Trend: As individuals discover the impact their spiritual condition has on their physical condition they want personal trainers that can help them achieve the physical goals AND provide spiritual guidance. This new bread of personal trainer, though not a typical church pastor, provides a high level of pastoral care.
What to watch for: Personal trainers that are seriously adding the value of Christian faith to their service will deliver very distinct qualities. Look for professionals that begin and/or end with some focused prayer time (your own personal prayer partner). They’ll be as knowledgeable of the Bible as you’d expect from a pastor. AND - they’ll be comfortable and skilled at being able to help you discover the relevance of it in applying it to your daily life. This new style of trainer is equally competent as a Christian counselor, continually developing in the knowledge of faith and it’s application. Above all they’re passionate – you don’t want anything less.
How it is happening already: Though formal research has not been done to measure how many personal trainers are Christian we receive feedback from many and estimate that there is likely a significant population of trainers that have faith who want to better incorporate it into what they do. Many of them do take opportunities when the arise to pray or share a Bible verse with their clients. Sometimes they also tend to use Christian music during training sessions. In faith-based fitness facilities some trainers more regularly let their faith show and impact the training experience. In a few facilities where they specifically have a ministry/ outreach agenda the personal trainer may offer very specific church-like teaching and Bible study opportunities and intense life counseling.
What needs to happen: These entrepreneurs need to be empowered with new definitions for a personal trainer and the faith skills to support them. Personal trainer certification is now well defined and developed. Similarly, universities offer extensive programs in theology, counseling, and Christian ministry. The intersection of these two practices needs to be defined. Educators from both camps need to come together to outline objectives, qualifications, standards and a process to deliver uniform training.
How it will grow the faith and fitness culture: This trend promises to be one of the most visible ways that the fitness industry can be transformed by faith. Bringing faith skills and applications into the rather scientific practice of personal training will for many validate faith. True life transformations stand to be real modern-day miracles that attest to the power of Christ.
What you can do: Ask your personal trainer if they are a Christian. If they are ask them to make that an important part of your training experience. If you are looking for a personal trainer ask your fitness facility specifically for a personal trainer who is a Christian. If you are using a database of trainers provided by a certifying organization like ACE, ACSM, AFAA, AFPA, Cooper Elite, IFPA, ISSA, NATA, NCSF, NFPT, NSPA or USPTA then contact the organization and let them know that Christian faith is part of your search criteria. Supply is created by demand.
CALLING ALL FITNESS PROFESSIONALS
As a Christian, and fitness professional, trainers have a unique opportunity to positively impact the lives of those with whom they come in contact in their daily lives. What a privilege, to not only help people live better physically but also spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even financially. As fitness professionals we help others make positive lifestyle choices that lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life. This is an awesome privilege and brings much fulfillment to those of us who are fortunate enough to work in this field.
On a daily basis we have the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor in the lives of those we help. We rejoice with clients when they brag about fitting into clothes that they haven’t worn in years or are now able to see their toes without leaning forward. We love to hear the grandfather tell of being able to keep up with his grandchildren, and celebrate with the athlete who has won their endeavor. Quite often we develop close bonds with those we serve.
How many times have you had a member or client share a personal story of triumph or tragedy? The woman who comes in with tears over the heartbreak of a divorce or lost loved one, who just needs a trusted friend with which to share her grief. Have you ever listened to a parent who can no longer control their teenage child and is just looking for some advice? We are often privy to information about people’s personal lives that they don’t ever share with co-workers, family, or even their pastor. Daily we are in close personal contact with hurt, broken people who are seeking a fix to their lives that can’t be fulfilled through their physical training alone.
This natural void in man that can only be fulfilled through an understanding of who he is in relation to his Lord and Savior, is one that is trying to be filled by the health club industry. The emergence of the mind, body, spirit connection in the health club industry has brought to the forefront many eastern religions and philosophies. They have been integrated into our health club culture and billed as a means to “relieve stress” and find “balance” in our lives. Lord knows that our society needs a reduction in stress and anxiety levels, and balance in our lives is thought to be a myth or urban legend along with big foot and aliens. The attempt to introduce an eastern spirituality to our members and clients is idolatry. It is putting another god before God; this is not in compliance with the first commandment. Forget the other nine --- we haven’t made it past number one. Would we consider it ok to cheat on our spouse for 45-60 minutes, two to three times a week? Of course not, but this is how God views our putting other gods before Him (see Ezekiel 6:9). Christ said to cast all our anxiety on Him, if we seek refuge from our stress in any meditations on things other than Christ, then we are committing idolatry.
Any belief we have must at some point have some sustenance to it or we will soon lose faith in that belief. Santa Clause, the tooth fairy, are just a couple of beliefs that most of us held firmly to at one time. Due to a lack of evidence supporting the existence of either, we give up on these beliefs as we become older. If we send people to eastern spiritual thought (yoga’s, etc.) for finding balance, peace, and meaning in life, then they will never truly experience lasting results due to the false nature of their worship. Did I get your attention with my use of the word “worship”? Our meditations on the things of God are a form of worship, so in turn if we cast our meditations on anything other than Him, then we are giving our worship to “things” other than Him. Can we have Christian worship while meditating on nature’s beauty? Yes, but the praise must be to the Creator and not to the created. Remember we will be held accountable for every “careless word spoken” (see Matt 12:36).
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
How many of your clients or members are living life “to the full”? Are you? To begin, we must deal with ourselves for we cannot impart something, which we do not possess. We must first recognize the spirit that has been imparted to us from Christ; we have to know who we are in relation to whose we are. Many readily identify themselves as God’s children since this is what most of us have been told since childhood. But, if this is all we know then we are still in the dark and will forever be impotent. As children of God we are “heirs of God” and “joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), as heirs we have the promise of a future inheritance and the benefits of adoption today. The benefits of adoption are brought forth in us through the Holy Spirit which allows us to crucify the flesh and live a life according to the spirit.
Do we consistently deal with people out of a spirit of love? Are you patient, kind? Not easily provoked? Not arrogant? Think no evil of others, nor behave rudely? These behaviors go contrary to our human nature (flesh), which is precisely why they will stand out to those around us. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). We cannot consistently act in a manner inconsistent with our character, so let your character be dominated by the spirit that we have been given, the spirit of the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).
“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”(Phil 3:16)
We have been placed in a powerful position of influence in many people’s lives, we will be held accountable for how we represent Christ (if at all) in our professional lives. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). What good will it do our clients or members if they are able to obtain the optimal physique under our tutelage, yet never learn of the saving grace of Jesus? What if we are recognized nationally as the top trainer or gym owner in the land, but fail to share with those around us the secret to a meaningful life. Have we accomplished anything or are we simply rearranging furniture in a burning house? It is time that we take hold of the fitness industry for Christ. True balance cannot be found through any eastern meditations or western gluttonies, but only through the personage of Jesus Christ.
Those of us with the answers need to give freely as it has been freely given to us. We must confess Him before men. This is not an option. If we are ashamed of Him he will be ashamed of us when He comes again (Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26). Our spiritual beliefs must not remain personal, we can no longer hide who or whose we are. Let’s quit making temporal changes in people’s lives and begin making eternal changes in the lives of those we serve. Only the eternal will bring us a lasting reward and the chance to hear our savior say, “well done, good and faithful servant!”
Watch future issues of Faith & Fitness Magazine for specific ways trainers can share their faith in their business. We’ll also discuss Christian Life Coaching in conjunction with Personal Training.
This article appeared in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Faith & Fitness Magazine.