What’s your greatest motivation? Are you a natural-born competitor? Are you striving to keep up with your children or grandchildren? Are you working to fit into that special spring outfit this year? Are you hoping to outrun your DNA? Or are you simply trying to live a more healthy life all the way around? What I’m really asking all of us is this: When you want to quit, what stops you?

I have a competitive streak that’s pretty wide. My motivation originates in the challenge of being a little bit better (healthier, smarter, kinder) than I was yesterday. For this miraculous growth to occur, I must choose to make one good decision at a time. All of us are one decision away from moving in a positive direction or a negative one. I apply this principle to my physical lifestyle as well as my spiritual life, and I’d like you to consider doing the same.

I’m grateful that spring has sprung in the area of the world where I live. The days are a bit longer and a bit warmer, so I’m trading in my long-sleeve hoodie for the cooler, cuter spring top. This motivates me to step up my arm workout. Shallow, I know, but motivation nonetheless. Also as spring arrives I’m reminded of the outdoor activities I love – mountain biking and hiking, so I’d better continue my lower body workouts too. You see, besides being competitive, I’m activity-motivated. There are many active hobbies that I love, and in order to continue with these, my body needs to be healthy and well. In my pursuit of wellness, I have good days and not-so-good days. The good days, where I make wise choices, help me push through the not-so-good days, where I lack the motivation to make wise choices.

For many of us, we are motivated to live a more active lifestyle by participating in group fitness classes – like the classes offered in Body & Soul. I am inspired by the students that come to class, and I believe that they inspire one another. If that sounds like a positive choice to you, be sure to get yourself to the nearest class as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed – and chances are you’ll inspire the person next to you. It’s a win-win!

So, what’s your motivation? Are you training for an event? Are you hoping to pick up a new, active hobby? Are you fighting a condition that threatens your wellness? Whatever your motivation, keep it in your sights. Do not get distracted by the not-so-good days. Don’t’ get derailed. This focus applies to our spiritual wellness as well as our physical. My greatest motivation spiritually is to know Jesus Christ and glorify Him. I have good days and not-so-good days. On the good days, I’m focused on daynastudios--3153Him, I’m in His Word, and I’m on the lookout for His presence. On the not-so-good days, I’m distracted, but not for long. Just like in my fitness life, I’m on a journey toward wellness and striving to make one positive decision at a time. This means I’m focused on my goal and making one choice that moves me in that direction. Why don’t you join me?

Every time you speak words of encouragement to someone, you are shining a light into their life. Every time you give a hug, you shine love on that person. When you serve others or offer to help them out, your life “shines.” And it’s amazing how the reflection comes back to you when you shine this way.

When I bought glow bracelets for my grandchildren for the 4th of July one year, I had no idea what joy would come back to me as I watched their joy bubble up. They shook them to get the glowing started, shared them with each other, put them on, and giggled about them. It was a time of unbridled joy and chaos.

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We all treasure these joy-filled shining times, but the truth is that also in life there are times when we feel like we are wandering in the darkness of sorrow or pain. It’s harder to shine during these times, but with God’s help we can shine in a different way as we trust him through the hard times and the challenging days. The song “Glow in the Dark” by Jason Gray says it this way:

“… even in the darkest place His love can make you radiate. Doesn’t matter how deep, how dark the night is, keep hoping, keep on shining, and they’ll see His light burning in your heart. … Like a flame, like a burning star, you can shine right where you are. He made you to glow in the dark.”

This new spring session of Body & Soul is called “Shine On” because with God’s help, we can keep on shining no matter what happens in our life. Let the world see how we deal with dark times, challenges, pain and sorrow. Even as we struggle through things, we can glow for God as we hold fast to trust him, as we hope when things seem hopeless, as we pray and wait for answers. Let’s put on those divine glow bracelets as we lift our hands and our hearts to God; he will guide us through the dark. We can all glow brightly as we grow in both physical strength and spiritual strength together in Body & Soul!

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone who is in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16:

We can do this. We can shine on!


Jeannie Blocher is the President and Founder of Body & Soul Fitness Ministries.

Do you ever feel like that? The above are lyrics from an old contemporary Christian song called “Asleep in the light.” Ironically, when I first heard this song I was in bed, napping! I was a leader at a teen camp and I was wiped out. When I heard that line, I bolted out of bed as if it had caught fire. I was convicted and embarrassed by the truth in the song lyric. But the artist wasn’t singing about physical exhaustion, actually. He was singing about the lack of power in the Christian life.

Have you ever wondered where the power went? Have you felt like you were running on fumes? I don’t mean times when you were physically wiped out because of all of the demands on your life (though, Lord knows, this happens)! I’m talking about feeling like you are missing a connection with God—that you are somehow not “tapped in,” as if some spiritual spark plug were misfiring. I have been there and felt that.  When I feel this way, there are two steps that I take. I’m hoping these two steps can encourage you, too.

1. I persevere. The Bible says that we walk by faith and not by sight. This means that we don’t always see results or feel “warm fuzzies.” But by faith, we keep taking steps to do what nurtures our faith and encourages our spirits. For me, this means, I keep praying, reading the Bible, loving my family, attending church, and, yes, going to Body & Soul exercise classes! I don’t stop just because I don’t particularly feel like doing these things or because I’m not seeing the results I want. No, I keep going, out of obedience and discipline.
pexels-photo-27633-medium2. I pray and I ask others to do so, on my behalf. In Exodus 17, the Bible tells us that Moses supported his armies by keeping his arms raised high. They did well when his arms were lifted up, but they flagged when he dropped them. Of course Moses got tired after a while. When that happened, Aaron and Hur boosted him and held his arms up high. Aaron was on one side; Hur, on the other. They were totally there for him, literally supporting him. When I get tired, I rely on the Spirit to sustain me and on my friends and family around me to help me keep on keeping on. What I’ve learned is that when I am spent, it is not the time to go into hermit mode or try to go it alone. I need support on many levels, more than ever.

Just in case you are the one feeling spent or discouraged, spiritually or even physically, just now, I leave you with my paraphrase of a portion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1. (I departed from the text a bit on the last line.)

I hope you can see clearly that God has called you not to a life of despair and discouragement but to a life of hope, filled with good things beyond your wildest imaginations. And when things don’t seem so good, I trust you’ll remember that He has given you His power—yes, that supersonic, amazing, death-shattering power that rose Jesus from the dead. If he can do that, he most certainly can get you up out of bed!

Did you catch all that? Not only can God’s power get us up out of bed, it gives us hope and a reason for doing so! I am praying for us all of us to persevere when we become weary, spiritually or physically. But, most importantly, I’m praying that God’s power and hope permeate our lives in new and strengthening ways this Easter season!




Used with permission: thewallpaper.co

Have You Tasted God’s Love?taste

What is graced with a crown, has seeds to number the Old Testament laws and brings rhythm to your heart?

If you guessed pomegranate – you are correct.

Rich in symbolism while delivering an antidote for life, pomegranates bring the taste of God’s love in three ways:


Because of the pomegranate’s color and shape, it was considered the most beautiful fruit of the land in Israel. It was stitched to hang from the hem of the High priest robe alternating with gold bells; it was carved into the capitals of the pillars that stood outside the doors of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. It is believed to have 613 seeds in each fruit – the same number as the laws in the Old Testament.

When I researched this there was one food historian who did a study and gathered pomegranates from all over the world, counted their seeds and even though they varied in number they averaged 613. God’s laws were written to show us His love.

Pomegranate fruit_image God’s love was witnessed by the early patriarchs and also by those living in Jesus’ day. This love is exemplified in the pomegranate. Imagine holding a pomegranate in your hand with the crown of the fruit facing you while reading this verse:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isaiah 62:3

God’s love was shown to us when He sent His son Jesus. The pomegranate represents Jesus- Jesus is our High Priest.

The pomegranate will release its seeds when beaten with a wooden stick. Jesus was beaten and placed on a wooden cross.

As the seeds drop from the pomegranate in a deep red color and bring healing to everyone who eats them, Jesus blood was shed for us and brings healing spiritually to everyone who believes.


For us today pomegranates deliver not just beauty and artwork but are a superfood in their own category.

Drinking a glass of pomegranate juice a day can help to protect against three major diseases: heart disease, cancer, and osteoarthritis. Studies show a medium glass of juice contains almost three times as many antioxidants as the same amount of red wine or green tea.pomegranate

The seeds of the pomegranate deliver a rich fiber that balances blood sugar, creates satiety and prevents insulin resistance.

The juice of the seed brings a healthy glow to the skin keeping it youthful and protected at the same time. It is known for correcting eye problems and prevents the buildup of plaque on teeth.

Just as the priest goes into the holy of holies for spiritual cleansing the seed brings a physical cleansing with antioxidants, ellagic acid, fiber and vitamins B (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, folic acid, and biotin), C, E, Beta-carotene, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.

