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Physical Exercise: What I Do and Why

Glen Bloomstrom, the Campus Chaplain and Assistant Professor of Leadership Development at Bethlehem College and Seminary, asked me to write something for his students about my life-long commitment to physical exercise. So here’s my attempt.

First, a disclaimer: Some godly people who exercise regularly and eat well drop dead at every age. And some sedentary overeaters live to be ninety. Our days are set by God, not us. You won’t live a day longer or shorter than God decides. But keep in mind that some people have survived the plunge over Niagara Falls. That doesn’t make it wise.

I Took Up Jogging

Till I was 22 I didn’t exercise, I just worked and played outside. Since physical activity was part of my life (like it is for most of the world) I needed no exercise plan.

Then I married and went to seminary. Almost all physical work and play vanished. What remained was random. So I became a jogger. I’ve been a jogger ever since. That was 43 years ago. I jogged several times a week in Pasadena (and survived the smog). I jogged in Munich, Germany for three years. I jogged when I taught at Bethel in St. Paul. And, since coming to Bethlehem as pastor, 31 years ago, I have jogged pretty much every week.

I also walk to church rather than driving, most of the time. I figure a modest estimate is that I have walked the distance between my house and the church 10,000 times. It is exactly 600 paces from my front door to the church door. You can do the math. I think its been good for me. One thing I know for sure, I hear from God on those walks like no other time.

Back to jogging. I would guess that the average has been about nine miles a week for 43 years. I am intentionally using the word “jog” rather than “run”. I am pokey. There was a season between ages 28 and 38 when I ran farther and faster (say eight-minute-miles for an hour). The farthest I ever ran was 12 miles with Tom Steller in the early eighties.

No more. At 65 I jog three times a week for about 30 minutes at about an 11-minute-mile pace. In case you wonder, that’s slow.

About Six Hours a Week

I love to play. Love it too much probably. So there have been seasons where this jogging routine has been supplemented by more or less regular racquetball, handball, or basketball. But I’m not good at any of those. So I hold most people back. It’s better for me to go solo. I can set my own pace.

There have been seasons when I biked a lot. I rode with my son across Minnesota. I still take my road bike out now and then for 10 or 15 miles.

In the last year, I have added a weightlifting regimen to the jogging three times a week. I am told that people in their sixties start to lose muscle mass, whatever that is. And the solution is weights. So now there is about 30 minutes three times a week on weights at the Y. My total weekly investment in physical exercise these days would be about six hours, counting dressing and showering and travel.