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Rise Up and Conquer

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Rise Up and Conquer

God designed men to conquer.   We need challenges in our lives.   If we don’t have challenges we get soft and bored and that is never a good combination.   Revelation 3:21 states, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

I believe one of the biggest battles I see men face is one of complacency.  Not living life to the full, both in our spiritual walk and our physical being.  We have gotten soft physically, mentally and spiritually. 

Believe me, I have been there too.  I have been soft mentally and spiritually for a big part of my life.  I haven’t always been on fire for life or for God.  I have been complacent and have been anything but a strong spiritual leader. 

But all of that is changing.  I believe God is calling me to do great things as I become more willing to step into my greatness.  I have decided once and for all that I don’t have to play small any more.  This scripture smacks me right in the face every time I read it.   And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  Hebrews 10:38

God Created Us to Live Big Lives

God created us to live big lives.  Not for our glory, but for the glory of God and for the good of others.  It’s not enough just to go to church, and most men aren’t even doing that.  It’s about living transformed lives that make us feel fully alive.   It’s about living a life that sets our soul on fire.

As men we are wired for challenge.  We are wired to rise up and conquer.  That’s why I loved football so much.  I went to battle every Saturday with other men to defeat the opposition.  In my work as a fitness minister I have seen far too many men lose their inner warrior.  They have lost that inner athlete.  They have become complacent. 

Here is what I do know.  That inner warrior is still in there.  Your inner athlete is waiting to come alive again and be re-awakened.  Don’t beat yourself up.  It’s never too late.  Get off the couch and get back in the arena. 

Do Something that Excites You and Scares You

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Part of my work is to challenge men to come up with a BHAG.  This is what Jim Collins coined as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  It’s something that scares you and excites you at the same time.  I ask the men I work with to make it a physical goal.   But it represents so much more than just a physical goal.  It’s about re-capturing our self-worth again.  It’s about finding who we are.  It’s about understanding that we are sons of the great and living God and that He wants to do amazing things in us and through us.  He is asking us to rise up and conquer.  To get back in the game physically, mentally and spiritually. 

This is how a BHAG works.  I am going to share with you my BHAG for 2020.  My BHAG definitely excites and scares me and I really don’t know if I can do this as I have struggled with a fear of heights my whole life. 

My BHAG for 2020 is to do the Mt. Evans Hill Climb on my bicycle.  This epic climb takes place on the highest paved road in the United States.  It’s a 7,000’ climb from an elevation of 7,500’ all the way up to 14,100 feet.   That both excites me and scares the living daylights out of me.  I can feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart pumping as I am typing these words. 

As if that isn’t enough the second part of my BHAG is to do the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.   At an elevation of 14,115’, Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, is one of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners, mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet (4,267.2 m) above sea level, and the highest of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. 

I actually drove to the top of Pikes Peak about a month ago and the last 2,000 feet of driving to the summit got my heart pounding.  It made me sincerely doubt if I could do it.  Not so much physically, but more mentally as my fear of heights completely took over.  And that is exactly why I am deciding to rise up and conquer this BHAG. 

My BHAG is a complete integration of mind, body and spirit.  This is not just a physical goal, but a mental and spiritual one.  I will have to be mentally tough along with relying on God’s strength to pull me to the top. 

It’s about the Character We Develop Along the Way

It’s not even about the completion of the BHAG as I realize I could “fail”.   It’s about the character we develop along the way.  It’s about who we are becoming.  It’s about reclaiming our inner warrior and pushing our physical, mental and spiritual limitations. 

I ask my clients when they come up with a BHAG to also choose a scripture that will inspire and encourage them because this is so much more than just a physical feat. 

Here is the scripture and motivational quote that I have chosen for my journey to the top of Mt. Evans and Pikes Peak. 

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith.  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

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Here is my motivational quote I will stand on.  “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”-Sir Edmund Hillary

My whole purpose behind this is to inspire men to be the spiritual leaders we are called to be.  This is so much more than a physical event.  It’s about getting back to being a Kingdom Man.  A man who is strong physically, mentally and spiritually so we can be the inspired spiritual leaders for our families, churches, communities and our nation. 

What is your BHAG going to be?  How are you going to rise up and conquer?  Please reach out to me if you need some coaching and guidance on this.  I have seen men’s lives be transformed in every area of their life when they embrace the idea of setting a BHAG in their life. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

troyismir.com

www.facebook.com/troyspiritualwarrior

Spiritual Warriors Unite Podcast

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Why I Integrate Faith and Fitness

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Why I Integrate Faith and Fitness

I absolutely love to workout. I first started lifting weights when I was fourteen years old so I could get bigger, faster and stronger for football as that was my ultimate passion. After a career ending knee injury I turned my passion for football into my passion for fitness. I discovered a love for cycling and an immense passion for strength training.

Here I am almost forty years later and my love for health and fitness is as strong as it has ever been. God wired me with this intense passion for movement and exercise.

No Faith and No Fulfillment

But what was missing for most of my life was my faith. For most of my life I pursued fitness for selfish reasons. For external validation from others. For vanity reasons and to look a certain way. There was only the fitness component. There was no faith component and ultimately, there was no fulfillment.

The only time I was happy was when I was in the gym or on my bike. I had maybe two hours of happiness a day and that was it. In fact, a lot of my time in the gym was filled with anger. I lifted mad. It made for a great workout, but it left me feeling void and empty inside. Yes I looked great. Yes I was ripped with single digit body fat. But my soul was empty. It was depleted of the love I was so desperately looking for.

That all started to change about ten years ago when I dropped down on my knees and asked God into my life. As is so often the case, a very painful experience in the form of a divorce brought me to the end of myself. I realized without God in my life there is absolutely no hope. And without hope there is only despair. I had lived my life long enough in despair.

