• Tami McCandlish

Exercising to Release the Burdens of Bullying


After I stopped playing basketball in college, I had to figure out how to workout without trophies to attain, fans to cheer for me, and teammates to pick me up off the floor.


Alone in the weight room, music motivated me. It extracted painful memories of being bullied and broken friendships, fueling my anger and intensifying my training. Through hard-hitting sets and all-out sprints, I gained control over and defeat the past, if only for an hour.


Every workout, I found myself cycling through the same process, breaking down my body while failing to rebuild my mind beyond my most challenging workout.


No matter how hard I ran and lifted, I couldn’t out-train heartache. My efforts only produced superficial results. I needed more, beyond strong muscles, physiological benefits, or proving others wrong. I needed spirit-cleansing, heart-healing training, which I would only discover when I turned exercise into an act of worship.


Workouts became more intentional than ever. Before each session, I prayed, praising the Creator and inviting the Holy Spirit into my body, which served as a temple to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I took ownership of a positive attitude and visualized my performance. I no longer allowed the good beats of lyrically destructive music to lure me back to the past. Instead, I turned on songs that focused my mind forward on God.


When my muscles burned, and I weakened, I thought of Jesus on the Cross. I told myself things like, “If He did that. I can do this,” and “I am strong through Christ who strengthens me.” Whenever I considered quitting, I kept going only because of His strength. I submitted to the rhythm of my breathing. My body lightened, and my strides smoothed. I soaked out sweat and welcomed in God’s renewal. With His undeniable force surging through me, everything flowed. I broke through self-imposed limitations. It was similar to what sports psychologists refer to as “the zone,” but more profound than anything I experienced on the basketball court. In that heavenly zone, I better understood the intricate weaving of my being, the reasons for which God created me, and intimacy with a Savior who loved me more deeply than anyone ever could.


When nothing required me to keep working out, I found the reason to move with more purpose than ever. Exercise represented the Spirit of the Lord within me and gaining a victory that lasted forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Fifteen years later, exercise is still one of the most obvious places I experience God. It’s why I love to workout and encourage others to exercise.


Regardless of your fitness or athletic background, you can use exercise to detoxify from the contamination thrust upon you or even from what you've heaped upon yourself as a result of others' harshness.


Don’t try to out-train heartbreak. Turn it over to God by worshipping through your workout. Start with this pre-exercise prayer, make it your own, and deepen the purpose of your workouts. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4: 8).


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