Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taking the TRX plunge

Having searched the internet for TRX offers and alternatives, I decided to make my own. This, I thought, would give me a feel for suspension training and whether the hype was true. So I bought some luggage straps (Halfords, around £20 a pair), two carabiners and a figure eight climbing thing (must have a proper name, together they were about another £15-20 I think from Decathalon).

I trimmed the luggage straps to a more useable length and used some plastic tubing to fashion the handles. Each strap went through the ring and the excess strap became the anchor point, using the carabiners to connect everything up. It worked rather well, and although a bit tricky to adjust was a good place to start.

The only issue, and I'm sure I could resolve it, was the overall adjustment to the length of the straps. It wasn't very much and that limited it's use.

So putting aside all good sense and practical thinking, I took the plunge and bought myself a TRX. Now I might have gone for the less expensive versions, but there's something about the original that is just appealing. Perhaps it's the the ease of adjusting the straps to equal lengths because of the small amount of play in them, perhaps it's just the TRX logo and the black and yellow combination!

Having unpacked it and checked everything was in order, I set out for the local park to try it out.

My anchor point was a basketball hoop-not the hoop but the upright. It was just the right sort of height for me at least, and I had no problem wrapping the securing webbing around a fixed point and attaching the TRX straps.

I chose to do a series of fairly simple exercises. No point falling over trying to do a handstand press up first time around. My chosen routine wasn't scientifically planned, but included some simple bicep curls, chest presses, flyes, rows, squats and a core exercise that was very entertaining to try! Once you're feet are in the stirrups you discover quite how strong, or weak, your core muscles actually are on this thing.

If you want a go-anywhere, gym-in-a-bag solution then you have to try TRX or something similar.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Functional discipleship

I bet someone else has used this phrases somewhere else before I have, but it's a term I'm beginning to think about using to describe a pattern of discipleship that prepares us to function within the setting of our everyday lives. I know that all discipleship should do this, but too often our programmes are actually geared to making us better at being followers of Christ in church rather than in the world. Or so it sometimes seems.

From an exercise point of view, we talk about functional fitness to describe exercise that in some way mimics daily tasks and helps us develop appropriate fitness for those tasks. When you go into a gym you might see people using free weights (barbells and dumbbells) or resistance machines to isolate particular muscles. But very few of our daily movements isolate muscles. More often than not they are compound movements involving groups of muscles. Having big biceps and well defined pectoral muscles might look good in the mirror, but it won't help you get out of your chair!

A second principle of exercise that might be helpful when thinking about discipleship is about the core. Our core provides the foundation for all pour movements. A strong core means efficient and smooth movements. A weak core leads to poor posture and inefficient movement that typically involves compensation by recruiting other muscles to help with tasks done by muscles that have grown weak.

So how would this apply to being a follower of Jesus Christ?

First of all we would need to think about what constitutes our core. What drives every movement of the disciple? Are they simply the core disciplines of prayer, bible reading, fellowship and witness, or are there more things that are core, or maybe fewer things or even just different things.

Secondly we need to think about what is needed to help us function properly as followers of Jesus partnering with him in his mission.

I haven't got a prescription for this as yet, maybe you have some thoughts. I guess the thing that floats around the back of my mind is this idea that maybe we don't necessarily need lots of theological teaching in the church in order to ensure we're picking the correct doctrines, we just need to figure out how to live for the gospel. After all, we will have an eternity to discover how wrong our theology is, there are thousands of people around us who don't have that option.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On becoming a PT and leaves of absence

As you all probably know, PT is an abbreviation for Personal Trainer. I mention that because I know that all too often we get used to using language specific to certain environments and cultures that doesn't translate easily for people outside that community. Hmmm. Remind you of any particular community like the church for example?

Anyway, I finessed my level 3 PT course yesterday and am emerging back into the normal world of not getting up at 5:30 and not spending my whole day in a gym. It's been an interesting experience to say the least.

