Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by Kevin Vost

(Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2007), 229



  • "The Church, without any doubt whatever, approves of physical culture, if it be in proper proportion." (Pope Pius XII)


  • To become truly fit, healthful exercise and eating behaviors must become habitual. (xxvii)
  • Acquiring good habits means acquiring virtues
  • God wants us to be perfect in our human natures: soul, mind, and body

Part I: Body, Mind, and Spirit

Chapter 1: Introducing Total Fitness

  • Fitness is simple: "rock science, not rocket science" (8)
  • Total fitness is a matter of knowledge, will, and daily practice (10)

Chapter 2: The Virtues of Fitness

  • The cultivation of virtue allows us to combat weakness and overcome the discouragement of pain (16)
  • Think of the golden mean not as mediocrity or lukewarmness, but as the gold peak of excellence that towers above deficiency and excess (20)
  • We acquire virtue by performing virtuous actions (cf. Nicomachean Ethics bib)

Part II: The Strength of Fortitude: Principles of Strength Training

Chapter 3: Progression Toward Perfection

  • Progression is the first key to building muscular strength and size
    • First progress with additional repetitions with the same weight (8 to 12 reps)
    • Next progress with additional weight (perhaps lowering repetitions)
  • Aquinas calls Fortitude the guardian of the virtues, preventing our reason from being overcome by physical pain or adversity (31)
  • "Progress in physical strength may help give us the confidence to be more courageous in our moral actions, and progress in the virtue of fortitude can help us endure the discomfort of physical training that makes our muscles strong." (31)
  • Three kinds of muscular strength: positive (lifting), negative (setting down), static (holding)

Chapter 4: Intensity for Muscular Immensity

  • We want to strive to be decathletes (generalists) of physical and spiritual fitness (37)
  • Intensity is directly tied to progress
  • High-Intensity Training maximizes intensity by training to failure (attempt but unable to complete the last repetition)
    • We have no way of knowing what intensity you are at, unless you hit failure—failure is the way of ensuring high intensity
  • "A little bit of something does more that a whole lot of nothing": no amount of low-intensity exercise will produce growth

Chapter 5: Duration in Moderation

  • Intensity and duration of effort are inversely proportional
  • Aerobic exercise is low enough intensity that muscles can continue to be supplied with oxygen, and is important in strengthening the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Anaerobic exercise is high-intensity and fueled by glycogen; this builds muscle
  • Endurance doesn't increase strength, but strength increases endurance
  • Perform only one set per exercise (not a pyramid)

Chapter 6: Frequency for Results You'll See

  • One set per exercise in light of the need to maximal intensity to grow in strength
  • Once per week is a minimum for strength training
  • Individual muscles need to be trained only once per week for maximum size and strength (60)

Chapter 7: Rest to Grow Best

  • Rest is every bit as important as exercise
  • Offer up the pain of your workout for truly suffering souls

Chapter 8: Form Must Be the Norm

  • Form is one of the most important, but most often overlooked, aspects of strength training. Focus on:
    • Exercise through the muscle's full range of motion
    • Reasonable speed of motion (2 seconds to raise, 4 seconds to lower)
    • Maintain proper body positioning

Chapter 9: Order Makes Workouts Shorter

  • The squat is the "king of all exercises" because it stimulates so many muscles
  • Perform the most demanding exercises with the highest indirect impact first:
    • Hips, glutes, thighs
    • Chest or back
    • Shoulders
    • Arms
    • Abs and lower back
    • Calves

Part III: Fortitude Endures: Principles of Aerobic Training

Chapter 10: Heart, Soul, and Lungs: Formal Aerobic Exercise

  • Progression with aerobic exercise is measured in increased speed and duration
  • Intensity should get the heart rate to 65-85% of maximum
    • $\text{Max} ≈ 220 - \text{age}$
    • At age 30, max is 190 and aerobic training range is 124-161
  • Duration is 12 min min, but more likely 30-60 min
  • Frequency should be about 3x per week
  • Rest: less is required because of lower intensity

Chapter 11: Real Work Works: The Value of Normal Daily Activities

  • Everyday activities can provide good exercise, cf. Fitness Without Exercise by Bryant Stamford bib
  • So put on some religious music and do some chores

Part IV: Temperance: Dietary Self-Mastery

Chapter 12: Habit, Not Diet

  • Good eating habits consist of proper portion size and reasonable quantity of overall daily food intake
  • Diets are like heresies that overemphasize some small truth at the expense of the whole (cf. G.K. Chesterton)
  • We need moderate, temperate, daily habits for eating

Chapter 13: Goodbye to Gluttony

  • "He will have many masters who makes his body his master." (Seneca, 133)
  • Gluttony is having an inordinate desire for food or not being regulated by reason
  • Gregory the Great: things of the body affect directly the things of the spirit
  • Gluttony tips: small portion sizes, only one piece of chocolate a day, make it inconvenient to get food, etc.

