Holy Detachment

Holy Detachment

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. —Matthew 10:37-39

My family has recently experienced incredible change…

First, our parish said goodbye to our long time pastor who moved into another diocesan role. Our new pastor seems like an outstanding, holy, priest… but saying farewell to people you love is always hard.

Next, members of our family are moving, or have moved, to other states (Georgia and California) meaning we won’t see them all that often… at least compared to seeing them every week like we’re used to.

Finally, as if all that wasn’t enough, some very dear friends of ours recently announced they’re also moving out of state! And when I say dear friends I mean I’m a close friend with the husband/father, my wife is a dear friend to the wife/mother, and my kids are close friends with their kids.

So, in the course of a few weeks we’ve been hit with change, change, and more change. Not fun. Not easy.

But, as with anything, if we look deeper there may be light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, one could argue God is allowing us all to practice what I’ll refer to as holy detachment.

Now, when we speak of detachment we’re often talking about the need to break away from the “the things of this world.” In other words, in order to grow closer to Christ, we should detach ourselves from materialism, from our sports addiction, and even our attachments to bad, unhealthy, food.

But, as it turns out, we may also be called to detach ourselves from friends and loved ones over the course of our lives. In fact, it’s almost a certainty.

You see it’s very easy to grow attached, even dependent, on the people in our lives. And when this is the case our identities seem to be rooted in these relationships. Put another way, these people and relationship are what a normal life seems to be made of.

Sadly, this is totally wrong since our identities should be rooted in God and God alone. And any human relationship (including our relationship with our spouse and children) actually serves one primary purpose – to help one another get to heaven.

Put another way, holy detachment enables us to rightly see other people as our brother and sister in Christ and as fellow pilgrims making our way to the eternal wedding feast.

So, yes, it’s always going to be hard saying farewell to family and friends when they move. And it’s, obviously, infinitely harder to say farewell when the people we love die.

But, we must never forget that God has a plan for each and every one of us. He has a reason for everything He does. And it’s not my job, or your job, to understand the plan. We simply need to do our very best to cooperate with it.

Finally, the irony of this blog article is that my wife first explained the concept of holy detachment to me a few days ago. She learned it from her same dear friend that’s moving. This is just one more example of how lovely, and powerful, true friendships in Christ can be.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Enter Through the Narrow Gate

Narrow Gate 3

Someone asked him, “Lord will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:22-30).

When Jesus was asked how many will enter heaven, He responded in a direct way by saying that the path to enter heaven is narrow and not many will choose it. Jesus’s precision with this answer has often startled me. Initially I wasn’t sure why, but I was finally able to put my figure on it…this radical call is in direct conflict with the common notion of Christianity today. The underlying tone of many Christians implies that almost all will go to heaven, it’s just presumed. Unless you are Hitler or Saddam Hussein, you’re pretty much guaranteed to share in the heavenly banquet.

Now, clearly God’s mercy is unfathomable. His patience with us is remarkable and Jesus revealed His merciful heart and desire for all of us to follow the narrow path when he appeared to St. Faustina in 1937. St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her

“Your misery does not hinder My mercy, the greater the misery of a soul, the greater the right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all” (1182).

Cultural Contradiction

However, the common presumption upon His mercy that is held in our culture which leads us to believe that all will wind up in heaven regardless of the path that we take causes us to be unconcerned with spiritual matters. As long as I believe that there is a God or confess that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and live a relatively good life by being a nice guy, then I’m in….I’m safe…heaven bound. If the eternal life question is taken care of, then why bother with spiritual development. With this assumption we quickly turn our attention towards worldly concerns like being esteemed in our careers or earning a lot of money. However, this passage from Luke contradicts this assumption. Jesus clearly says there is a certain way to live, a radical way, and pleads with each of us to strive towards that way of life.

