SAN DIEGO — The catechesis that personal trainer Jordan Friske provides during every workout session is no mere afterthought.
From his perspective, it’s “the main part of the program” that he offers through his ministry, Catholic Fitness Training.
“Anybody can … lead an exercise class,” said Friske, 29, a member of St. Margaret Parish in Oceanside. “I want to have a ministry that teaches you how to be fit spiritually, as well as physically.”
Friske offers in-person and online personal training, as well as parish-based fitness classes. Whether meeting with individual clients or leading a “boot camp” at a local parish, he begins and ends each session with prayer.
When the workout is intense and participants’ muscles have begun to tire or ache, he might encourage them to offer up that discomfort on behalf of the souls in purgatory. As they stretch and cool down after the workout, he will lead a reflection on St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, a Scripture reading or the saint of the day.
Even his online personal training clients will receive weekly catechesis that they can study on their own.
Originally from South Dakota, Friske grew up in a small town where he played five sports in high school. Having had a passion for athletics since childhood, he went on to earn a degree in health, physical education and recreation from South Dakota State University.
Since moving to San Diego, where he currently works as the assistant director of athletics at California State University San Marcos, he has found opportunities to deepen his faith and his involvement in Church life.
The inspiration for Friske’s fitness ministry came in 2016 as the date of his wedding was approaching.
At the time, he noted that having a deadline to get in shape had made it easy for him to shed unwanted pounds before the big day. But, as a personal trainer for the past seven years, he had seen others achieve similar successes, only to quickly abandon their exercise regimen and regain that lost weight once the target date had come and gone.
This realization got him thinking about what the proper motivation should be for getting into and staying in shape.
“When we diet or exercise with a secular standpoint, we can often make our own bodies an idol,” he told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego. “We’re never satisfied until we look a certain way or … until we have a certain number for our weight.”
Friske decided that he could offer Catholics a different perspective. Explaining that “our bodies are a gift and we are called to be stewards of all the gifts that God gives us,” he said his ministry encourages Catholics to view their workouts as opportunities to honor God.
That sentiment resonates with Brenda Sigmund, 29, also a personal trainer with Catholic Fitness Training. Convinced that faith and fitness “go hand in hand,” the St. Brigid parishioner conceded that the fitness industry sometimes “objectifies more than it inspires.” But, as a personal trainer, she aspires to be “an example, not only of strength, but one of dignity.”
Asked to explain the relationship between physical fitness and holiness, Sigmund turns to Scripture for an answer.
“Picture a time when you were really suffering through your workout, but you knew that the reward was worth all the turmoil,” she said. “According to Romans 5: 3-5, ‘suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’ I can’t make it any clearer than that.”
Sigmund explained that the sacrifice and discipline required in one’s fitness routine are qualities that also apply to our spiritual lives.
“If I don’t find time for God, my soul isn’t fed. If my soul is unfed, I lose the strength, the motivation and the endurance that I can only find in Christ,” she said.
Sigmund said she had been a high-energy child and took up running in high school as a way to battle depression. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in wellness management from the State University of New York at Oswego and has been a certified personal trainer for about seven years.
Last summer, Friske held a six-week fitness class at San Rafael Parish in Rancho Bernardo. Participants raved about how the experience helped them, both physically and spiritually.
For Catholics seeking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, Friske said his advice is to have a plan, including realistic goals and a “road map” for where they want to go; to hold themselves accountable when it comes to their routine; to start slowly instead of pushing themselves too hard at first; to take advantage of new technology, including apps that will help them keep track of their diet and exercise; and to “keep God at the center of each workout.”
– – –
Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.