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My first introduction to Triathlon was in the late 1980’s on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a Sunday afternoon show which showcased some of the world’s lesser-known sporting events, including Ironman Hawaii. As I watched those athletes navigate ocean currents, lava fields, and all the other challenges Ironman brings, I thought to myself, “One day, I’m going to do an Ironman.” Fast forward to the early 2000’s when I finally decided to make my dream a reality. I wasn’t starting with an Ironman, but I was taking on my first triathlon. As I nervously unloaded my bike and prepared for my inaugural group training ride, I was struck by the various fueling options my fellow athletes used. Names like Gu and Nuun and Powerbar were being thrown around, meanwhile I was taking a Krispy Kreme donut I had saved from the day before and putting it in my cycling jersey to, “warm it up in the oven.” Suffice it to say, when I was the last person to finish the ride, I realized if I wanted different results, I needed different fuel.

When it comes to physical fitness, fuel is critical. The primary body system for this type of fuel is the digestive system, beginning with the mouth and stomach. I’ve been coaching athletes for over a decade, so trust me when I tell you I’ve had more than one conversation about fuel. Here’s what’s so striking about almost all of those conversations – they’re always about supplements. All the coaches reading this are laughing right now because it’s true. Athletes want to talk about things like Amino Acids or Pre-WOD this or Post-WOD that or whatever the newest thing is the professionals are endorsing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against supplements, but doesn’t their name give them away? They’re supplements, meaning they are supplemental. If they’re supplemental, they must not be the primary fuel source for physical fitness. If you want different results in the gym, start with your primary fuel source, which is food. Amino Acids really weren’t going to help me if my primary fuel was donuts. Crazy I know, but so many people pay such little attention to their daily food intake hoping they can get an edge with something supplemental. Proteins, carbs, and healthy fats are still where it’s at, period. If you want different results, start with your primary fuel source.

The same is true in Spiritual Fitness, only the primary body system for this type of fuel is the soul. What you feed your soul matters. As both a Spiritual Fitness Coach and a Pastor, I have heard story after story of people trying to feed their soul supplements. They’re going to “supplement” by quitting social media. They’re going to “supplement” by thinking only positive thoughts. They’re going to “supplement” through any number of behavioral modifications, thinking somehow this is going to equal different results. And yet it doesn’t. Why? Because if you want different results, you need to start with your primary fuel source. In Spiritual Fitness, the primary fuel source is Jesus. Jesus even refers to Himself as, “The bread of life.” Of course, you don’t consume spiritual fuel with your mouth and stomach, you consume it with your soul. Jesus is the ultimate nourishment for your soul. And the Bible is a great way to build a deeper relationship with Jesus. You can’t “supplement” your way to a healthy soul. If you want to live your best life, you need to start with your primary spiritual fuel source.

I must admit, I felt a little silly on our group training ride when we pulled over to take a fuel break and I pulled the Ziplock bag from my jersey with my donut in it. I could say I should have known better, but honestly it wasn’t until I got around other people who knew about better ways to fuel that the foolishness of my own fuel was revealed. If you want more purpose or fullness or shalom in your life, surround yourself with people who understand how to spiritually fuel their souls. Study what they do and be prepared to make changes in your own life. Donuts weren’t the fuel destined to take me to Ironman. What are you consuming in your life that isn’t destined to take you where God wants you to go?

Questions for Reflection:

What do people fuel their souls with and why?

How has Jesus as your primary spiritual fuel source changed your life?

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