"Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes, yes, Lord "
The lyrics are familiar, but this isn't a choir singing. Instead, the words are being mouthed in between sets of abs-crunching, thigh-toning, heart-pounding aerobics.
One visit to the Nutrition and Fitness Ministry's Rock Body Challenge program reveals that this isn't your usual fitness class. Here, instructors use a three-pronged approach to getting fit: nutrition, exercise and spiritual discipline.
"There are quite a few (fitness) programs serving this need in the community," says Emily Jensen, a clinical nutritionist and organizer of the ministry. "However, besides the YMCA health clubs, we have not encountered one that is specifically adding prayer, Bible study, and God as the strength of the program."
Fitness instructor Christy Siragusa and physical trainer Sandi Salazar agree that the program's success hinges on the focus on God, rather than outward appearances alone. For that reason, the ministry's key Scripture is 1 Corinthians 3:16-17:
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are.
Taking Health to Heart
As with our physical bodies, without exercise, we can become spiritually weak
"A lot of people take it for granted the way they eat and (neglect) exercise," says Christy. "They don't think it's something they're supposed to be doing, but it is. Your body is your temple."
Christy stresses that the class is designed for everyone. "We don't want people to be scared off," she said. "It's not just for people who are young and in shape. It's for every age, fitness level, height, weight, color and creed. Anyone can come."
When we are healthier, reasons Emily, we are able to be more effective for God in every area of our lives.
"We feel it is absolutely vital to stress that we are getting healthier for God in this program rather than for ourselves," explains Emily. "God is the great motivator. By having a healthy temple you're not only going to please God, you're going to have more energy for your kids, be able to work more, be able to tithe more. There's basically no end to what health can do to benefit you."
Laurie Biondo, 47, is taking advantage of the opportunity to begin a healthier lifestyle. Now that her two children are older, she's finding the time to get back in shape.
"My main goal was to just be healthier," says Laurie. "I don't really have my eye on the scale or becoming a certain size, just to generally improve my health. I want to get in shape to water ski without killing myself on vacation."
Laurie believes the class could hold the key to a lifetime of healthy living for her.
"It's a springboard for me to change my lifestyle overall and I know it's going to happen gradually, it's not going to be like night and day. I feel like God is really moving me in that direction, that He's changing me from the inside out, and it's going to be a long term thing."
Newlyweds Joel and Rece Davies, married just four months, joined the class together. "We're excited about getting settled in our new life and wanting to learn more about health," says Joel.
His wife has had digestive problems, which he says have dramatically improved since learning and applying the nutritional information covered in class. He stressed the benefit of being on the same page, in order to help each other and do the shopping together.
"We've been filling out daily eating logs," Joel said. "The accountability of what we put in our bodies, and knowing we have to write it down, makes you think twice before you go and grab that candy bar."
No More Doritos?
Participants say that the health benefits extend to family members, as well. Armed with a 150-page binder of nutrition information, four weeks of menus and diet logs, participants are equipped to carry out the lessons they've learned at home.
"This has taught me and the kids to eat right," says Sheila Lamb, who took the class after her 15-year-old daughter went through the first session. She added that her son had a penchant for Doritos, but actively began to measure his daily chips intake.
"Then he was down to one time a week, then to maybe one time a month," says Sheila. "Now, he will not (eat) them. As they see you get healthier and lose weight, they will too."
What to Expect
Stay tuned to the ministry calendar for all the upcoming classes
A typical six-week program of this type, says Emily, would cost around $400, but the ministry offers the class for a fraction of that.
The two-hour class begins with measuring and weigh-in, turning in nutrition diet logs, prayer and devotion. Using the devotional, Transformation: Letting God change you from the inside out, helps participants focus on the inner man, as well as the outer.
Following the devotional is a lesson in nutrition from Emily, who has a BS in Nutrition/Dietetics, and is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist. She covers such topics as Emotional Eating, Acid/Alkaline Diet, Glycemic Index, Fast Food Eating, Food Allergies and Supplementation.
Then comes the heart-pounding, iron-pumping part.
Christy, a fitness instructor with 20 years' experience, gets participants' blood pumping with a variety of workouts, while Sandi helps tone with weights.
"Lots of people have lost a lot of weight and have a really great time," says Emily. "Everyone leaves there drenched in sweat. It's fun to see that."
"It's been great," agrees Laurie. "I feel like if I can do it anybody can do it. I'd encourage people to open up to it. It's been a real blessing to me and God's kind of pointed me in a direction that will be a lifestyle, a forever kind of thing."
Yes (puff), Lord (puff), Amen (puff, puff)!
For more information on the next Nutrition & Fitness Rock Body Challenge, email firstname.lastname@example.org.