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Going Last

Spiritual Training Cycle: Examination (wk. 12/13)

Many community fitness gyms host a special workout on Saturdays. In our gym, this is known as the Saturday Community WOD. This workout is more than a workout – it’s an invitation to the broader community to come and see. Because this workout is open to the public, we normally have lots of visitors which can push class sizes into the 40’s. Coaches typically program these workouts with tons of equipment or stations, and to help lower the anxiety of guests, athletes will often partner up. All of this creates the perfect opportunity to embody a powerful spiritual principle evident in healthy community fitness gyms – the principle of going last.

Now, going last might sound like it flies in the face of fitness. After all, doesn’t fitness reward those who are first? Let me show you how it works. I partnered with Anthony, who is very fit. He pushed the pace for the two of us, and we were one of the earlier partner teams to finish the workout. As other teams finished their workout, several of the newer members and visitors around us started to pick up their equipment to put it away. And here was a great moment to both teach and embody the principle of going last – “Nobody puts equipment away until everybody is done.” Instead, we encourage the athletes who are still training. And then when everyone is finished, we start putting equipment away. Beginning with other athletes! That’s right – the principle of going last reinforces a key mindset in our spiritual lives – put others before yourself.

Full disclosure, not every community fitness gym practices the principle of going last. In some gyms, putting your equipment away first is like the alpha letting the rest of the pack know, “Today I am the victor.” But let’s be honest – what’s to be gained by going first? Not only is it somewhat a safety hazard to be walking in and around other athletes still exercising, but it’s also demoralizing to the community. Instead of inviting people to come as they are, going first tells them, “Well, you’re not here yet. Maybe your fitness will be this good one day, but not today.” The principle of going last is really a communal way of practicing self-control.

Paul articulates the principle of going last in his letter to the Philippians:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” — Philippians 2:3-4

How do we learn to look after the interests of others? We learn it in community. Waiting to put equipment away creates space for us to celebrate the work of others. It reminds us that encouragement is something we all need. When we put away someone else’s kettlebell, we’re recognizing the power of self-control. And those seemingly insignificant acts and moments of humility, added together, shape and form the kind of community people really want. So, the next time you’re in the gym, work on your spiritual physique by practicing the principle of going last.

Questions for Reflection

How can you do a better job of going last in your fitness community?

How can you do better with this principle beyond the gym?

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