I hate working out.  I am team sports girl and if no one is counting on me to show up or work hard, I’m hard-pressed to do it.  I enjoyed feeling affirmed in my lazy attitude in an article I read several months ago outlining the dangers of America’s exercise habits.  Essentially, there is not a lot of history in the idea of working out, especially to lose weight.  Day-to-day activities of work and play used to give our bodies a good dose of movement, which maintained muscle tone to critical degrees all on its own.  This century, however, many of us have become professional sitters, who average less than seven thousand steps per day between cars, elevators, and computer work.  So, in order to maintain enough muscle for occasional bursts of energy and to keep our bones and tendons well-enough supported to avoid injury/ chronic wear, we try to work out.  Fair enough.  But as the Time article points out, we are still out of balance.

Working out tends to be more intense (but not necessarily more calorie-burning) than just daily activity.  It sends our body into glucose cravings, which means we want to eat things that will bring our body calorically back to the place it was pre-workout.  It leads to compensatory and often over-compensatory eating.

The other thing it does is make us tired and make our bodies want to rest and reserve energy for the next day.  Compensatory rest.  I’m guessing all of us have experienced the feeling of post work-out vegetation.  We’re not as productive as we might need to be after giving time and energy to the exercise.

It takes some thought, but we can use a lot of calories if we just make less sedentary choices.  My body uses as many calories of energy to make dinner, wash the dishes, and walk the dog as it does to run 3 miles. (calculated here)

(So far, I’ve made a pretty good case to justify my distaste for working out, don’t you think?)  A friend of mine commented the other afternoon that after her run in the heat of the day, she felt she had earned the right to do nothing all day.  It brought my mind immediately back to the Time magazine article.  I thought to myself that she could benefit from more activity and less intensity.  It was a moment of self-satisfaction followed by serious conviction.  Because the habit I have developed of using my body regularly more than extremely has not crossed over to the most important health aspect of my life, my spirit.

For years I have participated in “mission trips”, essentially volunteering my time and labor for a concentrated period to a group of folks that have particular needs.  I go, I learn a lot about service and humility, and I come home and subconsciously behave as though I now have a right to do nothing.  I have exhausted my philanthropy and proceeded to mistake exhaustion for completion.

I do the same thing with other spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, meditation, scripture study, you name it.  I realize it’s been a while, I hit it hard, I get exhausted, and I turn it off again for months.

But what would it look like to infuse spiritual exercise into daily living, much the way I’ve done with physical exercise?  Partly a trick of perspective, I think; slowing down and recognizing the holiness of my surroundings.  The people I interact with (or sometimes ignore) each day are not “mere mortals”, but souls, alive and exceptional.  If I can keep this at heart, my conversations change from casual to a profound encounter with something God-made. The earth constantly reveals what lies above and beneath the lives we live here.  If I can pay attention, I will see splendor and terror and everything in between.  I will see God.  My growing acquaintanceship with food and nutrition keeps me in awe, all the more so when I use my bare hands to do the labor it requires.  If I stop to give thanks, I acknowledge my relationship with the Creator; I experience the safety and vulnerability of having a caretaker.

I know that I don’t know all the answers for this one yet, but I’m starting the pursuit.  In a new town, a new neighborhood, a new vocation- it’s the perfect place to start observing the holy patterns in the world around me.