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OPINION - God and fitness

Baaba Hewton is a young fitness enthusiast, who finds a synergy between working out and her Christian faith.

Read time: 6 minutes and 22 seconds

I have liked sports since I was a child. I played in the football and netball teams at my primary school, and was also part of the relay team. It was fun, exciting, and rewarding. After my primary school days, I never got the chance to participate in any of these, because life got busier and I had little interest in getting back into it. But, somehow, I knew the significance of staying fit.

I needed something more challenging, yet exciting and rewarding.

It was not until about three years ago, while I was still studying for my master’s degree, that I decided to get back into it. It was a sudden decision, I had not thought it through for months, I just wanted it and I thought I would go for it. I had the time and the resources, most of all, there was a fitness centre at my accommodation, and I had free entry, so I thought, what a perfect time to do this.

I started exercising out of boredom, which I know sounds strange to some of my friends, as fitness can be quite draining. They said to me a few times, “If you are bored you could watch Netflix, or read a book, listen to music or an audiobook, or even sleep, but going to the gym is quite strange”. I like doing all the other stuff that they mention, but these do not interest me as much, so I cannot do them very often, and besides, I was doing a lot of reading, at the time, for my master’s degree, and the last thing I would like to do in my free time was to read something else.

I found my routine was increasingly becoming boring to me, I was either in the library, or at work, as I had a part time job at that point. I needed something more challenging, yet exciting and rewarding. So, I chose fitness. Unlike some fitness enthusiasts, I had no goals from the start, I did not know what it would feel like, and how I would feel about it after a while. I may not be able to carry on for long, so it was just about trying something out to see if it works for me. I was avoiding idleness in my free time. As it is popularly said, the devil finds work for the idle hands, so I wanted to do something useful with my free time.

As a Christian, I believe that my body is a temple of God

A few months into the fitness journey and I was actually enjoying it. Do not get me wrong, I was often achey (as I still am after over 28 months on), tired, and sometimes just lacking the motivation - but it felt good. I saw my body change, I felt very much on top of my physical well being, and, for the first time in my life, I thought I had done something extremely good for my physical health. These were great results and I never wanted to look back.

As a Christian, I believe that my body is a temple of God: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, who you have from God?...” (1 Corr 6:19). That temple must be well looked after, respected and kept in its best state. I remind myself of this whenever I am lacking the motivation to go into the gym.

And not only has my physical well being improved, but also my mental health. I choose to go to the gym at the end of the day as it helps me to unwind and clear my mind. It is a stress reliever and helps me to focus on myself rather than everything else going on around me (especially when I put some music on). I do this for an hour and a half each day, at least four days a week. It is quite challenging, but I love a good challenge. I challenge myself every time to prioritise my physical and mental wellbeing by going to the gym, and I am nourished by the strength that Christ has given to me (Philippians 4:13).

Continued below...

Christianity OPINION - God and fitness

Some other benefits of going to the gym to me as a Christian are the virtues and the values that it teaches me every day to uphold. As you can tell from the story I have shared so far, going to the gym or having a fitness routine requires a lot of effort and intentionality. I have changed my diet, I have changed my lifestyle, and adopted other good practices, such as mindful meditation, in order to see the results that I desire. This is quite specific to each person and what they tend to achieve from their fitness journey.

I am deliberate about what I do with my time, planning ahead and fitting my exercises around my schedules every day.

I am deliberate about what I do with my time, planning ahead and fitting my exercises around my schedules every day. It has generally taught me to be disciplined, to make plans and to stick to them even when they are difficult. It has also taught me to apply wisdom to adjust my plans, when necessary, and to make room for other priorities. I sometimes think to myself that fitness enthusiasts can basically achieve whatever they put their minds to, because of the strength and level of discipline that the fitness journey requires.

As I said from the start, although I had no goals at the beginning of my fitness journey, my ideas changed along the line, especially when I saw my body change. As a teenager, I struggled a lot to gain weight. A few months into regular exercises and I noticed a significant increase in my weight. It took me time to get to this, and I have gained some more over time, but another lesson here is that one cannot rush results at the gym. Whatever your fitness goals may be, it takes time to see the results. It does not happen overnight, whether you seek to gain or to lose weight. It will take months and sometimes years and the growth is quite steady and gradual.

I smile through the aches of each day’s exercises, looking forward to my reward in the future.

As Christians, you may be seeking something from God, and may have prayed for it for a while. But it is important to understand that at the right time, if it is His will, God will make it happen (Isaiah 60:22). It takes patience to wait, to see the results that you desire - sometimes even more than we imagine/expect, but God always seeks our best interest. I apply this understanding in my fitness journey, and I smile through the aches of each day’s exercises, looking forward to my reward in the future.

The gym is my safe space. It provides a space for meditation during my workout sessions. I often pray for the opportunity to share the gospel. I ask God to put me in the right places with the people He wants me to send His word and love to. I see the gym as one of those opportunities, although I am yet to develop an approach to this. You will meet so many people at the gym, some on a regular basis, and at some point, will start to have conversations with them. One day, I hope that these conversations can freely be about Jesus.