Part V: Prudence: Putting Together Your Total Fitness Package

Chapter 14: Building Your Own Strength Routine

  • Aquinas: Prudence is right reason applied to action (149)
  • Machine exercises are the ultimate in efficiency
  • Fundamental compound machine exercises:
    • Leg press: quads, glutes
    • Chest press: pecs, front shoulders, triceps
    • Pulldown, chin, or row: Upper back, biceps
  • Supplemental machine exercises (choose 5):
    • Hip and back
    • Leg curl
    • Standing or seated calf
    • Hib abductor/adductor
    • Dip
    • Overhead press
    • Shoulder shrug
    • Lateral raise
    • Biceps curl
    • Abdominal
    • Lower-back extension
    • Neck
    • Grip machine
  • Always include a "leg, push, and pull" (i.e. compound leg exercise, compound chest exercise, compound back exercise)
  • Fundamental compound free-weight exercises:
    • Squat or deadlift: quads, glutes, lower back
    • Bench or overhead press: pecs, front shoulders, triceps
    • Barbell row or chin-up: upper back, biceps, forearms
  • Supplemental free-weight exercises
    • "Good mornings"
    • One-legged dumbbell calf raise
    • Barbell or dumbbell shrugs
    • Dumbbell lateral raises
    • Barbell or dumbbell curls
    • Dumbbell kickbacks
    • Sit-ups, crunches, or frog kicks
    • Barbell wrist curls
    • Neck harness work
  • Fundamental calisthenic exercises
    • Deep knee bend: quads, glutes
    • Push-up: pecs, front shoulders, triceps
    • Chin-up or sit-up: back and biceps/abs
  • Spiritual practices while working out
    • Praying
    • Listening to devotional music
    • Rehearing memorized catechetical information
    • Planning acts of kindness
  • Practical Guidelines
    • Work through a full range of motion
    • Perform slow and smooth repetitions
    • Breathe naturally
    • Perform one set of 8-12 repetitions per exercise
    • Don't stop your set until you fail during a repetition (or so difficult that you doubt you can complete the next one)
    • If you hit 12 reps, increase the weight 5% on the next workout
    • Start with fundamental exercises and work your way down to supplementary exercises
    • 1-2 minute rest between exercises
    • Perform once per week

Chapter 15: Simple Sample Weekly Workouts

Day Sample Plan Minimum Plan
Sat Lift (20 min) Lift (10 min)
Sun Rest Rest
Mon Aerobics (20 min) Rest
Tue Rest Rest
Wed Aerobics (20 min) Rest
Thu Rest Rest
Fri Aerobics (20 min) Rest
  • You are overtraining with aerobics if you are not making small and regular increases in at least some of your exercises despite giving your full effort

Chapter 16: The Virtue of Results

  • "Correspondence theory" of truth: an idea or statement is true when it corresponds to reality (175, cf. Aristotle and Aquinas)
  • The success of our training effort will show in our bodies
  • Track your progress (both lifts and bodyweight)

Conclusion: Faith, Hope, and Charity: Exercising the Ultimate Virtues

  • The natural virtues help us perfect our human natures, and the theological virtues transform our human nature and enable us to participate in divine life (183)
  • Faith resides in the intellect (cf. St., II-II, Q. 4, art. 7) and inspires us to transform our bodies and souls into engines for the service of God and neighbor
  • Hope reminds us to trust in God that results will come as the result of our efforts; we have the gift in the ability to shape and build our own bodily temples
  • Charity must guide our pursuit of fitness, to do good works
  • Total fitness invokes all the virtues

Topic: Fitness



file:(~Fit for Eternal Life)

Created: 2022-12-18-Sun
Updated: 2023-01-01-Sun