God Awakens our Passions

What I have learned, once we allow God to enter our lives, He awakens our passions and asks us to use them for God’s glory and for the good of others. God has put this inner longing on my heart to transform men’s lives with fitness as the platform. God is using my gift and passion for fitness to reach men who are far from God.

I want to share with you how my ministry works. I am a personal trainer or more of what I would call a fitness minister. I train out of a small local gym in Fort Collins, Colorado called The Body, which just happens to stand for The Body of Christ.

I started to build a relationship with this young man in the gym, just through simple introduction and inviting him to my Spiritual Warriors Unite men’s group that I lead. I was sitting around waiting for a client and this young man asked me if I had time to take him through a triceps workout. I didn’t have much time, but I agreed. We spent about ten minutes together and we set up a time where we could train together another time.

He had mentioned earlier how he respected the way I trained myself personally. I didn’t know it, but he has been watching me in the gym. My passion and intensity for strength training resonated with this young man.

During our strength training session together, it opened up the door to ask about his spiritual journey. He shared with me some struggles he was currently going through. This workout together was way more about ministry than it was about fitness. The fitness just opened up the door for ministry. He asked me if I was willing to mentor him as he starts his journey of reconnecting with God. This young man is a husband and a father to a baby girl. He has been trying to navigate this all on his own and is living scared.

That is why I integrate faith and fitness. We can be the strongest man in the world physically, but if we aren’t getting stronger spiritually we are actually getting weaker.

Transforming Lives through Fitness

I know through my fitness ministry God is going to use my passion for fitness to transform people’s lives. My ministry is geared towards men, but as this ministry impacts men’s lives, it will also shape their families, their communities, their church, the nation and the world.

My passion for fitness will never wain. But the most amazing part of this journey is my growing passion for Christ and to make a difference for His Kingdom. I will do this work of integrating faith and fitness until the day I die God willing.

Let me ask you this. What is your passion? What is your calling? How are you using your gifting and skills to make a difference in the world? We are all called to greatness. We are all asked to use our gifts to honor and glorify God and to serve others. What if we all stepped into our God-given greatness? How would that not only change your world, but the world around you?

My passion is the integration of faith and fitness. I believe with every fiber of my being that the world around me will be transformed as I continue to step into my greatness as I submit and align myself to the greatest personal trainer and coach of all time, Jesus Christ.

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

troyismir.com

www.facebook.com/troyspiritualwarrior

Spiritual Warriors Unite Podcast

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The Journey to Impacting One Million Men’s Lives Starts with One

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The Journey to Impacting One Million Men’s Lives Starts with One

Not that long ago I had this crazy vision that was put on my heart to impact one million men’s lives through building a tribe of Spiritual Warriors. A Spiritual Warrior is a person who is willing to go on a journey of self-growth and personal discovery for a transcendent cause greater than ourselves.

I question myself every day if I am making a difference in anybody’s life. I question whether I am being the inspired leader that God is calling me to be. Am I truly modeling what it means to embody physical, mental and spiritual health?

So often we don’t know the difference we are making in people’s lives. We hope and pray that we are, but until someone is willing to go out of their way to tell us how we have impacted their lives, it’s really hard to know.

I say this because I recently had someone I mentor share a blog post with me that he wrote recently for a class he is taking in college. I am going to include the prompt and what he wrote about how I have impacted his life, and how he is in turn impacting other people’s lives because of his own personal growth and willingness to be an inspired leader himself.

This young man just happens to be only twenty-one years old, but in my opinion, he is one of the finest Spiritual Warriors I have ever met. It just goes to show you that God can use us no matter if we are young, old or anywhere in between. We just have to be willing and courageous.

The prompt for the post was…

“Think of someone in your life who’s had a significant positive influence on you. Maybe it’s a parent, a coach, a teacher, or a friend. Maybe they encouraged you to believe in yourself or empowered you to do things you didn’t know you could. Who are these people to you?”

Pick one of them and answer the following four questions.

1. Who is this very special person in your life? Why do you choose them as one of your biggest positive influencers?

2. What did they specifically do that you found so meaningful?

3. What are the results of their actions on you and your life?

4. Going forward, what are some things you can do for yourself and for others to honor this person’s contribution to you?

Cade’s Blog Post

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“One of the biggest influences in my life has been my friend and mentor Troy Ismir. I met him at the gym we both attend and I have looked up to him since the day I met him. I chose him as one of my biggest positive influencers because of his outlook on life and his execution of his vision.

He left a comfy job as a pharmaceutical salesman in Orlando Florida, where he was getting quarterly bonuses north of $10,000, to come to Colorado and chase his dreams of being a fitness and faith coach. He focuses on three aspects of health…mental, physical, and spiritual. He is one of the few that left comfort to pursue his passion and execute his vision. He has started multiple groups in town, as well as a website and podcast where he shares ideas of ways to better ourselves.

Some of the specific things he did that I found so meaningful were that he showed interest in me and the pursuit of my passion, he pushed me to be better as a physical trainer and life mentor, he challenged me to make changes in my life that were tough, but that ultimately benefited me. He also invited me to many of his groups where I have built great relationships. He has always been open for me to talk to him even when they are awkward or tough situations. He never makes me feel dumb or small and always tries to give me helpful advice and feedback.

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The results of his actions on myself and my life are that I constantly search for ways to push myself and better myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. He has made me strive to be a more integral man, someone who shows respect to all people, and he has helped me get out of my comfort zone in many areas, which helps me grow as a person.

