Saturday, August 20, 2005

Transition no. 6: joining the Y

I don't know any seminarians who have lost weight or gotten in better shape during seminary.

Don't get me wrong-- I do know a good handful of guys that find time to exercise. Even I have found streaks of a few weeks where I've been on the treadmill regularly. But my pitfall is, I would guess, the same as many of my fellow seminarians': some point in the semester (exam time, a major paper due, a break to travel home for a few weeks, etc.) interrupts our exercise patterns and the continuity is lost. Regaining it proves very difficult.

Which is why the transition from seminary into a pastoral position-- or from one position to another, as the case may be-- is a great time to re-prioritize exercise for a pastor.

Once again, this can be difficult to rationalize; after all, when is it easy to find an hour (or more) to haul yourself over to the gym, get a full work out, then shower and change in order to get back to work? And doing this three to five times a week? Surely I'm kidding, right?

No... exercise has got to fit in somewhere. If it means you have to rise early to get to it, then rise early. If it means you have to sacrifice your lunch break (though not your lunch) two or three times a week, so be it. If there is truly no time to exercise, then you're too busy. (This goes for seminarians, too-- and consider this my public confession!)

Studies have shown that the lack of regular exercise affects levels of stress, fatigue, energy, attention-- all negatively. This is not to mention the increased strain your heart, lungs, and structural system endure when you gain weight, which is the result that most of us experience when we fail to exercise regularly. One doctor told a friend of mine that every pound of weight gained amounted to five additional pounds of pressure on the joints when walking or running. No wonder my knees hurt.

On the other hand, regular exercise is just short of magic in its effects on your body. As you exercise (over an extended period of time), your muscles grow and require more energy for even mundane tasks like getting out of a chair, walking across the room, or even typing; thus, your body loses weight more efficiently as your muscular system expands. Meanwhile, your metabolism increases due to the efficiency for burning carbs, proteins, and fats, so that you digest food more efficiently (leading to more weight loss). If you maintain a regular diet-- even the same diet you've always had-- your body will eventually balance out at a healthy weight. You rest more efficiently, you have more energy and endurance, and your overall health improves.

Amazingly, other things also seem to be “magically” handled through exercise: cholesterol issues, high triglycerides, and even diabetes and asthma can be managed, if not overcome, through exercise. Even smokers and heavy drinkers who also exercise seem to fair far better than their inactive counterparts. It is almost as if you can do just about anything you want-- eat what you want, drink what you want-- and, as long as you also exercise regularly, you'll be fine. (Almost... but not really.)

So you don't have to join the YMCA, or any other gym for that matter. If you'd rather jog around the neighborhood or swim laps in your next-door neighbor's pool, that's fine. Ride your bike to work on days when you'll be in the office all day anyway. Or get a treadmill and walk or run regardless of the weather. (If you read World magazine regularly, you know that Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky reads on his treadmill every day, finishing dozens of books a year.) Joining an athletic club does have this draw: by shelling out money regularly to a gym, not exercising will weigh that much more heavily on your conscience.

President Bush exercises 6 days a week; he says that it never enters his mind that he won't work out. If he can find the time, why can't you? Start tomorrow-- or re-start tomorrow; exercise is similar to your devotional life: re-starting regularly is better than the alternative.

[Note to self: I'm re-starting my treadmill plan tomorrow...]


Bobby's blog said...

Stop convicting me, Ed. HAHA!

I do a poor job taking care of myself. I was doing great until my knee started bugging me. I guess after therapy, I have no excuse.

Saville said...

Excellent point, Ed. I gained weight at CTS, and got almost no exercise while I was there. I actually joined the Y about three months ago and its been one of my better decisions since leaving seminary. I have always had trouble rationalizing the idea of taking time out of my schedule for exercise when I could be studying instead, but I have found that feeling better physically has helped me to perform better in other areas.

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