Now just to be absolutely clear again, this is not a career change. I have not left the ministry as many seem to think. What I am doing is exploring pathways that will allow me to be self-supporting while serving the mission of God. If someone came along and offered to cover the costs of a basic stipend I wouldn't say no, but I think I'd do it on the understanding that I would continue to pursue my studies while seeking to learn how to be missional in my community. Not because I like to be awkward, but because I think there is a need to find new ways of expressing leadership without having to add more and more paid staff to an organisation. I do not believe that the mission of God is a business that needs to be managed. It is an adventure that needs to be explored.

Because I am no longer in pastoral charge of a church or in some other form of denominationally recognised ministry, I have to take a leave of absence. I understand this, but it rankles with me. For the last four weeks I've spent my day with a great bunch of people who wouldn't normally cross my path or me theirs. We've sat together, learnt together, exercised and stretched together. We've laughed and shared stories, measured each others body fat, and debated the use of supplements (generally speaking, don't waste you money, just buy better quality food!)

Throughout all that time I've tried as best I can to not be overzealous and preach but rather simply be there amongst them answering whatever questions someone has for me, and there have been a few. I feel more engaged in real ministry even though I feel totally inadequate for the task. If that's what leaving the ministry means, then I'm glad I've left, although of course I haven't!

Time to leave that one alone I think. I must write to the ministry department in the next week or so and share my thoughts with them. I'm sure they understand more than we credit them, but the no-man's land feeling doesn't help.

Back to PT-ing. I'll write another blog post about how learning about exercise has helped me reflect on discipleship. Perhaps Paul was onto a good illustration when he talked about athletes preparing themselves. Perhaps we need functional discipleship in the same way we need functional fitness!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Suspension Training

One of the guys in the PT course was telling me about suspension training with a thing called a TRX. I'd never heard of it before, so I looked it up and it certainly looks interesting! Mind you at the price of a kit (£150+) it ought to be exciting.

A search for an alternative threw up some possibilities. So far the Rip 60 looks good value, but I just found a UK alternative called Flexstrap which looks rather inviting.

Short of poping to Halfords for some luggage straps and the Ellis Brigham for a Caribiner or two, these look good value at £60. I shall have to put them on my wish list!


These past few weeks have been interesting to say the least. The learning curve has been quite steep, and if it were not for my previous experience and study of anatomy, physiology and nutrition, I don't think I could have passed the exams. It's not that they were particularly difficult, just that the time I've spent travelling to and from the gym hasn't left me much time for home study.
So what must it be like for those folk in our churches who commute everyday and upon whose shoulder we place the burden of Bible study? I say burden not because it's a tiresome weight to carry, although I wouldn't be surprised to hear it described that way, but because of the pressure it applies. It's hard enough to to get through and ordinary day without some sense of guilt over something, let alone adding a sense of failure because we're not reading our
Bibles and interrogating the text on a daily basis.
It's made me wonder again about how we can make the Bible accessible and engaging and yet avoid the extremes of either bit-sizing it to fit a busy lifestyle or making it unmanageable. It's a tough challenge and maybe it's a challenge that reflects on the role of preaching too.
I'm sure I'm repeating myself when I say that I think preaching should be inspirational all of the time. There is a place for teaching, no doubt about that, but our preaching should inspire people to go out and solve problems, address issues and live differently rather than look for alterations and keywords in texts. Perhaps our goal if we preach on a Sunday morning ought to be to give everyone one thought to ponder through the week. Something they can carry with them to turn over in their minds and figure out how to apply in their lives.
After my current course finishes, which should be Tuesday if I pass everything, I hope to take a little time to look at the principles of personal training and see what they have to say to the concept of discipleship. There are some interesting principles and parallels to be explored. Maybe I need to write a programme for getting spiritually healthy and spiritual fit while I write programmes for physical health and fitness.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, June 10, 2012

There's not really a lot to reflect on this week. It's just been another week of getting up at 5:30 to go to the gym to learn more stuff. We did have a good day on Monday at the tennis club Jubilee party. Like churches, clubs rely upon a few enthusiasts to get things organised and clearly the enthusiasts had done a great job. Now we're not "in a church", as people like to point out to me (I'll moan about that in a minute or two!), we had the chance to not be at a church-based celebration. Probably the first time for 20 plus years that we've been able to do this. In some ways it was remarkably similar to a church event, and in others clearly not. Somewhere there has to be a balance between organising a church-based event and inventing people to that, and on the other hand encouraging folk to attend non-church events where they can interact with friends and fellow human beings. Perhaps if we did more of the latter we'd realise that the missing are not as unhappy as we think they should be.

