Contrary to what might seem obvious, our prayer is not merely an interior spiritual exercise. The Catechism tells us, “The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.” This truth represents a beautiful opportunity to incorporate our whole self into our prayer, including through physical exercise. There are many ways to do this, including beginning and finishing workouts with prayers of thanksgiving, and praying a rosary while walking. But what are some other, perhaps less obvious, ways to incorporate prayer into our exercise?
Engaging your core: One of the best ways to increase overall strength is by engaging your core muscles. Your core refers to, “the muscles surrounding your trunk, including your abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors.” Having core strength aids in daily activities like carrying groceries, and also more strenuous activities like swimming. Engaging your core involves a conscious effort of breathing and posture, being mindful of intentionally using the strength that God has given you. This intentionality allows us to bring God into every moment and remind ourselves of our dignity. For a list of exercises that engage your core muscles, click here (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/core-strength/sls-20076575?s=7). Invite the Lord into these core exercises, contemplating the beauty of your being, body and soul, as a gift from God.
Redemptive suffering: As Catholics, when we face suffering, we are often told to “offer it up.” This doesn’t mean that we only see suffering as something we must “get over.” Instead, it means that we can unite our suffering to Christ’s. We can incorporate this mentality into our fitness. For many people, the mere thought of exercise is taxing. For others, it can still be exhausting to stretch yourself past your comfort zone. Aligning this difficulty with our faith’s understanding of suffering allows us to “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice.”
As we progress in virtue, we ask the Lord to strengthen our will to choose the good. In regards to exercise and fitness, we can ask the Lord to increase our commitment to choosing the good of taking care of the bodies he has gifted us. A commitment to working out and including exercise in your rule of life takes an act of the will to choose that good. In incorporating exercise into your rule of life, remember to be patient with yourself, setting bite-sized goals that can be achieved, and to incorporate activities that you enjoy. Training our will in this way and asking for the Lord’s grace can help us grow in virtue and bring us joy.
Incorporating prayer into our exercise allows us to integrate our physical and spiritual health. With this practice, we can embrace St. Paul’s call to “Pray without ceasing.”