CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
In our current wedding culture, many brides feel pressured to go on extreme diets or sign up for boot camp in order to look a certain way or fit a particular style of dress. Not surprisingly, this pressure can cause undue stress during an already stressful time in a woman's life, and may lead to physical and emotional health issues. If you're currently feeling this pressure, or know a bride-to-be who is, Jordan Fiske, a certified personal trainer and founder of Catholic Fitness Training, can help reframe your fitness goals in a healthy, Christ-centered way. I recently had the opportunity to interview Jordan, and I think what he has to share will bless and encourage all women in their health and fitness journeys.
What inspired you to start Catholic Fitness Training?
My inspiration to start Catholic Fitness Training began as my wife and I were preparing for marriage in November of 2016. My goal was to be more fit and lose some weight before the wedding. Each time I would run, I would pray the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Over time, I grew to look forward to this time of not just exercise, but prayer as well. I have also grown to love St. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body over the last couple of years. St. John Paul II's case for the value and meaning of the human body, which is made in the image and likeness of God, has me convinced that we should treat our bodies as gifts from God.
As a certified Personal Trainer since 2011, I know how common exercise relapse is, especially when setting a short term goal like getting fit for a wedding, vacation, or bathing suit season. Once the event or season is over, it's easy to fall back into our old ways in terms of nutrition and fitness. With Catholic Fitness Training, I want to encourage Catholics to find lifelong motivation to care for their bodies and look beyond those short term goals.
For many Americans, fitness is more about achieving a certain "look" than it is about health. Do you think Catholics ought to approach fitness differently than the wider culture? If so, how?
If Catholics don't approach fitness differently than our culture does, then we are failing our culture. A cursory look at many of the top fitness Instagram accounts reveals an exercise culture that is obsessed with the ability to wear as little clothing as possible--regardless of the damage that may be done to both body and soul. Our culture sets an unrealistic and often extremely unhealthy standard for what it means to be fit.
I would encourage everyone looking to achieve a certain look to go beyond the surface and strive for the interior benefits of nutrition and exercise. A good workout regimen has numerous physiological benefits, such as improvement of mood, increase in energy, and a stronger immune system. When exercise is sustained over a long period of time, these benefits are often more dramatic. These benefits of exercise, in my opinion, are far more important than the visible changes in body composition.
On a spiritual level, consistent exercise and healthy eating can help us develop the kind of discipline we need for other areas of life, including prayer.
What would you tell a bride-to-be who is anxious about the number on the scale as her wedding approaches, and might be tempted to do a fad diet or over-exert herself with a workout routine she's not ready for?
My advice to a bride-to-be is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The reality is being healthy and achieving your fitness goals takes hard work and time. Start several months prior to your wedding, and make sure your regimen is a balance of cardio and resistance exercises.
Remember: muscle weighs more than fat, so don't worry about the numbers on a scale. If you want to weigh yourself, I recommend limiting weigh-ins to once a week; a healthy number of pounds to lose is typically .5 - 2 pounds per week. Don't buy into the latest trends advertising anything different, because they aren't healthy or sustainable; these are just money-making schemes and are not healthy or effective.
A note on strength training: many women mistakenly believe that lifting weights will make them "look like a man." This is simply false. It would take years of intense training (along with hormonal supplements) for the average woman to get bulky from weight lifting.
What advice do you have for women who would like to be in better shape and improve their health but don't know where to start?
Getting in better shape and improving your health is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. Below are five steps to help change your behavior:
1. Download the My Fitness Pal app (it's free!). This app will help you track your diet, exercise, and manage your caloric expenditure.
2. Create SMART goals related to fitness and nutrition and write them down in a location that you will see every day.
3. Be accountable. Whether you check in with a personal trainer, workout partner, or exercise community, accountability is crucial to keep you motivated. Catholics are all called to communion with each other, so it is always good to have someone informed about your goals to help keep you motivated.
4. Just go for it. It doesn't matter if you can only jog for 5 minutes or do 3 push-ups your first time exercising, just keep on increasing your work form the prior day. Don't let yourself or anyone else discourage you from your goals.
5. Offer each workout as a prayer. We all know the phrase "offer it up," which is a reference to Colossians 1:24. If you offer your workout as a prayer for a particular intention, you can tap into the benefits of Christ's redemptive suffering.
What's your #1 spiritual takeaway from your work as a personal trainer?
The body is so much more than physiological processes; it is sacramental. In one of St. John Paul II's addresses on the Theology of the Body, he states that, "The sacrament or sacramentality- in the most general sense of this term- intersects with the body and presupposes the 'theology of the body'... In some way, therefore- even if in the most general way, the body enters in to the definition of sacrament, which is 'a visible sign of an invisible reality,' namely, of the spiritual, transcendent, and divine reality."
Jordan Fiske is an online and in-person trainer who is a certified Supervised Personal Trainer and Group Trainer. He teaches a wide variety of fitness classes, including kettlebell, athletic conditioning, and bootcamps. He's also a graduate student in theology at John Paul the Great Catholic University. For more information about Jordan's ministry at Catholic Fitness Training, daily motivation, or articles on the intersection between faith and fitness, head to their website, Instagram, or Facebook page.