By CHRIS TULP — In the early hours of the morning, people gather in the parking lot of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church to get “Fit for Christ.”
The Fit for Christ workout group is a Christ-centered, outdoor exercise bootcamp program in Hyattsville. It helps participants grow in their spiritual and physical goals. The group meets Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. Participants can come to one or both sessions.
Tours begin with two days of introductory work focused on helping newcomers get a feel for the tempo, pace and flow of the workouts.
“We have 30 days, each tour is six weeks, five days a week,” said Fit for Christ group leader Larry Lee. “I encourage people to get perfect attendance and come everyday to have a better chance of accomplishing their goals.”
Each workout begins and ends with a prayer, and then Lee leads the group in various stretching exercises to warm up for their workout.
On a testing day, participants do various exercises while Lee records their scores and times. Participants partner up to see how many sit-ups and pushups they can do in two minutes and tackle a timed walk/run around the parking lot and church.
Lee presents as extremely enthusiastic and encouraging, and even helped someone do some pushups when they got tired. He ups the fun by announcing personal records, and everyone cheers and claps.
Unlike other workout groups, Fit for Christ doesn’t feature competition between participants or focus on physical fitness levels. Instead, everyone is encouraged to support and motivate each other.
“It’s challenging and encouraging for people at all different levels,” said Anne Marie Gorman, of Hyattsville. “It builds a sort of culture where everybody is rooting for everybody else.”
Another feature of the boot camp is a food journal.
“Whatever their goals are, typically ‘I want to lose weight, I want to get in shape, I want to get leaner, I want to do more pushups,’ they usually involve what you put in your mouth,” Lee said. “We have a Fit for Christ 40 days and 40 nights food journal. Whether it’s liquid or food, it goes in the journal with details about each. Details matter a lot and most of their goals are wrapped up in food.”
Fit for Christ was founded on April 4, 2016, and some people have been participating since the first day. One of those people is the Rev. Curtis Turner, deacon at St. Mark the Evangelist.
“In my opinion, God made us spirit and body, and in [our] church, we do a good part with the spirit, but we never really did a good part with the body until Larry came along,” Turner said. “This body is the gift that God gave me, and I’m pushing 50, and I need to start taking care of it.”
A workout group like Fit for Christ can help with participants’ physical fitness, but some participants insist that it also has the power to make an impact on a larger scale.
“It’s kind of a training between soul and body, because by pushing myself to do things that I don’t necessarily want to do, I build up virtue,” said Joseph Lanzilotti, a Hyattsville resident. “It really helps me overcome other obstacles in my life.”
Lanzilotti continued, “Taking care of the body can be self-focused, with things like how good I look, and I’m losing weight, and those things are good, but if they’re an end in themselves, it can lead to vanity. The biggest thing about why I come to Fit for Christ is the accountability of having others around me who are supportive. Knowing you’re in a caring and supporting community is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.”