"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8
I love youth leaders. Every youth event I speak at, I also ask them to allow me to speak to the youth leaders. Why? Because youth leaders are key to turning events into movements! They are the ones who can infuse a Gospel Advancing DNA into the hearts of their teenagers year-round.
That's why I'm writing this blog. The more I travel and see youth leaders the more I'm concerned about their physical well-being. Youth ministry can be an all consuming job. It can require late nights and time away from home (camps, retreats, outings, etc.) Like in Jesus' day, ministry can be busy and hectic. Unlike in Jesus' day, pizza and pop take precedence over loaves and fishes. And all of this heavy eating can lead to serious health issues for the typical fun-loving, hard working youth leader.
Does this describe you? Have you let yourself go? Are you physically out of shape?
Believe me I can relate. As an on-the-road traveling evangelist that works at a crazy pace I'm no stranger to the temptation of the tastebuds. As a matter of fact, when I was a young pastor I often gave into various kinds of cheese-covered, chocolate-coated or custard-filled temptations.
By the time I was 28 years old I had ballooned to almost 225 pounds of mostly mushy fat weight. Not only did I have a weight problem, I also had a "wait" problem. I thought I'd just "wait" to get in shape when I had more time. Besides, I was too busy taking care of important "spiritual" matters to address the "worldly" focus of my own personal fitness.
But one day I realized that my lack of health was impacting my ability to work hard over a sustained period of time. I had to take what I came to nickname "fat naps" during the day and was often crabby to my wife at night. Concerned friends confronted me and, finally convinced me to do something about it. Over the course of several months, through hard work and exercise, I pushed my weight below 200 pounds. I have hovered around that mark, give or take a few pounds, for the last 20 years or so.
So, as I challenge you to do something about your own personal fitness, I want you to know I relate. And I know the challenge before you...because that same challenge was/is before me.
2019 is the year to get off your big, fat "but's" and get yourself in shape. These "but's" usually go something like this...
"BUT I'm too busy to workout!"
"BUT all my teenagers eat fast food and I just want to hang out with them!"
"BUT by the time I get home I'm too tired to exercise!"
"BUT I'm too focused on serving my teenagers to worry about physical fitness."
So how can you get off your fat "but's" in 2019 and start doing something about your physical fitness? Here are five action steps that you can take:
1. Start eating the right amount of good calories every day.
Cut the average youth leader and he may bleed custard, carbs and Coke-a-Cola. More are acquainted with fast food than they are with fasting. When they ever sprint, it's to the kitchen and when they curl, it's with a fork.
Many eat too many calories and too many bad calories.
And be careful of the diets out there. Some are good and some are questionable at best. In August I started the popular Keto diet and at first was really excited because the weight just seemed to melt off for me.
So in September I went to the doctor to get a physical. After getting weighed and having my blood pressure checked I felt pretty good. Both were looking good. But then I got a disturbing phone call from one of the nurses a few days later. She bluntly told me, "Mr. Stier, I regret to inform you that you need to go on a statin as soon as possible. Your bad cholesterol is 190 and you are in grave danger of a heart attack or stroke. Have a great weekend!"
After I challenged her on her strategy for breaking bad news to her patients, I began to ask a ton of questions.
"Does the Keto diet I have been on been a major contributor to my cholesterol spike?"
"How long do I have to go on a statin?"
"Can I control this through diet or am I going to be have to be on some cholesterol controlling pill for the rest of my life?"
After doing a little bit of research I discovered that a small percentage of Keto dieters have an immense spike in their cholesterol levels (many others see their levels drop.) "I must be one of the small percentage that Keto doesn't work with" I thought to myself.
So I ditched the Keto diet and started eating a healthy, balanced diet of 2,000 calories per day or less. This idea came from my buddy Brian Aaby who lost a bunch of weight, not only eating this way, but also exercising on a regular basis.
