Originally published in The Catholic Times, May, 2016.
People often ask me how to warm up and if warming up is really necessary before exercising. The answer is a resounding yes because it is important to stimulate and prepare the muscles before you challenge them to do intense work.
There are many ways to warm up, but generally we prefer dynamic movement to get the entire body moving. Warmup also helps people tune in to how their body is feeling that day to help prevent tightnesses and injuries.
Typically, warmup flows naturally into the workout. Sometimes I am asked whether a movement is still part of warmup or if we’ve crossed into the workout. That makes me smile.
We lift the heaviest weight at the end of class when we are really warm and have slowly increased how much weight we are lifting. People think they will be stronger when they are fresh at the beginning of the workout. Surprisingly no. It is unsafe to attempt to lift heavy without a gentle progression of lifting heavier weights while listening to your body.
Warming up is also necessary for us as followers of Jesus Christ.
I consider a spiritual warmup to be some form of prayer and study. Listening and asking in prayer and reading the Word of God can help prepare our hearts and minds to know how Jesus is calling us to serve others and take action in our everyday lives.
I have found that without the spiritual warmup of prayer and study, it can be easy to get off course in our actions. Since God works so individually with us, there is no prescribed warmup. We can approach prayer and study by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, staying close to the Sacraments, and reading the Bible. We may also be inspired by other books, music, art, nature, and spending time with people who challenge us to be holy.
Warming up those spiritual muscles before taking action will hopefully increase our self-knowledge and direction. The spiritual warmup and workout should flow naturally in and out of each other with a balance of prayer, study and action.
This cycle should never stop. Ideally, we exercise our physical and spiritual muscles on a regular basis. We warm up and work out to challenge our muscles to get stronger to support our health. We warm up spiritually with prayer and study to prepare us to move into action by serving others in our homes, churches and communities.