How to Become the Next Nolan Ryan

Great truths such as this are interwoven into our ordinary lives so that we can all access this Good News. Jesus turns the question on the questioner and points him, personally, towards striving to enter the narrow gate. We can expect this type of answer from any master or teacher who is trying to get us to accomplish something great and difficult. I doubt that a professional pitching coach, for instance, if asked how to become a great pitcher would say, “throw the baseball any way you want and everything will work out fine”. And you probably wouldn’t hear this recommendation, “you know that everyone becomes a great pitcher anyway, just throw it anyway you like”. We know from our experience that becoming great at baseball doesn’t work that way regardless of how much we may want to be an elite pitcher.

On the contrary, a sought after pitching coach will lay out for you the narrow gate that you must go through in order to pitch a baseball at a high level. You will be trained in the proper set up, arm mechanics, hip extension and the like in order to hone this craft, to make it your own and excel at it. Most people won’t go through this meticulous progression even though many wish they could be great pitchers.

The Narrow Gate of Fitness

In the same way, a fitness instructor would point out to you that many people find the path to being fat and out of shape. This path is quite wide and many people walk it. However, the path to fitness is narrow because it involves lots of disciplines and few people go down it. Look around you and this point is easily proven. So if you were to ask your fitness instructor “how many people will get fit”? A good instructor would simply say “don’t worry about it, and get to work”.

Enter Through Your Narrow Gate

Similarly, Jesus doesn’t answer in the abstract and tell us that this percentage or that will make it to heaven, but He instead says to all of us “don’t worry about that, get to work”! To strive to enter the narrow gate posits a struggle, something that is difficult and will require great discipline. The Sacraments, teaching, Scripture, moral discipline, and acts of mercy are all meant to help us in our journey through the narrow gate which leads us to God’s life of radical love.  Just as becoming a great pitcher or getting fit requires us to walk a path that is not much traveled, Jesus, with the help of His grace, ceaselessly desires for each of us to travel that narrow path towards freedom and love.

Faustina and Consolata (1937)

How to Get Your First Strict Pull-up

How to Get Your First Strict Pull-UpThe strict pull-up is, without question, one of the best functional movements you can do. Done correctly pull-ups strengthen your core, your arms (especially your forearms and biceps), your shoulders, and your back.

But, as you may already know, strict pull-ups aren’t easy to do. In fact, they’re down right hard. So, in this article I’d like to offer some practical tips for how to get that first strict pull-up. And, if you can already do a few strict pull-ups these tips will hopefully help you get even more!

Lose Weight

The first tip is pretty straight forward… lose weight! The more you weigh the more you have to pull. And if you don’t think 5 to 10 extra pounds make a difference go ahead and hang a 10-pound weight around your waste and attempt a pull-up. It’s MUCH harder.

We’ve covered nutrition many times before but, to summarize, we suggest eating grass-fed meat, fresh veggies, and good fats like avocado. We also suggest avoiding processed sugar the same way you avoid rat poison.

Hang From Bar With Active Shoulders (Dead Hangs)

Once you’re focused on losing weight it’s time to head to the bar for some pull-up progressions.

First, try hanging from a pull-up bar with active shoulders. In other words, ensure your shoulders aren’t limp and disengaged. Instead, engage your shoulders and hang from the bar.

Here’s a progression you could experiment with.

  1. See how long you can hang from the bar with active shoulders. Let’s say, for example, you’re able to hang for 50 seconds.
  2. Once you know your “max” cut that time in half, so in our example this would be 25 seconds, and do 3 to 5 sets of those. In other words, you would hang from the bar with active shoulders across 3 to 5 sets of 25 seconds per set. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
  3. Do this 2 to 3 times per week.

Hold at Top

Another technique worth trying is holding at the top.

Now, if you’re not able to do a pull-up you may need help getting to the top. Try standing on a box, or chair, and jump up to the bar while pulling. This should help you get to the top. If that doesn’t work ask someone to spot you and help you get to the top.

Once you get to the top, meaning your chin is above the bar, hold yourself there as long as you can.