In order to honor Troy’s contribution to my life I believe that it is important that I can continue to show up to his group meetings, subscribe to his website, and his podcast so that he can continue to grow his dreams and help others the way he helped me. I will also mentor and treat others the way Troy has done to me. This will positively impact others’ lives and carry on his legacy. He always talks about wanting to make an impact that is bigger than himself. In my eyes he already has. So I can honor him by telling him how he’s helped me and by helping others the way he helped me. His impact will grow exponentially if I can do what he did for me.”

Words EnCOURAGE

I have truly been honored and humbled to be a part of Cade’s journey and growth as a young man. God brought Cade into my life for a reason. His words enCOURAGEd me, they literally put courage in me to keep working hard for what God has set forth before me.

So if you are doubting whether you are having the impact in this world that you are hoping to, remember it starts with making a difference in one person’s life. The message I want to send you is don’t give up. Be persistent. The world needs you to make the impact you are called to make. 

If you are someone who is being greatly impacted by someone and your life is better because of your interaction with this person, I strongly enCOURAGE you to be bold and tell that person how much of a difference they have made in your life. It may just be the words of enCOURAGEment they need to keep moving forward. 

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

troyismir.com

www.facebook.com/troyspiritualwarrior

Spiritual Warriors Unite Podcast

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How I Practice Extreme Self-Care Physically, Mentally and Spiritually

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How I Practice Extreme Self-Care Physically, Mentally and Spiritually

As men we usually don’t think about nourishing our minds, bodies and souls. We are supposed to be tough and pull ourselves up by our boot straps and keep grinding day after day with little thought to our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being. We go hard non-stop with little thought to our health, fitness and vitality. After all we have a family to support, money to be made, the corporate ladder to be climbed. But at what cost? What are we modeling for our families, community and society as a whole?

As a personal trainer and Spiritual Warrior Coach specializing in working with men, I see many clients who have come to me who have neglected not only their physical health, but also their mental and spiritual health. They are ashamed because they are a shell of their former selves. I hear a lot about what great athletes they used to be and they are embarrassed to see how far they have gone from those glory days. Maybe that is even you.

It can be challenging in our day to day grind of life to take time out to take care of our own needs. But it will catch up to us eventually. I am seeing more and more of my clients come to me with type 2 diabetes. It’s one of the worst diseases out there, but is 100% reversible through diet and lifestyle changes. I think we really need a wake-up call as men to start to take care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives. After all, we are called to be leaders. Practicing extreme self-care from a place of radical love for ourselves and others is the approach we should be taking in our lives. Not from a place of selfishness, but from a place of compassion for ourselves, so we can be the leaders that God created us to be.

I will be the first to admit, in my younger years my self-care was completely out of balance. I was all about physical training. Since the age of fourteen I have been a passionate weight lifter. This has been a big part of my life for almost forty years now. I am also a cyclist who has done numerous centuries. I have always loved to challenge myself physically,

Up until about ten years ago, there was not even so much as a thought about any mental or spiritual training in my life. My life was completely out of balance. In fact, it was a very shallow existence. I didn’t nurture my soul. I didn’t nurture my mind. I was a pretty self-centered person. I didn’t belong to a church. I wasn’t serving my community. I loved being involved with my two kids’ life, but even that was focused around helping them excel at sports.

I have come to realize that to truly live a fulfilling and joy filled life I need to train physically, mentally and spiritually every single day. Without this balance in my life, I am not living the life that I was put on this earth for. All of the physical training I have done in the past has been great, but without the mental and spiritual component I am not being the man I want to be.

What it Means to be a Spiritual Warrior

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I love the thought of being a Spiritual Warrior. In fact I believe in it so much that I have it tattooed on my left bicep. It is something that resonates deep into my soul. The Bible in 1 Chronicles 12 describes what a warrior looks like from a Biblical perspective.

Here are the four traits that the Bible describes as a warrior:

1. Practices long and hard to perfect their skills

2. Mentally tough and determined

3. Are physically in shape

4. Dedicated to serving God

What if we made this the focus of our lives? How would we be better fathers? How would we have more fulfilling careers? How would we serve our communities better and make a bigger impact in our world? It basically comes down to being the best versions of ourselves. We are mind, body and spirit and if we neglect any or all of those areas we will find ourselves floundering and searching for something outside of ourselves for fulfillment or an escape.

Become Our Best at What We are Passionate About

How great would it feel if we focused on our greatness and the amazing gifts God gave us? If we did whatever it took to become the best at what we are passionate about. I love to write, and I am committed to becoming the best writer I can be. I am going to write, because I love to write. If it impacts one person’s life, that is awesome. I truly hope at some point my writing gets good enough that it impacts millions of people’s lives. I look at the influence writers such as Rick Warren, Erwin McManus and John Eldredge have had on my life. That is the type of influence I want to have. Not for my glory, but for the glory of God.

Be Mentally Tough and Determined

How would it feel if we were mentally tough and determined? That no matter what was going on in our world we would have inner peace. That we were so mentally strong that nothing could shake us. Nothing could get us out of our emotional state of peace and joy. I have to admit, this is an area I really struggle with. This has been my battle for years. I struggle with inner peace. I struggle with finding joy no matter what in my life. But I am determined to keep trying. To keep working at it. To keep going to God as he is the ultimate source of peace.

How easy is it to forget that God is our source of peace when life comes at us hard? When we feel like everyone is piling on. Do you remember the days when we played pig pile and you were on the bottom and you felt like you couldn’t breathe? How many of us feel like that day after day after day? I have felt that way many days in my life. I am determined to become more mentally tough.

Make Fitness about Building Our Character

You have probably already heard these statistics, in fact we have heard them so many times we have almost become numb to them because being overweight has become normal. Three out of four Americans are either overweight or obese. What? How can that be true? I don’t say that to shame anyone. I say that because it saddens me. I would say the fitness industry is just as much to blame as anyone else. I can say that because I am in the fitness industry. We have made it all about appearance. We have made it all about the external.

