The best part of an exercise workout is …

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

I’m sore. I don’t mean angry or ticked or surly. I mean sore.

Back in January my wife and I started working out at a local gym. If you find that hard to believe, believe me, I understand.

When my wife told me about this opportunity, I was ecstatic. A “good deal” at any gym struck me as something like a good deal at a colonoscopy clinic where you only have to sell one kidney to afford the procedure and not both, and then you get to . . .

But it truly was a good deal, and I wanted to be encouraging, and I went to the evaluation, heel marks all the way. I signed on for a three times a week, though I really figured that the exercise equipment there would likely do me even less good than the stuff we’ve always hung clothes on at home because, if I’d been betting on me, I’d bet that I wouldn’t last 10 visits.

Nobody could possibly be more surprised than I am, but I’ve actually kept up with the three times a week. Amazing.

I’ll never be the poster child for fitness. My diet is likely all wrong, at least until next week when they change the rules again. (I don’t think they really know the rules.) But it is strict: I have scruples about not eating anything that doesn’t taste good. I like chicken. And I’m in a delightful search for a kind of seafood I don’t like. But I had a great steak the other day and I hereby resolve to “Eat More Beef.” I agree with one of my sons who said seriously that if the choice was vegetarianism or death, he’d choose the latter.

I feel about exercise like I feel about writing sermons. I really don’t like to. But I generally like what the work produces.

Finding time to go the gym is tough. If I go too early, I can’t even pretend to enjoy it, and that depresses not only me but also the other gerbils on the equipment. Once I get to the gym, it’s not that bad. The folks there are really nice and helpful.

But my thinking is probably wrong. My favorite part of exercising is when it’s over. Three times a week is a great plan both because I’ll do it and because the days I don’t go now have about them a new glow.

I’ve even found myself tempted to think mathematically.

Removing accidental death from the equation, I’d like to know how many hours exercising should add to my life. Subtracting the hours spent exercising at the present rate, I’d like to see if the total is worth it. I’d rather be resting in peace than exercising if the net hours aren’t significant. The factor that messes with that math, though, is quality of life. Feeling better is, I admit, better.

My initial hypothesis was that the extra activity, even with no diet change, would help me drop about fifteen pounds. So far, I’ve dropped one, but they tell me I’ve transformed fourteen into muscle. I like that. And messing with the experiment now would invalidate the data. If I don’t lose more fat in, say, six years or so, I’ll go ahead and change my diet. If I don’t lose more in 30, I’ll even go to 2 percent milk, if it’s still available and the food Nazis haven’t made even 2 percent illegal.

Years ago St. Paul told us that “bodily exercise” has at least some value. But spiritual exercise, he said, is worth a great deal more. Even in our terminally shallow society, a loving and gracious and God-focused spirit is worth more to the folks around you than your great abs. It’s also harder to keep toned.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at