You can do the exact same progression we described in the bar hanging section. Find your max, take 50% of that, and do 3 to 5 sets of these holds above the bar resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets. You can also work on these 2 to 3 times per week.

Negatives

The last movement I’d encourage you to try are negative pull-ups. For these you’ll need to get to the top of the bar with assistance… then hang out at the top for a second or two… then slowly allow gravity to bring you back down. If possible, do a 4 to 5 second count on your way down.

This lowering phase, called the eccentric portion, is really important to work on and will definitely help you get that first strict pull-up!

Try to do 3 to 5 sets of these a few times each week.

What About Bands?

Finally, I’d like to address the use of bands, which make doing pull-ups much easier since you’re basically standing on a giant rubber band and allowing it to pop you up.

There’s conflicting information out there related to the use of bands… some suggest using them when first learning to do pull-ups while others strongly encourage you to avoid them since they’re very easy to get hooked on.

I was recently in a large CrossFit box and learned they threw most of their pull-up bands away since folks were using them for years and still unable to do a strict pull-up. The few bands they kept are only used for mobility exercises.

My Suggestion

So, my suggestion is to first give it an honest go without bands. Try the three different movements described above a few times per week for at least 2 months while also losing some weight. I’d be very surprised, even shocked, if you’re not able to do a strict pull-up by the end.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups (and pull-ups)!

The Journey to Mastery

The Journey to MasteryWhen we decide to make any sort of change in our lives – such as seeking a deeper relationship with Christ or improving our health – there are a variety of approaches we can take.

And, as it turns out, if we hope to approach mastery in any aspect of our life the approach we take can make a massive difference.

So, in this article, I’d like to introduce you to four different folks who have all decided to improve their health through exercise and clean eating. And, as you’ll read, each takes a different approach with varying results.

Dabbling Donny

First we meet Dabbling Donny. Donny begins any new quest with enthusiasm. He pours his heart into it and learns all he can. And, to his credit, he works hard initially. Really hard. And, to make things even more exciting, Donny sees early results.

But, then, alas, as the grind continues Dabbling Donny begins to slow down. The excitement just isn’t what it was in the beginning. The improvements he was seeing in the gym are slowing and he even experiences days where his performance seems to get worse.

Frustrated with the situation Donny learns of a new DVD workout series while watching a late night infomercial that he’s sure will change his life forever… so he immediately begins this new quest with renewed enthusiasm only to see it fizzle out a few months later.

In short, the minute Dabbling Donny meets failure, or frustration, he’s onto the next adventure.

Enthusiastic Ed

Next we meet Enthusiastic Ed. When you look up the words passion and desire in the dictionary you see Ed’s picture.

And just like Dabbling Donny experienced, Enthusiastic Ed also sees immediate results when he begins his journey to better health. The only difference is Ed fully expected the results whereas Donny always seems a bit shocked when good things happen.

Then, when we fast-forward a few months, Enthusiastic Ed also begins to plateau and struggle. What used to be easy is now getting hard. But Ed doesn’t back down from the challenge.

Instead of running from the problem Enthusiastic Ed doubles down and works even harder than before. He even hears of how CrossFit legend Rich Froning works out 4 times per day so Ed decides to give that a go.

And, to his credit, he tries. But, sadly, Enthusiastic Ed isn’t Rich Froning and he eventually burns out and decides to quit what he now refers to as “obsessive CrossFit.”

The truth of the matter is it was Ed who was obsessive… not CrossFit.

Hacking Henry

And then there’s Hacking Henry… a really nice fellow with a good heart.

Henry is steady and consistent but doesn’t like to be uncomfortable. So, when he realizes he’s not good at something he simply avoids it. In fact, Henry is a beast on the pull-up bar but if he hears the workout of the day involves those nasty thrusters he’ll suddenly find a reason to skip that day.

