It’s such a cliché, the New Years’ Resolution List, especially the resolve to finally stick to a workout plan.  Every January, gyms are flooded with new members, and fitness DVDs and gadgets fly off the shelves.  We are filled with hope, yet statistics show that the gym and the ab gadget will likely be abandoned and forgotten before the annual Super Bowl game.

To ensure success with your fitness resolutions in 2011, you must closely examine your motivation for exercise.  Why do you want to exercise?  Do you want to lose weight, train for a race, have more energy or is it just “the thing to do this time of year”?

I have a suggestion:  Make your resolution more than simply “getting in shape.”  Instead, resolve to “Become a new person in Christ” by turning to the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration, for inspiration.

The twenty mysteries of the Rosary help us to practice virtue.  Each mystery contains a fruit or virtue that shines forth.  The Transfiguration urges us to become a new person in Christ.  Let’s examine this mystery in more depth to determine why a fit body will help us become more virtuous.

All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) relate the events of the Transfiguration, which most likely occurred on Mount Tabor.  The gospels state that Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up to the mountain to pray.  I did some research on Mount Tabor, and it is a rather arduous climb of several hours to reach the 1800-foout summit.  To give you a better idea, there are 4,300 steps that were built into the mountain in the 4th century to help Christian pilgrims reach the top.  Considering that Jesus frequently climbed mountains to pray, He was definitely in good physical condition!

Jesus had to be physically fit in order to carry out His mission on earth.  As a carpenter, He spent long hours working with heavy materials.  Later, during His adult ministry, He walked thousands of miles and climbed several mountain peaks.  Finally, He needed great strength and endurance for His intense suffering during the Passion.

We too must care for our earthly bodies so that we can best fulfill our unique vocation as part of God’s Divine Plan.  In fact, exercise can actually offer an opportunity to practice virtue.  In the excellent book, Fit For Eternal Life [link to ], Dr. Kevin Vost states,

“Virtues, when developed, make it easier for us to make the right choices.  When the virtues compatible with fitness exist in us as deeply ingrained habits, healthy choices, both in the gym and at the table, will become “second nature” and almost automatic.”

Here are some concrete suggestions to help practice the virtue of caring for our Temples of the Holy Spirit:

If you decide to join a gym, do some research first.  Insist on a one-week trial so that you can visit the gym during the times you will be able to work out.  Try a few classes or make sure there is adequate equipment available for your workout, especially if you will be exercising during peak hours.  Most gyms offer a free personal trainer session for new members.

If you plan to purchase home exercise equipment, be realistic about your commitment to use it.  Before buying, decide which days and how much time you will be using the equipment.  During that time, go for a walk or do some calisthenics (just to prove to yourself that you can commit to exercise).  If you are able to keep up that commitment for at least three weeks, go ahead and purchase the equipment, knowing that you have demonstrated an ability to stick to a plan.

Don’t try to do too much too soon! Too often, new exercisers bite off more than they can chew, get discouraged, and give up.  If you are sedentary, it will take time and effort before you see results.  It is best to start slowly.  In my book, The Rosary Workout, I recommend starting with just 10 minutes of exercise, twice a week.  Slowly build up to 20 minutes (the time it takes to pray a Rosary) twice a week over the course of a month.  The goal is to make exercise a habit, not to undo months or even years of sedentary living in just one workout!

Soreness is part of getting back in shape. When you begin a new exercise program, your muscles will get sore.  That is actually a good sign because it means that your workout was effective.  If you are overly sore and can barely walk, however, you probably went a little too hard.  Take a few days off and then back off a bit on the intensity for the next workout.  In the meantime, try soaking in a warm bath (add Epsom salts if possible), gentle stretching and perhaps a balm such as Ben Gay.  Soreness may increase for up to 48 hours after the workout, but will go away quickly after that.  Over time, your body will adapt to your workout program and you’ll feel refreshed and energetic rather than sore and discouraged.  Hang in there and pray for perseverance!

Find a workout partner.  It’s always tougher to skip a workout if you know that a friend or family member will be waiting for you.  If you can’t find a workout partner in your area, try a virtual workout partner—a friend online who will hold you accountable for your workouts and you for hers.

Pray to a patron saint for help. St. Gianna is the perfect patron saint for busy Catholic moms who want to stick to an exercise program.  St. Gianna was a mother, physician and selfless volunteer.  She was also an accomplished athlete who realized that physical exercise gave her energy and strength to carry out her many vocations.  Of course you can ask any favorite saint for some heavenly intercession.

This year, try to view regular exercise as an opportunity to become a new person in Christ.  Like Jesus, we must be physically fit in order to meet the demands of our vocations.  I like the simple advice I read at   “Let your life be transformed by Jesus.   Offer yourself to Him and let Him transform you.”

Copyright 2011 Peggy Bowes