Getting in Physical and Spiritual Shape—Together
It’s not good for man—or woman—to be alone, even in the gym. Here’s how one group is turning exercise into fellowship. In my experience people come in two types: Those really fit folk who happily visit the gym three times a week to keep looking marvelous, and the rest of us who, if we go at all, do it grudgingly because it’s good for us. Like eating broccoli. Let’s face it: For some of us, there’s just no pleasure to be found in a cold, heartless gym. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I recently met a fellow who has created a different kind of gym experience: one designed to meet our need for exercise and our need for companionship and spiritual growth. Nine years ago, starting a chain of fitness centers was the last thing on Jason Palmisano’s mind. He was already busy with other ministry work. But then one day his wife—who’d had four kids in four years—asked him to help her get back into shape. He began putting her through workouts in the family garage. Before long, friends and neighbors asked if they could join in. But then, Palmisano said, “I saw very quickly that the enemy had come in and started sowing seeds of comparison and competition.” So Palmisano led an impromptu devotion. Our bodies, he announced, “are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Working out is a way of worship. We are to honor God with our bodies, not compete with each other.” And that, he recalls, “is the moment Trinity Fitness was born.” From then on, Palmisano led the group in a short devotional and prayer before each and every workout. And now, instead of competition and comparison, participants began to support one another—not just in their weight-loss and fitness goals, but also when it came to their family lives, personal problems or spiritual needs. Nearly ten years later, some 8,500 people have worked out at one of twelve nonprofit Trinity Fitness centers in five states. Testimonies on Trinity Fitness websites reveal that the concept has truly met a need. One participant writes: “This isn’t just a gym that people come to, work out, and leave. It’s a place filled with the Holy Spirit, love, and truth.” Writes another: “There’s such a sense of community here…Prayer fuels this place,” and “God is breaking up the wrong ideas in my head about needing to look a certain way to be accepted.” The Trinity Fitness approach echoes the approach of Jesus, who often met a stranger’s physical need before going on to meet a spiritual need. Maybe that’s why believers, as well as non-believers, are being drawn to Trinity fitness. Twenty years ago, political scientist Robert Putnam warned in his groundbreaking book “Bowling Alone” that Americans had become far too isolated from one another, a problem that’s only grown worse in the age of smart phones. Many of us don’t even know the names of our neighbors, let alone socialize with them as earlier generations did. But God designed us for community—to share our joys and sorrows with others, to pray for one another, and to help each other out during tough times. No wonder Trinity Fitness centers have taken off like a rocket—even for those who aren’t religious or don’t like exercise. The Trinity Fitness Centers are spreading fast; they’ve made it easy to start new ones. And I know this isn’t a topic we normally address at the Colson Center or here on BreakPoint. But it’s a terrific example of applying Christ’s Lordship over every square inch, including the sweaty ones… and of Christians working locally to bring restoration in a culture that’s too often bowling alone. Come to BreakPoint.org and I’ll link you to Trinity Fitness.