In the past 6 months I have tried several different workout DVDs. As a busy mom, this type of exercise plan works best for me as I can take my two year old down to the basement where the workout area doubles as a play room, pop in a video, and can get in a solid thirty minute workout. As I continued this daily regimen, I started getting annoyed with all the advice from the instructors about how the workout was all about me, celebrating myself and my body. I know exercise is important, but its not just about being thin and muscular, its about strengthening my body to serve God to the best of my abilities. I was also feeling God calling me to use my exercise time to also be with him in prayer. I kept hearing this whisper to get a Catholic workout DVD program instead of the secular ones I was using. I tried ignoring Him for a while because I didn’t think one existed, nor did I have the time to research one. However, He was persistent. After my workout a few weeks ago, I marched upstairs and typed in “Catholic Workout” in my Google toolbar. I was pleasantly surprised when I found Michael Carrera’s The Catholic Workout book and DVD!
I contacted Mr. Carrera, a practicing Catholic, personal trainer, and author, who holds a Masters of Science Degree is Exercise Science with a specialization in Advance Fitness Assessment and Exercise Counseling as well as being a Certified Exercise Physiologist (so to say the least, he is certainly qualified to give you advice!) and he shipped me a copy of the book and DVD. I received the package on a Friday and started reading. It was such a delight, I couldn’t put it down! What I expected was a “how to” manual on performing exercises integrating prayer, but what I got was so much more. Inside was Carrera’s journey as he learned to listen and trust in God and his own personal challenges with exercise and prayer. He also provided solid theological information on Mary, the Rosary, Marian Apparitions as well as quotes from scripture and the saints. My book has lots of highlights, underlines and stars for all the “gems of wisdom” he shares in the book! He then shares in the second half the “nuts and bolts” of the Catholic Workout including the benefits of exercise, but also includes information on nutrition and integration of prayer into your workout.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I like the DVD even more! You turn it on and immediately begin to pray as you warm up. Carrera himself demonstrates and does the exercises that draw your mind to the Passion of Christ and you pray the Hail Marys during the rest periods. Carrera offers two approaches, the The Catholic Workout is 30 minutes and leads you through 5 exercises of 11 repititions in 3 sets during which you pray the entire rosary during the rest periods. The Modified Catholic Workout is about 20 minutes gives you the same amount of exercise but the rest periods are shorter, so you pray 3 decades, with two left to finish off during the rest of your day. He also provides meditations on the as you exercise and beautiful imagery of nature and Catholic art as you pray. I use both, the Modified on days I am crunched for time and the full version for days when I am able. I prefer the full version as I feel like I can really enter into prayer with a little more rest time.
I feel I could share so much more about this program, but Carrera’s words are much more eloquent than mine, so I have composed some questions about the program and provided answers from quotes from his book below.
Why did you write the “Catholic Workout?”
“I wanted to write a book that could integrate the workings of the body, mind and spirit. I wanted to go beyond the usual methods of relaxation and meditation. I wanted to invoke a new generation of thought, one that allowed the human body, in all its strength, to be used as an expression of Gods’ love for us as a powerful vehicle of action.” (p. 24)
What is “The Catholic Workout”?
“The Catholic Workout integrates the praying of the Rosary with dumbbell exercises, thus allowing you to build your body and to focus your mind on Christ.” (p. xiii)
How does it work?
“The Catholic Workout is about getting to know Jesus in mind, body and spirit, by building your body and strengthening your faith with the help of one of His most precious tools, the Rosary.” (p xv)
How does working out enhance your spiritual life?
“When you build up your body, you build your faith. Physical fitness not only improves your health and helps you feel better about yourself, it also helps you better connect with the Lord and with a spiritual community. We are all called to a life of service. Mere minutes of physical activity and prayer each day can help build tremendous hope in your life. It will equip you with the tools necessary to deal with emotional trials that often prevent you from walking with the Lord, and from taking action that allows you to experience a life of abundance, faith and love. This is the intention of The Catholic Workout.” (p. 36)
Why resistance training?
“The buzz in the fitness and weight loss industry is all about strength and resistance exercise as a way to build lean muscle tissue and boost one’s metabolism… This is a very effective method to create lean muscle and burn fat. I have taken the components of fitness and have integrated them into the prayerful meditation of the Rosary to design a simple, effective, progressive and adaptable Catholic Workout.”
I could write so much more, but I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book, as I am off to build my body and my faith with “The Catholic Workout.”
“As for you, when the Spirit is willing, prepare and make sure that the flesh is strong! You can change your life in any God-given moment. Others have and so can you. ” (Micheal Carrera, The Catholic Workout, p. 31)