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Are Fitness Goals Selfish?

Photo courtesy of Method Fitness via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Method Fitness via Flickr

I don’t typically put bikinis on the list of things that glorify God. But come August 16, I plan to do just that. That’s right, I’m going to glorify God … in a bikini.

I’m going to get on a stage wearing a competition suit (snazzy bikini), heels, makeup and a very fake tan. I’ll be judged by my physique and how well I present it on stage during a series of poses . It’s a type of bodybuilding competition. If I measure up against the competition, I’ll place, and if I place high enough, I’ll qualify to compete on a national level.

At this point you’re likely feeling a degree of annoyance/disgust/outrage, and I would probably agree with you. You’re probably thinking, “How could this possibly glorify God?!” I realize you could argue with me on account of modesty, and that this point can be argued biblically. I struggled with this point for several months, but in the end, I rested with an unexpected peace. I’d like to share with you how I came to this point, and how even a selfish goal can be used for His glory. Perhaps you may find clarity in your own fitness journey along the way.

I’m at a unique place in life. For the first time since I was old enough to date, I’m single. Over the past year, I’ve rerouted my entire life. I got divorced and moved halfway across the country to a place where I know but a handful of people. Since I’m self-employed, my network of friends is still building, and by “still building” I mean it’s virtually non-existent. For the first time in my adult life, I’m completely on my own.

Scary as it’s been, this transition has also been a very positive experience. Incredible spurts of growth and maturity have flourished in all areas of my life, but most significantly in my spiritual life. Of all the friends I haven’t made here, I did manage to make one very important friend. This friend introduced me to a phenomenal local church that has helped me reconnect with Jesus, receive healing of several emotional wounds that were blocking a relationship with Him, and finally begin to understand my true identity—my identity in Christ. If for no other reason, this was worth the entire journey.

But God’s not finished yet—He’s just getting warmed up.

Competing has been a goal of mine for nearly 10 years, but I never had the self-control or the support to do it. Competition prep is grueling! Strict, careful dieting, a demanding workout regimen and a committed sleep schedule are necessary. It requires unyielding commitment, focus and organization. These are not my strengths! As an emotional eater (and an emotional person), dealing with the stress of life plus the stress of contest prep has always proven to be too challenging.

I figured that in order to overcome these personal shortcomings, I would need the support of the people closest to me. Unfortunately, I never found that. All past attempts to embark on this journey were met with criticism, mockery and even manipulation.

Currently, I’m six weeks into this journey and going strong! On the surface, it doesn’t make sense; I’m as alone as I’ve ever been, and this emotional roller coaster ride has been going strong for over a year now. I should be a mess! So what’s different? What’s changed? Since reconnecting with Jesus, my relationship with Him has gone to a whole new level. God is working on me in so many ways; I’m forever impressed by his ability to multitask. Among His current tasks are my self-control and my dependency issues. Are you putting this together yet?

God is a genius.

Competing is technically about looking good in a bikini, but it’s really about overcoming my personal limitations—the same limitations that hinder my relationship with Jesus. I’m finding that it’s not my friends and family, or my own strength, motivation or dedication that will carry me through such an extreme personal challenge. It’s God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV) is not just meant as encouragement; it’s meant as words to live by!

The Almighty God is my creator, my savior, my comforter, my protector, my healer, my strength, my father, my guide … He alone can and will provide the support I need for this journey. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 NIV). I am learning to ask for God’s help, find God’s strength and walk through the door of prayer into a life of obedience. Competition prep is merely a physical manifestation of the spiritual, mental and emotional transformation that‘s happening alongside of it. Alone, I may lack the support system and the mental and emotional strength to do this, but with God, it’s entirely possible. God is enough.

By His strength, His comfort, His guidance and His grace, I will rise to the challenge of preparing for this competition, and I will conquer it. To God be the glory!

Everyone’s journey is different, but many Christians (and even non-Christians) share a common concern about pursuing their fitness goal: selfishness. We tend to feel that by focusing solely on ourselves, we do a disservice to God and to others. If you have a fitness goal that you’ve shied away from on this account, I urge you to pray about it. You just might find that God is willing to use your goal to draw you closer to Him, and to strengthen you for His purpose.

Finally, consider that fitness does not have to be a solo activity!

Here are three ways to pursue your fitness goals without leaving everyone out:

1. Include your kids. If you’re worried about taking time away from your children, find ways to include them in your exercise. Depending on their age, they may be able to join you outright, or there may be ways you can multitask. For example, if you’re just getting into jogging, have your young kids join you for a run/walk, or seek out a playground with a walking/jogging track surrounding it.

2. Build fitness into your social life. Walking is always the easiest way to do this. Meet for a walk in a park instead of sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant. If your friend is game to try something new, try out a new fitness class together. It can be nerve-wracking to take a new class by yourself. Taking a class with a friend (think Zumba, spin class, or even traditional dancing lessons) adds a sense of adventure and some fun memories to your relationship! Even if classes or walking don’t exactly align with your specific fitness goal, they’re better than nothing and can add some variety to your typical fitness routine. Plus you never know when a friend will catch the “fitness bug” and begin to join you in your preferred fitness activities!

3. Build God into your workouts. A few times a week, I’ll listen to sermons instead of music while I’m on the stair mill or elliptical. This was a bit of an adjustment, but I’m going to be on there for thirty minutes anyway—may as well put it to good use, right? You can also try making a praise-and-worship playlist to listen to while working out. Finally, begin and end your training sessions with prayer. Ask for strength, endurance and perspective. Praise Him for providing!

Overall, give it time. Health and fitness can be intimidating to your family and friends, particularly to those who feel insecure or ill-equipped in this area. A little patience and flexibility can go a long way toward encouraging friends and family to join you. Plus you never know who you might inspire along the way.

About Nikki Norris

Nikki Norris is a fitness enthusiast by nature and a Jesus freak by choice. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Yoga Instructor, and she holds a Bachelor's of Science in Applied Nutrition. She enjoys sharing her (mis)adventures across a wide range of athletic disciplines including team sports, marathons, powerlifting, and physique competitions. Above all, Nikki is on a mission to keep her love of fitness in balance with the most important thing in life: her love and pursuit of Jesus.
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