Preaching is a physical act, as much as it’s a spiritual act. Anyone who has preached multiple services can tell you how physically exhausting the task can be. Many pastors have health problems even early in their career due to the physical demand of public speaking on top of a busy schedule. Let me suggest some workout tips for preachers. I know this sounds really strange and unspiritual, but remember, you’ll thank me later.
In order to understand how working out can help a preacher, we have to understand which parts of the body are involved in preaching. At the very heart of the issue is the heart. Yes, I said the heart and the lungs too. The cardio-vascular system is important because we need to breath well to preach. This situation creates two demands. First, the preacher would do well to make sure that the heart and lungs get enough exercise. Second, the preacher would do well to lose weight so that his excess weight does not tax his system. How do we do that? It’s simple.
Some preachers choose to either walk or run as an exercise. In a large city like Hong Kong or New York, people do a lot of walking. Probably, the preacher would do enough walking to and from the subway station to create an adequate cardiovascular condition. In the US, this is not the case. I know some have trouble finding the time to take long walks. In such a case, I would suggest interval sprint training. The exercise only takes about 5 minutes at most. Interval training involves sprinting a certain distance followed by jogging and then repeat. An example would be to sprint 30 yards followed by a jog of 100 yards and so on. Obviously, start slow. Don’t go crazy sprinting or you may pull something. The plus side of interval training is that you also train your legs which leads to more discussions below.
Besides having a good cardiovascular system, the preacher should understand that his or her muscular strength in terms of the act of preaching. What muscles are involved? The entire body is involved but not to the same degree.
From the top, the shoulders are involved. If we have any body language at all, our shoulders will move our arms. It is important to train the shoulders. Which part of the shoulder is involved exactly? If we want to be precise, the front deltoids are most important. The front delts can be trained by pushups. If we spend a few minutes doing a few sets of pushups, the front delts (along with chest and triceps) will be strengthened. For those who are more advanced, you can do elevated pushups to challenge yourself (see photo below). In order to do that, you can either pick a chair or a wall and put your feet to various elevated positions. Your hand spacing can vary just for fun.
If you wish to train your upper back, you can do sets of pull-ups (see below) after each set of pushups. If you can’t do pull pull-ups, try just getting on a chair and lowering yourself to start. Upper back training is good for posture since weak upper back muscles can cause one to hunch over. Doorway pull-up bars are cheap. You can try using those. Notice in the photos below that I do not have my legs swinging like some Crossfit practitioners or have it excessively bent. If your posture is good, you can also train your abs in the process.
A very important muscle group involved in preaching would be the core, including both abs and lower back. You don’t have to do the advanced L-sit like me, pictured above the article. For those with average or below average fitness, the best core exercise to enhance the core is planking. It seems easy to do until you actually do them. If you work towards one or even two minutes on the plank, your core will be stronger. A strong core will give you less feeling of fatigue when you speak.
A final set of muscles is your leg muscles. If your gym has a squat rack, I would strongly recommend having someone teach you how to squat properly. If I tour your city, I’d be glad to show you how to do it for free. However, not everyone owns a squat rack. One easy exercise to learn is the one-legged squat, also known as the pistol (pictured below). In the photo, I’m doing the assisted version that most people can do. Once you advance, you can also do the unassisted version, but not many can do those. Video here. However low you want to go is up to you. The lower you go, the better engaged the muscles are in the back of your leg. It is worth training for. I hope it is obvious by now why the leg muscles are important. You use them to stand and walk on stage. In addition to training your upper leg, be sure to stretch your calves a bit. If you stand too long, they can cramp up.
What does a good program look like? Below is the suggested program. This beginner’s program is not vigorous. For those who are already working out, this program will probably do nothing for you. The entire exercise program should take no more than 15 minutes per day. If you can spare 15 minutes to look at Facebook, you can spare 15 minutes to exercise. If you’re really busy, you can also break it up and do some in your office for a break, especially planking and squatting.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
– Interval running or jogging training
Tuesday, Thursday (rest one minute between sets)
– Pushups/pull-ups (optional) 3 sets of as many repetitions as you can
– Plank 1 set for as long as you can
– One-legged squat 3 sets of as many reps as you can
What if you get bored with the exercise program? People don’t exercise because exercising can be boring. If you keep your favorite music in your i-pod, the 15 minutes fly by pretty fast. You can also try varying grips and hand spacing on the pushups and pull-ups. So long as you work all those muscle groups, you’ll find your fitness improving.
PS: I thank both my sons Calvin and Ian for taking the photos