4 requirements for combining exercise and prayer
In Prayer Zone Workout, I encourage you to create your own unique Prayer Zone Workout using the prayer exercises provided and your own physical exercise routine.
Here, I want to give you more information on a suitable physical exercise routine that fits with the prayer exercises in a Prayer Zone Workout.
1. I recommend an aerobic exercise routine, rather than a weight or strength training routine. The prayer exercises are developed for this sort of movement. Aerobic activity works your physical heart, and the prayer exercises in a Prayer Zone Workout are intended to give your spiritual heart a workout. In this way, the physical and spiritual activities complement each other.
2. Choose an aerobic exercise that does not require the full concentration of your mind. Aerobic activities that require you to be fully focused on the physical motions will not leave your mind free for prayer.
3. Select an aerobic exercise that is individual and noncompetitive, rather than team-based or competitive; these, too, will require your full concentration.
4. The most appropriate aerobic exercise is one with a routine that includes stretching, warm-up exercise, interval training with high-intensity exercise and low-intensity exercise, and cool-down exercise. An explanation of how the prayer exercises combine with an aerobic exercise routine are shown in the chart Prayer Zone Workout Routines and described in Prayer Zone Workout Exercises. This chart and explanation can also be found in the book.
Some aerobic activities meet the above requirements more easily than others. Activities that aren’t ideally suited include sports like tennis, soccer, or downhill skiing. (I love downhill skiing—but I know it doesn’t work as a prayer time!)
Examples of Suitable Aerobic Exercise
Suitable exercises includes walking, jogging, swimming, and cross-country skiing; or using a stationary bicycle, rowing machine, or treadmill. These are solitary, repetitive activities—the kind we sometimes think of as boring! Often we combine them with listening to music or watching TV at the gym to help decrease the monotony of the activity. The benefit is that they leave your mind free to be occupied by prayer. Not only will praying prevent boredom, but you will gain the added benefit of improving the health of your spiritual heart while simultaneously improving that of your physical heart.
In addition, these activities engage the body in repeated actions and rhythms that are maintained for a continuous amount of time at a constant level, often without rest. They are not the type of activities that require short bursts of intense exercise interspersed with periods of rest. These repetitive actions, rhythm, and continuity fit well with the spiritual practice of prayer, which is often associated with rhythm, harmony, and order.
Once you’ve chosen an aerobic activity that would fit into a Prayer Zone Workout, the next step is determining how to get started.
If you already do aerobic exercise regularly, you are halfway there! You only need to choose some prayer exercises and make your Prayer Zone Workout a reality.
If you are just beginning with physical exercise, I want to encourage you that this is a great step for your physical and spiritual health. I recommend walking as a good first choice. Walking is my preferred aerobic exercise for a Prayer Zone Workout, although I have recently started jogging during the high-intensity part of my routine. Walking matches comfortably with the prayer exercises, and does not require expensive equipment or a gym membership. If you have any concerns about your physical health, do consult your physician before beginning physical exercise.
If you are having difficulty starting or sticking with regular exercise, there are many motivational tools available, both locally and online. Locally, many pharmacies, malls, or hospitals offer walking programs. For example, I signed up for the loyalty program with Walgreens pharmacy and discovered that it includes a walking program that allows me to earn points for each step I take. By keeping track of how far I walk, I earn points that can be redeemed in dollars at the store. So not only am I motivated to walk because it improves my physical and spiritual health—I’m actually getting paid for walking! What could be better? I also discovered that my local mall has teamed up with the nearby hospital to offer an organized walking program that includes signage to show routes and distances walked. Many malls run such programs, providing a warm place to walk in the winter or poor weather. Search for local programs and incentives in your own community—you might be surprised by what you find.
At varying financial cost, there are gadgets you can purchase to motivate you. These devices measure your movement, help you set goals, and allow you to join online communities of users. I have found the Nike+ products very helpful. The Nike+ FuelBand I received as a gift measures my steps and sets my goals. I also have a Nike+ iPod Sensor that fits into a pair of Nike+ shoes. This gives me another way of measuring distance, time, and calories. You can see this data at the beginning of each journal in Prayer Zone Workout for the Heart. A less expensive option is a simple pedometer (basic pedometers can cost less than $20). Your local pharmacy may have these discounted, as an incentive to exercise.
Once you have decided on your mode of exercise, choose prayer exercises from the book and get started. You will find that the prayer exercises in this book work easily for you regardless of whether you have an established physical exercise regime, or are just beginning physical exercise.
Stretching. You begin your Prayer Zone Workout with stretching. Stretching is an important part of a physical exercise routine because it increases flexibility and allows you to do physical activity more easily. Spiritual stretching is an important part of your Prayer Zone Workout, too. It enables you to pray more easily, and allows you to pray in response to different circumstances. Your spiritual stretching involves preparing your heart for prayer. In your spiritual stretching, decide which prayer exercises you will focus on during your Prayer Zone Workout. Choose a set of exercises that suits your specific daily circumstances. To make it easy for you to use the exercises, visit http://www.PrayerZoneWorkout.com. Here you can print out exercises in a handy size and format to take with you during your Prayer Zone Workout. You will also find additional exercises. Alternatively, you can download the “Prayer Zone Workout app” for your smartphone that enables you to view the exercises on the go.
Warm-up. Entering God’s Throne Room is your spiritual warm-up. Physical warm-up is exercise at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It helps prepare the body for more intense aerobic and cardiovascular activity. Likewise, Entering God’s Throne Room is prayer at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It helps prepare your spiritual heart for more intensive prayer activity.
High-intensity exercise. Talking to Your Heavenly Father is highintensity prayer activity. Physical high-intensity exercise means that your body works harder and your heart rate is raised. For example, walking uphill would be high-intensity exercise. Likewise, Talking to Your Heavenly Father involves prayer that is intense and strenuous for your spiritual heart. For example, talking about your worries and struggles in life would be high-intensity prayer.
Low-intensity exercise. Listening to Your Heavenly Father is low-intensity prayer activity. Physical low-intensity exercise allows your body to rest and recover from the high-intensity exercise. Likewise, listening to God involves your mind and heart taking a rest from talking about the things that weigh on them. Listening to God allows God’s Holy Spirit to rejuvenate your spiritual heart.
Interval training involves alternating between the high-intensity prayer exercise of Talking to Your Heavenly Father, and the low-intensity prayer exercise of Listening to Your Heavenly Father. It complements your physical interval training that alternates between high-intensity and low intensity exercise. In your Prayer Zone Workout, you can alternate as many times as you need between these two types of exercise.
Cool-down. Leaving God’s Throne Room is your spiritual cool-down. Physical cool-down exercise is milder exercise that allows the body and heart rate to gradually return to normal. Likewise, Leaving God’s Throne Room is prayer that gradually prepares your mind and spiritual heart for returning to everyday activities. This exercise marks the end of your Prayer Zone Workout.