Put another way, Hacking Henry never comes close to reaching his full potential since he chooses to avoid his weaknesses while running from the things he fears.

Mastering Matthew

Finally we meet Mastering Matthew. Matt is very consistent and truly enjoys the journey to better health. In fact, when Matthew hits the inevitable plateau he doesn’t panic or get upset.

Sure, he gets a little frustrated from time to time, but he truly enjoys the challenge so he seeks out advice and coaching from more experienced folks and continues to chip away at his weaknesses.

And, as a result of this measured consistency, and never-give-up attitude, Mastering Matthew eventually breaks through the plateau and continues the incremental journey to better health for the rest of his life.

Confession

OK, so it’s blogging confession time. I’m most definitely guilty of being just like each of these four men. I’ve dabbled before. I’ve definitely been far too enthusiastic, even obsessive at times. I’ve also hacked and run from the things that I struggle with (hello, jump rope!).

But, I’ve also done my best to recognize these faults in order to regain balance. So am I now the second coming of Mastering Matthew? No. Not even close.

I still get too worked up when I struggle at something and I’m definitely not as patient as I should be. But, I do feel like I’m making progress since I’m surrounded by so many amazing people like my beautiful wife, my kids, and my Exodus brothers who all help me to keep things on the tracks.

What about you?

What about you? Do you dabble, or hack, or get overly obsessive?  If you’re anything like me you probably do all of the above from time to time which is OK. There were only two perfect people to ever walk the earth… the rest of us are deeply flawed and imperfect so we need to battle and scrap our way to perfection.

The good news, and it truly is good news, is Our Lady and Lord are always present and ready to help us be the best we can be. We just need to ask for their help before doing our very best to cooperate with the grace extended to us.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

It’s Complicated!

Its Complicated image

Eleven years ago Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of the Gulf Coast and displaced hundreds of thousands of people who lived there, killing thousands more. During this dire incident and the chaotic days following the storm, a news story surfaced that puzzled many of us. It was reported and confirmed that rescue helicopters attempting to save people in a desperate situation were fired upon by the very people they were trying to save. It was hard to fathom why someone would run off the people who were attempting to rescue them and provide them with safe harbor.

Often, however, we find ourselves in a very similar position. Surrounded by water, with nowhere to go, we push change away. We don’t want help, we are content where we are, even if we aren’t going anywhere.

The intriguing aspect of this story is the reasons those people didn’t want help.  Why did they choose to remain in danger, stranded… stuck? Human beings are complicated creatures. We are a composite of many different aspects which mold us into who we are. The human person has psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical and experiential dimensions which shape who we are and how we perceive things around us. These melded parts make things messy and can force us to focus our vision through this personalized reticle and see the world around us through a narrow field of view.

When matters of change come our way, such as getting in shape, eating clean or the call to follow Christ, we tend to look at it through our narrow field of view and our response becomes blurred, messy and unclear. Everyone who is overweight or otherwise unhealthy knows that eating real food and cutting out snacks filled with sugar will change their lives. It’s not as though they have never heard of a gym or read that healthy foods can make you feel better and prevent disease. The reasons for not changing and remaining stuck where they are runs deeper than mere knowledge.

What’s Your Script?

Most of us look at what the health industry holds out through our scoped personal vision and simply reject it. They offer pat and simple platitudes for complex and messy problems. We have a multitude of barriers that keep us from changing whether it be physical, psychological or simply our experiences. We run these silent scripts in our minds which shape the way we approach change. “I can’t workout, I’ve got a bad knee” or, “I can’t lose weight regardless of what I eat.”  The simplex solutions offered by the fitness gurus don’t always resonate with our reality.

Get off the Roof!

So if you recognize these scripts running through your mind and you find yourself taking pop shots at the rescue helicopters of clean eating and fitness that keep swirling overhead, I want to challenge you to take control of your personal journey and treat finding the resolution like an experiment. You may know immediately what your barriers are to making a change in your wellness, but others may need to find them hidden under convenient excuses.

