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Homeostasis



Don’t let the fancy Biology term intimidate you. For all you non-biochemists out there, homeostasis is the body’s natural response to create and maintain internal equilibrium. Just like a thermostat uses its energy system to raise or lower the temperature of a room based on the environment, our body is in a constant effort to raise or lower systems in response to what’s going on around us. Although less scientific, I think a better way to describe homeostasis is not achieving balance, but rather maintaining healthy tension. Exercise is one of the external factors that pushes the body to maintain healthy tension. Over time, repeated exposure to physical challenges results in the adaptation of muscular and aerobic energy systems bringing us into homeostasis.

Here’s the challenge. Our bodies are highly conservative energy systems. Translated another way, we’re lazy. Biologically, the body wants to use the least amount of effort possible to get the result desired. That makes sense when you think about the evolution of humanity beginning with hunting and gathering. When you don’t know where the next meal will come from or when the next bear will attack, your body systems must become conservative so that when called on to perform the next task, energy and effort are available. In the 21st century, this type of evolution can work against us, especially in our journey to develop physical fitness. Let me show you how.

Take someone new to fitness. When they come off the couch and walk in the gym, their body is already on high alert. Having killed no lions and escaped no bears for the first four decades of life, they walk around with a very limited energy system. Any physical challenge feels like death – and it also produces a training effect. The first three years of CrossFit for most people produce these types of training effects. The body responds by shedding fat, growing muscle, and becoming more efficient at oxygen transfer. To a point. Then without realizing it, athletes stop making gains. By no fault of their own, their biological system has brought them to a point where physical challenges are achievable. Doing workouts “as prescribed” is now a reality. Simply put, uncomfortable has become comfortable over time.

To pursue fitness is to constantly pursue discomfort. For experienced athletes, this means maximizing every training day. Not maxing out, not going all out, but maximizing the training day. How do you do that? By being mindful and present in your training and evaluating it to see where you hit and where you missed. This is why spiritual training is so important. You’re not just a physical body. We all have a soul, or spirit, that is ordering our thoughts and feelings. The anxiety you feel at work is your physical body trying to respond to something your soul is experiencing. Fight or flight is not very beneficial in a conference room or on a Zoom call. Although your boss or coworkers may feel like a bear about to kill you, the truth is you won’t die over poor performance or missed opportunity. The body doesn’t know what to do with that kind of stress, so it defaults to what it has done for generations. Physical training won’t solve that. It may distract you from it, but it can’t take your fears away on its own. Spiritual training is what makes the difference.

I invite you to take five minutes each day and see for yourself. All you need to do is reflect on the three questions below. Take a screenshot of them with your phone, then use that image to walk through some daily self-reflection. Your body is responding to the thoughts in your mind. Spiritual Fitness teaches you how to focus on the thoughts that lead to more purpose and joy in life, while giving the others over to a Higher Power. It’s not about training the brain. It’s about giving yourself over to something so much greater than you. Only then will you experience your greatest gains in life.

Questions for reflection:

When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?

When did I experience the most shalom today? Did anyone or anything vandalize it?

Where did life feel rushed or hurried today? Where did life feel smooth and in rhythm with God?

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