I am here to change that. What if we made it about building our character? What if we made it about our health and honoring God with this great vessel he gave us? The human body is amazing, but sadly we take it for granted.

One of my clients who came to me about two years ago was a former star athlete in high school. He was a runner and a wrestler. He basically had neglected his health for the past ten years. He got caught up in the busyness of life, like so many of us do.

Ten years and about forty pounds later he was embarrassed and ashamed how he had let his health and fitness slip away. Not only that, his self-worth was in the toilet. He remembered his years of being a great athlete, but that was so far removed from his current life, he felt ashamed and didn’t even know who he was any more. He had tried and failed many times on his own to regain his health and fitness, but he kept quitting.

My mantra for many of my clients is to “just keep showing up.” Don’t quit. We expect quick results. We live in a microwave society. We are promised six pack abs in 20 days. Unless you are a genetic freak that just doesn’t happen. It takes at least a year to get into great shape and it’s something we always have to work at . It’s really not even about changing our physique, that’s just a side bonus. It’s about who we are becoming on this journey.

I am happy to report that my client is back to running again. He has run a 10k, is training for a half marathon and will be doing a marathon next year. But what I have really loved to watch on his journey is to see his self-esteem come back. To step into his role as a leader with his family, community and his church. That’s why it’s important to get into the best shape of our lives.

What if we were dedicated to a purpose greater than ourselves? What if we lived each and every day dedicated to serving God? A selfish life is an unhappy life. For the first forty-two years of my life I didn’t want anything to do with God. It wasn’t a very happy life. Over the last ten years I have come to realize that having a personal relationship with God is the most important thing in my life.

Without God in my life, my life is meaningless. I want everything I do and say to honor and glorify God. Of course I fail at that every day. I am very much a work in progress as we all are. I am learning to give myself and others grace as we are all imperfect people but God loves us just the way we are. He loves us so much that he is helping to build our character to become more like Christ.

I have come to the point in my life that I realize that practicing extreme self-care physically, mentally and spiritually allows me to live my best life. A life of purpose, adventure and vitality. When I neglect one of those three areas, my life usually gets a little wheels off. My tendency is to slip into isolation when I am not firing on all cylinders. I don’t have it all figured out, but I have certainly found some things that work for me as far as how I practice extreme self-care. I want to share some of my self-care routine with you that I hope you can start to implement into your life so you can live the life of a spiritual warrior.

Practicing Extreme Self-Care Physically

I believe one of the most life giving things we can do for ourselves is to do some type of movement every day. Whether it’s through structured exercise, some type of play or sports or good old fashioned walking. We have become a sedentary society and it’s literally killing us.

I have had a tendency to over train in the past. I have struggled with exercise addiction. That isn’t healthy either. I am finally finding some balance in my life.

Here is what a typical exercise week looks like for me:

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Monday: 45 minute total body strength training

Tuesday: 20–30 mile bike ride at an aerobic pace

Wednesday: walking with some type of mobility practice

Thursday: 45 minute total body strength training

Friday: 20–30 mile bike ride at an aerobic pace

Saturday: Some type of fun activity such as biking, hiking or golf

Sunday: walking with some type of mobility practice

I know everyone’s schedule and level of responsibility is different. My thought is if you don’t have 15–20 minutes every day to do some type of physical activity then you are too busy. You need to re-prioritize your life before it’s too late.

Here are my minimum recommendations for physical activity:

Monday: 15 minute body weight strength training routine

Tuesday: 20 minute walk

Wednesday: 10 minute high intensity interval training with 10 minutes of mobility work

Thursday: 15 minute body weight strength training routine

Friday: 20 minute walk

Saturday: Build in some type of play

Sunday: 20 minute walk

I would also encourage you to try to get outside every day, even if it’s for a little while. When I am out on my bike is when I feel most alive. That is when God speaks to me. I get these amazing downloads. There is something about being out in nature that soothes my soul. Find something you love to do and just do it.

I also believe strength training is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. No matter what age we are, it is vital that we do some form of strength training. On average an adult loses twenty-five pounds of lean muscle mass between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-five unless we do something about it. It’s vital we incorporate some form of strength training into our lives whether it’s a good old fashioned body weight workout or in a gym. Strength training is critical to our long-term health and quality of life.

Nutrition is also a significant part of our health. One of my favorite sayings is from Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Food has the power to heal us and it has the power to kill us. The choice is really up to you.

I used to think changing our body composition was 70% nutrition and 30% exercise. I believe it is even greater than that. Through my twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry and my own personal experience I believe it’s closer to 90% nutrition and 10% exercise, stress management and proper sleep.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about nutrition other than to say to keep it simple. Eat real whole foods the vast majority of the time. Some simple guidelines I give to my clients who are trying to lose weight is to keep sugars below 35 grams, fiber above 35 grams and net carbs somewhere between 20 grams and 100 grams. Those are very general guidelines, but I have found this helpful for people who are trying to lose weight and ditch their type 2 diabetes once and for all. Great references are two books by Dr. Jason Fung called the Obesity Code and Diabetes Code for further reading.

I want to encourage and inspire you to get in the best shape of your life and stay there. It’s a lot easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape. Be patient with yourself. Work at it every day. Don’t give up. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and the others around you. Practice extreme self-care physically every day.

Practicing Extreme Self-Care Mentally

As I sit down to write this morning I just finished with twenty minutes of meditation. Meditation is something I have done on and off for the past ten years. I have this deep sense of peace when I meditate on a consistent basis, but yet it is a habit that easily slips away for me. When I get busy, meditation is usually one of the first things to go in my daily routine. I am learning, obviously very slowly, that meditation is one of the most important things we can do for our mental, physical and spiritual health.