This physical cleansing benefit is representative of our spiritual cleansing available to us daily as well. A flavorful taste of God’s love.


pom saladPomegranates are a delicious addition to top your salads; make a salad with roasted butternut squash, spinach, and feta cheese, topped with pomegranate seeds.

Add pomegranate seeds to a salad of walnuts, goat cheese, and spinach, using a light honey-based dressing.

Sprinkle the seeds on your morning oatmeal or cereal.

Stir the seeds into your orange juice or tea for a tangy taste.

Or just eat them as a treat by themselves.

The Taste of God’s Love

God’s love is delivered to us in all of the foods He designed. Discoveries will continue as these foods are studied. But the good news is, we don’t need science to prove God’s love; we can experience it physically every day by enjoying these foods in their whole form.

We can experience God’s love spiritually every day by studying His Word.

And just as His foods bring healing and protection to our body His love brings healing and protection to our heart.

So enjoy some pomegranates today and let your heart experience God’s love right now.


Annette Reeder is a Nutritionist and graduate of Biblical Studies, and as such is a uniquely qualified professional speaker and consultant.  She founded Designed Healthy Living, Design Publishing and now Flavor of Grace Ministry.

Visit the Flavor of Grace website to learn about area conferences and how to best combat physical and spiritual challenges.  .

Hilda Kenya fistsIn the U.S., we often feel a sense of camaraderie and friendship in Body & Soul classes, but did you know that this feeling translates across continents? I went to Kenya last summer to lead a series of nutrition talks, and while I was there, I knew I wanted to check out the area Body & Soul classes. I reached out to some teachers in Nairobi ahead of time, and they told me that I would be welcome to join one of their classes when I was in town. That was great, as far as it went. I just honestly didn’t know what to expect from a Body & Soul class on the other side of the globe.

Already life in Kenya had struck me as drastically different from life in the U.S. I spotted cattle grazing on the median strips. There were tribal people groups who wore colorful clothing like nothing I’d ever seen before. I tasted foods unique to Kenya: chapatti, ugali, and special tea. So I wondered if Body & Soul would feel different, too.

But when I got to the class, it fit me like an old (exercise) shoe. The area instructors bent over backwards to make me feel “karibu” (“welcome.”) They had invited all instructors in the vicinity to come out and teach one giant class together. Students from all of the classes agreed to come on the appointed day and time as well.  I felt so honored and thrilled that they had rearranged their schedules for me!

From the moment I arrived, there were smiles and hugs everywhere. There was a happy “buzz” in the air. Even though I had never met a soul from the classes in Nairobi, there was a sense of ease and family. The class started just like my Body & Soul classes state-side: with prayer. Then we turned up the music (the same motivating Christian music we use in the U.S.) and every instructor gave 110%, as she led from the stage. The students were working hard, too. We were all loving it, and, of course, every single one of us was sweating up a storm.

student dancing arms upAfter class, everyone stayed as I gave a brief nutrition talk. And following that, the instructors and I went out to eat. I felt like everyone was watching me to see what I’d order, since I had just spoken about healthy eating! (By the way, if you are curious about the nutrition talk I gave, just listen to the Wise Traditions podcast that I am hosting! It is available on iTunes and Stitcher and its focus is on our need for whole, real foods—foods that people have eaten traditionally and thrived on for centuries!)

At the end of the night, I felt a pleasant glow, and I realized that it wasn’t just the endorphins from the exercise. It was the sense that Body & Soul has created an environment that surpasses cultural and national barriers. It is the “karibu” welcome that comes from the Spirit that pervades classes here in the U.S. and abroad. Let me know if you’ve experienced this in your Body & Soul class, too! It’s a blessing that you don’t have to go to Kenya to receive!Hilda Kenya hands in the air


Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC Metro Regional Director and Director of Communications for Body & Soul. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast and the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Just Don’t Quit

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Proverbs 14:29

It takes time for changes to take place in our bodies. Developing patience and proficiency in the area of exercise may be one of the biggest challenges of all, but will be well worth it. One of the most common reasons people give up on exercise is lack of results.   We expect immediate results.

I recall one dear lady in my class in Charleston, SC, who had decided she was going to work diligently at her commitment to exercise. She walked faithfully every day for one week and when she got on the scale, she had “stayed the same.” She immediately began to cry and say, “It’s no use – I am just going to quit. I won’t be back next week.”

We all have had the same experience.   I gently reminded her that the scale cannot measure everything that is going on in her body. It can only measure what she has on—her bones, blood, skin and major organs. Furthermore, it takes time for our bodies to really get in shape, more than just one week! It’s not reasonable to think that weight we put on in one year can all come off in a matter of weeks.

I encouraged her to be patient with herself, gain some understanding about the human body and remain faithful. She did and lost over forty pounds in two sessions! How foolish we are when we forget that success is in the process! I am reminded that it takes time in all four areas in my life: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, for my life to change and I praise God that he is not quick-tempered and impulsive with me!

Prayer: Dear God, grant me this day patience and understanding from your Holy Spirit and keep me from impulsive foolishness!


Vicki Heath is the FP4H National Director.  She and her husband Rob live in Edisto Island, SC.  Vicki is also an Area Director and Fitness Instructor for Body & Soul Fitness.  For more information on First Place 4 Health visit www.firstplace4health.com.

Devotional taken from the First Place 4 Health devotional, Better Together. Available separately or as part of the Better Together Success Pack. To order, visit www.firstplace4health.com, or call 800.727.5223, x1002.

snow_heart_high_resolutionHow’s your heart?

When you read that question – do you think of your physical heart, the organ ‘muscle’ that delivers blood throughout the body; or do you think of the emotional aspect of the heart, the innermost part of your being? After all, it is National Heart Month, so it’s the perfect time to ask this question as we seek to improve our “heart care”.

Let’s begin by focusing on the spiritual/emotional/mental dimensions of the heart and how each dimension is linked to one another. Consider this: what we believe, affects how we think, which affects how we feel, which affects what we do. Proverbs 4:23 says, ”Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” In order to guard our heart properly, we need to start with the right foundation, which is the Lord.

When we follow these 4’d”s, we strengthen our hearts spiritually:sea-fashion-woman-water

  • Draw near to the Lord, (He has set eternity in the hearts of men)
  • Depend on God (Phil. 4:8 tells us what to think about)
  • Do what the Lord tells us to do (obey God’s word)
  • Die to our own “will” daily (follow the example that Jesus set for us)

Here are some guidelines I recommend for a healthy spiritual heart. In the fitness industry, we call them FITT guidelines:   frequency, intensity, type and time.

F.I.T.T. Guidelines for a PURE HEART

Frequency:  Psalm 73:28 says, “it is good to draw near to the Lord.” Proverbs 3:1 says “do not forget my teaching”. How many of you have seen the movie “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen? The little guy, Charlie, wants his dad, “Santa”, to remember the North Pole, so he throws him the snow globe and says, “Remember!” We need to “remember” what God tells us in his Word. In order to do that, we need to spend time reading His word.

bigstock-bible-study-5363796Intensity:  Ingest God’s word (read it and take it in), chew it up (think about it), digest it, and apply it to life.

Type:  Time with the Lord can include prayer time (a combination of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication (ACTS); reading God’s Word, and a reflection/meditation time.

  How much time am I offering to the Lord? Am I spending time on a daily basis with the Lord, or do I tend to wait until there’s a crisis, and suddenly this becomes important? I love the words a friend of mine who says, “let’s do first things first.”

Turning to the physical aspect of the heart – the muscle! Like any other muscle in the body, it must be worked to get stronger. According to the American Heart Association, “aerobic exercise includes activities that increase your breathing and heart rate.”

Here are a few more benefits as well:

  • Decrease in risk of heart disease and stroke, blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, weight, and resting heart rate.
  • Increase in mood, HDL (good) cholesterol, musculoskeletal system, endurance, energy, and stress management.


F.I.T.T. Guidelines for Developing & Maintaining a STRONG HEART MUSCLE

Frequency: minimum 3 days a week. Increase frequency depending on goals.

Intensity: Exercise at a moderate pace.

Type of Exercise: Exercises that use the major muscle groups: walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, dancing, and cardio classes.

Time: Start with 20 minutes per session. Increase time depending on goals and endurance.

And remember, something is better than nothing.

Here are a few tips to help you get started or to keep you going with your cardiovascular exercise:

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  • Pick an activity you like. If you can’t see anything on the list, pick something you can tole
    rate for 20 minutes. It might be turning on some fun music and dancing around the house. It doesn’t have to make you panting for breath, but it needs to get your heart pumping.
  • Evaluate your season of life, and decide how best to fit in your cardio time. Consider attending a Body & Soul class 2 times a week and then cross train with a 20-minute walk or jog in between.
  • 02-01-headphones_accessoriesIf you need some time “alone”, maybe your choice could be a ride on the stationary bike, or a walk. Put on some headphones with some praise music playing and enjoy some time walking and talking with God. Plus you’ll be meeting your “steps” goal.


