I really don’t like going to the doctor and will do anything to avoid it. However, I am starting to recognize that I can no longer take my health for granted. I went to my doctor for a routine physical and heard once again that I needed to shed some weight, change my diet. He told me to get more exercise in order to lower my cholesterol levels. With a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family, he said I was headed towards the point of no return in a few years. I needed to make a course correction. The drive home from his office gave me time to reflect on his words… and remember what I have to live for.
I realized that ignoring my health for the last 10+ years was selfish. It wasn’t just my health and life I was risking, but my selfishness was putting my family at risk as well. What about my business? My ministry work for the Church? Others who depend on me? By the time I pulled into the driveway of my home that afternoon, I resolved to make some significant changes in my life and daily routines. These changes would address not only the importance of my physical health, but also my mental and spiritual health as well. I was determined to get fit in mind, body and soul.
Getting physically fit would be challenging enough, but how would I address the other areas? Many people (myself included) express frustration with being too busy and not having enough time for prayer, reading and exercise. They may select one area for improvement, but rarely will all three be addressed at once. I suggest the solution may lie in being more efficient with our busy schedules and combining activities when possible.
Here are four practical ideas for making time work for us:
- Pray the Rosary while exercising. I have worked my way up to running over two to three miles a day, six days a week since the doctor visit. I also pray my Rosary every time I run. Running on the quiet trails near my home or hitting the treadmill is an excellent opportunity to lose myself in praying the mysteries of the Rosary. I have drawn closer to the Blessed Mother and now find that seeking her intercession has become second nature. Regardless of our favorite exercise, we can usually pray the Rosary while doing it.
- Keep a great Catholic book on hand at all times. I meet with a number of people daily and have found that I can squeeze in some great spiritual reading when I am early to meetings. In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez, Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron or Living the Catholic Faith by Archbishop Charles Chaput are a few of my favorites for this type of reading on the go. This also applies to lunch or break times or waiting to pick up the kids after school. How can you use time instead of texting or playing with smartphones?
- Practice fasting each week. We should never look at fasting as a diet. That is not my point. I am suggesting that we learn to make sacrifices, eat less food and make healthier eating choices. No more junk food! Having nothing but water to drink along with two healthy small meals a day or two a week will help our bodies and stimulate us spiritually as we offer this sacrifice up to God.
- Pray in the car. Turn off the radio and silence the smartphone. Play beautiful Gregorian Chant music. Pray the Morning Offering on the way to work. Pray the Angelus on the way to work, after lunch and on the way home. Ask for the intercession of St. Joseph or another favorite Saint to help with challenges or anxiety. Or, just reflect in the silence. The point is to use this precious time in our vehicles to gain peace. We can use it to grow our prayer lives rather than listen to talk radio or loud music.
Avoiding sugar-filled desserts and junk food, adopting sensible eating habits, more diligent fasting, running and lots of prayers are doing the trick! I feel more mentally alert and full of energy than I have in years. My Rosary/running regimen has brought me closer to the Blessed Mother, my prayer life is thriving and I am squeezing more spiritual reading into formerly unproductive time. My faith, family, friends and business are all benefiting from my improved health and increased vitality.
These specific ideas and approaches may or may not work for you. Ideally, we should all seek out more quiet time for prayer without distractions. We should make our spiritual reading a priority and we should treat our bodies like the temples they are. In my weakness, I will likely continue to have struggles in these areas. God made us for a heavenly home, but first we must live in this hectic and chaotic world. I look at the ideas I have laid out as steps in the right direction and not final solutions.
Maybe we all require the right catalyst. For me, recognizing that ignoring my health was selfish and pondering the negative effects of a future with poor health on my faith, family, friends, ministry work and business drove me to make changes. I couldn’t seem to make these changes for myself, but I am committed to making them for Christ, my loved ones and my work.
What will it take for you to get fit in mind, body and soul?