Should you reward yourself for reaching fitness goals ? If so, what do you reward yourself with?
If you were to ask me this question ten years ago, I would have given you a completely different answer than what I am about to say. Back then, I would have told you to exercise so you could eat a slice of cake, buy new clothes for yourself or get that “swimsuit season” body because you deserve it. Back then, I would have given you an answer that was empty, unfulfilling and what some would suggest as, “easy,” for us to hear.
Let me explain.
Many of us, including myself, sometimes seek earthly things as rewards after we do something “healthy”. They can be going out for a nice dinner, buying new workout clothes or even taking a vacation (I mean, who doesn't enjoy these things?!). First, let me say that those are not bad things! I have some great memories to look back on because them. The issue isn't the reward, it's the reasoning behind it.
I was in a constant cycle of exercising, rewarding, over-rewarding and then over-exercising. This reward mentality became my motivation and I often found myself feeling entitled to these things after working out. Falling into that cycle is where things can get toxic and empty.
Realization: because these things are temporary, they only brought temporary satisfaction.
My story: I have been a runner my entire life. I ran competitively in high school and college, and I still compete in races from time to time. In college, my passion for running quickly turned into a burden as I began to allow the amount of miles I would run determine my happiness for the day. Ironically, however, the more miles I would run, the less joy I would actually feel.
Right before I graduated college I went on a two week trip to Haiti. While on this trip I wasn't able to exercise or run. During that time, my eyes were opened to the poverty and brokenness that the majority of our world lives in. That most of people I was around while I was in Haiti had no idea where their next meal was coming from. This allowed me to see food and nutrients in a completely new way. So, I decided to eat what was in front of me (carbs, sugar, and all) without thinking of the “consequences” or “rewards”. After four years of being apart of this toxic routine, Haiti broke that mindset, and showed me that I had to let go of my burdens and give them to God.
After 14 days of not thinking about exercising and eating, and replacing those thoughts with God's Word, I gained back the joy I had lost years ago. I came back from this trip balanced and with a new perspective – one on spiritual and physical health.
This trip taught me that the only thing that can bring eternal satisfaction is Jesus.
AND Jesus wants to reward us! In Psalm 37:4, it says that we are to “delight ourselves in the Lord,and he will give us the desires of your heart.”(ESV) Oftentimes, we focus too much on how we can reward ourselves that we don't allow margin in our plans for God to reward us instead. God wants us to trust Him and to lean on Him, and to set our expectation and plans aside. God's rewards for exercising are much more satisfying and lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. His rewards transform our hearts and minds. They make us stronger from the inside out, not JUST the outside. He blesses us with a healthy body, mind, contentment, peace and joy when we use our bodies as a temple for Him.
God created us in His image and that alone is a gift. Exercise is not just for yourself, but an outpour of what Jesus did on the cross. Romans 12:1 says that we are “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.”
Reading this may be easier said than done. I get it. Trust me. But, I want you to know that you CAN strengthen your mind and body by having your focus towards Jesus. Exercise isn't meant to be a burden, rather, it's a response to who He is.
He is our reward.
That being said, I'm all about practicality! So here are three steps, with verses, you can take to help change your reward mindset, to God's mindset:
- PRAISE God. Acknowledge who He is and the power He has. Allow exercise to become a reflection of your praise to Him. “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34: 1
- THANK God. Thank Him for the body He gave you. Your body is incredible, and you were created in His image. That in itself is enough to be thankful for! “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
- LET God. Surrender your thoughts and actions to Him. Desire His spirit to work in you and through you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
So, today, I challenge all of us to go out and to get active. Not because of the slice of pie in our fridge or that smaller dress we have been trying to fit into for years, but instead to simply glorify Jesus and what He did for us on the cross.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
Written By: Ashley Bell