We can often lay aside our own health needs as we seek to care for our loved ones. Think of “heart care” the same way the airlines demonstrate an oxygen mask. If you take care of yourself first, you will be able to help others better.c700x420

So, how’s your Heart? Start today to create a F.I.T.T. heart – physically and spiritually.

RachelSoperAs the director for Body & Soul’s Boot Camp program, I am constantly working to fill our classes with new, fun, and love-to-hate-them exercises and formats. I try new combinations of familiar exercises that challenge and stretch us (literally and metaphorically). “What if we did triceps kickbacks while holding a plank!?” I let out a gleeful laugh while I imagine the “fun” we will have when we think our muscles just might give out and go to failure, in true strength-training fashion!

Boot Camp is a Body & Soul program with lots of variety. Each instructor has guidelines, of course, but each class design is unique. A class can have a focus on abdominal work (I recently taught one called “ABSolutely awesome”) or cardio endurance (e.g., “Burpee accumulator”). Just thinking about these classes excites and exhausts me at the same time!

Even as I strive for creativity and excellence in the Boot Camp program, I also continually seek to improve my own physical fitness, But, thankfully, I know that physical perfection is not my end goal. Christ must be the center for all things that we do. To keep perspective, I find myself praying Ephesians 2:10 which says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” 


 That is why I work out. THAT is why we seek to be healthy and physically fit. This is the purpose behind Body & Soul, as well. We want to care for our physical bodies and our spirits so that we are better able to serve those around us. The idea is to be strong, so that when those things are placed in our path, we will be able to, in fact, do the good works that God created (before now!!) specifically for us to do and accomplish through His power. This way, we won’t miss out on His blessings because our temples are not capable.  images

That, and that alone is the “why” behind the challenging exercises, upbeat music, and goal-setting that we take on as a community. We are not out to conform to the world’s standards or achieve a certain physique as a prize; we want only to be able to use our temples to glorify God.

Now for your homework.  This functional fitness workout below will keep you ready to do God’s good works. Get a deck of cards (Jokers included) and shuffle it well.  Place the deck face down in front of you.  Flip over the top card.  The suit tells you what exercise to do, the number tells you how many reps to do (Ace = 1; Jack = 11; Queen = 12 and King = 13).  If you get a joker, take a 1-2 minute break and get a drink of water.

Homework Assignment

Clubs: Squats with an overhead press.

Functionality:  Even though you lift your kids and groceries with your arms, your legs, gluteal muscles and back are also key players. This exercise strengthens your legs, glutes, lower back, arms and shoulders.

Spades: Stair Climb with a biceps curl (R&L curls = 1 rep)

Functionality: Stairs are everywhere so using stairs as part of your fitness program will keep your legs conditioned and toned. Partnering stair climbs with bicep curls will strengthen your arms and improve your ability to carry things up the stairs. You’ll get your heart rate up with this one, as well. Go slowly and you’ll feel your core helping to stabilize you.

Hearts: Supine Bridge with Arm Extensions

Functionality: This exercise tones and strengthens your arms, shoulders, back, glutes and legs, as well as targets your core muscles. It also opens up your chest and the front of your hips (muscles that get tight with long hours of sitting and using the computer).

Diamonds: Single Leg Deadlift with Row (Do prescribed reps on EACH leg)

Functionality: This exercise improves your balance and coordination as well as strengthens your upper, mid and lower back, shoulders, glutes and legs. Having a strong back helps reduce aches and pains from living a sedentary life. Strong gluteal muscles help keep your lower back, hips, and knees healthy.

After you do all of the above, let me know. Were the exercises fun? Unique? Challenging? Exhausting? Good! Now come on out to a Boot Camp class where we can laugh, sweat, and pray together, as we pursue strength, not perfection

Don’t you love fresh songs that inspire your body to move and your soul to soar?

I do! Ever since I was a little girl I have loved dancing to music—starting with tap and ballet, then in cotillion, at high school dances, and now in Body & Soul! Music makes me look forward to exercise, when I know that my spirit will be lifted as I lift my knees!

Each new session of Body & Soul brings with it a new group of songs with a new spiritual message and themes to make us think, get moving, and have fun. Isn’t it true that music can add fun to your workout? It also adds intensity when you need motivation. The power-up songs give you that extra burst of musical-adrenalin that you need when you wonder if you can keep going—am I right? Thank goodness for those songs!

Then there are the slower songs–the ones that calm you down, that make you stop and take a deep breath. Yes, we need relaxation as we stretch to end our workout time. Sometimes these are the sweetest times where the message of the music penetrates our hearts and comforts us.

This winter session the theme is Search & Rescue. In the devotional below, you will find the list of all the music and artists we are using in our various programs. Check them out and download the ones you like best. I also encourage you to take time to read the message of hope in each of the short devotional nuggets in this resource. It is worth your time.


Click here to view the devotional

And if you are interested in checking out the lyrics to any of the songs, we have researched safe websites for you to go to. Click on the links in the chart below for easy access.

Songs Artists
Walk on Water Family Force 5
Can’t Live Without You Owl City
Feel It TobyMac
My Heart is Alive Planetshakers
Forget about the World V. Rose
Nothing Is Impossible Planetshakers
Out of my Head Fireflight
Save Your Life Newsboys
Impossible Building 429
Diamonds Hawk Nelson
Move (Keep Walkin) TobyMac
From the Day I Am They
Backseat Driver TobyMac
Prodigal Sidewalk Prophets
Never Say Never Family Force 5
Warrior Steven Curtis Chapman
Breathe In, Breathe Out The Afters
Flawless MercyMe
Rise from the Ashes Group 1 Crew
Same Power Jeremy Camp
You’re Not Alone Owl City
This is my Year Family Force 5
Give In LeCrae w/ Crystal Nicole
Compass Jonathan Thulin
New Lease on Life MercyMe

Sing along, hum the tunes, smile big and experience the joy of movement to great music in Body & Soul this winter. No matter how cold (or mild) the weather is, your heart and spirit will be warmed by the encouragement of the message in these songs!

image“Can I tell you a secret?” Does this question take you back to the school yard where your best friend runs to you at recess to share some sweet morsel of information that’s to be held tightly just between the two of you? Or does it pique your interest because you’re a learner and you want to know and implement the latest health tip so you can get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution? Either way, I’ll share with you my top 3 secrets to a better workout…on two conditions. You must implement these secrets into your fitness program to the best of your ability, and then share them with those you are inspiring to better health. These secrets are too good to keep to yourself!

Assuming you agreed to my conditions, read on.

  1. STAY BALANCED as it relates to muscle compensation and adaptation. We must fight muscle imbalance by keeping our fitness routine varied by muscle group as well as exercise choice. More specifically, we want to train muscles in both directions and be careful not to show favoritism: for every “pull” exercise, balance the workout with a “push” exercise (if pushups are a favorite exercise of yours, balance them out by adding resisted pull-backs or rows to your routine on pushup day). In terms of adaptation, we want to cross-train muscles and movement patterns to avoid physical plateaus and mental boredom. Both of these are detrimental to our fitness goals! Balance can be achieved by participating in two or more programs offered by Body & Soul Fitness. Choose from classes focused on cardiovascular health, core training, weight lifting, flexibility, for example, and mix it up.image
  2. GET UNCOMFORTABLE. This one is one of my favorite secrets (and probably my class’s least favorite). When my class hears me say “don’t get too comfortable” they suddenly pay more attention and reset a proper workout position, miraculously moving in such a way that I can actually see that they are working harder and smarter. As we all know, the path of least resistance is popular because it’s easier. In my experience, easier is rarely better, and it requires effort to take the better path. What I have found is that movement that originates from the strongest position is the more beneficial exercise, though perhaps less comfortable. A good example of this can be felt during a side-lying inner thigh exercise. If it’s executed with a strong body that is propped up by a strong shoulder press (ribs up and away from the floor) and is rolled forward at the hips (not resting back), the inner thigh will work harder and more efficiently. This makes for a better workout – though sinking into the position would be more comfortable! Go ahead. Try it yourself. You will be uncomfortable, but you will get stronger as a result.
  1. BE FLEXIBLE. This one sounds friendlier (and easier) doesn’t it? Don’t skip over this one though. Flexibility plays a huge role in our overall physical health and wellness. It promotes balance between movement, strength and functionality. Without it, dysfunction will show itself in another part of the body. Let me say that again. Without proper flexibility, which requires time and intentionality,
    dysfunction will show itself in a part of the body different than where we are experiencing tightness. IS09AL8EUFor example, when our hip flexors are tight (often the result of too much sitting), our gluteal muscles of the buttocks will be weak. This tight/weak combination shows itself in a variety of dysfunctional movement patterns so stretching the hip flexors is recommended. Do this from a kneeling position with one knee down. Gently lunge forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in the top of the thigh. Flexibility training like this will pay off in better range of motion, muscle growth, less post-exercise soreness, improved functionality, and increased muscle strength. Remember, a flexible muscle is a strong muscle.

