I arrive at 6:20AM towards the end of the session just as Larry shouts, “Time for the Subway mile.” Spread out on the church parking lot are 25 boot campers of varying ages and shapes. They immediately take off running up Adelphi Road towards the Subway shop on the nearby campus of University of Maryland.
Meet Fit for Christ, a faith-based, Christ-centered, outdoor exercise bootcamp program founded in early 2016 at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hyattsville, MD. Last spring when Larry Lee, fellow parishioner and founder, first floated his idea of a 5:30-6:30AM daily bootcamp to be held in the church parking lot, I encouraged him, but was inwardly skeptical. Who would come at that hour?
To my delight, the program has thrived and grown to twice a day, Monday-Friday. It powerfully demonstrates the potential of a community-based and God-inspired program to improve health. Participants of Fit for Christ experience dramatically improved health of body, mind and spirit. The campers were very happy to share the benefits they have noticed in themselves or others:
“It has been life changing.”
“She is off her insulin now.”
“I lost 53 lbs. [in 2 years], have more energy, am more connected to my parish and my faith. I even find myself walking and doing stairs more regularly during the day….”
“Everything is better, including my spirituality. Even though I injured my knee, I came back, kept on, and have continued to lose weight from my high of 330 lbs. when I started last year to 277 lbs. I even snore much less— I think my sleep apnea is improving.”
Devra Torres, one camper whom I met, recently published a blog called “The Joys of Workout Agony®” http://www.thepersonalistproject.org/home/comments/ffc in which she says: “Like many a sedentary fifty-something grand multipara, when I decided to get in shape I made my motives clear. I wanted more stamina to serve my family. I wanted to gain strength and flexibility. I intended to be a better steward of the God-given gift of health. By which I meant: I sure hoped I'd lose a whole bunch of weight.” She then goes on to list 10 things she learned during her first weeks in this “entirely out-of-character” activity. I encourage you to read her blog —I particularly liked her description ofhow a single positive change can actually create a cascade of positive changes.
The ingredients in Fit for Christ that create these seeming miracles are exercise (it is a bootcamp after all!), education and encouragement about healthy eating, prayer, camaraderie, the church community, self-satisfaction, meaning, and the motivation that comes from seeing positive results. The participants are living examples of what Dr. David Katz writes about in his book Disease Proof. He shows how using lifestyle as medicine can slash the risk of chronic disease by 80%—this includes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more.
Get an inside look at Fit for Christ in this video or in the many photographs and descriptions at Fit for Christ Today on Facebook. Good news for you is that the orientation for the next 6 week tour of duty is coming soon, Saturday, September 9 or Tuesday September 12. See the Fit for Christ Today Facebook page for more information.
1. Don’t just pass this off as “too hard” or “not my style.” Instead think about how you can incorporate some of the key ingredients of Fit for Christ into your life. Ask your spouse, child or neighbor(s) to commit with you for a regular walk (or bike ride or run)…accept that it is better to start once a week than never to start at all! Or, just prayerfully commit to a regular walk on your own, at a predetermined time and place. Adding prayer or meditation to walking will enrich the experience for you. You might also consider a regular exercise class at your neighborhood gym or community center, where you can also find friendship and community support.
2. If you are feeling stuck in a sedentary lifestyle and are ambivalent about making a real change, start with daily prayer. Ask for help and then listen to God. Commit to pray a specified number of minutes at a defined time and place each day. With time you will find the peace, clarity and strength to make the needed changes in your lifestyle. Exercise is miraculous. It has been shown to improve most illnesses including depression, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, etc. Let God help you make a miracle happen.
God bless you all,
P.S. REMINDER OF UPCOMING EVENT, LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS: Sept. 16, 2017 Saturday half-day work shop on the Science, Psychology and Spirituality of Stress, St. Mark the Evangelist Church, Hyattsville, MD. See serenity and health on Facebook or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.