Scott McPherran is the head wrestling coach at El Cajon Valley High School
My run was easier today. I talk to God during my runs. I tell him how sick I am. How fake I am. How much I want to rid myself of all my impurities, but how I feel trapped in a life of seeking the world. It has always been this way. Many times as I run, I hear myself in my head saying over and over “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” for things I always need to apologize for as a 24-year-old man. I even apologize for things that I have already confessed. Sounds horrific, but it is truly the opposite.
I would like to explain why it is important that you work out. Working out and exercising is an essential part of your life, whether have you begun or not. My goal is to “evangelize” you to workout. And here’s why: When you work out, you are identifying with Christ. How? Think about it. What happens when you work out? You go through pain and suffering. It is a beautiful thing. Your body tells you, what the heck, this kills, stop. If you’re like me, you hate it. Some people claim they love it. I’d like to think it is more of a love-hate thing. I love the idea of it. I love doing it. But, sometimes, and depending on the workout (especially running, I hate running!), the feeling is awful. But this is how you identify with Christ. Every time you run or lift or go to a boxing class or whatever you do, you are suffering – you are sacrificing. You are sacrificing your body. This is all relative. Jesus died for us on the cross. Each time you go through the pain of working out, you are physically approaching the pains of Jesus Christ. Of course, I would take a Thursday Chest day over being crucified anytime. This is not to say you are truly identifying by being ridiculed, mocked, beaten, spat on, tortured and whipped in the worst way. Nor are you identifying being nailed to a cross in which you are suffocating slowly while suffering the most gruesome pain imaginable, stripped naked with everyone laughing at you.
No, we are not Jesus and never will be. But when we work out we are more like Jesus than not, and we are trying to identify with him the whole way through. Our bodies go through this pain - and once you get into a good routine, it will be some terrible pain! But then our bodies are resurrected, and we see a reflection of our hard physical labor and sacrifices. We are cleansed with the appearance of our new bodies, ones that reflect honor and servitude. We truly identify with Christ in the healthiest way imaginable. The thought of the cross can permeate our minds throughout our workouts. Then the bliss of the Resurrection is exemplified as we sit down for a well-deserved meal or indulge in a chocolate peanut butter protein shake engulfed in a total peaceful feeling of recovery and numbness. You want to bring peace to your life, the entire hour after a workout will bring you enough peace for a week.
Which brings me to my next point: Forget the psychologist, bring God, prayer, and physical workouts into your life and you will overcome that anxiety you are having. As radical as that may be, I am sorry, but it is true. Yes sure, you may not need physical labor, but it greatly helps and from what I remember sloth is a deadly sin. Now a lot of you work hard and sloth is not an issue, you are just burnt out and do not have time for a workout. That is fine, but you are missing out! Your life could be that much better. Is that not the goal for our service to Christ? Aren’t we supposed to work to make it better? Here I am to give you a great option! Work out and work out frequently! Do not take diet pills, do not use performance enhancers, do not skip meals, do not pass go and collect $200! By “workout,” I mean no games. Go on a run, go to the gym and lift, jump some rope, and eat enough (yet another perk, with working out, gluttony really becomes less of a problem!). That is was I do and it works. I am not going to give the whole nutrition spiel, but the only tip I have is you know spinach is good for you, so eat it. You also know grilled is better than fried so eat the former more so than not. Just like in God’s kingdom, there are no cutting corners in achieving your goal. You cannot cheat God, and therefore you cannot cheat working out. It takes fruitful intention and true effort on your part.
Why it makes your life better? The mentality. How much easier it is to call the debt collector as you put up your final bench press rep? How much you would rather be simply sitting down and writing a paper than on your third mile of running? How you would do anything to not be squatting and simply calling your parents to talk (which you do not do very often)? How asking your boss nicely to please stop taking the Lord’s name in vein becomes reasonable as you are crushing your abs in your abdominal routine. Oh man, how sorry you are for looking at all the girls the wrong way (or at the guys if you’re a girl) when you walked in once you start your shoulder routine. Through prayer and working out, you WILL become a better person, I guarantee it. You’ll look good too…
Your body is a temple. This goes beyond not doing bad things like having a bunch of promiscuous, premarital sex and doing drugs. Your body is a temple to build upon. Just like in Lent we have negatives we try to weed out and temperance that we try to build, we also try to add things that positively affect our life. Working out positively affects your life, more so than you can imagine.