So, now it’s time to apply these secrets personally…and then share them with those you are inspiring to better health. Some secrets are sweeter when they’re shared!Friendship and fitness in the park

Welcome 2016! Did you set a health and wellness goal for the New Year? Already feeling like you need some motivation to stick with it? Join us as we kick off the New Year with a 10-day #BodySoulFit2016 Fitness Challenge. Let us help you set the pace. Our challenge will have you reaching your fitness goals in no time. (Or at least getting you closer to achieving them!)  Are you in?Friendship and fitness in the park

For the next 10 days (Jan 6th – 16th) we’ll be posting daily workouts from our Body & Soul Power Strength and Boot Camp programs on our Facebook page. Amy Stafford, our Fitness Director and Power Strength Program Director, and Rachel Soper, our Boot Camp Program Director, along with their program trainers, will encourage you and answer any questions you have as you progress through the challenge. AND you’ll discover a community of support as you join others involved in our challenge too.

Already attending a Body & Soul class? That’s great! You’ll get the added benefit of an additional workout (20 mins) on those days. This challenge is designed to go hand in hand with our classes. You’ll truly be maximizing your workout on those days.

Need modifications? No problem. As we said, our wonderful experts will be right there with you answering all your questions, providing modifications, and cheering you on along the way. We design our programs so that whatever shape you’re in, or whatever fitness goals you have, you will find success and achieve results.

sea-fashion-woman-waterWe believe that fitness is more than just your body. We believe it also includes your soul. So each day we will be posting a “spiritual nugget” that will lift your spirit and remind you that there is more to this life than meets the eye. We are here to help you pursue health, pursue fitness, and pursue faith.

As you work through our fitness challenge, we want to hear how your faith is being strengthened. Please share this with us and don’t forget to use #BodySoulFit2016.

We also want to see you in action. Post a video or picture of yourself using the hashtag #BodySoulFit2016 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and we will enter you to win a prize package* at the end of the challenge. Complete all 10 days of the challenge and you’ll get 10 extra entries. If you win the drawing at the end of the challenge, you’ll be invited to share your success story with us.

images-1Are you ready? Grab a friend and get started today!

*Prize package is only available for the US only. Not living in the US? Join the challenge anyway. You’ll be sticking with your goal and gaining new friends and valuable fitness tips along the way.




Mary Ward is the Director of Marketing at Body & Soul Fitness.

Yes, that’s what we are this winter! We don’t pilot helicopters and pick up soldiers in battle who need rescuing. We don’t run across the beach clutching a red floating device to help a child who is in danger from a rip tide. Instead, we join together in Body & Soul Fitness classes, personally searching for hope and reaching out to rescue fellow students with words of encouragement! Never lose sight of the power of caring! You can help rescue others with a caring touch.

IMG_2367In class, our “uniform” is fitness wear. We power up the endorphins with our physical fitness workout and lift our spirits with the spiritual message in the music we exercise to. We are “armor-plated,” carrying our shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit!

Even so, we all have those days when we feel like we are drowning –in a pile of to-dos, a pile of laundry or a pile of discouragement. If you are personally in need of rescue-encouragement, you can be assured that you will find it in your Body & Soul fitness class.

The themes in the music of our winter session are:
  • The Search –What are you searching for and why?
  • Faith or Fear? – How will you overcome fear with faith?
  • Step out of the Boat – Are you being called to do something new?
  • Trust Deeper – Are you in a hard place right now?
  • God Rescues – He has answers!

IMG_6444Our winter session verse is Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” How does this verse apply to you? Do you need to ask for help in some area of your life? Are you seeking and searching for answers? If so, knock—the door will be opened.

My son commands an Air Force squadron, and the men and women under his care leave their families and the comforts of home to go on search & rescue missions on a regular basis.IMG_6443My grandson who is 12 has already attended Junior Lifeguard Camp and has dreams of being a lifeguard on alert to rescue swimmers in need. Your mission is just as important. Wherever you live around the world, whether you are able to attend a Body & Soul class or not– right where you are, you can search for those in need and be a part of the rescue team that brings them back to hope! Ask, seek, knock. Then watch to see God at work!

Traveling can be exhausting! I flew to California for a nutrition conference last month. Once there, I enjoyed the palm trees, sunshine, and, of course, the lectures I attended, but the trip itself was less than amazing. Shuttle bus fumes, heavy luggage (I know nothing about traveling light), crowds, security—these are all necessary evils while traveling by plane. And a road trip poses challenges of its own. Whatever your mode of transportation, here’s how to keep sane and strong when you’re going over the river and through the woods. Below are my tips on traveling without unraveling.


  1. Be prepared. Yup, the Boy Scouts have it right. Pre-trip prep is key. You want to start your trip on the best foot. Think like a marathoner who keeps a good routine the week of his race, and the night before, too! Do your best to keep a normal schedule of eating, sleeping, and exercise ahead of time. And avoid stressful last-minute packing. I used to stay up to the wee hours of the morning, allowing for only one or two hours of shut-eye before waking for the next day’s flight. I used to tell myself “Oh, you can sleep on the plane” but then I never actually did (even if I had a U-shaped pillow!) To avoid pulling an all-nighter, I now pull my suitcase down from the attic about a week ahead of time and as I fold laundry, I put it in the suitcase instead of my dresser. Before you know it, I’m practically packed, with time to spare!
  1. travelers walkingMove it! On Everest, they say that you start to die the minute you stop moving. Make this your philosophy for living and traveling, too! At the airport, take the stairs in lieu of the moving walkway and escalator. When driving, take pit stops with a purpose. I used to pride myself in going for hours and hours without stopping, with the end goal of arriving at the destination as quickly as possible. Now I know that it’s not good for the body to be in one position for too long, so I make stops, even if it means I get to point B a little later than originally planned. Stops give our bodies a chance to stretch and get the blood circulating again, and the fresh air makes us more alert once we get back behind the wheel. If you have small children in tow, you will need to stop frequently anyway. Embrace it! Make it even more fun by bringing squirt guns, a Frisbee, jump rope or football.

Hilda push up plank

  1. Take a stand! The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. I see a parallel in sitting. Excessive sitting has been linked with all sorts of problems: mental health issues, heart disease and even early death. So the last thing you should do is sit in the waiting area, when sitting is going to be required for the duration of most flights. Stand while waiting, since there is room and time to do so. My dad is over 80 years old and when he visits our home, while most of us are sitting around the living room, he remains on his feet. It keeps him engaged in our conversation and ready to break into a dance should the occasion arise. Did I mention that he is as sharp as a tack? Standing is key to mental and physical wellness. Take this hint and you may just be the last one standing!
  1. working out with strangerStep up. If you want to take your standing to the next level, do some light stretching or even strength training (if you dare.) You might get a few strange looks, but you might also inspire someone to join you!
  1. Pack provisions. At all costs, avoid that I’m-famished-must-eat-now-oh-well-guess-I’ll-settle-for-Charlie’s-chicken-and-hope-for-the-best moment. No time for packing anything besides your suitcase? Grab an apple or orange before you leave the house. If you think ahead, make baggies of nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky, what have you. Anything you pack will spare you the expense of airport prices, in addition to nourishing you beyond what a bag of chips can offer.

I hope these tips help you make the most of the time on route to your destination. Once you get there, be fully present. Time with family and friends is one of the best Christmas gifts you can share. Keep that objective in mind. It just might help you manage the trip back home!

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…

Growing up in southern California, the holidays consisted of palm trees, sun and Santa’s on surfboards. Jack Frost did nip our noses in the mornings, but by the afternoon we were sunning ourselves on the beach.   I remember one year when I was in elementary school, we looked out the window and it was snowing! The teachers let all of us out to play in it because they knew how special the moment was. It only snowed for 10 minutes, but we were beyond excited!

We all dream of cozy moments during the holidays, but the reality can be far different. IMG_4326Regardless of where we live, we often swap out the “heavenly peace” for battling crowds at
he mall and eating our way through those holiday parties with their abundance of food and yummy drinks. Before we know it the holidays have stolen our joy and increased our waistlines.


So how do we enjoy parties without fear of unwanted weight gain, take pleasure in cozy moments spent with loved ones and fill the season with joy?

