Tag Archives: rules

Rule #5: Visualize Success

torah-scrollIn recent posts I  have been considering the individual rules, compiled by personal trainer Joel Harper and listed in an article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By,” examining each of them in the light of Biblical teaching. You can check out Rule #4 and get to the previous ones from this link. Today, we get to examine rule #5: Visualize success. Here’s how the author explains this rule.

Harper has all of his new clients close their eyes and imagine their ideal body—both what it looks like from head to toe, and how it makes them feel. Then he tells them to go shopping: “I say to people, ‘Hey if you want that body, then buy clothes that would fit if you had it. And try them on every day until they fit.’”

How could I have known when I was ten years old that I was practicing rule #5. I went to the back yard and imagined myself coming to the plate in game 7 of the World Series. “Based loaded. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. Browning hits a long one down the left field line. If it stays fair it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s a home run! The Royals win the series! Oh, the humanity!” I did that day after day, finally giving the practice up when I turned 50. How’s that for visualizing success Joel? Maybe it would have worked better if I had tried on a major league uniform every day as well.

Harper’s rule #5 is all about willing yourself into smaller clothes and a more toned body. It’s about remaking yourself, into your own ideal image and under your own steam. There might be some value in that, but it seems to me that the Bible’s teachings take a different approach.

Rather than focusing on who I want to make myself become, the Bible tends to ask me to focus on who God has delivered me from. In Psalm 40, David gives a great example:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

Harper encourages his trainees to buy the clothes they want to fit into and then squeeze themselves in until the new togs fit, yet time after time, the Bible uses clothing as a metaphor for the righteousness that God places upon us through Christ. In Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

I’m not utterly dismissing Harper’s idea of visualizing success. However, I do believe there is more power in focusing on the negative past from which God delivered me than in the positive future to which I might be able to take myself. I’ll be more dressed for success in the garments of salvation than in the wishing wardrobe of items that don’t quite fit yet.

Fully aware of the magnitude of the sin from which I have been delivered, I can surely find motivation to keep my heart beating, my eating in check, and my sunscreen on. And if I could be closer to the fitness model that I’d like to be by following Harper’s path, then I’ll let that go in exchange for being the faithful (and fit) follower of Christ that He created me to be.

Rule #4: Set specific intentions

torah-scrollI have been exploring the individual rules listed in an article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By,” evaluating each of them in the light of Biblical teaching. You can check out Rule #1, Rule #2, or Rule #3. Today, we get to examine rule #3: Set specific intentions. Here’s how the author explains this rule.

The more detailed your daily goals and plans, the better. In his book, Harper cites an English study on women enrolled in a weight loss program: The researchers asked about half of their subjects to write down their strategies for managing temptation (for example, When sugar cravings strike, I will make a cup of tea). After two months, those women had lost twice as much weight as women in a control group.

On the surface, this rule seems like a great idea. I’m a goal-oriented person. I set goals (or objectives or plans) for the day, the week, the month, and the year. For example, I have a goal for calorie intake for today. My goal is simple. I’m going to eat no more than 1,750 calories plus one half of the calories I burn through exercise. When I exercised this morning, I burned about 980 calories, so I will allow myself 490 extra calories to be eaten. At the end of the day, my calorie count should be less than 2,240. Good goal, right? It’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. It’s S.M.A.R.T.! Yesterday, I didn’t meet that goal, going a bit bananas as I watched recorded episodes of NCIS before heading to bed. Still, the goal was good and serves me almost every day.

Similarly, I never go out to run without a distance and/or a pace in mind. I don’t lift weights without knowing what exercises I’ll do at what weights and what reps. Goals are good, especially when they help us with things that could get lost in imprecision. For example, it’s a lot easier to say I’ll eat no more than 2,240 calories than to say, I’ll “eat right” or “cut back a bit.”

Goals are biblical. In Proverbs 21:5, we are admonished, ”The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty,” while Jesus shared the peculiar little parable about building  tower in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

But goals can become an end in themselves. I think that’s why James 4:13-15 warns us about getting too involved in our goals and plans:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

I think the same basic message lies behind the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. We set goals. We try to achieve our goals. Sometimes we make it; sometimes we don’t, but trying is a good thing. When, however, those goals become our god, when our goals replace the goals God would establish for us, then we’re just as guilty of idolatry as those who bow down to Baal.

So in the end, rule #4 is a good one but one that can be misapplied. Remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Absent that, there are no wise goals.

Get Fit with 10 Easy Rules!

make-disciples-92814-1-638In a post at Health.com, Catherine Benedetto shares the “10 Rules Fit People Live By.” Besides ending that title with a preposition, I find Benedetto’s prescription just a trifle simplistic. Take for example, her second rule: “Maximize Inner Motivation.”

To do this you need to be absolutely clear about why you want to get fit. “Figure out what’s really important to you,” Harper urges. “Do you want to lower your blood pressure? Fit into a size two? Or do you just want to feel better?” Motivation that lasts can’t come from an outside source—like your doctor or a loved one who wants you to slim down. It has to come from a personal, deep-rooted desire for change.

That all sounds reasonable enough, common-sensical enough that you really wonder why it found its way onto the pages of a website. I can imagine someone reading that and saying, “Yeah! That’s so right. I need to get inwardly motivated.” What this article does absolutely nothing about is giving practical advice on how to maximize inner motivation. Pretty much all of the platitudes that make up the other 9 rules for fit people follow that same pattern.

Of course, a fitness blogger isn’t the only person who might be tempted to dispense bland, simplistic advice. Notice that Jesus did not take his followers out to the Mount of Olives and say, “Go and provide generic ideas to all people.” He told them to make disciples. Discipleship, like effective fitness coaching, requires a lot more effort than a 10-rule list. It will be messier, but it will produce results.