Over the years, as I engaged in exercise, I’ve collected some random tips from various fitness instructors. I’ve been able to narrow some of these ideas into an acronym that may help you as you continue to lean into this new year.
Just remember ARC: Ability, Rhythm and Core.
A is for Ability – The instructor would often say things like, “Listen to your body. Only do what you can do. Stretch yourself, but not to the point of pain.”
This is great advice for formation. With any spiritual practice, it is always good to begin where you are. Here is some great advice that Dallas Willard gave to a congregation during a Q&A session:
Question: Where should I begin if I am new to the disciplines?
Answer: Be experimental. Don’t be heroic. Be easy. Take things slow. Begin small. Breaking bad habits will cause us discomfort. Come to God as a happy student of Jesus. Expect resistance. Focus on the friendly face of Jesus. When something doesn’t work, figure out why it didn’t before just trying the same thing again. (Dallas Willard)
Start where you are. It may be clunky at first, but continue to grow in strength and grace. That’s how it is with spiritual practices or anything else you are starting. Choose one thing. Go slow. Let it become a habit. And you will grow in strength and grace.
R is for Rhythm – When doing exercises of balance, the instructor would often say something like, “One side of your body is usually stronger or more capable of balance than the other. That’s ok, just go with it. It may change next time.” Your body is rarely in full and equal balance at all times.
Ah, the myth of life balance. Do you know anyone who has a perfect balance of every part of their life? What we really seek are healthy life rhythms. There are likely practices and capabilities in our lives that are overemphasized and others that are underemphasized. Allow yourself to engage in rhythms that bring your underemphasized practices to the forefront.
If you are in a busy season, be sure to make space for some reflection time. If you find yourself disengaged, make space for some good quality work and interaction. It’s about healthy rhythms of engagement and disengagement. Receiving and giving. Filling and overflowing.
C is for Core – How many times did I hear the instructor say, “Engage your core!” Almost every single time. You’ll be hard pressed to find a coach who doesn’t have their athletes do some form of core training. Strength comes from the inside out.
For your soul, the question becomes, “What is at the Center?” Or better yet, “Who is at the Center?” The quality of your abilities and rhythms is in direct correlation to you keeping your eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Heb. 12:2, NLT).
In what ways are you strengthening the core of your soul? For most of us, it is in letting the things we believe, become the things we know. This is about keeping the main thing, the main thing.
In the beginning, I was fumbling around as a newbie in my exercise class. I believed it would help me get healthier and stronger. Over time and with practice, I became someone with muscle memory and strength who was able to learn new routines with ease. Healthy and strong were no longer hopes but actualities (knowing).
I encourage you to…