My challenge to you is to test your hypothesis and identify  your barriers and then make an adjustment and test the results. The reality is that your personal journey to greatness is just that… yours. All the rescue helicopters in the world won’t be able to rescue you until the decision is made to widen your field of view and become the warrior for which you were created.

5 Steps to Getting Things Done

5 Steps to Getting Things Done

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming, tasks into small, manageable, tasks and then starting on the first one. – Mark Twain

I was working through a pretty rough “Mike Short special” WOD this morning. Part of the workout called for 30 pull-ups in a row.

Unfortunately, I’m still learning how to do kipping pull-ups so I’m left doing strict pull-ups. And while I’m getting stronger 30 strict pull-ups in a row is still a lot for me!

So, I chipped away at them. I started with 5. Rested a few seconds and did 5 more. This process continued until I got to 30.

But, here’s the most important thing I’d like to share… when I finished my first 5 pull-ups I didn’t despair at the thought of having to do 25 more. Instead, my focus was on the next set of 5. That’s all I thought about.

The reason I mention this is because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when you have a lot to do. And I don’t just mean a lot of pull-ups or burpees in a workout!

Life can very easily psyche us out when we’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start since we have so much to do! And when this happens we’re often left paralyzed and then, before you know it, the day is gone and we’ve accomplished nothing. Not fun.

So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and not sure what to do (or not sure you can even do it) I’d encourage you to try this 5-step process.

  1. What are your 3 MITs? Identify your 3 most important tasks for the day. In other words, if you only accomplish 3 things all day… what should they be?  Write them down on a piece of paper.
  2. Identify the next step. What’s the next actionable step you plan to take on the first task? This doesn’t have to be a massive step either… just identify the first thing you need to do in order to attack that first task.  And when will you take it?
  3. Stay focused. Do your very best to lock in on the first “most important task” until it’s finished. Don’t multi-task! Of course, life happens… and things aren’t always smooth (especially for those of us with young kids) but do your very best to focus on the task at hand.  And, for goodness sake, avoid Facebook and other time sucks!
  4. Check it off! Once you complete a task mark it as complete. This is really important as the feel good brain chemical, dopamine, will be released when you cross the item off the list!
  5. Identify the next step. Now that you’ve completed a task what’s next? Repeat this pattern until all of your most important tasks are complete!

And, obviously, this same principle applies to working out. Once you have the plan (i.e. workout) and start the workout don’t think about all you have left to do. Instead, focus all of your attention on the next rep.

I even do this when I’m running. I don’t think about how far I still have to go. Instead, I just focus on the next step… and then the step after that, etc. This has really helped me.

Finally, what I’ve described could be referred to as “short-term” thinking, which, I suppose, it is. To be sure, I also believe in the importance of having longer terms goals.

But, here’s the thing, once you have these longer term goals identified we still need a plan for how to get there which brings us right back to what we need to accomplish this month, week, and day.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Is Christianity a Masculine or Feminine Religion?

Is Christianity a Masculine or Feminine ReligionBrett and Kate McKay, from the Art of Manliness website, have penned two excellent articles where they examine Christianity’s “manhood problem.”

What sort of manhood problem are they referring to? How about this?

Pew Research has found that, on average, Christian congregants across the world skew about 53% female, 46% male. In the U.S., surveys show a split that’s even wider: 61% women to 39% men (the gap occurs in every age category, and is thus not due to the fact that women live longer than men). In sheer numbers, what this means is that on any given Sunday in America, there are 13 million more women than men attending church.

So, what I’d like to do in today’s article is encourage you to check out the first two articles… once the third is available I’ll update this accordingly.

Part 1: Christianity’s Manhood Problem: An Introduction

Part 2: Is Christianity an Inherently Feminine Religion?

