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Sick days just set you back. The good news is there is a great way to avoid the dreaded cold & flu and various other illnesses that hit us especially during this time of year. Studies show you can reduce sick days by at least half if you exercise regularly. Add eating well and getting good sleep and you’re on your way to a more productive you in 2014. See http://www.ivillage.com/sick-getting-sick-fight-it-exercise/4-a-295604 for more. This isn’t new but why don’t more people follow it?

I’ve been hitting it more consistently the last six months and I’ve found the results extremely encouraging. I’ve always exercised fairly consistently, but, there would be weeks where I would not exercise and sometimes one week turned into two weeks and inevitably my energy waned and I would be more susceptible to colds and illnesses that would force me to the sidelines. I do not like the sidelines. I enjoy being active and productive. I want to give as much as I can to my family, my church, my staff, my community, my friends, etc. etc… I don’t want to be sidelined. I want to make the most of each day and be all God has called me to be for that day. I do not want to short circuit that potential for even one day. Although, I know, everybody gets the bug once in a while I’m just trying to reduce those odds.

For pastors it is especially difficult to exercise consistently. Pastors spend their time caring for the needs of others so often that there’s just no energy left at the end of the day to care for themselves.

When I first started in ministry I met a lot of out of shape and exhausted pastors. In my estimation probably 3 out of 4 or about 75% were out of shape with another 15% on their way. I thought, “This is what I have to look forward to? Being exhausted, out shape and sick…a lot?”  I determined at that point that I would not neglect exercise. I wanted to be all God created me to be and not short circuit whatever He has for me. But, that takes planning and it takes discipline and keeping my priorities in place.

Priorities, Priorities… for me, if I’m going to get my exercise in, it must be before the sun comes up. By the end of the day, the energy reserves are low to just about gone so exercise is usually out of the question. I say usually because there are days where I don’t do it in the morning and I just grind it out in the evening, but those are increasingly rare.

If you’re a pastor or leader or anyone just wanting to better your odds of being more productive and spending less time on the sidelines here are a few things that have helped me on the journey.

Nike+ App for iPhone. This app keeps track of all my running and logs it and compares it to my previous runs. I love stats and this keeps a ton of them. It also gives you rewards and you can set goals and achievements and compete against friends or others online.

Fitbit I love this exercise tool. My friends gave this to me and it is awesome. It goes on your wrist (very comfortable) and tracks your steps, exercises, sleep patterns and categorizes it all on the fitbit app or online at fitbit.com

Treadmill and Elliptical Machines at Home. I have both of these at home in the garage with a TV mounted in front of them so I can watch ESPN or something to keep my mind occupied and help me not think about the fact that I’m running in place. Having them at home is convenient which means I’m more likely to use them instead of driving to the gym. I figure if I can’t get out to the garage and exercise there is NO sense in getting a gym membership because I’m not going to drive to a place I have to pay to exercise.

The Endorphin Release. Endorphins are the natural happy drug in our brains. Studies show regular exercise is an incredible natural mood lifter…even lifting depression for many people. See this article for more on that… http://www.shape.com/blogs/fit-list-jay-cardiello/5-mood-lifting-exercises-beat-blues. Personally, it puts an extra pep in my step and I’m less susceptible to the daily irritations we all face. Simply put, I love the way I feel after I exercise. You will too. Maybe not so much at first if you’re just starting out… but, no doubt you will if you stick with it.

Exercise Variety. I recently added a rowing machine to my home gym. http://www.concept2.com.  I noticed I was having to grind out more and more of my exercises because I was getting bored. So, the rowing machine allows me a third great cardio workout right in my garage while watching TV. Now that I’ve increased my workout options there are less excuses not to exercise.

The Look on My Face. Since I’ve been more consistent and my eating habits have improved I have slimmed down by 6 inches in the waist on my pant size and lost 20 pounds. Most people can’t tell I’ve lost that much weight because I’m 6 foot 6 and I can carry 20 extra pounds on my frame without much notice. However, I notice. My face tells it all. When I’m in shape, exercising consistently and eating right my face is slim and there is a certain look to it that shows I’ve been exercising. When I haven’t been exercising my face puffs up and looks chubby. This happens after just a couple of weeks of no exercise. I can hide it in my body for much longer but my face has The Look and it says it all. You probably know what that is for you, whether you feel sluggish or your face tells the story or your legs feel heavy or there’s more junk in the trunk or whatever… you know what it is for you. If you can recognize it, it can help motivate you to get back in the exercise game.

Don’t be sidelined by sickness anymore. Although no one is immune from the occasional virus at least you increase your odds of being in the game longer (whatever your game is) and stronger if you exercise regularly.

More good articles to help you get started

http://beta.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/10-workout-secrets-expert-exercise-tips

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/tips-for-getting-exercise-into-your-life

http://www.helpguide.org/life/exercise.htm

Hope this helps,

Jeremy