Getting a Catholic workout

By 
  • October 7, 2010
catholic workoutTORONTO - Michael Carrera knows how vanity driven the fitness industry is. Having worked in gyms for more than a decade, he sees showoffs all the time. And since you can’t change vanity by focusing on vanity, he decided to focus on his faith, pairing it with his profession.

Carrera is a certified exercise physiologist and personal trainer with a masters in exercise physiology. He’s also a parishioner at St. Benedict parish in Toronto.


“I would always find time for working out because I was overweight as a kid and I knew the insecurities that came with it, but I would never really make time to say the rosary,” said Carrera. “So I had to come up with a way of combining my workout with the rosary so that I was doing two in one.”

He found his solution by developing the Catholic Workout, a resistance training program that focuses on the passion of Christ. Carrera launched it in book and DVD form Sept. 20.

“The movements are physically meant to mimic what happened to Jesus,” said Carrera. “You’re physically placing yourself at the cross because the movement is placing your mind to what actually happened on that day.”

The Catholic Workout is a series of exercises that combine dumbbells with praying the rosary. Beginning with an exercise representing the scourging and nailing of Jesus’ hands to the cross in the first decade, participants slowly move through the decades doing exercises that represent the raising of the cross, the nailing of the feet, the removal of the nails and lowering of the body, ending with the Resurrection and Ascension into heaven in the final decade. Prayers are said before, between and after sets.

For every exercise, three sets of 11 repetitions, for a total of 33, are performed. The number three symbolizes the Trinity, while 11 symbolizes the first priests (the original 11 apostles). The number 33 stands for the estimated age of Jesus at death, said Carrera.

The workout is meant to fix the imbalance between the physical and the spiritual. “The physical will make you more mentally aware. It will make you more mentally and physically healthy. The spiritual will do the same. But one doesn’t help the other. You have to have a wholeness approach to both.”

He said while some people may be strong physically, they may be an empty shell on the inside. Similarly, those who are full of God may be physically weak.

“Jesus had both... and at the end of the day renewed the world by using His body as an expression of His love for us. So why would we not use our bodies as an expression of our love for Him?”

Carrera said science supports the physical benefits of the active portion of the workout.

“The continual movement from exercise to exercise will elevate your heart rate and the resistance provided by the dumbbells will stimulate your body to pump more blood and burn more calories,” he said.

“Many studies illustrate the hormonal and metabolic benefits of shorter intense workouts that combine large muscle groups with minimal rest at moderate to high intensity.”

Carrera has found some followers for the Catholic Workout. One fan is Sabrina Marcelli, a graduate of the kinesiology program at Toronto’s York University and a part-time youth minister at St. Benedict’s. Marcelli started the workout last July after Carrera attended a meeting held by the young adults group at the parish and introduced the idea. She likes that the workout doesn’t focus specifically on one part of the body.

“It uses a very simple approach that targets the major muscle groups in our body so that you can get an overall tone rather than only focusing on your arms or legs,” said Marcelli.

Marcelli does the Catholic Workout two to three times a week and said it has given her a new perspective on exercise.

“In the media, exercise is sold for the appearance benefits rather than the health benefits,” a pressure that often deterred her from working out.

“But (Carrera’s) taking the focus off the media’s selling of exercise and putting it in a way that he’s allowing us to focus on our body as a gift and to just appreciate ourselves,” she said.

The Catholic Workout also includes a three- to five-minute cardio warm-up where Carrera suggests either running on the spot, skipping or using an exercise machine while reflecting on what you are grateful for. With rosary in hand, begin with the sign of the cross followed by saying the Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, three Hail Marys and the Glory Be.

Carrera said the reflective part of prayer is not lost amidst all the movement. If anything, it brings participants closer to God. “It’s the whole notion that you’ve just finished doing an exercise, you have an increased heart rate, you have an increased breathing rate, you are literally placing yourself at a very minute level of what the Lord was going through. And placing yourself there and then going through the words of the Hail Mary, it’s just making the experience that much more grand.”

The book costs $15.95, the DVD $24.95, and both are available through www.catholicworkout.com.

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