Feeling discouraged, why? Are you fat? So what … so was Jared, (and let me tell you outside of lipo, it wasn’t Subway that got him skinny as Mr. Rogers, he took his behind to the track). Are you out of shape? Don’t think you could ever get back to the physical shape you prided yourself on as a track or a football star in high school? Well, you’re definitely not going to with that attitude. Have a bum shoulder? That’s great! There are tons of workouts to do that don’t involve your shoulders. Do you have gym anxiety? Well, you won’t anymore: There will always be someone bigger than you. Yes, our planet is huge; it is also very tiny compared to other things in space. Yes, I see myself make gains and feel big, then I look at 6’9 Popeye stroll in and warm up with the weight. I struggle so hard to put up still chatting with his girlfriend as if he is on a lounge chair at a resort somewhere in Florida. You will NEVER be the biggest guy or the fittest girl in the gym. Get over it and create your own world inside the gym with God. I also see string bean Larry struggling to put up the bench with only 10 pounds on each side of the bar. I love you string bean Larry, you are the epiphany of effort. You are courageous, and you will become Popeye before you know it, and help other string beans grow to your strength and determination. Stringbean Larry, just for going to the gym today, you have done so much more than anyone who skips out on working out and makes excuses. If you are a string bean Larry, or inversely, a plump Patrick, do not be afraid. God’s world carries no judgment on how much you are lifting or for how long you are running - trust me on that. What God’s world does carry is happiness that you are improving your body and glorifying His name.
The way I believe you are doing this, is working out is your way of saying Thank You. We are thanking God for the healthy body He has given us and we are using these talents and bearing fruit. When we go on a run or hit the gym, we are glorifying the fact that God has kept us healthy and has allowed us to live without many diseases or famine. We should glorify God for this gift, not abuse it. This goes for the disabled as well. They are still even able to use their gifts and work out. Look at Anthony Robles. He won a National Championship in college D1 wrestling, aka he was the best in the U.S. at his weight class and he only had one leg. Yes, somehow one leg gave him a positional advantage in the sport of wrestling, but gosh dang, you do not have one leg and become a national wrestling champion without a true effort and dogged determination! So all you Catholics and Christians of all shapes and sizes and of all ability, go, work out and glorify your body in Christ. Go build your temples.
Just think about everywhere you can be after you start working out or working out more. Do not be overwhelmed by how much time it will take for your bodies to show results. You would be surprised what even one week can do! Working out in God’s name can be your new tool. It can be your new healthy activity of the day. It can be your escape from the world and from sin. Angry at your mom? Going to kill your best friend for telling the person you’re in love with that you love them? Sexually frustrated and tempted? Work out. You will forget your desires of anger, pride, and especially lust and be brought back home to your desire to Love, God’s Love. You will return to the cross through your pain of building your body; through the pain, we approach simplification. With every shortness of breath and unbelievable effort to keep going, we become too focused and experience a great enough amount of pain that our comforts and lustful passions are carved out of existence. All that is left is what we really want and what we really need. It helps us to reflect with God. This sacrifice will carry over to the other parts of your life. You will be more energetic and motivated to complete simple tasks. Your life will be in order. You will forget the pressures of the external things that worry you and you will grow confident in what you choose for your life and what you cut out of your life as you simplify your lifestyle. You will be brought back to your roots of living modestly. You will be able to protect your family and will be a better soldier of God.
Yes, my run was easier today, and it is a metaphor that life is becoming easier. If you master your physical labors, you will master the rest of your life. Like my dad, who had once joined the army put it, “Once I got out of basic training, it was a lot easier to go after my engineering degree. That was nothing compared what I had to do in basic training!”
I may be sorry during my workout, but I am so full of grace after, and so okay with who I am and how far I have become and so thankful for God. I will say it one more time, there is simply no better feeling of peace then the end of a long workout, where the body is truly at rest. Just like the ending of Jesus’s story, it is happy…..every time. Go, be cleansed, and workout. If this has not convinced you then darn, I quit writing already.