Here are a few simple steps for a healthy holiday season:

  1. Breathe. Did you know that simply taking a few deep breaths can turn on oxytocin and turn off cortisol? Cortisol called the “stress hormone,” contributes to waistline weight gain, anxiety, and shallow breathing. Oxytocin turns off this stress hormone, lowers your blood pressure and turns on the body’s “relaxation response.”   Try this, sit comfortably and breathe in through your nose. Concentrate on breathing through the abdomen and not the chest. Hold that breath one or two seconds. Exhale through your mouth until all your breath is completely released. Wait one or two seconds and then repeat the steps. Try five or six deep cleansing breaths. Take one or two minutes each day to breathe deeply. Before you know it, you’ll be cleaning out that cortisol and finding yourself “feeling good.”
  1. Exercise. Don’t skip those 30 minutes of daily exercise. In fact, shopping can give you just what you need for the day. Take a lap around the mall after each purchase. You’ll introduce strength training into your laps as those purchases add up. Author, National Director for First Place 4 Health, and Body & Soul Fitness Instructor Vicki Heath suggests putting your sneakers in your car so that they are available if you find yourself with some extra time before an appointment. Put them on and use that time to get in a walk. Studies show that 10 minutes of exercise 3 times a day equals the 30-minute goal.
  1. Eat smart. Prepare ahead of time for those holiday parties. Eat a healthy meal before heading off to the party. You’ll be full and snack less. If you do snack, cover ¾ of your plate with fruits and vegetables and only leave a small space for those higher calorie temptersfood-restaurant-eat-snack-medium. Choose sparkling water with a strawberry,
    lemon, or lime added for fun, festive sipping. Don’t skip breakfast. Eating in the morning will help control cravings later on. Pack an insulated cooler with healthy snacks to have on hand when you just need a quick bite.
  1. Laugh. How about gathering some friends together this season and watching a holiday comedy like “Elf” or “Scrooged?” We’ve all heard the old adage “Laughter is the best medicine.” Turns out it’s true. Laughter has the ability to relax the whole body, increase your immune system, inspire hope, release those “feel good hormones,” boost your energy, diminish pain, protect the heart, and the best of all it’s free. Laughter connects us and increases happiness and intimacy. Who doesn’t want that? My best friend is a great example of pexels-photo-54204-mediumthis. She is so fun to watch movies with because she laughs so quickly and her laughter is infectious. Before I know it, I’m laughing right along with her at something
    I may not have if I were watching the same movie alone.

These are just a few simple suggestions to help you create healthy, happy holidays. What tips have you found that keep you saying Ho, Ho, Ho?

I love Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving I cannot wait to put up my decorations− decking my halls and walls and tables. My husband laughs at how many Christmas decorations I brought into our home the first year we were married− and the fact that I can add to them every year! I light up the rooms and I count down the days. Even as an adult I get one of those advent calendars where you open a door every day and get a piece of chocolate. I think I love it so much because it is one of the few areas of my life where I get to live in the anticipation. Room is made in my life for waiting. Because that is really what the Christmas is about− waiting for the day Jesus came to come again. In the period of Advent we are awaiting the arrival of Christ and the dawn of new hope.

The one trouble is that it’s hard to feel like you’re waiting when you’re distracted and busy. And all of us are busy- busier especially at this time of year. It makes sense, really. The time of year when we should feel the longing and the waiting most clearly, we have to fight hardest for moments of quiet and calm.

What would you do with a quiet moment if you had it, anyway? If you’re like me, you may be tempted to fill it with errands and to-do list items. But what if we filled it with stillness, and waiting, and prayer?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer, specifically how to spend more time doing it. I’ve never been that good at closing my eyes, bowing my head, and just talking. I get distracted too easily, especially at these busy times of year. I have always prayed a bit differently. I pray by writing out my prayers in the form of letters, poetry, and even drawings. It helps me stay focused on what I want to talk to God about, using my quiet moments wisely.

So this December I am going to pause in the bustle once a day to wait. I am going to dwell on the names of God and his attributes. I am going to remember who this God is, so that I can be truly excited to celebrate the day he came, looking forward to when he comes again. I am going to do this by writing out a name of God or one of his attributes each day, then either writing a note to God about it, writing a poem about it, or drawing a symbol that encapsulates it’s meaning. This is one I’ve already prayed through:


Because it can be hard to spend time in prayer without a place to get started, my friend Stephanie and I just published a guided Prayer Journal 40 Days of Art and Literature. If you find it hard to carve out time to wait and anticipate, or you think you’ll need more specific exercises to help you focus, it might help you begin. (They are available on Amazon if you’d like one.)

Whatever you use to prompt you to pray, I hope you find a few moments every day to pray and reflect on the God who is the reason we count down the days.


Becky Gilbert is Body & Soul’s Graphic Designer and an Art blogger at JoyArtandDesign.com. She co-wrote 40 Days of Art and Literature with Stephanie DiMaria at ThisIsBeautifulDust.com.

A complete stranger nodded to me through the glass door. He made a hand motion that he would open it for me and I somehow perceived that he didn’t speak English, by the way he gestured and nodded without saying a word. I stepped back and this kind young man opened the door with a smile. I smiled and thanked him profusely as I slipped through the door, laden down with bags and packages. He nodded and smiled again, still not saying a word, then we both went on our way. It was a moment of kindness and gratitude.


This happened several weeks ago, but it lingers in my mind. I am so glad that it was my natural inclination to profusely thank him. I never want to lose that heart of gratitude! It is way too easy in this busy, hustle and bustle world to just zip through life with our eyes down and our mind focused on the next thing on the to-do list. Way too often we neglect saying thank you.

Neglecting gratitude. What a convicting thought. Can you think of a time when you neglected to take the time to thank someone? Maybe you were too busy to write a thank you note. Maybe you were rushing through your day and didn’t pause to say it—to a stranger or to a family member.

Family—the perfect place to start ramping up your gratitude meter is with your family! Sometimes you have to look for things to be grateful for when the day is falling apart and you feel frazzled. Then, there are those special moments when gratitude just comes gushing out of you. A reminder of the power of gratitude at home came to me recently when my little grandson came home from school with a special note he had written for me while practicing his handwriting. It simply said “ I (heart) you, Mimi.”  Well, let me tell you, when I opened the envelope and saw the note, I not only thanked him but I scooped him up in my arms and gave him a huge hug and kiss. (His love language is touch.) Then I softly told him how special he was and how special he made me feel. In this case it was easy to express gratitude along with a large dose of love.


Both with family and in the world of strangers around us, expressing gratitude is a way to shine God’s light of love into a lonely, dark world. A simple “thank you” followed by a “God bless you” gently expresses the source of your attitude of gratitude. It is a “not-in-your-face” way of living the way God would have us to live.

Here’s a recipe for how to live a life of gratitude “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) Paul, who had a past of making bad choices and doing horrible things wrote these words. His life was turned around when he turned toward God and Jesus.  He still faced many hardships, but he chose a life of joy, prayer and thankfulness. Let’s do that, too!

What are your recent stories of gratitude? Are you a good thanks-giver?  Now, during this holiday season is a great time to focus on this. Do you have others in your life who are models of gratitude-giving? If so, listen, observe, check out what they say and do– and learn! Be a student of gratefulness. Or maybe you’re the pacesetter of thanks-giving in your family.

Or maybe you’re the pacesetter of thanks-giving in your family. Great! Keep it up!

So remember to thank that person who opens the door for you or, better yet, be the person who opens doors.  A grateful heart is a giving heart, ready to serve. If we all do this, we can be certain that gratitude will not become a lost art!

You’re feeling good, in your exercise groove, running or doing your boot camp class, when after a few months, it starts: that throbbing, aching in your heel, the first painful step out of bed in the morning…. Whaaat?! This CAN’T be happening! Then it gets worse. The doctor tells you, “Stop running and high-impact activities.” But you love working out! What are you supposed to do?
images-4I’m a doctor, so the last thing I expected was that I would have to heed my own advice. But that’s exactly what happened. At my exit physical from the military, the pain in my left heel was killing me. I had the same symptoms as patients I had once treated. I remember giving out the “No running” orders. “I can’t stop running,” my patients often replied. Now I had plantar fasciitis, myself, that inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot. And suddenly I was in the patient’s shoes. Now I had to listen to my own recommendations.

Here are five steps to dealing with the agony of de-feet:

  1. Healing = “tincture of time” (This is the most importanimages-2t element for body repair.)
  2. Proper supportive footwear to avoid over-pronatio
  3. Ice massage after exercis and at the end of the day
  4. Achilles/calf stretching (both before and after exercise)
  5. Rehabilitation orthotic

Number 5, rehabilitation orthotics, is a novel approach to treating plantar fasciitis that I heard about from a marathon-running colleague. The hypothesis is that these types of orthotics strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles, thus changing arch height and foot length, which, in theory, reduces tension on the plantar fascia tissue. A higher arch and less pronation of the foot alleviates tension on the plantar fascia and lowers the tendency to cause micro-tears in the attachment of the fascia to the heel bone. Evidence is suggestive, but not definitive, showing trends toward benefit.