I asked Brian where he came up with 2,000 calories as his guide and he said, "Well, that's the recommended daily calorie intake from the government. So, I figured, why not just do that? I thought that if I could burn more calories than I was taking in the weight would come off and my health would get better."
That's what happened with Brian and that's what's happening with me.
And, praise be to God, I have dropped to 185 pounds! That's what I weighed 28 years ago when I got married! And, more importantly, my bad cholesterol (LDL) has dropped from 190 to 103!
My doctor was shocked that I was no longer taking a statin. Almost all of it had been controlled through diet and exercise!
The key is good calories. This doesn't mean you have to eat perfectly all the time. I heard Doug Fields once say, "I eat 100% good 80% of the time." If you eat lots of fruit and vegetables and lean meat...and keep your total calorie count at a reasonable number, you can have a little slice of pie or that cookie once in awhile.
The key is tracking your calories. I use My Fitness Pal, a free app, that helps you keep track of exactly what you eat and how many calories you consume on a daily basis. Calories creep up on you so tracking them is key.
2. Burn off more calories than you take in by doing intensive exercise.
Over the last few months of cutting pounds, I've been introduced to some new ways of working out. In addition to my normal workout routine, I do a Spin bike a few times a week, as well as pull ups (maybe the best exercise for upper body strength!) My goal is to get to 20 straight pull ups! And, guess what, the lighter you get, the easier it is to pull yourself up!
But the real benefit to all this exercise has been increased energy.
With this energy, my goal is to focus on pursuing the Lord more intimately, my family more diligently and my mission ("energizing the Church to mobilize youth to gospelize their world") more passionately.
Yes, ultimately, the goal is "godliness" but I guarantee you that an in-shape youth leader is better suited to serve God, love others and do what it takes to advance God's kingdom than one who is lacking in energy due to being physically out-of-shape.
It doesn't matter what exercise you choose. If it makes you sweat and strain for 30 to 60 minutes a day, it's good! Figure out what works for you and then just do it!
3. Get enough sleep and drink tons of water.
Ask any serious bodybuilder (I come from a family filled with them) and they'll tell you how important sleep and rest is to the bodybuilding process. It's when you sleep that your muscles build up what you tore down through exercise.
Rest is vastly underestimated by most people, especially in ministry. If we aren't getting enough sleep we are by-passing God's natural order of things and moving through life with less energy, and probably less impact.
Water is another gift that is really important. Just like an engine needs oil, a body needs water. H20 lubricates our bodies and flushes out our systems. A hydrated body is not always healthy. But a healthy body is always hydrated.
I've read again and again that you should cut your body weight in half and drink that amount of water in ounces everyday. That means if you weigh 200 pounds you should be drinking 100 ounces of water daily to be fully hydrated!
4. Have an accountability partner.
Since I got the bad news about my cholesterol, Brian and I have been texting a screen shot of our daily calorie intake to each other for accountability. When we mess up we fess up. When we drop weight we encourage each other.
Who do you know who could hold you accountable? Call him/her and ask. Perhaps you can make it a goal to keep each other accountable in the New Year.
As Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
What's true when you fall, or when your cold, or when you are attacked, is true of the battle to get fit. Two are better than one.
5. Join the Youth Pastor Diet challenge!
My buddies Doug Fields and Josh Griffin are challenging youth leaders to join the Youth Pastor Diet (youthpastordiet.com.) This is a great, fun, encouraging and tribal challenge to lose weight as youth leaders together (and, of course, great prizes are involved!) If you are willing to put a little skin in the game (and lose a lot of fat in the process) go to the website and join the 500+ youth leaders already taking this challenge on!
The mission before us is to urgent for us to die of a heart attack prematurely. Heaven and hell hang in the balance so back away from the cheeseburger and mix in a salad. You are too important in God's plan to die young.
No more big "but's" or "butts!" No more excuses!
What's your plan to get fit in the New Year? Let me know by putting a comment in the box below! I will pray for you and please pray for me as I seek to become more and more physically and spiritually fit in 2019!