This year, Lent begins on Wednesday March 1, which means many of us are thinking about what to give up. Some people I know give up things like soda, chocolate, and facebook. The idea behind giving something up is that you are sacrificing as a form of penance. Other people add something to their lives during lent, like a daily devotion or a prayer. In 2009, my husband and I decided to give up a portion of our time each day by adding at least 30 minutes of fitness to our lives for the 40 days of lent.
You may be thinking the concept is not really getting at the core of what the spiritual season is all about, but I would disagree. I am a spiritual person and I believe being able to be physically present in situations such as cleaning up after a tornado, lifting an old man who needs help walking, and having the energy to attend to children is part of living a life that allows you to love and serve. If you don’t take time out of your busy day to make sure you maintain a level of health, then you are missing out on opportunities.
Mark and I called our lent commitment “40 days of Fitness” and it is the reason being active is so easy for me even eight years later. Mark and I have never been sedentary people; however, college, graduate school, full-time jobs, and life got in the way of a consistent exercise routine.
As we entered our mid-twenties, our physical activity and exercise was sporadic. As we approached lent that year, we came up with the idea to dedicate time each day to be intentional about our health. Some nights our exercise was yoga that we did in our living room to a DVD at 9 p.m. at night. Even though some days were low impact, the point was that we were doing it. And now, years later, we have no trouble jump starting our fitness routines, even after an intense travel schedule or holiday break.
Mark and I now do CrossFit, spin classes, run, bike, hike, weights, and kickboxing. We aren’t bodybuilders and we usually aren’t winners in races we enter—I say usually because Mark did come in 2nd place in an 80’s/90’s 5K once while wearing a Larry Bird wig and high knee socks—but, we do it. 40 days is a magical number. It’s a biblical number, women are pregnant for 40 weeks, it’s the number of spaces in a standard Monopoly board game, and habits that you keep for a lifetime can be formed in just 40 days.
Look at lent a bit differently this year because I can say from experience, when you commit to 40 days of fitness, getting back in the swing of things is easy. Your body, mind, and spirit, transform.