When I start out my day with just ten to twenty minutes of meditation my mind set is completely different. During my meditation practice this morning I set the intention of having deep inner peace throughout the day. I then choose a scripture that I can focus on throughout the day. I chose John 14:27 that says, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When I recite scripture throughout the day, I can keep that feeling of inner peace with me. As Joe Dispenza talks about in his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, “If you are not getting up different from your sitting meditation than it really isn’t doing us much good.” The purpose of meditation is to transform us. To renew our mind. To see ourselves the way God sees us. It’s not some woo woo thing. When we meditate on a regular basis it truly does change us. Scientific evidence shows that our brain actually changes when we meditate.

When I tell people that I meditate, I often hear I could never do that. They say they can’t sit still for that long and they have all of these swirling thoughts. Exactly! All the more reason to meditate. That happens to me all of the time. What I find though, is the more I do it and the longer I do it, those thoughts slow down. Now I crave my meditation time. It feels powerful to slow down and meditate. I believe it’s one of the most life changing things we can do.

Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

It is so easy to think negative thoughts in this day and age. We are bombarded with negativity with access to the news and internet 24/7. We have to be so careful with what we put into our mind and what we think about. It is easy to fall into a dark place with social media always at our fingertips. The comparison trap is dangerous place to go. Taking time to meditate on a daily basis can be one of the most transformative things we can do for ourselves.

Here is my daily routine for meditation and reciting scripture throughout the day:

I am a morning person so I love to wake up early before the sun rises. This is such a peaceful time of the day. I get up between 4 and 5 in the morning. I love to read so I will read for about twenty to thirty minutes before I meditate.

My goal is to meditate for at least twenty minutes every morning and longer if time allows. I am also a big believer in using heart rate variability for feedback. Heart rate variability is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. It’s a measure of the interplay of the parasympathetic nervous system which is our rest and digest system and the sympathetic nervous system which is our fight and flight system.

Unfortunately, most of us in our modern world are living in fight and flight the majority of our day. I use the Inner Balance sensor and app from HeartMath. From their website HeartMath has discovered, “That our heart rhythm patterns are the best reflection of our inner state. By adding heart, you can shift in the moment into a state of balance and renewing feelings, such as appreciation, care, love and compassion.”

What I have discovered through this meditation process is if we don’t feel love, joy and peace deep into the core of our being and we just think it, we are not going to truly step into changing our inner state. The power of positive thinking doesn’t work without our body feeling all of those positive emotions.

After my twenty minutes of meditation, I choose a scripture for the day to meditate on. I am working on developing inner peace in my life right now so I am working on scriptures around that theme. We have to set an intention for the day and who we want to be. I want people to feel my inner peace, which quite honestly has been a big challenge for me in my life. My life certainly hasn’t been marked by inner peace.

The only way we can change our life is to change our thinking. Taking time to purposefully meditate on a consistent basis has been a game changer for me and I know it can be for you. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Simply find a quiet place, be still, focus on your breath and allow yourself to let your mind go. Don’t try to control it and see what happens. I guarantee you over time you will become a different person.

Practicing Extreme Self-Care Spiritually

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When I went through a life changing divorce about ten years ago, I knew that I could do all of the physical training in the world and be in the best shape of my life, but that wouldn’t get me through a gut wrenching divorce. That’s when I first developed my spiritual practice. The first thing I did was drop down on my knees and asked God to help me get through this heart breaking time. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God at the time, but I knew there was something much bigger in this world than me.

I started reading the Bible during my times of deep despair and loneliness. It gave me a sense of peace. The more I learned about God, the more I wanted to know. My ten minutes of reading the Bible, turned into twenty minutes and then a full hour. I have read through the Bible once cover to cover and I have read through the New Testament a few times. I just started reading the Bible cover to cover again.

There are a few things that set me on my spiritual path of growing in Christ. One of the most influential books I have ever read was Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. It was written in such a way that a new believer can completely understand what our time here on earth is all about. I have read this book at least five times over the past ten years. Each time I read it I pick up something different because I am a different person each time I go through it.

Another thing that really changed the course of my life was when I led a community group through my local church. It was another book and course by Pastor Rick Warren. It was called 40 Days in the Word. This established a habit in my life that I have been practicing for the last ten years and I don’t ever see it changing.

My early mornings are filled with reading the Bible and meditating on scripture. I would say this has been one of the biggest things that has transformed my heart and soul. It’s that consistency of being in the Word every day where God speaks to us. If you are struggling in your life and you are not reading the Bible every day, it’s time to dust it off and start to dig in. As little as ten minutes a day can make a huge difference in our lives.

The third thing that became a significant part of my spiritual transformation was becoming part of a church family. Investing in the local church. Going to church should be a transformative process for us, not a check the box experience. When I became a part of C3 Church in Orlando is when I started to become more spiritually mature. Of course we can learn a great deal on our own, but we are not meant to be on this journey alone. We are meant to surround ourselves with other believers. People that will be there with us through thick and thin.

I will never forget when I had hip surgery my pastor, Byron Bledsoe, drove two hours each way to be there with my right before my surgery. He prayed with me for fifteen minutes and then drove back to Orlando. I will never forget that. I was completely invested in the local church and they were completely invested in me. It was such a feeling of love and compassion it’s hard to describe. I never thought I would be part of a church that I loved. I would come back early from vacations because I didn’t want to miss church. For a kid who used to go to church reluctantly, what a huge shift. Not only is it important for us to find a church to attend, but find a church that we can invest in. Find a church you love. It will change your life.