Personally, I’ve found benefit with these types of orthotics. And, anecdotally, I’ve seen patients do well with them, too. Placebo effect? Maybe. But I was pain-free after 2 months of using them. However, please note that I took all of the other conservative measures (steps 1-4) as well.

Finally, I must point out that I didn’t completely stop exercising. Rather, I changed my activity. You can switch out high-intensity exercises with low-impact options. (If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your Body & Soul instructor about it. They will be happy to show you how to go about it!)

In closing, follow the above measures and you should be able to recover from the agony of de-feet. And keep this one truth before you, which I now live by: support your feet and they will support you!images-3

“I cannot even walk around the block; how can I run around the gym?’ This was Syd’s response when she was invited to join a Body & Soul class. Her response is not surprising. The thought of exercise can intimidate just about anybody. But Syd is not just about anybody. Syd is unique because she has Multiple Sclerosis, which makes any type of exercise a real challenge.

To Syd, though, a challenge is not an obstacle to defeat you, but, rather, something to push through and past. Living in Oklahoma City, she is not only involved in a variety of Body & Soul programs but she also leads a Christ-centered health program called First Place for Health (FP4H). This program requires all participants to exercise. Many FP4H participants have weight and health challenges. They see exercise as the dreaded “E” word. But Syd throws down the gauntlet: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

Leading by example, Syd has participated in Body & Soul’s Boot Camp, Cardio/Strength, and Gold programs. Gold offers options for those with limited mobility or health concerns. The workouts contain cardio elements, strength training, and stretching segments that are safe, effective, fun, and surprisingly intense. “Working out while you are sitting in a chair may look easy, but it is not! We are working hard. We are getting our hearts pumping, our muscles stronger, and the stretches are wonderful.”

Several weeks ago Syd’s doctor told her that even though MS is a degenerative disease, her strength had improved. “Keep exercising” was her prescription!Senior women (60s) working out together at fitness center, focus on woman in foreground

Syd’s perseverance on the health front is inspirational. But she is not focused only on herself. She is everyone’s best cheerleader. She is constantly inviting friends to join her on the journey. To her, Body & Soul classes are a place where the music motivates and inspires, where instructors show modifications, and where encouragement abounds. “If I can do it, anyone can do it. Believe me, I know all about bodies not cooperating.”

In a queue for water recently, I had time to think. A queue for water? Was there a sale on Deer Park? Not at all. I live in Zimbabwe and this is part of everyday life. It’s not easy to have to line up for water, something that should just naturally pour out of a tap. But it struck me recently that I have a choice. I could grumble about having to queue on such a hot, dry, dusty afternoon, when already so busy, or I could choose to count my blessings and be thankful! I chose the latter – to be thankful. And just exactly what am I thankful for? Thankful for community, for friendly smiles from people I don’t even know. I am thankful that we live in a country where new friends are made whilst queuing for water!

Soon, my handful of ‘blessings in disguise’ turns into a bucket full! Amazing how such a ‘normal’ everyday commodity, like water, can cause you to give thanks for so much! As I count my blessings, I can’t help but think how bizarre it is that we are now way more grateful for water because it is scarce at this time. When it was abundant, we took it for granted!

It’s my turn to fill containers with water. As I carry my 25-litre containers to the car, my heart overflows with gratitude once more as I heave the containers into the back of the truck. What am I thankful for? Functional fitness. Of course!

Functional fitness is the strength to meet the challenges of everyday tasks. It’s actually the reason we work out! I could not manage these heavy containers without being functionally fit. It is as if our awesome Body & Soul choreographers in America knew exactly how strong we needed to be here in Zimbabwe, for such a time as this. They have carefully chosen specific exercises suited to making us strong and fit for our everyday lifestyle.


Meet Miriam, a nurse in a mission hospital in the North of Zimbabwe. Miriam is a Body & Soul instructor when she is not pacing the wards, treating patients and doing night duty! She has a gorgeous two year-old son, Jason, who loves to be carried on his mother’s back, since he was a tiny baby. Without Body & Soul, Miriam’s back would not cope with such a big, healthy boy having free rides! She often carries Jason on her back whilst she is doing her laundry by hand or when she works in the fields on the weekends. Miriam’s back strengthening exercises make her flexible and strong to carry Jason, and stand endless hours on her feet in the hospital without backache! No wonder she is thankful for functional fitness!

I have another personal example. In Body & Soul classes, we do bent row and robot row exercises. What on earth are we doing them for? As I start the generator in the absence of electricity, I have an a-ha moment. Without my strong erector spinae, biceps brachii and latissimus dorsi muscles, I would be sitting in the darkness otherwise! I am thankful once again for functional fitness, and, of course…for my generator!

You may not be carrying water containers, a baby on your back, or pulling generator cables in your part of the world, but can you lift those boxes down from the top closet? Are you strong enough to pick up your 18 month-old child or grandchild? And what about that suitcase that needs lifting off the carousel at the airport after your wonderful shopping trip overseas? I want to be able to do all these things (yes, that includes the shopping) when I am old! This is the reason we work out, to be strong in the day-to-day.  I, for one, am certainly grateful for functional fitness in Zimbabwe!twosmiles

OatmealI did it again. I lost my oatmeal. I have a habit of fixing my breakfast and walking around the house eating it. I set the bowl down somewhere, and couldn’t remember where I left it. About a month later, my son said “Mom, what is this awful stuff up on the fireplace mantel?” Ugh. Occasionally I misplace my car keys or lose my phone, but losing my food is something serious! My brain has been on information overload and I think it is exhausted. No wonder I am losing it! As a fitness professional, I encourage people all the time to keep their bodies fit, but it’s important to remember that our brains need a workout, too.

Brain fitness is really not that hard; you barely work up a sweat! Here are some proven workouts:

1. Maintain a connection with others. Studies show that people who have an active social life can actually reduce the risk of dementia. I need a lot of people in my life to help keep me fit. I have friends I pray with and friends I play with. My Body & Soul Fitness class plays a huge role in keeping me connected with real people. You were not designed to do life by yourself. Friends help you see things in a different light and from a different perspective, which stimulates your thinking.

2. Keep learning. My in-laws are retired ministers. They are over 80 years old and are amazing learners. I am delighted when my husband is talking to his Dad and tells him about a new book he has just read and his dad says, “Oh yes, I finished that one myself last month.” Every time you learn something new, you develop new brain cells.

3. De-stress. My mom used to say, “Why pray when you can worry?” Every person I know is living under some kind of stress. The problem comes when you get into stress overload and become “distressed.” Too much stress may lead to excess cortisol in the brain, which can affect your memory. Seeking time with God, listening for His voice, letting Him lead you beside still waters rejuvenates your mind and your spirit.

4. Turn off the TV. These days it seems like cable is on steroids and it gives us about a hundred more channels not to watch. Some days I am tempted just to hit the sofa and veg but studies show people who watch more than seven hours of TV a day are at a higher risk of developing memory loss. I can’t afford to lose any more of my mind.

5. Eliminate hurry from you life. Nothing makes me crazier than having too much to do in my 24-hour day. It causes my thinking to become frantic. I tend to make hasty and impulsive decisions when I am in a hurry. You have a lot to think about every day. You certainly don’t need to have your decision-making process compromised. Having a prayer time every morning and praying over your “planner” will keep things in perspective. God will help you prioritize your day and eliminate the need to hurry.

6. Keep moving. Studies show that exercise keeps the brain healthy. I have discovered that when my mind is bogged down with too much information, if I go even for a short walk, my mind clears!

7. Let God change your mind with His word. He has changed my mind about so many things. I used to think I could not write. I used to think I could not speak in public. I used to think I could not lead exercise. I used to think I could not understand the Bible. I used to think He did not love me. I have changed my mind about all of this. He has transformed my mind with a new way of thinking.

His Holy Spirit is a good and kind personal trainer who is teaching me about brain fitness! And He can train you, too!


Today’s post is written by guest contributor and Body & Soul instructor Vicki Heath. Vicki is also the National Director for First Place 4 Health.

It’s time for me to start fighting Peppermint Patty. I don’t mean the Peanuts character. I mean the candy! Yes, every Halloween it comes to this. We buy gobs and gobs of candy, with the intention of handing it out, but then we end up eating a LOT of it ourselves. This is probably the scariest part of Halloween—not the ghosts and vampires and ghouls that knock on our door. It’s coming face to face with our arch nemesis and it usually appears in a shiny little wrapper.

How do we avoid the temptation to eat those sweet little treats at this time of year?

Hilda Halloween blog kids trick or treatingMy first thought comes from the kids in costume, actually. I see superheroes left and right in our neighborhood on Halloween night: Buzz Lightyear, Spiderman, Batman, Catwoman. Kids love the idea of having a power greater than their own. I love that, too! I need it actually. I can’t resist the temptation of sweet treats, let alone be patient with my daughter, or love my coworker, without it.

