By Kim Roberts
Guest Contributor

Did you know that fitness can help you on your path to holiness?  It’s true!  If someone would have told me that 5 years ago, I might have laughed in their face.  You see, for several years I wasn’t plugged into my faith and kept a distance from the Lord.  So, if you would have also told me I would be writing an article for the Church Today, I might have choked laughing!  But here is what I know for sure:  God was, is, and ever shall be – the one with the last laugh.  Let me share with you how I know.

I am a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic schools, but I never really developed my relationship with God.  One or two encounters maybe, but I never fed that flame.  Some of it was due to lack of opportunity, but the rest was due to my poor choices.  God was basically confined to church on Sundays, grace occasionally before meals, and prayer requests only when I really needed something.

My faith life was on cruise control for years.  Then in my early 30’s I suffered from grief and loss due to events out of my control.  The pain unfortunately was due to hurts from within the Church.  During this time, I was terribly sad and angry.  Attending Mass was difficult, but thankfully my husband Ted insisted we go for our family’s sake.  My faith life was drowning, but my precious convert husband fought to keep it afloat.

My unlikely faith and fitness journey began in 2013.  At the repeated promptings of our loving friends, Ted attended a men’s ACTS retreat at Maryhill.  With his “yes” to that retreat, our family began a journey of profound ongoing conversion.  I attended the women’s ACTS retreat shortly afterwards.  These experiences brought us closer to God and each other more than I ever imagined possible.

As my relationship with the Lord grew, I wanted to invite Him into every part of my life.  I wanted to “rejoice always and pray without ceasing” as St. Paul tells us.  But incorporate God into my workouts?  It seemed awkward.  But I loved exercise and I loved Jesus, so I took one tiny step: I started offering my workout as a prayer for a friend that was struggling.  This new habit took root because it infused a supernatural peace and joy that far outlasted any endorphins I had produced from exercise.  I soon began running online faith and fitness challenge groups for friends to share the goodness I’d found.

In 2016, a friend told me that I should really look into an online workout program called SoulCORE.  I did not realize at the time what a gift she gave me in that simple suggestion.  The website explained that SoulCORE “pairs core strengthening, stretching, and functional movement with the prayers of the rosary.”

I was intrigued, so I immediately downloaded the Sorrowful Mysteries Workout.  I absolutely loved it.  The workout was challenging yet peaceful.  The beauty of the Rosary is that it is for anyone who wants to grow in virtue  and gain interior peace.  Growing in virtue helps us to grow in holiness.  Gaining strength and flexibility is just a bonus!

I began excitedly inviting friends to pray and workout at my house.  After several months, I felt called to attend a SoulCORE Leader Discovery Retreat to discern becoming an instructor.  In October 2017, I became certified.  Since then, Mother Mary keeps gently inviting me to draw closer to her son, Jesus, and I now have a fire and joy that cannot be contained.

The fruits of this journey have been overwhelming, and it defies all logic.  In 5 years, I went from a desperate, dark place spiritually to a place of radiant light.  And that just shows you how relentless and loving our Father in heaven is.  He comes to us so personally.  He knew my love for exercise, and used it to reach His lost sheep of a daughter.  This brings tears to my eyes every time I reflect on it.  God is so good, y’all.  And He is a God of joy.  In our journey together, He continues to have the last laugh… and I absolutely adore laughing with Him.

Thank you for listening to my story.  If this has sparked interest to start your own Faith and Fitness journey, here are a few ideas for you:

• Offer your exercise time as a prayer for specific intentions;
• Give thanks to God for your health before, during, and/or after your workout.
• Listen to the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet or prayerful podcasts on your phone when you go for a walk.  Laudate or Catholic Daily Reflection apps contain these resources.
• Follow along to a Christian workout DVD or online streaming workout such as SoulCORE.
• Listen to Christian music as you exercise.  And sing! St. Augustine has said, “When you sing, you pray twice.”  I don’t know about you, but I need all the prayers I can get!
• Invite people to join you.  “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  We were created for community and fellowship.  If it’s not realistic to meet others in person, there are online communities to support your journey.  If you can’t find one, start your own group!

I encourage you to begin one step at a time.  Allow God to surprise you.  Then we can all rejoice and laugh together!

Kim and her husband Ted have two active teenage sons.  They live in Alexandria, LA, and attend Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church.  Kim is a Licensed Counselor and SoulCORE Fitness Instructor.

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