Here is my daily routine for spiritual training:

I prefer to have at least an hour for my quiet time with the Lord, but that isn’t always possible, that is my goal though. I don’t like to rush in the morning, so sometimes that means getting up very early. To me it’s worth the very small sacrifice.

I start out reading a spiritual book for about twenty minutes. Some of my favorite authors are Erwin McManus, Rick Warren, John Eldredge. A.W. Tozer, David Platt and Steven Furtick.

After reading a book, I will dig into the Bible for about twenty to thirty minutes. Sometimes I follow a reading plan and other times I will just dig into a particular book of the Bible or a general theme such as leadership, courage or fear. It depends on what is on my heart at that time.

After reading the Bible I will journal for about five to ten minutes on what I learned or how God spoke to my heart. I have been journaling for about seven years now. It’s fun to look back at those early days of journaling and see how far I have come on my spiritual journey. It’s easy to think why am I not further along on this journey, but when I look back I realize how far I have come.

The final part of my quiet time is to sit still and pray, meditate and listen to what God has to say. I usually spend about five to ten minutes in prayer.

I am not perfect in doing this every day, but I certainly try to. If you feel far from God or are struggling in life, I want to encourage you to start to establish some type of morning routine. Over time you will crave more and more of it. More and more of God. It’s hard to explain, you just have to experience it for yourself. If you want life transformation this is by far the best place to start.

When we train physically, mentally and spiritually every day it will propel us towards living our best life. Of course it’s not always easy to carve out time for practicing extreme self-care, but it is worth every second we invest in ourselves. It not only changes us but the people around us. It’s not selfish it’s selfless when we take time out for ourselves.

I hope and pray you take some of the pieces of information you have just read and put it into action. Just do something. It doesn’t have to be huge changes, but you have to start somewhere. Maybe it’s as simple as doing a few set of push-ups in the morning, followed by five minutes of meditation and ten minutes of reading the Bible. You will be shocked how when we intentionally build self-care practices in our lives how we can be transformed from the inside out.

A spiritual warrior trains physically, mentally and spiritually every day. I know you are a warrior. Let’s step up men and change ourselves so we can change the world.

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

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My Journey from a Personal Trainer to a Fitness Minister

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My Journey from a Personal Trainer to a Fitness Minister

I remember when I was a teenager and someone had asked me if I was going to be a pastor like my dad. I recall looking at that particular guy like he had a third eye. I politely responded no, but in my mind I was thinking that there was no way I would every pursue ministry. In fact, the last place I wanted to be on that Sunday morning was church. It was always a check the box kind of experience for me. I would have much rather been outside doing my thing. Playing sports or something at least a little more fun than being preached at.

In fact, my teenage years were marked by rebellion. A little too much drinking and looking for external validation from the girls. Thank goodness my passion for sports kept me from getting into too much trouble. But being a minister? All I could think of was hell no. I was going to be a professional football player for the Minnesota Vikings. That dream was as clear as could be.

But God had a different plan for my life. We all have defining moments in our lives. I just didn’t know it was going to happen on a Saturday afternoon in October of 1986 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. That was the day the world came crashing in on me. That was the day my knee and my life would never be the same. My knee went in a direction it wasn’t supposed and my life followed in a direction it wasn’t supposed to either.

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Pursuing my Dream of Playing in the NFL

I was a sophomore at the University of North Dakota pursuing my dream of being a professional football player. When you grow up in North Dakota the two best options of playing college football were the University of North Dakota or North Dakota State University. My path lead me to play at UND. It was a dream come true to play at the college level. I was only one step away of having my dream realized.

I wasn’t the greatest athlete in the world, but I knew I could out work anyone. I was fast and determined. One piece of feedback I always got from my coaches was that I was very coachable. If my coaches told me to do something, I would do it and a little bit more. That’s how I was wired.

After a disappointing freshman season in college, I was determined to get bigger, faster and stronger. I worked the hardest I could possibly work during the summer to get ready for my second year of college ball. The high heat and humidity of a North Dakota summer didn’t keep me from running sprints mid-afternoon in the solitude of determined greatness.

When we started two a day practice my coaches were blown away by how fit I was. I led all of the sprints. I showed them I was ready to be a leader and be the best defensive player on the team.

Life Can Change in an Instant

At the time of the fateful play that destroyed my knee and my identity, I was the leading tackler on the team. It’s amazing how life can change in an instant. My pre-determined life path of playing professional football was literally derailed in a fraction of a second. I went from having a dream of playing professional football, to just hoping to walk normally again.

With my foot planted firmly on the artificial turf of the University of North Dakota playing field all I remember was a 290 pound offensive lineman fell directly on the lateral side of my knee and my lower leg going in the opposite direction that it was designed to go. I knew the instant it happened my career was over. The pain was so immense I went into shock.

I was carted off of the field and into the locker room where my mom and dad met me. I was sobbing and telling my parents “it’s over.” I am done with football. I remember my mom saying I am so glad it’s not your neck. You are going to be ok.

I had surgery a few days later. After the surgery I was told by the orthopedic surgeon that it was the worst knee injury he had ever seen. I figured if I was going to do something I might as well do it right. It turns out I tore my anterior, posterior and medial cruciate ligaments otherwise known as the terrible triad. And man was it terrible.

Back in those days the incisions were long. I have scars on both sides of my knee that add up to over a foot of scars. I have a screw that to this day you can visibly see and feel holding my knee together. I have forty staple marks on my knee and the muscle that makes up my quadriceps known as the vastus medialis is non-existent. I am limited in my range of motion where I can bend it only slightly past 90 degrees and I am missing about 15 degrees of full extension.

Those are the physical scars, but what really made my life go wheels off at that time were the emotional scars. That’s the hardest part because people don’t see what is going on deep inside our souls.

