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What if I had Gym Church when I was Twenty-One?

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What if I had Gym Church when I was Twenty-One?

As I sit down to write this I want you to know I have zero regrets in my life as this is the journey that God has me on and I am learning to love and embrace my story.   There is also no sense of blame for anything that has happened in my life as I have learned that not all things are good, but all things work out for good because our God is good. 

That being said, I wonder how the trajectory of my life would have been different if someone would have started a gym church at the gym I used to go to in Bismarck, North Dakota.  Would I have made different choices in my life?  Would I have become a passionate follower of Jesus in my life at 21 instead of at 41?  Would it have saved me twenty years in the wilderness?  

Bodybuilding, Sports, Women and Alcohol

I will never know the answer to those questions and I am totally at peace with that.  What I can do is take my story and share with other young men that may be living the life that I was at twenty-one full of self-indulgences that consumed my life.   My life was consumed by bodybuilding, sports, women and alcohol.    It was a shallow and meaningless existence.    I lived for myself and myself alone. 

I went to church on a weekly basis as I was required to do.  Often times I was hung-over.  It was a check the box experience.   Sometimes I heard the words of the pastor, but often times I was day dreaming about playing sports or thinking about what I did the previous evening. 

This I know now, my heart wasn’t receptive to the words I was hearing, and in fact I think it made me even more rebellious.   I didn’t get it.  I don’t think I wanted to get it.  I had no interest in changing my lifestyle.  To me church was about image.  It was about presenting myself in a way that I thought I should look; dressed nice and putting on a fake smile with lots of mints to cover up my alcohol breath. 

Learning about the Transforming Power of Jesus

As soon as I left high school, I left the church.  Sure I dabbled for years, but never settled into a church home until I was in my 40’s when a tragic divorce brought me to my knees.  It was there that I learned the transforming power of Jesus.  It was there that I learned that it was all about having a personal relationship with God. 

I also remember some mornings as an adult on a Sunday I would be going to church and feel completely broken and lost sitting in the back row with streams of tears running down my face wanting to share my story with someone, but not being able to.  I tried to put on a happy face when someone asked me how things were going.   I would say I am good when deep down inside my soul was screaming for help

I will be forever grateful for what that particular church and pastor did in my life.  It changed me. It changed who I am.  It set me on a path of being a passionate Jesus follower.   The pastor spoke the breath of life back into me that I will be eternally grateful for.

What if there would have been a Gym Church when I was 21?

But that leads me to the question, what if there would have been a gym church at the local gym that I spent hours and hours at being my own god trying to look a certain way for the admiration for others?  What if someone would have invited me to a non-threatening community where we simply shared our stories, our brokenness and our search for meaning in our lives?  What if at age 21 I would have learned that it was about following Jesus that gives us the transforming power to live the life that we are called to live.  A life of freedom, purpose and joy. 

That never happened.  But I have the opportunity to change that for other young men who are in the same position now that I was when in I was 21 years old.

I got a phone call from someone the other day asking me to help this young man that she knows.  She shared with me that this man is in his mid-twenties and is completely lost.   He is living a self-indulgent life of partying and women.   She is aware of the work that I am doing of the integration of faith and fitness and thought I could have some influence with this young man.   He hasn’t reached out to me yet, but prayerfully he will. 

I will invite him to gym church if he does reach out to me.   Our gym church is a community of men that meets at a small, local community gym in Fort Collins, Colorado.   In our gym church we share our story.  We are vulnerable.  Often times there are tears and a lot of times there is laughter through the tears.   We talk about Jesus and what he has done in our lives.  We talk about our battles with our addictions, struggles of loneliness and despair. 

We form new friendships.  We form new accountability partners.  But mainly we show up as our authentic selves knowing that we are loved for who we are.  No false pretenses.  No concern for perfection or image, just men showing up to be seen and heard in a loving and safe environment.  To me, this is church. 

This is Church

We just had “church” yesterday.  We call it Spiritual Warriors Unite.  We met in a circle and not in a row.   This is church.  We had a dynamic conversation on how Jesus is telling his story through our story and how we should never be ashamed of the scars we have accumulated in our lives.

In fact our story is shared through our scars and we are expected to share our story.   There are 7.2 billion people on this planet and we all have a unique and wonderful story to tell.   Life is all about relationships and in order to build relationships we have to be vulnerable and courageous in sharing our story.  This breaks down walls and barriers to open up the possibility of having an authentic conversation about Jesus, not religion.

