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Our gym is currently in the middle of an eight-week strength training cycle. Now you might wonder, where in the world am I going with this. Stay with me. While it’s not unique for our gym to strength train, and it’s also not unique to work in an eight to twelve week cycle, the way in which we’ve approached this cycle is unique. We’ve slowed things down. At least two or three times a year, we force athletes out of their comfort zone by programming the speed with which the lifts are performed. This is a tempo cycle.

Tempo cycles are powerful. If you’ve never tried one, let me articulate how it works. In a typical strength cycle, the number of sets, reps, and weight lifted are the focal points. This leaves the athlete freedom to perform the lift at whatever speed they choose, within reason. Over time, every athlete develops their own lifting tempo. In tempo cycles, we control the speed. For a squat, this could be something like a three second descent, a two second pause at the bottom, normal speed coming up, and a one second pause at the top. Now if that doesn’t seem like it would have an effect, try it. Tempo cycles are great at developing new kinds of power.

But they don’t just tax the body, they also tax the brain. We call it, “greasing the groove.” Athletes now must get their tempo in line with the programmed tempo. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. Neurologically, there’s a ton going on adjusting to the new tempo. And while there’s greasing of the groove, there’s also overcoming of the fear associated with the increased time under tension or the full stop at the bottom of a lift. And the beauty of these cycles is while all that’s going on mentally, physically you are actually dealing with a different stimulus than you normally do. It’s total body in every sense.

Tempo cycles are also incredibly effective in building spiritual fitness. When I first started this whole spiritual journey, I had a tempo for my life, but I didn’t realize it. I thought I was just trying to keep all the balls in the air, which could feel incredibly overwhelming. My tempo was try, fail, retreat. For example, I would try to be a good husband, eventually I would fail at it, and the next thing you know I would retreat to escape reality. When I succeeded it was because of me, and when I failed it was either because I didn’t try hard enough, or it was someone else’s fault. It took a tempo cycle with Jesus to show me just how broken mine was.

In Scripture, Jesus invites us all to take His yoke upon us. Now, that may sound strange, but it’s really an invitation to join Him in a tempo cycle. To learn from Him. To realize He’s the rest your soul is really craving. To finally discover that trying to get it all right is a burden only He can bare. Ten times out of ten, when I’m starting to spin out of control, it’s because I’m out of tempo with Jesus. And usually, I’m ahead of Him. Just ask yourself this – Does the tempo of my life match the tempo of my Lord? No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, today may be a good day for a little tempo work.

Questions for Reflection:

How has Jesus changed the tempo of your life?

Where have you seen Jesus change the tempo in your friends or family?

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