But wait… there’s more! When you get done reading these articles I’d really encourage you to check out their podcast… it’s fantastic! A recent episode I really enjoyed focused on how to get the most out of body weight workouts. Very good stuff.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

IE Success Story: Andy Merkle

Note from Ron: Today’s success story comes from Andy Merkle.  I’ve known Andy for several years through the Troops of St. George.  He always makes me smile (even though he looks pretty serious in his ‘after’ photo… LOL!) and is a fantastic guy.  And, as you’ll read, Andy’s commitment to his health and spirituality has really paid off!  He and I recently did an email “interview” of sorts which is what you’ll read below.  Keep up the great work, Andy!
Andy Merkle Success

1. Tell us about your background… who is Andy Merkle?

Andy Merkle Before & After

I’ve lived in the North Texas area all my life. I grew up in in Hurst, TX and studied exercise physiology at Texas A&M – College Station. Ironically, I studied the Clinical Effects of Dose effects of Exercise while working for the University of Nebraska at Kearney where I received my Masters in Exercise Science.

I’m a life long Catholic… K-12 Catholic school (St. John’s then Nolan High School). After several years of working in Physical Therapy I wanted a change so I went into medical sales.

I’ve spent the last 4 1/2 years working for a German spine surgery company, promoting endoscopic spine surgery techniques to surgeons across the country.

I have 3 boys ages 4, 7 and 9 and I’ve been married 10 years to my wife Elizabeth (who is a stay at home super mom).

2. How was your health before you made a change to the way you ate and took care of yourself?

Well, when I got into medical sales I was promoting and selling products through meetings with doctors, providing them lunches… a lot of catered lunches.

Before getting into medical sales I was an avid runner. In fact, I had been running since my college years (4 miles 4 times a week) and weighed about 165 lbs. It seemed like I could eat as much as I wanted and never get “fat.” After a period of time I somehow lost my way and stopped running. The excess food from conferences and lunches was taking a toll. I put on around 20 lbs in 2 years.

Everyday I would say, “I’m going to start running again” but never would make it more than a week or two. I just couldn’t find my rhythm and I made use of every excuse in the book.

Oh, and did I mention the lunches/dinners? I was still providing and eating “heavy” lunches 2-3 times a week along with many other over indulgences.

The last 10-12 years I have struggled – physically. I’ve always had a genetic predisposition for poor cholesterol. My father had quadruple bypass at age 52 and suffered from high cholesterol and high BP. My Dad and I have the same doctor and we’ve both struggled to “naturally” raise our good cholesterol. My doctor has been encouraging me to get on cholesterol medication for 5 years – and so I started taking the medication 2 years ago per his instructions.

3. What made you decide to make a change? When was it? Do you remember the day?

I do remember when I decided to make a change, but not the exact day. 2 years ago my 20 something year old brother-in-law was living with us for a short time and he bought an “insane” workout video. I remember thinking I can do that! I knew I needed to burn some serious calories and that seemed to be my short-term answer.

He moved out shortly after and said he didn’t want the workout videos… and that’s when it started. I set up my garage with a window unit for A/C and got to work. It felt great and I gained some serious momentum… I lost 5-6 lbs.

4. How did you start? Hard core? Or did you ease into things?

I would say I eased into things. 3 days a week or so. After 4 months of the video I tweaked my knee. I gave up on the video and focused on my running, which I started really enjoying again.

Then I started running with other fathers on my street. This continued to push me as they were in far better shape than me. Slowly, I was down 10 lbs and felt great. I started to add to my workouts with a different strength training video… and the success continued. I was not losing weight as much as becoming stronger. I was becoming comfortable with my situation. I thought this is probably the best I can do.

Then, in the January 2016 campout with Troop 5 of St. George I was intrigued after hearing you talk about nutrition. The more I thought about the sacrifices and commitment combined with prayer the more I liked it.

I NEVER considered daily prayer as part of my workout routine until you suggested it. I prayed, but not regularly, and certainly not daily or “intentionally.”

