Mind, Spirit, and Body: How I Committed to a Prayer and Exercise Routine in Lockdown

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

For many years, I wanted to incorporate regular prayer and exercise into my daily routine, but never knew how I could do it effectively. I always admired people who developed a deep prayer life and an understanding of God’s will for them. Similarly, I always admired athletes who had strong physiques and could complete strength, flexibility, and cardio exercises effortlessly. But I lacked consistency in both areas of my life.

When I worked at a marketing agency for a three month contract, I’d start work before 10:00 a.m. and get home around 6:30 p.m. I had some time to walk to church to attend daily Mass and catch the bus to commute to work.  When I worked freelance, on the other hand, I did not have a set work schedule. Whenever I had to travel somewhere, I tried praying the Rosary during my commutes. I even joined fitness and dance classes that lasted 7-10 weeks (depending on the course). But when I didn’t have a commute, I’d often forget to pray, and when the fitness and dance classes finished, I just stopped exercising.

It wasn’t until the coronavirus lockdown began that I knew things needed to change. I had come back from the Philippines after attending my cousin’s wedding, and after visiting multiple Catholic churches and even joining an outdoor Zumba session there, I wanted to create new spiritual and fitness goals. Plus, my heart was feeling heavy due to the paranoia surrounding the coronavirus, and I thought that regular prayer could help me feel more at peace with the current circumstances.

I wanted to set a time for my prayers and exercise, and I wanted it to be consistent. I called up a friend from church and asked her how she was able to prioritize her prayer life. Her response was simple, “Just do it.”

So, I listed the prayers I wanted to recite: breviary morning prayers, two morning offering prayers, the “Change Me” prayer and the Rosary. For my exercise goals, I looked up fitness videos and found Chloe Ting’s free 2-week shred program. I wanted to be more toned and improve my strength, so I decided to commit to it. Since I started getting into the habit of praying regularly after speaking with my friend, I decided to apply the same discipline to exercise. It didn’t take long before I was doing both routinely.

Every day, as soon as I woke up, I would pray and complete the exercises shown in Chloe’s videos for that particular day in my bedroom. While the prayers weren’t strenuous, the exercises were. I would be sweaty and tired and wonder if I could do the exercises again the next day.

What ended up motivating me was how much stronger I was getting each day. When I felt sore, I knew that I was challenging the limits of my body and getting a good workout. As each day passed, I could see improvements in my strength – particularly my arm and core strength. By the end of the shred, I was able to complete all of the exercises without struggling. Since I noticed a bit of physical change after the two weeks, I decided to try Chloe’s summer shred challenge. I also added daily TV Mass to my prayer routine.

With my new prayer routine, I began to feel spiritually strengthened each day. I didn’t think it was possible for me to recite so many prayers in a day, watch Mass and still be productive, but I noticed that my prayer routine gave me the energy and passion to carry me through my day. I felt closer to God. Before I developed a consistent prayer routine, I felt scattered and had doubts about my direction in life. Now, I began to trust more in the journey and notice more of the blessings and opportunities in my life.

Prayer and exercise became habits because I believed they were necessary for my spiritual and physical well-being, and I dedicated effort to them every day. They kept negative and self-defeating thoughts at bay and allowed me to be present in the moment.

Whenever I prayed and watched daily TV Mass — which I still do every day except when I attend Mass in person — my focus was on the prayers and on God. Whenever I exercised, all of my attention was on the exercises and on pushing through any minor discomfort or pain.

I realized that following a fitness and prayer routine required patience, focus, persistence, and discipline. Even if I woke up late, if my body was aching from the previous day, or I felt the urge to binge-watch YouTube videos, I would still pick up my breviary, say my prayers and complete my exercises shortly afterwards. I was driven by a desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and start my day energized and in alignment with God’s will for me. I noticed that I felt more at peace when I prayed and exercised. I also felt a greater sense of achievement every day and felt stronger and more flexible, both mentally and physically.

My journey to spiritual and physical health has not been perfect. There were several days when I forgot to watch Mass. I have never put myself down for taking a break from exercising or for forgetting to pray. I would just get back into my routine the following day. My priority is taking care of my mind, spirit, and body, and I know now that regular prayer and exercise help me do that.

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Maria Montemayor is a Filipina Canadian writer and musician with a BA from the University of Toronto, Trinity College in English and political science. She enjoys drawing, drinking bubble tea, eating sushi and playing chess.