As a kid growing up my identity was wrapped up in being an athlete. I was the star on the baseball team, basketball team, baseball team and yes the football team. We won the state football championship my senior year at Bismarck High School. I made the interception that spring boarded us to an amazing win. I will never forget that day and that feeling. There was nothing better than being part of a team of guys all battling for a victory.

Lost Identity

After I blew out my knee, I was completely lost. I lost my battle mates. I lost my identity as Troy the star football player. I had nothing else. Everything was taken away from me. I fell in a deep pit of loneliness. I was isolated from the team. I was in a cast for two months. I remember when they took my cast off I didn’t even recognize my leg. It was a shriveled up piece of meat with staples sticking out everywhere. I remember breaking down and crying.

I missed about a month of school. I didn’t want to drop out or delay my education. I dug down deep and found a way to get back to class. I got a handicap sticker for my car. Driving to class was an adventure. I would drive to class with my casted leg up on the seat while driving with my left foot. I had to get real creative, but I was determined not to quit. Fortunately, I was a good student and was able to keep pursuing my degree.

While all of this was happening, I started spending more and more time lifting weights by myself as part of my rehab. It was just me and the iron. I was no longer part of the team. I tried coaching for a while, but it was just too hard. I didn’t want to be around it if I couldn’t play. To this day it’s hard for me to watch football. I would rather watch golf as watching football brings up so many memories for me. Some good, but many of them bring back hurt and heart break.

Intense Passion for Health and Fitness

As I was spending more and more time in the weight room I was feeling my depression being lifted. I was finding something I could replace my identity as a football player with. My identity was slowly transitioning to Troy the bodybuilder. As is my pattern I went all in. I started lifting weights religiously. I started taking nutrition and exercise physiology classes in college. I had already declared psychology as my major, but I started to develop this intense passion for health and fitness. It started to fill the deep, dark hole from football. I was finding a new identity.

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I got a job at a local gym. I started to hang out with bodybuilders. I started to learn what I could do with my body through weight lifting. I became obsessed. One thing I want to make clear. I have NEVER done steroids or any illegal substance for that matter. I don’t believe in them. To this day because of my physique at the age of 52 people have questioned if I take steroids or human growth hormone. To me that never did make sense. That was cheating. I believe in a good old fashioned work ethic. Yes, looking great at that time was really important to me, but never at the sacrifice of screwing up my body for life.

I became so passionate about health and fitness I decided to go on and get my Master’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Utah graduating in 1993. That has taken me on a path of being in the health and fitness industry both full time and part time for over twenty-five years. I took a detour for seventeen years of being in pharmaceutical sales, but had always been at least a part time personal trainer.

I am Changing

I have always loved helping people reach their health and fitness goals. Whether it was helping an elite athlete get bigger, faster and stronger or a general fitness client to lose weight. I found deep satisfaction in helping people reach their goals. I love to geek out on nutrition and exercise physiology. I am always learning and wanting to get better at my craft. I will always be passionate about health and fitness. That will never change. But something is changing. I am changing.

About ten years ago I gave my life to Christ. I went through a devastating divorce about ten years ago. I was crushed and heart broken. I lost the single most important thing in my life, my family. I was lost, broken and desperate. It was at that time I realized that no matter how physically fit I was, I wasn’t going to be able to move forward without some type of spiritual guidance in my life.

In my moments of darkness I would pick up the Bible and start to read it. I had really no idea at the time what it meant, but it gave me some sense of peace. It gave me some sense of hope. I would find myself reading and praying for hours.

God started to bring people in to my life that spoke words of encouragement into me. I started going to church for the first time in years and I began to realize church was so much more than a check the box experience. It was about developing a personal relationship with God. It wasn’t about image or performance as I was led to believe. For the first time in my life I actually belonged to a church family.

Once God got a hold of my heart I knew there was no turning back. I wanted to learn and grow as much as possible. That’s when I knew that God was calling me to more. That’s when I knew that I was called to start to integrate my passion for fitness with my growing passion for my faith.

That’s when God put this vision on my heart to start the Divine Wellness Academy. This is a ten week course that helps people understand the connection between their physical and spiritual health. So many people struggle with their health and try to make lasting lifestyle changes, but are challenged to overcome self-limiting beliefs that keep them from truly stepping into the life that God created them to live.

The vision that God put on my heart is to turn the fitness industry upside down. I want to do for health and fitness what Dave Ramsey has done for finances. When it comes down to it, until we see ourselves the way God sees us, we are always going to struggle to change. We are always go to struggle to live our best life. We won’t feel worthy and will have self-doubt expressed through every fiber of our being. Therefore we will live a safe life not willing to take a chance on ourselves.

Called to be Revolutionary

As I look back at my life, I have struggled with self-doubt for years. I think if we are honest most of us have. As God has put this vision on my heart there are many days I feel overwhelmed by what I am asked to do. To not only have an impact in this world that is desperately in need of better physical health, but to truly share the love of Jesus with everyone I meet. I am being called to help churches do fitness and gyms do ministry. To be a leader in this area. To be revolutionary.

I have always thought of myself as a personal trainer and to think of myself as a minister has really freaked me out. As I shared earlier, I have never thought of myself as being a pastor. It’s the last thing in the world I ever thought would be part of my life. I have put up resistance to this in my life even to the point of having health issues do to my body resisting this calling. It’s so much easier and safer to call myself a personal trainer. But I know I am so much more than a personal trainer. I am a healer. I heal peoples’ souls. I just use fitness as a platform.