The next week I told my wife what I wanted to do and with her support I learned a little bit about sacrifice and the power of Christ in my daily life. I never felt so empowered by this journey. I dropped those pesky last 10 pounds in 3 short months when I started to follow the principles you and Mike share on Intentional Encounter.

Since that January day at the campsite I’ve never looked back.

5. What sorts of foods are you eating?

Now my foods are 90% fruit, vegetables and meat cooked with olive oil or butter. My snacks are nuts and organic sweet potatoes chips (sometimes goat cheese). I’ve learned to just double the vegetables when I eat out. For sweets I eat dried fruit and organic dark chocolate.  And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t eat bread or grains.

6. What sorts of workouts do you do? You’re a runner, right? Have you always been?

Currently I run 3 times a week (3.5 miles) and work out 2-3 times with some weight lifting (DVD’s help keep me on task/track). I’ve always run and it’s an easy workout for me, but the weights have had the bigger impact and truly challenge me.

7. What sort of results have you realized as a result of these changes?

First and foremost I now weigh 170 lbs (5’8″) down from 195 lbs 3 years prior, but as I mentioned earlier my cholesterol has always been an issue. In fact, I gave up trying to alter my cholesterol with basic diet and exercise and started taking prescription medications… and while it helped my numbers it was not that big of help.

So after discovering Intentional Encounter I decided to keep going with the dietary suggestions you and Mike lay out (Paleo) because it helped me so much and gave me so much energy.

Long story short my doctor noticed a complete change in my cholesterol profiles so he pulled me off my medication!  I’m extremely happy to say my HDL improved far beyond any medication or basic diet or exercise has ever done. I’m 100% convinced that my dietary changes have been the key to my improved health.

My HDL went from a permissible 40 (with meds) to an optimal 50 (without meds). I was beyond ecstatic when I first discovered the improvement since I’ve tried, since college, to improve this number (remember I studied exercise physiology).

8. How has this journey to better health improved other aspects of your life (i.e. family, faith, etc.)?

It’s been a great experiment/experience. It’s also been great to be an example of health and spirituality to my 3 boys.

We now, as a family, try to teach our kids why proper nutrition is important and how some food is actually harmful to you (i.e. High Fructose Corn Syrup).

I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved so far but I also feel such deep appreciation for the strength Christ has given me. It keeps me believing in His power. Daily prayer is now part of my routine… it truly gives me balance throughout my day. I have far to go on my spiritual journey but everyday I keep trying and asking for forgiveness when I fail Him.

9. What advice do you have for someone reading this that doesn’t think they could ever do what you did?

Well, I would say pay attention to the signs all around us. Evil and temptation (even with food) is real. You feel guilty after eating a bucket of chicken wings for a reason!
I was looking for a challenge and I didn’t quit. Find a goal, find someone to help you (a wife or friend) and use the support. Make a commitment to God and pray when you’re tempted. Surround yourself with things that help you with your personal goals (i.e. healthy food, get rid of sodas etc.).

What I discovered was my “reboot” button and other people can discover theirs too.

10. What’s next for Andy as it pertains to your health and spiritual life?

That list is lengthy. Confession tops the list. I need to go way more often than I do. I also need to continue to pray more with my children and share the importance of scripture with them and myself.

Health wise, I’d like to continue to increase the weights I lift and stay injury free. I just need to keep on track.

Finally, I’m still interested, and also praying about, committing to “Exodus 90” as this will continue to push and challenge my poor routine and waste of personal time.

My P90X Redemption Story

P90X My Redemption StorySeveral years ago I struggled my way through the popular P90X workout program. It wasn’t pretty.

I wasn’t able to do even half of each workout in the beginning since my body was about to break. I was extremely out of shape and had no foundation. Heck, my shoulders were on fire half way through the warm-ups!

But, as the weeks passed I slowly increased my fitness level and by day 90 I was doing all of the workouts. It still wasn’t pretty but my body was slowly getting the hang of it.