What if there would have been a gym church like what we have formed in Fort Collins when I was 21?  I will never know the answer to that question, but I get to see other people’s lives transformed no matter the age by being part of our gym church.  

A New Possibility for Church

I would like to invite a new possibility of a way of seeing church.  Church isn’t just a place to go to check the box for our Christian duty.  It’s a place where we come alive and our dreams, purpose and passion are born and realized.  It’s a place where we can be authentic, vulnerable and share our story.   It’s where we are seen and heard.  It’s where deep community is formed.  It’s where we go to become who God created us to be so we can go out and change the world.   This is gym church.  This is church.

I hope and pray I can connect with this young man I mentioned earlier that is struggling in his life.  I see him in me at that age.   I pray that through my story his story can be written on a different trajectory than mine with many years of hopelessness and lack of joy because I wasn’t a passionate follower of Jesus.  I want to show him a better way.  Not an easier way, but a better way. 

My vision is to create a church that resonates and transforms people’s lives through authentic community, story, creativity, passion and most importantly show people that Jesus is the ultimate warrior and when we allow him to be the focal point of our life we will never turn back to our old ways.  We will become a new person living a life that makes us feel fully alive. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Spiritual Warrior

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From It's too Hard to Unlimited Possibilities

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From It's too Hard to Unlimited Possibilities

Our physical health is so easy to take for granted.  We have done a very poor job as a society of taking care of our health.   We have done an even worse job in the fitness industry of helping people get physically fit and healthy. 

The fitness industry has made it all about appearance.  We have made it all about weight loss, the way we look on the outside.   Most people give up on making a physical transformation after trying time and time again to get healthy and changing their body composition. 

What I have learned on my journey is that making any change in our life can be hard.   The struggle is real.  I don’t know one single person who has it all together physically, mentally and spiritually. 

Physical Challenges Lead to a Transformed Life

Since I started my fitness ministry full time a little over a year ago, I have realized how important it is to have physical challenges in our life.  I have seen in my life and in my clients life how challenging ourselves physically opens up the door to personal and spiritual growth.  When we challenge ourselves physically beyond what we think we are capable of it leads to a life transformed. 

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The struggle is where the growth is.   When we are willing to push our limitations physically, we find out who we truly are.   Are we that guy that is sitting on the couch watching our life go by or are we that guy who embraces physical challenges to get mentally stronger and add depth to our spirituality?

When we go beyond the limitations we place on ourselves physically and the resistance we put up to make changes, the possibilities are endless. 

Is it hard, yes!  Will there be some struggle, yes!  But when we accomplish something that is physically hard we feel so good about ourselves.  It creates a confidence in us that we can do bigger and better things. 

Stepping in to who God is Calling us to Be

The whole point of challenging ourselves physically is so we can have the inner strength and fortitude to step into who God is calling us to be.   So we aren’t living lives that don’t make us feel fully alive. 

One of my clients in particular who completely lost his inner warrior, both physically and mentally, has transformed his life.  It all started with the physical.  He is now doing things physically he never thought possible.  But that’s not the point.  The point is he is now living for a transcendent cause greater than himself.  That is the true mark of a spiritual warrior.  He is following through on dreams he has been sitting on for the past ten years. 

After reclaiming his inner warrior by challenging himself physically he has found a new zeal for life.  After living a life of complacency for the past ten years, he is ready to kick some ass again. 

What about you?  Are you ready to push yourself physically again?  Are you ready to get off the couch and into the arena?   Are you ready to change your mentality from it’s too hard to having a mindset that the struggle is where the growth is?   When we do something that’s hard is when we find out what we are truly made of. 

Have Faith in Ourselves through Faith in God

When we have faith in ourselves through faith in God is when we breakthrough our limitations.    Get out of your comfort zone.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Set a challenging fitness goal for yourself and see not only a physical transformation, but most importantly a life changing spiritual transformation.  You will bust through barriers you never thought possible.    Never settle for the status quo. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Spiritual Warrior

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The Will to Push Your Limitations

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The Will to Push Your Limitations

Are you willing to push your limitations?  If not, why not?  What is holding you back?  One of my favorite quotes is from Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” 

I refuse to die with the music still in me.   Life is way too short not to live with passion and fire.   My dream since I was twenty three years old was to have my own fitness business.   After thirty years that dream has finally come true. 