Did you know that there’s a verse in the Bible that talks about the superpower that is available to us? It’s in Ephesians 1:19 “[I pray that you might know] his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.”

Read that again! Yes, it says that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead (that’s resurrection power, life-changing power, supernatural power) is in those who believe. Do you think that that kind of power is strong enough to help you resist M&M’s (or Peppermint Patties)? I’m guessing it is! Actually, there’s no doubt, right?

Okay, so the power is in us. We tap it by reaching out to the ultimate Power Source through prayer. But how do we apply that power in practical ways? Listen to this promise from I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

There is a way out. This is good news. We are never stuck!

Hilda Halloween blog clementinesBelow are some suggestions that may help you find that “way out.”

1) Don’t buy candy! Scandalous thought, I know! Seriously, though. Buy glow sticks, bouncy balls. Pass out clementines with jack-o-lantern faces. Anything but candy. The way out here is simply not having the candy in your house.

2) Buy your least favorite candy to hand out. No kidding. Personally, I hate Neccos. I don’t see how anyone can like those powdery tasteless candies. The good news is that the less yummy candies are often the cheapest. So you’ll save money, too! The way out here is buying the yechy stuff.

3) Buy your candy at the last minute. Consider it your own private game of “hot potato.” The less time the candy is in your home, the less time you have to munch out. The way out here is a quick turn-around.

3) Get busy with other holiday crafts. Instead of eating candies, get to carving pumpkins, baking pumpkin seeds, making holiday wreaths. Get ahead on Christmas shopping. Do anything but sit by the t.v., mindlessly noshing on the candy you meant to give out. Make dates with friends to do these things, to keep you on the straight and narrow. The way out here is activity and friendship.

Do you have any other strategies that have worked for you? Please put them in the comments below. And if you are still struggling in this area, we want to hear that, too.

For all of us, I have one final word of encouragement. If you are a person that feels dread, concern, or even fear about the temptation of upcoming ubiquitous sweet choices, this verse is for you: “Perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18

Superpower. A way out. Love. These sound like the perfect antidote to a scary Halloween!

Don’t you just love to get gifts?

Whether they are big or small, they come as expressions of love and caring, in conjunction with celebrations like birthdays and Christmas, or for no reason at all. (That’s a special serendipity!) Sometimes the gift is a bouquet of flowers—and flowers come dressed for all seasons—mums are the flowers of fall, and, oh, aren’t they beautiful right now, like bursts of multi-color fun just waiting to go home with you and brighten your doorstep or table.

Most gifts are wrapped in fancy paper, topped with bows of various colors, or placed in a gift bag. One of the most special gifts I have ever received was a group of personalized gift-coupons, written on the back of pieces of brightly colored Christmas wrapping paper and stapled into a little booklet of memories that I treasure to this day. On each page, written in a child’s precious handwriting, were gifts that touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Promises of hugs, kisses, and cuddling while watching a movie got top marks in the “love” category. A close second were gifts of service—items like “taking out the trash without being asked,” reading a book to my little brother, and “one free bathroom cleaning” (I like that one!) This is a gift I will cherish forever, and it is a constant reminder that a BIG life is a life of loving, giving and serving others.

The gift in this message is similar to that little coupon booklet. It is also a written gift, a booklet full of treasures. It is a gift of encouragement and wisdom for your journey. In fact that is what it is called.

Click on the cover below to read the devotional online:


Included in this devotional you will find theme messages to look for in the music you exercise to in Body & Soul classes, verses from Scripture that will lift your heart, words of encouragement, and references to resource books that you can check out for more information–all packed into bite-sized nuggets of information.

Traditionally, Body & Soul students have received this in booklet form when arriving at class each session, but now with our new website we can easily offer this gift to you whether you are attending class this session or not.

Check it out. It is a gift for you. Enjoy!

Jeannie Blocher is President and Founder of Body & Soul Fitness.

UntitledJust like Disney’s Cinderella, we want to succeed in this world and perhaps live a life worth remembering. Whether or not we end up living the fairytale or having any of this life documented on DVD like a Disney princess, I think we all might agree that our choices help (or hinder) the direction in which we travel through this world.

For Cinderella, her life changed when her perfectly fitted shoe identified her as “the one” and propelled her into the arms of her Prince Charming where she lived happily ever after. For me, part of a fairytale life includes fitness, balance, and long-term wellness, and therefore I’m searching for my perfectly fitted shoe as well! And if your fairytale includes striving toward an active lifestyle, I ask you to consider: can the right shoe change your life? If the answer is yes (and I believe it is when it comes to fitness) then shopping for shoes is an important task that deserves our full attention.

Try these 5 shoe-shopping tips on for size:
1. Visit a specialty store for the most knowledgeable guidance in your search.
2. Buy shoes that are specific for your sport – no multitasking!
3. Shop later in the day (because even a princess’ feet swell during her daily chores) and take your socks and orthotics with you.
4. No break-in period! Shoes should feel snug and comfortable from the start – with wiggle-room for your toes.
5. Know your foot type: NEUTRAL, PRONATOR, SUPINATOR

Foot chart

Alright folks, whether you are choosing shoes for your Body & Soul fitness class, your personal workout at the gym, or your power walk with the dog, make sure you do your homework and get the right shoe for YOU. Because Cinderella could be on to something and the right shoe just might change your life! And since shoes are not meant for multitasking, you may find your collection to be fit for a princess…


Have you ever had a flat tire? What were your first thoughts when it happened? Frustration? Inconvenience? Worry about what it would cost to get it fixed?  Well, let me tell you what went through my mind when it happened to us last fall.

 My husband and I were traveling though Scotland by car on a much anticipated trip, just the two of us. My brave-hearted Roy, was willing to drive on the left side of the road; I was the navigator and prayer warrior as we made our way along small winding roads, visiting historic castles and magnificent churches scattered throughout the beautiful countryside. You get the picture.

 Our adventure started when we picked up our rental car and they asked if we wanted “tire insurance.” Never having heard of this before, and knowing we were in uncharted territory for us, Roy wisely discerned that this was a good idea, and the $200 turned out to be money well spent!

Our plan was to drive around the entire country of Scotland;  it is smaller than the state of Indiana, so we thought that was doable. We wanted to see “everything” so we launched out on our adventure!  We started in the capital, Edinburgh, then we wound our way through the lowlands, seeing many things including Stirling Castle with its statues of William Wallace (not the one that looked like Mel Gibson—that one, interestingly enough, “disappeared”) and Robert the Bruce. Then on to the Highlands and the Isle of Skye where there were beautiful waterfalls, “fairy pools” and lots and lots and lots of sheep. Some of the area is very undeveloped, with no civilization for miles and miles, so it was a lot of driving, but that was fine with us. I will email a sheep photo from  Scotland  if you want to insert it here.

That’s when it happened. In the middle of nowhere, on a “one way” road where you actually have to pull over to let cars pass from the other direction, we hit a hidden pothole on the edge of the road and bam—not one flat tire, but two– both tires on the left side of our car were toast, so to speak.  It was very clear that God was telling us to slow down! (one of our Body & Soul fall session themes.)

Yep. Our ways are not God’s ways—Isaiah 55: 8,9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God clearly wanted to slow us down in our pursuit of seeing “everything” and guide us to focus on him.

The first lesson was in trust—we waited and trusted–and a very nice Scottish gentlemen pulled over and helped us. Another wonderful Scottish gentleman loaded our car onto his tow truck and drove us to Inverness.  The trust came in again as he drove quite “briskly” on the winding roads, telling us wonderful stories of his life in Scotland.  Honestly,  it felt a little like Mr. Toad’s wild ride—in the dark!  It’s a good thing I had his stories to keep my mind busy!  As we continued to talk, (it was a long way,) Roy turned the conversation to spiritual things and we got to share our “God-story”—something we never would have had the opportunity to do if were following our busy “tourist plan.”  Our driver listened intently, asked and answered questions, and I think we left him with a lot to think about.  It left us with lots to think about, too.

When all was said and done, we had a wonderful time walking around Inverness for a day while our car tires were being fixed, and our perspective changed to enjoying the trip in a whole new and much bigger way. I can actually say “thank goodness we were slowed down!”  Because this happened, we were able to live life BIGGER, and experience the joys and beauty of our trip even more than before.

Living life BIG does not mean living life fast, as the first song in the session says, “Do Life Big” by Jamie Grace.  “I gotta slow down, stop for a second and look around. I gotta take time to hear that little voice inside, saying I came to give you life, so spread your wings and fly. Now go and show no fear. You are enough to change the atmosphere-so go and do life BIG!” 

