Growth happens over time. A wonderful analogy for the growth cycle compares it to the profile-view of a flight of stairs. Notice the two different planes; horizontal treads and vertical risers. Movement in only one plane leaves you unable to go up or forward.
- Horizontal periods of time are characterized by rest and regeneration.
- Vertical periods of time are characterized by learning or practicing new skills, and beginning to apply them. Literally growing ourselves, businesses, relationships, etc.
View growth like a stair-climbing cycle. Ascending a set of stairs requires repeated action in both planes. The criticality of each type of movement in the cycle—forward and up—is perfectly clear.
We all need periods of rest and movement to get stronger. The focus of this theme is employing horizontal periods so that when we’re ready to go vertical we’re wonderfully and supernaturally equipped for the tremendous effort life often requires—physically and spiritually.
Sleep is when our bodies heal physically, absorb what we’ve learned mentally. So much happens behind the scenes—don’t take a good night’s rest for granted!
Bottom line, we were never meant to sit still. No amount of hustle is going to fix sitting still for prolonged periods of time. Let that sink in.
No amount of working out will undo a sedentary lifestyle.
Get up and move—comfortably. It’s that simple. Aerobic activities like cleaning the house, playing with kids, gardening, standing at your work desk—these all count.
The aerobic heart rate upper limit is 180 – age. If you’re 30, your aerobic heart rate is 150 beats per minute (BPM). Regardless of what activity you’re involved in, at 150 BPM, there’s no danger of over-doing it. Aiming for a few hours a day of aerobic activity is a good start. Even better if you use smaller chunks of aerobic activity to break up long monotonous stretches of time, like sitting at work.
Muscle strength is a great indicator of health. Strength prevents injuries, supports organ systems, and supports the skeletal frame of our body. Maintaining strength as we age is a great way to slow the aging process and keep us healthy long-term. Building strength physically is all about pushing muscles to the point of exhaustion, then resting to allow time for healing and growth.
The four primal essential movements (PEMs) are pull-ups, pushups, squats, and plank. Sound daunting? Rest assured, it doesn’t have to be! Although the end-game of a PEM workout is no doubt hard core, each exercise can easily be modified to accommodate an absolute beginner skill level.
Considering modifications, a PEM workout is do-able for everyone.
PEM movements use body weight as resistance. That means they can be done at a gym, but you don’t need a gym membership to do the same exercises at home. That’s great news if you’re on a budget or self-conscious about working out in front of an audience. If you’re a beginner, there are a few items that will help you modify the exercises but they cost less than the first month of a gym membership.
Another plus is that the concept of “hitting it hard” at the gym every day isn’t in line with primal philosophies. It’s such a comfort to know that living in a gym isn’t necessary for good physical health. Why? Because lifting your body weight is intense! Unlike with frequent aerobic movements where there’s no danger of overdoing it, PEM body weight exercises should be limited to twice, or maybe three times a week, max. The effort expended in a PEM workout is one that requires a period of rest afterword, thus, there’s no need to overdo it. You’ll see more gains (able to increase difficulty of movements) more so with two or three workouts per week than with daily workouts.
No joke… run like you’re running… for your life! Sprinting is about an all out explosive effort. The absolute max effort you’re capable of. I usually think about running to save my kids from something, for me there’s no better motivator. Because sprinting requires effort from every part of your body, operating at max output, it’s essentially a stressor. We’re engaging the fight-or-flight response on purpose.
The point is to use the acute stress response to grow speed, agility, responsiveness—not to drain our stores of energy. With that in mind, there are a few points to note.
- There’s no point to sprinting unless you’re up for the challenge—able to give it everything you’ve got.
- Just like with lifting heavy things, it is possible to over-do it.
- Appropriate periods of rest between sprint workouts are critical.
Just like with so many other things in life, quality is more important than quantity. More is not better. Two or three times a month is plenty.
If our bodies are the tool we use to shine Christ’s light into the world, whether it’s with Herculean muscles, or a soft gentle heart, we owe it to God to take care of ourselves physically and spiritually so we’re consistently able to handle anything life throws at us.
Jeremiah 31:26, “At this, I woke up and looked around. My sleep had been very sweet.”
There is nothing like waking up from a good nights sleep. This verse sums it up—”very sweet.”
Genesis 2:1-3, “So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”
God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, all in six days… then took a break. The world ‘holy,’ used to describe the seventh day, means set apart… different in some way… the sabbath is different because it’s the day God rested as opposed to created or achieved. We’re commanded to do the same.
Exodus 34:21, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.”
The plowing and harvest seasons are critical for farmers. Crops are a farmer’s livelihood. That the Bible emphasizes resting—even in the face of critical work—highlights how critical this command is.
Mark 4:30-32, …Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Life is consistent with movement and seeds move as they grow. Above, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a small seed that has the power to move mountains (Matthew 17). How does a mustard seed move a mountain? My take on it is through consistent movement over time, not in an instant. It’s the smallest seed in the garden, but over time it moves and develops roots that run deep and branches that stretch high. There’s a tree in my yard that’s split the rock it’s growing out of in half, it’s a perfect example of what the tree that sprouted from a mustard seed would do if a mountain got in its way.
Frequently in the Bible, the words heavy and burden appear together. I can’t come up with a better example of a good work out other than carrying something heavy. In the primal world heavy lifting is with your own body weight; pushups, pull-ups, squats, and plank. In the Bible it seems that most heavy lifting has to do with the burdens we carry. It’s no coincidence then that we’re told to carry one another’s burdens. Spiritually, there seems no better way to strengthen our faith, the command is clear, do the heavy lifting by lifting another up and carrying their burden.
Galatians 6:2, Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
My initial thought from years ago, that there wasn’t much on “running” in the Bible, is way off for two reasons. First because I didn’t think running—or sprinting—mattered. Second, because not only does it matter, but it seems to be a theme, a really big one!
1 Corinthians 9:24, Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
2 Timothy 4:7, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.
Action is the body’s domain. If you’ve got an over-taxed short term memory like me 😛 , go back to the diagram in the ‘Health is All Encompassing’ lesson. The body is the outer most part of ourselves. It’s what other people see, it’s where what is going on inside us is visible to the outside world.
For every physical experience, there’s a spiritual parallel. If our bodies are the tool we use to show the world who we are, we’re responsible for caring for ourselves in a way that best prepares us for both the physical and spiritual tasks at hand—whether it requires Herculean muscles, or a soft gentle heart. Whether we’re talking physical or spiritual growth, there exists a symbiotic relationship between the horizontal and vertical planes of action mentioned in the theme overview above.
Consider that physically:
- Effort makes sleep and rest more deep and restorative.
- Effort depletes rather than strengthens us unless we’ve gotten the deep and restorative sleep and rest we need.
- Through effort like prayer, good works, or [insert other spiritual output here], God produces the fruit of the spirit in us.
- The above spiritual efforts drain rather than strengthen us unless we rest in God’s Spirit within us.