I took that leap of faith about two years ago when I decided to leave the comfort and security of a six figure sales job that was stealing my soul.   I lived in quiet desperation every day feeling like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.  It just wouldn’t fit. 

How did I go from living in quiet desperation to living my purpose? 

BELIEVE…COMMIT…COURAGE

The first step was I had to believe that God had more in store for me.   That He wanted to use my passion for health and fitness to help people get stronger, healthier and more physically fit.  God called me to help people build their physical strength as a way to build their spiritual strength.  So many people I work with have lost sight that they are created in God’s image and they stop seeing themselves the way God sees them.   

Once I started to see myself the way God sees me is when I had the courage to take a chance and start my own fitness ministry.   I decided the risk of failing was worth the chance of getting out of quiet desperation and back to feeling fully alive. 

The second step I took was I made a commitment to leave my job and start my own business.  I circled a date on my calendar of when I was going to quit and I made it happen.  I worked my tail off to pad my savings account as much as possible so I had a year’s cushion as I knew it would take time to get up and running.  That savings account has been greatly depleted, but I am happy to report that I am making a profit after one year of being full time in my fitness business. 

The third step to pushing my limitations was courage.  I was afraid of leaving the comfort and security of a high paying job, company car and health insurance.  Those are all great things, but not worth losing my soul over.  The definition of courage is being afraid and doing it anyways. 

I remember telling people that I was leaving the pharmaceutical industry and the response I usually got was “Wow, that is amazing.  That takes a lot of courage.  I wish I could do that.”

Well you know what, if you are living in quiet desperation and don’t feel fully alive in your life because you aren’t living with passion and fire, you can push your limitations too.   We need more people who are fully alive. 

Don’t be the person who goes to your grave with the music still in you.  Take a chance.  Believe in yourself.  Start to see yourself the way God sees you.  Make the commitment to make a radical change in your life.  And most importantly, have the courage to take action. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Spiritual Warrior

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It’s NOT about the Fitness

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It’s NOT about the Fitness

It’s NOT about the Fitness

I love to work out.  It has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember.  In elementary school starting around 5th grade I would get up two hours before I needed to be at school so I could run 5 miles before starting my school day.  

I would lace up my Converse shoes with the theme song from Rocky thumping through my brain.  I would get that runners high, even in elementary school.

Fast forward about forty years and I am still as passionate about fitness as I was when I was ten.  The only difference now is that it isn’t about the fitness. 

Now my time in the gym, my time on the bike, my outdoor adventures are all ways to draw closer to God.  To spend time in prayer.  To train my mind and spirit to be more like Christ.   Working out has become so much more than the way I look, which is a side benefit, but not my main priority. 

Pushing myself to my limits connects me to what Jesus has done for me on the cross.  A little suffering is good for my soul.  It makes me feel fully alive.

Now I recognize, not everyone loves to work out like I do.  In fact some people can’t stand it.  A lot of that has to do with our perspective on exercise and why we do it. 

We have made exercise so much about weight loss, burning calories and how we look that it becomes a very superficial experience.  Trust me I get it.  Bodybuilding for me was always about appearance.  I am so glad that I am moving away from the superficial and moving towards my health and physical well-being as being a vital part of my spiritual growth journey.

It’s NOT about the fitness.  It’s about being my best self physically, mentally and spiritually.  It’s about being more like Christ.  It’s about honoring God with every rep I do in the gym.  It’s about connecting with God in prayer and meditation when I am on the bike. 

What about for you?  How can you have a deeper spiritual experience through movement and fitness?  What if exercise wasn’t really about exercise, but about feeling fully alive.  About our lives being completely transformed from the inside out. 

So many people struggle with their health, weight and fitness.  I want to challenge you to think of fitness differently.  It’s really NOT about the fitness at all. 

It’s about honoring God with our body.  It’s about treating our body as the precious vessel that it is.  It’s about pushing our limits and becoming the best version of ourselves. 

My hope and prayer is that we become passionate about fitness, not just so we look a certain way, but because it will give us the abundance of energy that we need to do the work that God is calling us to do.

When we use our exercise time as a form of worship, it puts a whole new perspective on our why behind fitness.  In fact it’s really NOT about the fitness at all.