I also lost some weight and started to feel better which was good… but then, when day 91 arrived, I stopped.

It was as if my goal was to make it through the 90 days… like it was some sort of race or game. Now, in fairness to P90X, and other programs like this, it was my issue and had nothing to do with the program. My mindset just wasn’t right. I didn’t have a good reason for working out aside from the fact I thought it would be cool to get all ripped like Tony Horton!

So, this failure was definitely on my mind back in December 2015 when I began my current journey to living an intentional life – both physically and, most especially, spiritually.

And, as you’ve likely picked up on since I blog about it every week I’m still going strong. In fact, I can safely say I am in the best shape of my life as a 43-year-old man and my spiritual life has never been stronger. Of course, I’m far from perfect… and still a work in process… but things are definitely trending in the right direction.

So, what did I do differently this time? Allow me to explain.

Started Slow

First, since I was once again extremely out of shape (I could barely do 10 push-ups) Mike started me off with some basic body weight exercises I was able to do in my bathroom every morning. Pro Tip: Download the Intentional Wellness eBook by filling out the form at the bottom of this article to see the exact workouts I followed.

Now, full disclosure, a few weeks into the 40-day program I remember asking Mike when things would get more advanced. But he was very intentional and told me to trust the process. He was adamant I build a strong base before worrying about how many pull-ups or kettle bell swings I could do!

Key Takeaway: Start slowly and intentionally. Don’t attempt to take on too much. Be patient. It’s not a race.

Clean Eating

Next, when I did P90X I didn’t follow any sort of clean eating plan. Again, this wasn’t because P90X didn’t offer suggestions… they did. I just didn’t bother. So while I may have eaten a few more salads I still ate tons of junk (i.e. bread, sugar, processed foods).

This past November I committed to eating clean (even before working out). I’ve blogged about this before… but, in summary, I stopped eating most grains (especially any sort of bread) and pretty much cut processed sugar out of my life.

You see, while Mike is an excellent workout programmer… even he can’t help you lose weight and feel better with workouts alone. You must eat clean if you want to lose weight and feel your best.

Key Takeaway: Eat clean. Stop eating bread, and other grains, and remove processed sugar from your life.

Made it Spiritual

And while starting slow and clean eating were important… they’re nothing compared to the importance of uniting the physical journey with the spiritual journey.

God has been so good to me this past year. He’s led me to, and through, the 90-day Exodus program, which was the perfect opportunity to unite my spiritual life with my physical life.

And I’ve also worked hard to unite any minor suffering I may experience during a workout with the cross for my family and friends. And, as odd as it may sound, the Christian music my kids and I BLAST during our workouts really helps me focus my mind on our Lord.

Finally, my focus on clean eating, which obviously requires a lot of self-control, has led me to greater self-mastery in all areas of my life. Make no mistake; saying no to salt-n-vinegar chips takes focus and discipline just like saying no to sin. Sure, the stakes are much different… potato chips won’t send you to hell… but if you can’t say no to junk food what makes you think you’ll be able to say no to sin?

Key Takeaway: Unite your physical life with your spiritual life and allow God to walk with you in all areas of your life.

Made for Greatness

Finally, I’ve thought a lot about Pope Benedict XVI’s famous “made for greatness” quote the last week or so.

The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!

It’s so easy to be consumed by the many comforts the world has to offer us. But, I’m now convinced these comforts (i.e. the comfort of the couch, or junk food, or media distractions) only serve to make us weak, mediocre, and very average.

So, what drives me these days? I’ll tell you.

I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want to be mediocre. I don’t want to be average. God hasn’t called me to mediocrity. And God hasn’t called you to mediocrity. Instead, He’s called us all to be great in every aspect of our lives.

So no matter where you are on the journey towards a more intentional life… I’d encourage you to take a step in the right direction. And then take another one after that. Then don’t ever stop or quit. You can do it. I know it… and, deep inside, you know it too!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!