Welcome to the new category, Fitness Friday. This is the first such post, and here’s what to expect: I am no fitness guru with a wealth of information about how to squeeze out that last little bit of performance or lose that last percentage of body fat to meet your goal. I was a certified indoor cycling instructor and taught classes for a couple years, but I’m no expert.
However, I have lots of time in the gym spent thinking about exercise and how it relates to the rest of life. There are lessons that apply not only to physical fitness, but to mental and emotional health, and even spirituality. And the first lesson is: Fitness is about me, not anyone else.
No one runs my race for me; no one else can push me to my maximum effort. How fast or slow another person runs means nothing for my fitness. I am only competing with myself.
When the Air Force gives me a fitness test, it doesn’t matter how well everyone else can do push-ups. It doesn’t matter if someone next to me can’t do a single sit-up. If that guy over there has a bulging waist that causes him to fail, that doesn’t affect my test.
I’m up against me.
Competition can be healthy, don’t get me wrong. It can spur a person to new heights of performance. It can push us past what we might have thought of as our limit. Athletes strive to be the very best, with good reason.
But when I exercise, it’s not about everyone else’s condition. It’s not about how strong the next guy is or how fast the woman is doing sprints. It’s not about how much better I am, either. Comparing myself to others is silly, because everyone has a different fitness level.
I have to find my motivation and push myself. I have to make my workout worth the time I’m spending. What matters is this: Am I challenging myself to be better than I was before? Am I running my race with 100% effort? Am I lifting weights that challenge my muscles and make me stronger? Am I straining against my personal limitations?
This applies to mental fitness as well. Am I always learning? Am I growing, developing my skills and my awareness of the world around me? Or am I content to remain ignorant?
Spiritually, am I pushing myself toward intimacy with God? Or am I stagnant, content to rest on what I’ve done in the past? Am I like a former Olympian, sitting in the gym, thinking and bragging about the glory days of what I once did, but growing weak through present inactivity?
Paul wrote to one of his churches about “some of those who commend themselves.” He said, “when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NASB).
What he’s saying is, when we look at each other and say, “I’m faster than him, I’m smarter than her, I’m more patient than him, I’m more spiritual than her,” we miss the point.
It’s about living at our personal maximum potential. At the end of his life, Paul looked back and was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB). He wasn’t concerned with declaring himself better than anyone else, or claiming to be the best. He was concerned that he had given his all for the cause.Whatever your cause, give it your all. Don’t hold anything back. Your race isn’t against me or anyone else. It’s against a version of yourself that is content with mediocrity and being less than all that is possible.
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB).
The stopwatch is ticking.