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Warming Up

The Olympics are in full force in Tokyo. And while I respect every athlete regardless of their sport of choice (but seriously those ping pong players), we’re now into one of my favorite parts, track and field. I especially love watching the sprinters. With the retirement of Usain Bolt, the men’s field has had some wide-open races, where it seemed almost anyone could win. But long before the starter pistol fires, you’ll find these athletes doing what has become a staple in their way of life – warming up.

As a coach, I know the value of a good warm up. And honestly, the shorter the duration of the work, the longer the warmup should be. Great sprinters know this, and believe it or not, their warmups can be an hour or more. That’s right. When you see that sub ten second 100-meter run, you don’t see the 60-75 minutes they took to get ready. Why do the pros spend so much time preparing for events like these? Athletics weekly says it like this, “A defined warmup is an essential part of any athlete’s methodology for the following two clear functions: injury prevention and performance enhancement.”

Warmups provide the same functions in CrossFit as well. In the gym where I coach, we typically have about three separate warmups before each workout. Our athletes don’t necessarily see them as distinct, but we do. First, we get the body moving with some basic range of motion work. We call it “bottom’s up.” From there, we’ll start to elongate the muscles associated with the major movements in the workout, then we’ll supplement with some conditioning work designed to elevate the heart rate, generate body heat, and prime the nervous system. It’s all to prepare the athlete for the work at hand and enhance the quality of the work they’re about to do.

I don’t think anyone would think twice about the value of warming up before a workout. Certainly, if you’ve been an athlete long enough, you’ve wrestled with the discipline of warming up properly, but regardless of whether you really like warming up or not, its value is not really in question. So, what about your daily warmup for life? Have you ever considered just how valuable the first 60 to 90 minutes of your day are? Just like you have physical warmups before exercise, you need a quality spiritual warmup to get you ready for what the day brings. In the first 60 to 90 minutes of your day, you need to get in some combination of prayer, meditation, worship, and Bible reading. You might be asking yourself, “Does he mean all of that before the first two hours of my day?” Yes! What you do to start your day spiritually is not your workout, it’s your warmup.

So many people treat their spiritual warmup as their workout. Here’s what I mean. They’ll open the morning with some prayer, grab a cup of coffee, rub the sleep out of their eyes, do mindfulness work or gratitude, read a few verses and then check, spiritual workout done for the day. You see the difference? What God is going to do in you and through you is not confined to some limited part of the day. Your spiritual workout is the entire day. When your boss jumps your case, when your kids get sick, when your flight gets canceled, whatever the day brings is the workout. Your morning spiritual warmup functions the same way physical ones do. It enhances the quality of your day regardless of what happens, and it prepares you to discover God’s purposes for you as you make them your own.

If you’re not already, let me encourage you to start your day with a spiritual warmup. Choose one or two of the exercises I suggested and work your way up. If this is already how you start your day, let me remind you this is simply preparation for what lies ahead. Warming up is not working out, but it’s critical to the process. The next time you find yourself in a moment of humility or peace amid chaos, just like the Olympic sprinters, you can give all the credit to your warmup. Because the quality of your warmup determines the quality of your workout.

Questions for Reflection:

What does the first 60 to 90 minutes of your day look like? How much would you say is devoted to building intimacy with God?

Paul tells Timothy to train for godliness. How would you explain the concept of training for godliness to someone else?

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