The PT course is now underway. The downside of doing a Personal Trainer course is that you think you know about exercise! I'm supposed to be a professional, but I feel like an amateur in comparison to some. As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of the gym. It's great to get on the treadmill and walk and run, and to pick up a few weights and put some of those hidden muscles to work, but overall the gym is not an exciting environment for me. Hopefully I'll be able to do some creative, non-gym based things in the community for people who don't want to be athletes but would like to not get out of breath walking to the shops!

Designing exercise programmes is quite a complicated job. There are lots of things to take into consideration. Repeating the same routine over and over again is not only monotonous bordering on boring, but in the end once you've adapted to the routine you won't see any changes because your body won't be asked to do more. So you need to keep upping the intensity or frequency or type or time spent exercising. Then there's this thing I've been reading about called periodisation with micro cycles, mesocycles and macrocylces. It might as well have a unicycle in for brain to get on and ride around in a state of confusion!

I have 7 more days to get my head around it all and then the rest of my life to build the experience to do it as well as I can. Maybe I'll enlist the help of few friends to practice on. At least if they injure themselves I can offer remedial massage!

Before I go, let me point you to a short post by Simon Jones. Simon and I were at college together and he often writes thougthful stuff on his blog. His most recent post raises a pertinent point about what we focus upon as churches.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Still on the planet!

Time certainly flies around here, and you don't even need to be having fun for it to happen! For the last two weeks Ive been getting up at 5:30, catching the 6:58 train and spending all day in the gym. Monday to Friday commuting just like I remember it. Ah, the joy!! The reason for all this resides in my brilliant idea to add a personal trainer qualification to my portfolio. So far I've passed the gym instructors part of the course and the next two weeks is the PT bit. To be honest, I'm not looking forward to it. I'm not the "in your face" sort of person that seems to be the industry standard for PT's. Ah well, as long as I get through the course I can then stamp my own personality of the world of personal training.

The point of all this is not to become some sort of gym-bore. I'd like to work with people where they are, in the park etc., and not be stuck in the gym environment surrounded by people lifting weights that are too heavy for them and the thing they are trying to do. Hopefully the PT qualification will integrate nicely with the sports massage and will open a few doors to a few clients so I can earn some money. But I also hope that it will help me get to know the community a little better. I have these idealised pictures of me and a small group of people getting fitter as we have fun in the local park and walking around the village. I told you it was rather idealised.

Away from the rigours of PT qualification, I've learnt a lot just by travelling daily on the train and tube. I've remembered just how draining it can be and how little you want to do when you get home at the end of a long day. I've realised again how important it is for those of us in church leadership (I may not be in  a church, but I don't see myself as having left church leadership just yet) to remember that and not prioritise church over family or even friendship. It's a tough balance to hold, but I think I'd rather sway towards the priority of family and friends than church meetings and even dare one say Bible studies. For me, I'd rather get to heaven having known a lot of people, sought to share my faith with them, sought to help them reconnect with the God who misses them, rather than be able to answer obscure questions about abstruse passages of the Bible. I'm not sure I'm going to get tested on my theology on that great and final day.

In the end this al comes down to one simple truth. We all have a fixed amount of time in any given day or week or month. How we use that time is largely up to us. Yes we have the demands of our jobs if we are fortunate to be in employment. and work is where we spend most of our waking time. If we are part of a family, this too takes up a fair amount of our time. The rest is up for grabs. This is Oldenburg's Third Place, and this is where the church must find it's place. If it can't find it's place here, then it will have to take time and resources away from the other two, and if it absorbs all of the third place time, then it will exclude connecting with those who are missing from the kingdom.

Working out the balance is the challenge we face. Perhaps I can figure that out on the train tomorrow morning between reviewing all the muscle origins, insertions and actions I'm trying to learn!