Troy Ismir, MS

Spiritual Warrior

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Passion and Fire

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Passion and Fire

It is so easy to lose our zeal for life.  Too get lulled into a sense of complacency.   My tendency is to want to isolate and hide from the world.  To play it safe, shut my blinds and get lost in a book or just have some chill time. 

It will go in spurts.  I will be all fired up and ready to take on the world and then something happens and I just lose all of my steam.  Does that resonate with you? 

I want to live my every day with passion and fire.  Actually, I want to live every moment of my life with passion and fire.  I often ask myself if that is possible?  I don’t know, but I do know not living that way sucks the soul right out of us.  That lack of energy, lack of purpose and just trying to survive the day. 

FULL BEAT DOWN MODE

I was in full beat down mode earlier this week.  I don’t know if was coming down after a weekend adventure in the mountains or it was an extreme case of allergies.  All I know is it took every ounce of energy just to get out of bed. 

I am normally a get out of bed between 3:45 and 4:30am kind of a guy, but it took every ounce of energy and courage to drag my 1000 pound feeling body out of my warm comfy bed.   The brain fog was real. 

I know it’s really hard to have any sense of joy when we are feeling that way.  Fortunately for me, it was short lived.  By Thursday, I was back to feeling energized and alive. 

But for some of you, you are stuck in that state of living a passionless life.  Believe me I get it.  I was there too for many years of my life. 

LIVING IN QUIET DESPERATION

I was stuck in a job that was unfulfilling and in a hopeless marriage that emasculated me.  I had no idea who I was or what my purpose was in my life.  I was living in quiet desperation instead of living with passion and fire. 

I finally got the courage to get out of a marriage that I had been fighting so hard to save to no avail.  I had lost the battle of keeping my family together, but I knew I couldn’t go on living the way I was living, broken and hopeless.   There was at least a glimmer of hope when I got out from underneath being alone and isolated in a broken marriage. 

My next step of courage came when I left the comfort of the pharmaceutical industry to start my own fitness ministry.   To give up a six-figure job, company car, 401k and all of the perks that when along with this cushy job wasn’t easy, but I knew in my heart and soul that God was calling me to something different.  It took me two years to take that leap of faith and start my own business that I had been dreaming about since I was twenty five years old. 

I would love to tell you it has been all sunshine and rainbows since moving to Colorado from Florida, but it hasn’t been.  But I wouldn’t trade the adventure for anything.   There have been financial challenges with starting my own business, a heart break or two along the way along with trying to find a new church and new friends. 

LIVE WITH PURPOSE

There have been two things in my life that I want to share with you that has helped me live a life of passion and fire.

The first is that I am living my purpose.  Each and every day I know I am living out on a daily basis what God has called me to do.    God has called me to be revolutionary in helping people integrate faith and fitness into their lives.   He has also called me to be a spiritual warrior and lead other men into their spiritual warriorship.   That is an amazing feeling.  That helps me live with passion and fire. 

The second thing that is helping me live with passion and fire is that I make sure that I am incorporating outdoor adventure and physical challenges into my life.  Last year my big challenge was the Triple Bypass bike ride which was 120 miles over three mountain passes and ten thousand feet of elevation gain.    This big hairy audacious goal excited me and scared me at the same time. 

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My out of my comfort zone goal for this year is a series of gravel bike races.  I did one already in February and I plan on doing four more throughout the summer. 

I believe we all need to be challenged physically otherwise we get soft and complacent.  We need to do things that get us out of our comfort zone physically, so we are challenged mentally and spiritually.  With all of my clients I challenge them to come up with a BHAG as coined by Jim Collins.  A big hairy audacious goal. 

It has to be something you aren’t sure if you can do it.   Something where you risk “failure” and you have to train your butt off to complete it. 

When I was training for the Triple Bypass I was up every Saturday morning by 5am and out the door by 6am so I could spend six to eight hours on my bike.  I wanted to give myself the best chance to complete the Triple Bypass and I am proud to say I felt strong and completed the ride with energy to spare.

So have you lost your passion and fire for life?  Are you bored and living a life of complacency?  Have you gotten soft mentally? 

WHAT’S YOUR BHAG?