Ministers are Servants

I was curious about what the actual definition of a minister is so I looked it up. This is what it says on gotquestions.org about what is a Christian minister? “A minister is, literally, a servant. In the Bible, the role of the minister is not linked to licensing or being an official wielding some kind of authority. In Romans 5:16, Paul says that he was called to be a “minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. (God) gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Following in Paul’s footsteps, any person who desires to serve God by “proclaiming the gospel so that…others might become sanctified by the Holy Spirit” is a Christian minister. Broadly speaking, being a servant of Christ makes one a Christian minister.

So there you have it. As Christians we are all called to be ministers. To be servants. To show people the love of Jesus. So why have I and so many other Christians been resistant to being ministers. For me personally, I haven’t fully stepped into my calling yet. I gave my life to Christ ten years ago and it has been a slow process and often times painful process of seeing myself the way God sees me. I have lived a smaller life because of believing the seeds of self-doubt that have been planted in my mind.

This is the area of my life that I am working really hard on as we speak. The life I live will only be as powerful and impactful as the way I see myself. If I don’t see myself as worthy I won’t live a life that is worthy.

If I don’t see myself as a minister that can change the world, than I won’t change the world. If I don’t see myself as a servant, than I will continue to put my own needs before others.

See Ourselves the Way God Sees Us

So how do we start to see ourselves the way God sees us? I believe it starts by not only reading the Bible, but believing what the Bible says about us. How come it is so much easier to believe the lies of the enemy instead of the truth of God? It’s a daily battle for sure.

Meditation

I have also been spending a lot of time meditating. When I do this consistently in my life I always have a deeper sense of inner peace. For whatever reason I let life get in the way of this life changing habit and stop doing it from time to time. It’s amazing how just ten minutes a day of meditation can make a huge difference.

Surround Ourselves with other Godly People

We also need to surround ourselves with other godly people that will speak the truth into us and encourage us. Just in the last few days I have had two people speak words of love and encouragement into me. They see more of the minister in me than I do. I have to hear and receive those words and most importantly believe the words they are speaking into my life.

Personal Trainer Mindset to Fitness Minister Mindset

Any time we are making major changes in our lives there is going to be resistance. Going from a personal trainer mindset to a fitness minister mindset is a major change and one that I have been transitioning to for some time now. I am starting to change the way I see myself. I am starting to step into the work that God is calling me to do. I am a fitness minister who just happens to know a lot about personal training.

I am here as a servant of Christ. As believers we are all ministers. When we all step into that role is when we will collectively change the world. We are all on a journey. Spiritual growth is always an ongoing process. We are all works in progress. It’s amazing to look back on that day that happened many years ago when that man asked me if I was going to be a pastor like my dad. I am proud to say yes. I am now a minister like my dad. I know my dad would be very proud.

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

troyismir.com

www.facebook.com/troyspiritualwarrior

Spiritual Warriors Unite Podcast

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It's All about Radical Love

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It's All about Radical Love

What if we were radical lovers of ourselves the way Jesus loves us? It’s really challenging to live our best life when we don’t take care of our physical health the way God wants us to. If you have tried to get healthy and lose weight time and time again without lasting results trying a different approach may be the answer. What if all the choices you made around your physical, emotional and spiritual health were made out of the context of love? How would that change your perspective and your choices?

Love the Foods that Love us Back

The first thing you need to do is to start to love food again. So many people have such an unhealthy relationship with food they get to the point of being neurotic about it. Becoming obsessed with food, binging and then restricting food, over consuming food, inhaling food and then feeling guilty about it. This is not a love relationship with food but an unhealthy obsession.

Loving foods that love you back means being able to enjoy foods. To taste it and to delight in the fact that you are eating foods that are contributing to your health. The solution to overeating and chronically obsessing about food is getting away from the notion of restriction and deprivation. Getting away from the idea of good and bad foods. Getting away from the emotional attachment of food is one of the best ways you can love the foods that love you back. It means you can take it or leave it. You can enjoy food if you are hungry, you can walk away from it if you aren’t.

Foods that love you back are the ones that contribute to your health and well-being. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats are the foods that will love you back. Healthy eating is not a punishment, but a reward. Does that mean you can’t ever have your favorite sweet? Absolutely not. It simply means you want to eat the foods that love you back and when you do choose to eat a “treat food” you enjoy it and savor it without the guilt that usually comes along with it. It’s all about love when you love the foods that love you back.

Love Ourselves Enough to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

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I see so many people struggle with their health from lack of exercise, poor eating habits and being overweight and obese. This may sound like strong language, but not taking care of ourselves is a form of self-hate. Eating foods that contribute to diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease is not an act of self-love. It is vitally important that we be kind to ourselves. This self-love shows up through regular exercise, daily quiet time, eating nourishing foods, proper rest and stress management.

Do you love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle? You get to ask yourself that great question every time you put something into your mouth. Take control of your eating, exercise consistently and get proper rest and you will take control of your health. It’s all about love when you love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s all about Love When we Serve Others

The greatest form of love is serving others. We take care of ourselves so we can serve others. If you truly want to make a contribution to this world you will put other’s needs before your own. Helping others is a sign of love. How you serve others should be tied to the gift that God gave you.

You may be at the stage of life where your greatest service is your kids. Where you put their needs before your own. As a parent of two young adults I know the sacrifice that it takes to raise them and put their every need before your own. It’s the most selfless thing we can do.

We can also serve at our church, through work or by volunteering. There are always opportunity to serve and this is the greatest sign of love. Miracles happen daily when we ask God what we can do for Him and how we can serve others.

When we make our life about radical love both by loving ourselves and loving others we live and create in a whole different way. Our life becomes more fulfilling and satisfying. We live radically when we love food that loves us back, love ourselves enough to live a healthy lifestyle and show love through serving. We will reap many rewards when you make it all about love.

Troy Ismir, MS

Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach

troyismir.com

www.facebook.com/troyspiritualwarrior

Spiritual Warriors Unite Podcast

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