When life gets frustrating as something “surprises” your day and slows you down, how do you respond?  I encourage you to trust!  God’s ways are bigger and better than ours.  He’s got a plan—and sometimes it takes slowing down to see it clearly!

By Jeannie Blocher

Jeannie is the President and Founder of Body & Soul Fitness. She loves to teach, dance write and walk on the beach!

Hilda Kenya hands in the airWhen I was a kid, I spent most every day of summer vacation at our community pool, Gateway. Those were lazy, endless summer afternoons, poolside. While the sun beat down on us, we played card games (“Spit” and “Pounce”), we had handstand competitions, and we spent all of our allowance at the snack bar on popsicles, sodas, and fries. My best friend, Gabriella, was on the swim team. There were 8 kids in her family and every single one of them was on the swim team. They wore red, white, and blue patriotic Speedo swimsuits. I admired them so much (both the suits and the kids in them) that I wanted to be on the team, too. Gabriella urged me to go for it. So, one summer, when I was about 9 years old, I made the decision to try out.

The day of the swim team try-outs came and I was nervous. I had every right to be. I was only a fair swimmer, to be honest. The coach told us that the first lap had to be freestyle. I took a deep breath and plunged in the water. I really wasn’t too far from the wall when I started struggling. I couldn’t keep up my freestyle stroke. I was having trouble catching my breath, but I didn’t want to switch to breaststroke (my most comfortable stroke) because freestyle was required. So I started drowning. Seriously. I started gulping water and sinking to the bottom. A lifeguard had to jump in and save me. The next thing I knew I was lying on a cot, covered with a blanket. All talk of my joining the swim team ended on that day. My story probably went down in Gateway history lore: the day the kid almost drowned trying out for the swim team.

What was driving me to try out for a sport I couldn’t handle? Gabriella’s strong influence in my life, no doubt, was one factor. But another was a heartfelt desire to be part of a team. A team means belonging. A team is a family. A team works together to achieve goals. A team can do things together that individuals cannot accomplish on their own.

I think this is one reason I like group fitness classes. Straight up: on my own, I am unmotivated to stick to an exercise routine. (And I’m a teacher!) But with friends at my side, I feel motivated to work and push myself. In every B&S class I’ve ever been in, there’s an energy, a camaraderie that occurs when we work out side by side. We are a team, together improving our strength, encouraging one another, connecting, and, yes, sweating. And we are all the better for it in the end.

How about you? What team are you a part of, and how does it make you feel? I’m more suited for this group fitness kind of team. It’s a team that pushes me to be stronger, better. A team that keeps me coming back again and again. A team that works out on dry land.


Music—I think we will all agree it’s a powerful force in our lives.
More than a rush of adrenaline, You will sustain me until the end, You are the only one. When You speak, dreams and reality collide. Your Word rewrites my destiny. My life finds a new beginning ‘cause You are my energy.”  I don’t know about you, but my life is crazy busy and I often find myself in need of energy. This song could be my conversation with God—he is my source of energy, for sure!
Above is an excerpt from one of my favorite songs from this fall session. It’s called Energy by Hillsong Young & Free. It’s just one of the many fantastic songs that are a part of our Live Life Big session.

Check out the songlist below and click on the song title to access the lyrics. (We have links for lyrics for all of the songs, except for Nothing in this World by Shuree. If you can find them on a safe site, with no inappropriate ads, please comment and share the link.)

Songs Artists
Do Life Big Jamie Grace
Nothing in This World Shuree
This is our Time Planetshakers
Set Me on Fire Thousand Foot Krutch
Move Audio Adrenaline
World Changers Audio Adrenaline
VIP Manic Drive
Time Stands Still Family Force 5
Same God Sanctus Real
I Will Follow Jeremy Camp
Energy Hillsong Y&F
Different Drum Blanca
Sunshine Superchick
All Eyes on You OBB
Shout it Out Lincoln Brewster
Day One Matthew West
Echo Blanca
Who I Am Blanca
Keep Goin Group 1 Crew
Lay it Down Sanctus Real
One Word at a Time Sanctus Real
Magnetic Satellites & Sirens
More of You Colton Dixon
Have Everything David Dunn
Shoulders For King & Country

It is our prayer that you will be encouraged and inspired by this music and message as you live life BIG this fall!

Jeannie Blocher is the President and Founder of Body & Soul Fitness. She loves to teach, dance, write, and walk on the beach!

I know. We exercise diligently and push our bodies to the limit in order to be lean, strong, and fit. Today we get up early to work out to beat the heat and then rush home from work to get some much needed family time. Tomorrow we work all day at the office, rush home to prepare dinner, and then leave the family to enjoy it while we attend our Body & Soul evening group fitness class down the street. And to support our exercise work ethic, we choose the “lighter fare” on girls’ night while our friends eat their way through the appetizers menu, saying “it’s my cheat day” (again). Don’t be discouraged, friends. Stand firm on your commitment to toning those muscles and making the wisest choices for yourself, keeping in mind that life is short and movement, rest, and dietary freedom are gifts to us – available for our choosing.

Now, about that weak/tight muscle relationship. Every muscle is opposed by another muscle in the body, usually on alternate sides of the joint. When one muscle is extremely tight, its counterpart often becomes weak and lengthened to accommodate the tight muscle. When we sit a lot, for example, our hip flexors become tight and short, while our gluteals become weak and lengthened. Then we go to the gym right after work and do exercises that keep them tight – like squats and reverse sit ups – and top off our workout with stair-climbing (repeated active hip flexion). Finally we spend 15 seconds stretching before we head home (sitting) to have dinner leftovers with any family member that is willing to join us at the table (sitting). hip-muscles
Am I alone here? I hope not, because this was my story before learning – the hard way – that flexibility requires training just like strengthening requires training. I found myself focused on weight training and strength gains, while giving little thought to the relief my working muscles needed following a power-packed workout. This unbalanced focus eventually sent me seeking answers and pain relief from numerous health and wellness practitioners. I joyfully report that I am more balanced, generally pain-free, and enlightened by what I’ve learned about the muscle balance relationship.

Here’s what’s happening –

  • Our hip flexors tighten up from too much sitting and progressive overload during our workouts.
  • The tightness of the hip flexors causes the gluteal muscles to lengthen to accommodate.
  • Because they are being stretched, the gluteal muscles become weak (from lack of contraction).

So what, you say? Here’s what happens when our gluteals are weak –

  • Our hips and lower back are less stable
  • Our ability to stand from a seated position is negatively affected
  • Our ability to climb stairs and walk uphill is negatively affected
  • Our balance is compromised
  • Our pelvis is less stable

The solution? Find a fitness program that encourages you to focus on muscle pairs during your strength training and your flexibility training sessions. In other words, for every flexion exercise, perform an extension exercise. Balance your squat routine by adding resisted straight leg raises to the back. The straight leg raises lengthen the hip flexor and contract the gluteals. This approach balances your workout and can be found in a Body & Soul class near you. Body & Soul provides comprehensive, creative, safe workouts in a positive and encouraging environment.

So be encouraged, friends, and keep pushing yourself to new levels of fitness – just remember to keep everything in balance because too much of a good thing might lead to a bad thing. And who wants to live “unbalanced”??

body and soul at talbotsThis Saturday, August 8, Abby Dixson and Katie Frampton will be at the Talbots in Columbia Mall, in Columbia, MD between 11 am and 2 pm. They will be modeling the (fairly) new T by Talbots fitness wear. There will be Body & Soul demos, drawings, opportunities to do a few exercises, and shop (one of my personal favorites). During that time, you can receive a 15% discount on T by Talbots clothing. The discount coupon is attached, please bring it with you. You can share the flier with friends too. We hope you will join us!

fall classes starting now
This fall, the music in our fitness classes will challenge you to “Live Life BIG”!

Are you ready for the next BIG thing in your life? Are you feeling a bit scared by the next BIG thing that might be looming on the horizon for you? Either way—you will find encouragement and inspiration in our Body & Soul classes this fall!


We will help prepare you for the next BIG thing in your life!  In our classes, you will find:  
  • Inspiration from our powerful Christian music
  • Encouragement from friends 
  • Prayer support and spiritual comfort
  • Top-notch fitness programming that will help improve your health and fitness level


Make the decision now to prioritize the health of your body and your soul!

Register for classes here. You will be glad you did!

Western Instructors having fun

Join us at the Body & Soul International Fitness Workshop and Celebration!

When? August 4-6, 2016
Where? McLean Bible Church,  McLean , VA
Why? Body & Soul is celebrating 35 years of faith and fitness! Instructors, students, and friends are all invited to join us for:
  • first-rate workout sessions showcasing the latest fitness trends in our programs
  • top-notch continuing education courses for fitness professionals
  • spiritual inspiration and a super-charged concert and celebration night featuring Beckah Shae, one of our favorite artists!
Mark your calendar now and stay tuned for registration details.