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I’m just going to come right out and say this, I have a problem with mirrors. By no means am I about to try and convince you to cover all the mirrors in your house, but here’s my dilemma. Mirrors have the ability to crush our self-esteem. Certainly, there are times when the opposite is true. Who among us hasn’t lingered a little longer in the mirror admiring the results of a good eating program or a block of hard training in the gym? But nine times out of ten, and it may just be me here, I find myself studying everything about my body I don’t like. Like a CSI examining a crime scene, I’ll go inch by inch up and down my body trying to figure out how this all happened. When did my gut get so big? Are my shoulders ever going to come in? Do I really have triceps because mine looks more like a unicep! As I’ve matured in life, it’s brought me to the realization that the mirror doesn’t tell the whole story. Try as they might, the truth is mirrors don’t accurately reflect who we really are.

This is one of the reasons you don’t see mirrors in CrossFit gyms. You may be surprised to know that CrossFit HQ has no policy requirements regarding mirrors. As an affiliate, you have the right to operate your gym in any manner you see fit. Yet every CrossFit gym I’ve ever walked into has no mirrors, bathrooms not included. Let me tell you why I think that is. Mirrors don’t fit with CrossFit’s training methodology. Never mind that we’re picking heavy objects up and occasionally throwing things against the wall. You have to understand the general physical skills CrossFit focuses on, which include balance, coordination, and agility. You don’t develop coordination by looking at yourself in a mirror. Instead, you must learn to become aware of your body as it moves through space. Exercise physiologists have a fancy term for this, they call it proprioception. Air squatting on a wobble board is not enhanced by watching yourself do it. Skills must be developed through repetition and body awareness. In the gym, we call this “practice.”

Athletes who join CrossFit gyms get access to feedback tools which in my opinion are far more valuable than self-assessment. The first is your coaches. If you want to know how you’re really doing, ask your coach. The knowledge and wisdom of a professionally trained coach combined with years of experience working with athletes is invaluable. While you’re doing your best to move large loads long distances, your coaches are studying how you move that load. Your structural alignment, your motor-skill pattern, even your demeanor in class, all are being evaluated by someone whose job it is to make you better. Coaches provide an accurate reflection of who you are athletically.

But they are not your only feedback tool. You also have the support and encouragement of the community of athletes in your gym. It’s one thing to work out with a personal trainer. It’s quite another to be in a room full of athletes all getting ready to do the same WOD. The community pushes you to go harder, they console you when it just wasn’t your day, and they care about who you are as a human being. No mirror is ever going to tell you it will be ok. No mirror is going to pick you up off the floor. And no mirror is ever going to love you. If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle, surround yourself with a community of like-minded people and watch what happens.

Coaches and community are not just tools for physical fitness, you also need them for Spiritual Fitness. I remember when I lost my mom to cancer while I was in college. It was the first time in my life I ever experienced depression. There were days when I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I can still see myself standing in my bathroom looking in the mirror wondering what was wrong. Despite my best efforts, there was no way I could do it on my own. And you can’t either. Your sadness, your anxiety, your anger, your insatiable appetite to be needed by others, you don’t solve these yourself. You need a coach. In Spiritual Fitness, our coach is God’s Spirit. Until you become a follower of Jesus, this part won’t make sense to you. But once you do, whether you realize it or not, God’s Spirit becomes your Spiritual Fitness coach. While you’re just trying to keep all the plates in the air, the Holy Spirit is causing you to think differently. One day you realize you don’t need so many plates. One day you realize being right isn’t worth it. One day you stop texting your boss after work because it’s getting in the way of your family time. The Holy Spirit will show you a whole new movement pattern for your life. Instead of balance, coordination, and agility, you’ll develop patience, gratitude, and forgiveness. If you really want to know how you’re doing in life, ask Jesus to show you.

You also need community, because self-examination is a community project. When you open yourself up to a small group of trusted friends, be prepared to see who you really are. It’s your community who recognizes your blind spots. It’s your community who shows you other people have the same struggles as you. It’s your community who helps you stay on track spiritually. If you want to live with true fulfillment and purpose, you must abandon the Lone Ranger mentality. Fitness, both physical and spiritual, is most rewarding when trained in community.

I know so many of you reading this have committed to making 2021 your best year ever. It’s time to take a hard look at the tools you’re using to grow. Mirrors may have brought you this far, but coaches and community will take you places you never even knew existed.

Questions for Reflection:

If you’re a follower of Christ, describe what it’s like to be coached by the Holy Spirit.

If you had to explain to someone the spiritual benefits of physically working out with other athletes, what would you tell them?

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