember to always err on the side of grace it will lead me to be loving, forgiving and help put others first.
A seventh grader recently asked me if going to church on Sundays could be done for the wrong reasons. I told him, “Yes, it is easy to go to church simply because it is Sunday and it becomes routine”. Then we are just going through the motions. That is much different than gathering to worship with joy and celebration.
I think this happens sometimes when people pray before meals. It is a great thing when we pray to express gratefulness for all that God has provided. But it is also something that can become a routine. We say the same words just to get through the prayer so that we can eat. Then eating is the goal. The goal of the prayer should be to communicate with God and invite him to be present in the fellowship of our mealtime. That’s not to say that all routines or habits are bad. But the red flag goes up when we no longer remember the reasons for the practices of our faith.
I believe habits can be unnatural. Sometimes we have to do things over and over before they become natural. At times just going through the motions may be all we have to offer. The beauty of God is that He simply desires that we come to him no matter what we have to offer.
With all that said, I think that if we find ourselves just going through the motions, stuck in a routine with no meaning, then it is time to be reminded of why we came to God in the first place. We have experienced a sacrificial love that is unlike any other and there is nothing routine about that.
The Christian faith can be difficult for people to live. It is challenging to forgive people who we feel don’t deserve it. But true forgiveness is given regardless of whether or not it is deserved. Forgiveness is offered because the law of love lives within us not because someone else asked for it.
When you live your faith in love you can discover patience, kindness and a willingness and readiness to sacrifice for others. You won’t be rude or quick to judge. Instead you’ll be quick to listen and understand.
It would be much easier to just live by the law and know that you have prayed your prayers, given your tithe, and shown up to worship and “all is well”. But, the law leaves out the person. When we look at Jesus’ teachings we begin to understand that our faith should really have an impact on others regardless of their beliefs, because it changes how we live our lives. When we live by the law of love, when we love our neighbors as ourselves then others experience the love of God.
Making fitness fun can be hard. Fitness at times isn’t fun. Sometimes it just hurts. But for me, I have found that if set little challenges before myself, like adding one more rep to each exercise, or one more minute of cardio, that helps me to keep it challenging and fun.
Bryant Johnson began serving in Youth Ministry in 1997 during his final year in high school and is currently serving at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, NC as the Director of Spiritual Formation for Youth. Bryant is also a consultant for Youth Ministry Architects, taught training seminars for the United Methodist Church, and developing curriculum. He lives in Charlotte with his wife Tonya.

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