Since I became a fitness professional (as a personal trainer) I've made an intentional effort to practice what I preach. It's not enough to have the knowledge to simply prescribe a workout routine for people and expect them to become healthier. I firmly believe a good trainer needs to model a healthy lifestyle to be effective.
In addition to training, it has been my experience that I also need to have open discussions about health-related topics as a normal part of my days and relationships with people. I want my fitness profession to be more than a job - I want it to be a significant component to my life. So I approach relationship with the lens of "how can I be a resource and an encouragement to those with whom I interact?"
As these conversations have taken place, I've realized that my fitness profession and my Christianity have something in common. It seems to me that these two aspects of my life can come across as over-zealous and even self-righteous. Here's what I mean.
I admit that I don't talk about my faith as much as I should. I've certainly had opportunities and relationships where I've been able to be more vocal, and I feel good when I can share my faith. But the general consensus in this country and culture is that talking about Christianity comes off as 'better-than-thou.' I hate that. But it seems true. Any discussion of Jesus, the Bible, my morals, or my views on family and society are interpreted as though I don't sin, I don't accept anyone else's lifestyles, I'm unforgiving, or no one lives up to my standards. Have you ever felt unreasonably pegged and wanted to defend yourself?
Let's look at the excercise profession. Since learning about physical and health education at the University of Wisconsin, I've realized how important health and fitness is to our culture. Over 66% of the population is overweight - and almost half of that group is obese! This has created a passion in me to see more individuals gain their health back and begin to feel better about themselves. As noted above, I figure I'll be more effective if I practice what I preach, but to be honest I'd probably be doing this training even if my profession was unrelated.
But then comes my dilema. I'm thin, I'm active, I eat very healthy (thanks to Katie) and I compete in marathons. How does this look to those I'm trying to reach? To some it's exactly what they'd expect. But to others (usually the very-overweight ones) it just seems like they want to say, "Easy for you to say, Hans. You're in great shape and I could never get to that point." Maybe I'm reading into this or maybe I'm not bringing them along with me in the conversation. But it sure feels like people hear me talk about fitness and just don't care or don't think it's attainable.
So my faith and my profession seem to have this in common: when you're part of "the group" you're elite and so you must be looking down on those that aren't. I guess at this point it's just an observation. I don't have evidence of this and I don't have a solution. But I believe God has called me to develop these aspects in my life and I also believe he's given me a voice and is allowing me to develop and grow that voice to work for His good. So I'll keep pushing my agenda and practicing what I preach.