The Communion of Saints at the Gym

So I had been away from the gym for a bit. I was seeing a trainer at our on-campus gym for a bit but circumstances took him away from that location.

I tried working out alone for awhile but it simply wasn’t the same. We had a nice community going together in the gym. I liked working out with the younger guys. They pushed me and even some of the older guys were big athletes when they were in school–so it was both a challenge and a great community of folks gathered together, connecting with each other for a great purpose. We celebrated life together and tried to maintain our health.

And then it all went straight to hell.

Suddenly, nobody was there early in the morning. People chose to go to the gym at later times on their own. Sure, we knew the workout regimen, but something was missing.

That something was community.

I returned to a group workout in the morning this week and I’m down 3 pounds already. I’m a bit tired but I feel better and I’ve already got much of my diet under control thanks to some help from my trainer Tom Corradino at Absolute Performance. You can follow his tweets which often include pictures of me working out @AP_Train. Tom trains some elite athletes including James Starks of the Packers. And this is no easy workout. Think Biggest Loser stuff.

For example:

We started out Friday at 6:30AM with a series of stretching warm ups. Calf stretches for 10 yards, hip rolls for 10 yards, high knees for 10 yards, etc.

Let me just say when I found out this was the warm up and I was already winded…I knew I was in for it.

We then moved to the weight bench and warmed up with 3 quick pushes on the bar with no weight on it. Then we tied rubber bands around the bar and hooked the other end to a metal spoke beneath us, providing a LOT of resistance. It wasn’t that hard for me. But on that last set, that bar started to get real heavy. 8 total sets.

Oh you think we’re done…not even close.

We move on to circuit training. Which is kind of a combination of cardio and strength. Three different exercises which you do one after the other with little rest. I started with fast step ups. We put a rubber barbell plate on the ground and have to “step-up” on it quickly for 20 seconds. We do 8 sets of those.

Then we move on to heavy ropes. Two heavy ropes are tied to a gate. We have to bend down and shake those ropes as fast as we can for another 20 seconds. Again we go for 8 sets. Tougher than it looks.

The final exercise for me was a kettle bell triceps lift. Kettle bells are what they sound like a round weight on the bottom with a handle above it for you to grip (pictured, right). We lie flat on the ground place the weights behind our heads and then grip the handle and push straight up. I tried the 20 lb. weights and let’s just say I could barely lift them off the ground without a bit of jerking forward. He bumped me down to 15 lbs. and I was able to get through the first 5 sets before falling down to 10 lbs. for the last few sets.

Oh you thought we were finished? Not even close.

We finish with abs. Ugh! I have a gut and really want to lose it this year, so this is the hardest exercise for me. A series of different sit-ups. If I remember right we did 3 sets of 40 reps. I lay flat on my back at the end of those. Looked at my trainer and stole a line from my friend’s father after a long hike at age 70.

“I’m done! Just leave me here to die. Give me a couple of coins so the buzzards don’t get my eyes.”

There are a few guys my age in the gym, who are in far better shape than I am. A good deal of women who really work hard as well. Ingrid was at the gym when I used to attend here in the past, so it was good to see a familiar face. We pushed each other that first day. She’s better at the strength exercises and I’m a bit better on endurance things like dragging sleds with weights on it (which I could do all day and really love it).

It’ll get easier with time again. I put back some of the weight I lost but not too much. I’m hoping that with the New Year, I might be looking for some new clothes because mine are too big. I’m basically doing the Zone diet, with a few modifications. Low carbs, high protein.

But mostly, I get to look around the gym and see a bunch of people who are simply trying to become the best they can be physically. Some of them know I’m a Campus Minister while some are just beginning to get to know me. I think they are often taken aback when I trash-talk or even let a curse fly out of my mouth (one of my worst habits) or when I know the words to a song like “Highway to Hell.” But I also think they respect me simply for being among them. And it’s a great opportunity for prayer and even contemplation. Biking or dragging a sled gives one an opportunity to clear the mind and be at one with God. I get to pray for a new group of people and encourage them in their endeavors.

So today, let’s thank God for those we meet in the communion of saints. Those who push us to stretch a bit farther, be a bit better. Let’s remember them as people who we are called to love and to help. And mostly, let’s remember that we’re all made in God’s image–and we are called to take care of the temple, our body.

And when we do, as St. Paul tells us…

We glorify God with our body.

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