At Debbie Mandel's fitness classes, you won't find a plethora of skintight Lycra[R], bared six-pack abs or booty-lifting jargon. No, the participants in Mandel's program aren't interested in such worldly things. They simply want to "Change Habits." And appropriately so, as these fitness seekers are all nuns at Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in Amityville, New York.
"I have worked with the sisters to help them turn stress into strength," says Mandel, author of Turn on Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul (Busy Bee Group 2003). "The program has encouraged the sisters to change their habits--to locus on good health, posture and energy, to help them carry out their important outreach missions."
Mandel's platform for the sisters: Have strength in your faith and faith in your strength. "The sisters set a wonderful example for the lay members and for all women," says Mandel. "If you take care of your body, which is the repository of your soul, you can live longer, be stronger and perpetuate goodness. I urge everyone to lift weights to [in turn] lift their spirits."
Mandel is not alone in her quest to forge faith with fitness. Many classes, programs and even entire gyms are making the fitness-faith fusion part of their missions. And we all know that many fitness pros have been holding classes in dark, dank church basements for years. They're just finally bringing their programs into the light!
Aligning Faith and Health
Germantown Baptist Church in Germantown, Tennessee, runs its own 100,000-square-foot recreation facility called the Recreation Outreach Center (the ROC). According to IDEA member Carla Rafferty, recreation ministry programmer, the ROC houses two full-sized gyms, a walking track, racquetball courts, weight and cardio rooms, a childcare area, a restaurant, a bookstore, a game room, and locker rooms with showers and saunas. The facility offers personal training, as well as everything from yoga and Pilates to kickboxing, step, martial arts, ballet, and tumbling programs for kids.
In La Jolla, California, the Qualcomm Sports, Fitness & Aquatics Complex at The Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) offers the same types of programs one might find in any fitness center in the United States. "Our members have access to a wide variety of classes, including dance aerobics, sports circuits, indoor cycling and hip-hop," says fitness and wellness director Crystal Powers. "The fitness center is an additional community service the center offers, and it is open to everyone."
While some may see this bridging of faith with health and fitness as a reason to cry "Separation of church and...