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If you answered yes to any of those questions it’s time to get your butt off the couch and quit living life vicariously through others.  Start living your mission.   Start challenging yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.   Come up with a BHAG.  Start living your life with passion and fire every moment of every day

My mission is to build a tribe of spiritual warriors who are willing to get out of their comfort zone to fight and serve our families, our communities and churches.   We need to rise and up and be spiritual warriors.   We need to train ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually each and every day.  

Will you join me in living with passion and fire for the betterment of humanity?

Troy Ismir

Spiritual Warrior Coach

 

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Life Change Happens at the Dinner Table

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Life Change Happens at the Dinner Table

In 2017, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy identified the most common threat to public health that he had witnessed:  not heart disease, diabetes, or cancer-but loneliness.  Isolation and lack of social connections, he wrote in Harvard Business Review, “are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.  Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.” 

Men are even more affected by this loneliness epidemic which is most often accompanied with the feelings of depression and despair. 

In my own personal life I have felt that feeling of quiet desperation.   That feeling of extreme loneliness and isolation.  It is a hopeless feeling that can lead to a path of soul killing destruction. 

Thankfully, God brought two men into my life at just the right time to help me get out of that state of quiet desperation. 

One of the main reasons that men often times live in quiet desperation is they are reluctant to show vulnerability or ask for support.  Men are less likely to seek out other men when they are struggling because they feel like it is a sign of weakness. 

In reality, asking for help is one of the most courageous things we can do.  Being vulnerable is coming from a place of strength not weakness. 

One of the biggest problems I have realized since starting my men’s ministry is that men don’t have a place where we can show up and be vulnerable.    Men do want to be transparent and share their darkest truths, but we haven’t done a great job in creating those environments. 

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As warriors we are looking for something different.    We want camaraderie and shared purpose.  We want to be shoulder to shoulder in shared experiences.  When we are shoulder to shoulder sharing something challenging or purposeful is when we develop trust and a level of openness that we as men aren’t used to. 

I lead a men’s discipleship group called Bible and Barbells out of the gym I train out of called The Body which stands for The Body of Christ.  It’s a Christian gym where I am fortunate enough to do ministry out of.  We study a Christian devotional for the first thirty minutes followed by thirty minutes of a strength training circuit. 

I have seen so much life change and relationship building through this ministry.  It has been quite astounding.  I hear men pour out their struggles around their battle with pornography, relationship struggles, feelings of inadequacy, career crisis, struggles with anger and other challenges we as men face. 

This is an environment where men care share, be vulnerable and recognize we are not alone.   It’s through this practice of being vulnerable where we draw strength to be the spiritual leaders in our families, communities and churches.    Without this shared community of strong Christian men I know we would continue to live lives of quiet desperation, depression and isolation. 

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I led my first Spiritual Warriors Unite Men’s Retreat a few weeks ago.  It was a powerful weekend where a group of men got away to reclaim our inner warrior.  Life has a way of beating us up and from time to time we need to get away and have some good quality bro time along with time to connect with God. 

One of my biggest take-aways from the weekend was that life change happens at the dinner table.  After we got finished eating we would sit around after each meal and we shared what was on our heart.  We all learned from each other. 

We tackled questions like, what does it mean to be a man in this day and age and how can we be stronger spiritual leaders?  We shared great inspirational books we have read and we all went around the table discussing what our morning rituals look like. 

I know I left the retreat a better man than when I first arrived.   There is something powerful when a group of godly men get together and share our hearts.   When we are transparent and vulnerable and willing to learn from one another. 

It is sad to me that so many men are living in quiet desperation.  Trust me, I get it, I used to be one of them.   My vision for my ministry is to help men get out of quiet desperation by being in community together.  Where we build a faith and fitness community that inspires men to be stronger spiritual leaders. 

I believe it starts with men having the courage to be vulnerable.  Finding a community of godly men who are willing to share their darkest truths and not just talk about sports.  Of course that can be a part of it, but there is so much more to life.

As men we are called to be spiritual leaders.  There is no way we can be the spiritual leaders we are called to be when we are living in isolation.  We all need a group of men where we can share our darkest truths around the dinner table.  Life change happens around the dinner table. 

I want to challenge you to be a man, reach out for support.  Get out of your quiet desperation.  It’s up to you to take action.   Find at least one friend you can be transparent with.   Find a group of godly men who will support you on your journey of becoming more like Jesus, the ultimate warrior. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Spiritual Warrior Coach

 

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