Do lifting weights and the spiritual life have anything in common? Absolutely, they do!
Picking up heavy things, setting them down, and repeating actually has a lot of carry over to living a life of faith–specifically a Catholic one.
Two years ago, after running two half marathons in two years, I was burnt out from the daily grind of running mile after mile. My body and mind needed something different–so I started strength training. When I say strength training I’m referring to, essentially, the basic lifts of squat, deadlift, and military press.
The goal, for me at least, is to improve strength and mobility so as to be better able to carry out other daily tasks. It’s a lot easier to hoist my suitcase into an overhead compartment of an airplane, move furniture (when you’re newlywed, you move a lot of furniture :P), and lift otherwise heavy things with relative ease now that I can safely back squat and deadlift over 200 pounds.
Lifting weights has enormous health benefits. I’m not a PT but if you want to increase muscle mass (read: be able to move well and with less pain when you’re 85), boost your metabolism, and improve posture, go lift some weight!
It’s also a serious boost to confidence and self-esteem. When I’m lifting heavy weight, it reminds me to be grateful that God has given me a strong and healthy body, and I feel motivated to do what I can to keep it healthy.
Lifting is a big part of my life. But my faith is the most important part. And upon deeper reflection, lifting weights over these past two years has taught–or perhaps, reminded–me of some important lessons about faith:
Lifting weights is a slow climb. You make progress by adding small amounts of weight each week in order to gradually build strength. Back-squatting two times your body weight isn’t going to happen in a week, and neither is holiness!
In lifting, it’s about picking up the weight week after week even when the motivation isn’t there. It’s about making the right decisions in regards to sleep and nutrition to reap big payoffs later on. Likewise, with our Catholic faith, it’s about standing up after we fall and returning with humility to the Confessional every time. Praying when we don’t feel like it. It’s about staying faithful in the little opportunities to grow in virtue that will train us for the long haul and hopefully help us get to Heaven.
2. It’s not all about feelings.
Sometimes I pray and I feel nothing. No rush of emotion and love for my Creator. No warm and fuzzies about how much Jesus loves me. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love me and it certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t hearing my prayer. Faith isn’t about feelings; it’s about fidelity.
Likewise, sometimes I just don’t feel like lifting. I stare blankly at the bar and wonder why I put myself through this sometimes mentally challenging sport. Or I’ll do a particular workout and feel like it’s not enough. But the times I max out or hit a new PR are just as valuable as the times I lift only light weights with no motivation on a light week.
Perhaps the prayers we pray when we do not feel like praying are the most beneficial for our souls.
3. You need to rest!
Ask my husband–I’m not good at this one. Rest is hard–we’re human and we want to keep moving forward. Lifters naturally want to lift more and lift heavier–but strength is gained when muscles recover. If you don’t rest, you don’t recover, and if you don’t recover, you get injured–and you can’t get stronger when you’re injured.
Rest is a necessary part of our faith, both physically and spiritually. Physical rest helps us refocus and recharge. Spiritual rest–or “resting in God”–helps us truly let go of everything we’re holding on to that wears us down, keeps us distracted, or causes anxiety.
4. Lift your own weight.
Sometimes in the weight room, it can be tempting to look out the corner of your eye at what the person next to you is lifting and compare. (Perhaps that’s why some folks avoid the weight room altogether.) It can be intimidating if that person is lifting more–or it can lead to pride if they’re lifting less. We should try to avoid either end of that spectrum.
Lifting reminds me to keep my eyes focused on my own weights. If I’m too busy comparing my barbell to the one next to me, my form will be off, and I risk dropping the bar or worse, getting hurt.
We must keep also our eyes on our own barbell, so to speak, in regard to faith. Other people’s talents, gifts, and struggles are not our own–comparing ours to theirs only discourages or distracts from using our own gifts in the way God wants us to.
There are lots of ways to take lifting and make it something that fuels vanity and conceit. But when viewed through the eyes of faith, it can actually be quite fruitful–both physically and spiritually.
Happy lifting! 🙂