Jesus tells us in Luke 10:27 that to inherit eternal life, we must "...Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind..." These words are very challenging in our day and age. Our lives seem to get busier by the day as we navigate in a world trying to distract us, selling us the next best thing, and convincing us that if it feels good, that we should do it.We hear about different celebrities looking a certain way, pressuring us to do the same.

Catholic Fitness Training is a ministry that exists to help Catholics answer the call from Christ to love Him completely. In order to do that, we need spend time to improve ourselves each day. We can do that intellectually through studies, spiritually through the Sacraments and prayer, by managing our finances to become extremely generous and charitable, and with our bodies by being as healthy as we can. Becoming a Saint and loving God the way He calls us to love Him is like building a house. I am not sure how many of us have built a house before, but we usually start with the lowest level first, the foundation. Our foundation to grow more virtuous should start with improving our health and wellness.

To help you build this strong foundation, Catholic Fitness Training has seven steps for every Catholic to implement into their lives.

1. Create goals: How will we know where to go if we don't have a map to lead us there? It is easy to wander into a life of sloth and gluttony, but it is nearly impossible to wander out. Catholic Fitness Training recommends SMART goals which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Action, Realistic, and Time. If you have specific and measurable goals that range from a time span from days, weeks, months, and years that are realistic and have action steps to achieve those goals, you are off to a great start. It might sound cheesy, but we also recommend having your goals on a physical piece of a paper and by your bed or on your fridge so you can be reminded of them multiple times a day. Create goals to improve yourself spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally, financially, etc. to be virtuous.

2. Accountability: Now that our SMART goals are completed, who is going to make sure we stick to our plan to achieve them? That is where accountability is needed. Ultimately, the option to spend eternal life with God and the possibility otherwise should be our primary accountability. With that said, we do recommend having some good accountability on this side of heaven as well. A spouse, close friend, siblings, personal trainer, etc are all great accountability partners. Make sure your accountability partner is able to communicate on a regular basis to help you keep on track.

3. Determine your BMR: BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate, and is the minimum amount of calories your body needs to perform everyday functions. Your BMR is determined by your age, gender, height, and weight. You can find your BMR through MyFitnessPal as well as other sites with an internet search for "BMR Calculator". When determining a calorie target for each day, it is important to remember that you should base your calorie intake off your health goals. If you want to lose weight, your daily target intake should be below your BMR and vise versa if you are trying to gain weight. It is important to know that a pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories, and a healthy rate of weight loss or gain is .5 - 2 pounds per week. Anything more than that is not healthy or sustainable for a lifetime, which should always be our goal.

4. Dieting: Living a healthier lifestyle is a two-fold process consisting of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Eating foods that are nutrient dense like fruits and vegetables, and avoiding calorie dense foods like sweets and soft drinks are a great start. Drink lots of water and meal prep for the week to prevent eating out frequently. What I am about to say may seem controversial, but if you want to have some ice cream or a piece of cake, it is okay. Moderation is key. Those less healthy foods will not kill your diet if eaten in moderation. Wrapping up the diet step, you should also find a method that works for you to control the amount of food you eat. Food is energy for your body, and too much energy becomes fat storage. Counting calories with an app like MyFitnessPal or something similar will help you control your portion sizes. If you are considering the latest diet trend or detox, always consider if it can be done over your entire lifespan. There are only so many 21-day juice cleanses that can be done before it is not financially responsible.

5. Start Exercising: Don't overthink this step. Saint Pope John Paul II has said "The future starts today, not tomorrow." Being physically fit is 20% knowledge and 80% behavior. Exercise can be found in any form by parking further from work, taking the stairs, playing sports, hiking, etc. Any exercise is good for you. Start slow, and build yourself up as you gain momentum. Hiring a Personal Trainer may be a great option for the extra motivation, accountability, and effectiveness in your exercise. Don't fall into the trap of buying the best exercise equipment for your home. There are many great exercises that can be done anywhere with body weight or very little equipment like a kettlebell or a set of dumbbells. Make sure that each day you are challenging yourself further than the last workout. 

6. Make your body your prayer: Everything we receive from God is a gift, and one of the first things we received from Him is our body. How do we treat that gift? Do we abuse it by overeating or being lazy and binge watching Netflix until 2am just to do the it all over again the next day? Catholic Fitness Training wants you to think about your body differently. Saint Pope John Paul II discusses in his famous work Theology of the Body: "In some way... the body enters into the definition of sacrament, which is a 'visible sign of an invisible reality,' namely, of the spiritual, transcendent, and divine reality. In this sign- and through this sign- God gives himself to man in his transcendent truth and in his love." Clearly, JPII places an extremely high value in the human body, and we should too. There will be many challenging days when you have to turn down dessert or a second helping of your mom's famous jello. Offer up that decision to a special intention and unite your sufferings, even if they might seem minuscule, to Christ's sufferings on the cross (Col. 1: 24). Pray each day and ask God for the grace for a healthy body, not to look like a celebrity or famous body builder. 

7. Be Patient: This process will take time. There are a lot of "quick fix" diet or exercise pills but we have some advice regarding that. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Old fashioned hard work is good for us and makes us more virtuous in itself. With that in mind we should embrace that hard work and love the process. We will not reach our target weight or sainthood overnight. A glimpse into the lives of various Saint's like Augustine and Teresa of Calcutta provides ample evidence of that. In time, you will reach your goals if you stick to your plan. Once you have reached your goal, you can maintain it and start to lean into your next goal on your road to virtue and fulfillment. St. Ignatius is known to have said: "The glory of God is man fully alive." Glorify God today with your body.