“It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.”
— John Wesley
We talk a lot about spiritual health in church life. We worship, learn, and pray continually to grow in mind and spirit. Important as that is, there’s another piece of the puzzle we can’t do without. We also need to be physically fit to truly be the picture of good health — in mind, body, and spirit.
Church and staff member Jennifer Stephens saw the need for a fitness ministry here at FUMCFW, and she has been growing that playful part of our Healthy Plate for the last several months. “We need to be physically fit as well as spiritually fit,” Jennifer says. “If we’re not physically healthy, it’s hard to stay active in things. It’s an overall quality of life.” Jennifer points out that John Wesley himself recognized the connection between spiritual and physical health.
Jennifer’s vision is to take the two things she loves and values the most — her knowledge of exercise and her love for God — and combine them to reach out to those who do not know Jesus. “Boot camps, fitness centers, and personal trainers can be very expensive,” she explains. “I believe that people need to be educated, and have the opportunity to have a qualified trainer to teach them and motivate them, so that no matter their income status they can have a better quality of life.”
Jennifer is making her vision a reality through our Walking, Running & Cycling Group and Free Community Boot Camp. So far she says that these two groups have built relationships, motivated one another, and encouraged those who felt like they could never get out and exercise. Now they see that they can — all while enjoying the company of others. And with the addition of First Yoga with Linda Blanchard, we’re on our way to reaching new fitness heights here at First Church.
Walking, Running & Cycling Group
Todd Berry, who is a regular in our running group, joined to train for the Cowtown Half Marathon and to meet new people. He says that it’s nice to get to know people who do and don’t attend FUMCFW. “It has given me and others the chance to brag a little on our church,” he admits. Todd recalls many great moments from accomplishing goals, cheering on other runners and walkers, and everything from seeing gorgeous sunrises to running in the rain.
Most of all he says that he has enjoyed talking with others over breakfast afterward. “If you want to accomplish a goal for yourself, walk or run to enjoy a beautiful day, or just have a great breakfast and conversation, join the Fit First group,” Todd encourages. “Jennifer does a great job at organizing everything and keeping everybody positive.”
Free Community Boot Camp
Carmelita Gage agrees that this same accountability carries over into our boot camp as well. “Jennifer is very personable, and she contacts me to see if I am attending and taking part,” she says. “She names each of the stations and constantly works to make it different and keep us motivated.” When Jennifer brought hula hoops to class Carmelita laughed and told her it had been a few decades since she’d even put one of those around her waist. After giving it a try, “I was laughing harder than swinging,” Carmelita recalls. “In the end it made it a fun workout.” Carmelita has paid for personal trainers in the past, so when she asked more than once about the boot camp cost and was told it was free, she realized what a great opportunity this is for our church and community. “Jennifer is an outstanding trainer, and I always have a great feeling when I attend boot camp classes,” she adds. “I can have a difficult day, but when I arrive to class the goal is to focus on the exercises. This is a wonderful hour that always leaves me feeling energetic and with resolve to deal with whatever worry I had!”
Linda Blanchard, longtime church member and 500-hour certified yoga instructor, offers regular hatha yoga classes and a chair yoga class for those with balance, mobility, or other challenges. “It doesn’t matter whether you can touch your toes,” Linda says. “Yoga always meets you wherever you are — because that’s where you need to be — and always offers you somewhere further to go as your body and mind become ready.” With Linda’s gentle guidance, First Yoga participants move forward at their own pace as all systems of the body are improved through consistent yoga practice.
Incorporating yoga into your fitness regimen is deeply beneficial — and yoga has become something of a staple in our Fit First ministry for our church family, staff, and friends. “Yoga connects our body and our mind through breathing and movement,” Linda explains. “The result of this connection, even beyond a quieter mind, is increased flexibility, improved balance, slower, deeper breathing, enhanced circulation, strengthening of muscles for better support of joints, and an overall calming effect that we can then carry into our everyday life.”
While yoga itself is thousands of years old, each individual practice is as unique as we are, and each day a new experience. “The point of yoga is not to push yourself, not to force your body into a position it doesn’t want to go into, or to achieve perfect expression of each posture,” Linda says. “The point is to show up, do the best you can to match your body to the instructions given, and to embrace where you are each day as your own best practice.”
Linda says that it’s when we carry what we gain from yoga out into the world that we realize that it is much more than just an exercise class. “Its benefits reach into every aspect of your life.” And, she adds that while most Western yoga has no religious component, yoga is a spiritual practice in that it opens your mind and heart to your own personal connection with God.
“Yoga is one of the oldest, most nurturing forms of exercise in the world,” Linda says. “When you practice yoga, you are giving a gift to yourself, and taking care of yourself in a way that can make a profound difference in your life. In addition to what yoga does for my body, it also feeds my soul and spirit. I teach yoga because, knowing what yoga does for me, I want to share it with others.”
Fit First is so much more than exercise — it’s a path that brings you closer to God and others. Go to fumcfw.org/fitfirst to learn more and get fit with us.