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Why I Work Out

Pre-season training for college basketball was one of my toughest challenges ever. My team and I had spent months running and lifting, and although we had never practiced a timed mile-and-a-half, we would perform the test for our coaches. It was the first time they would see me run, and I went all-out to impress them.

One of my teammates, a former cross country runner, bolted. No one would catch her, but I used her pace to push my run. And on my final lap around the track, I almost regretted trying to keep up.

My body started screaming. My legs wanted to melt, I had never sucked air so desperately, and I felt a stitch in my shoulder. The harder I pumped my arms, the more they felt like sledgehammers. I was sure I'd face-plant. All I could think was God help!

As I lifted my eyes toward the sky, I saw a church steeple in the cityscape. I had run here numerous times but never noticed it. It arose like a giant on a mountaintop, and I focused on it. All at once, I felt a hand on my back drive me forward, my energy surged, and my stride cranked. I finished as the fastest freshman.

"Who pushed me?" I asked a teammate.

"What are you talking about," she said. "No one was close to you."

I knew that push was more than a second wind. I had tapped into a power that wasn't my own. It was the first time I remember relying on God during exercise, and it forever ignited a need within me to encounter Him in my workouts.

Twenty years later, I still love training, but I no longer do it for trophies, vain ambition, or because anyone tells me to. I do it because I crave connection with the Creator of movement.

Exercising is less about seeking God to help me achieve a goal and more about seeking Him as the goal.

It's about spending time with the most motivating partner I could ask for. When I invite His power into my workout, my workout becomes purposeful. When I aim to glorify Him, I release the pressure to perform and enjoy the flow of His Spirit. He is my confidence. My energy. My stamina, rhythm, and fatigue fighter. He even tells me when to slow down, lift lighter, and rest. He's why I've exercised consistently for years and don't beat myself up for missed workouts or eating pizza.

For the last 18 years as a fitness coach, I've watched others struggle, struggling myself with how to tell them exercise isn't what they need most.

Most people's hang-up isn't physical. I've trained people without limbs, people in full leg braces, and people so obese they cannot tie their shoes. We always find a way to exercise.

The hang-up is mindset, and because our minds are part of our souls, that means our issues with exercise are not physical. They're spiritual.

What are we training and why? Are we bodies that have souls? Or are we souls with bodies? What if we exercised our spiritual bodies as much as--or more than--our physical bodies? What would we experience if we trained them in tandem?

I've explored this for decades and have finally organized the most powerful methods I've learned. I believe they are more impactful than any exercise tip, training program, or meal plan I could prescribe. And I'm excited to share them with you in my new resource: Worship While You Work Out: A 7-Step Guide to Meaningful Workouts.

This guide is for you whether you're just starting or have been exercising for years, whether walking or powerlifting is your thing, or whether worship is foreign or familiar. I hope it transforms your perspective about exercise and helps you encounter God in ways you never have before.


Tami McCandlish is a writer and speaker who brings hope and healing in the name of Jesus. She is the author of Let the Bees Buzz: Finding Redemption in the Aftermath of School Bullying.

Since 2004, she has worked alongside her husband coaching thousands of people in exercise and wellness.

Tami is an National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, Behavior Change Specialist, Golf Fitness Specialist, Youth Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutritional Specialist, a Precision Nutrition - Level 1 Coach, and she holds a B.A. in English and Journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University.

For more on fitness, faith, friendship, and felines, join her email list at

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