I exercise with very polite people at the YMCA here in Augusta, Georgia. I get on the treadmill, put my headphones on, tune them to one of the four television stations that are available (CNN, FOX News, ESPN, or HGTV), and hope that my forty-five minutes pass by as quickly as possible. Then I go to the weight machines and pump a little—very little—iron. If I have time, I then go down to the locker room and sit in the steam room for a little while. Most of the time, nobody says a word to me beyond “Hi.” Folks there just don’t talk.
They also don’t grunt.
Apparently, though, grunting is a problem at some gyms.
In fact, it was in the news a few days ago that a man had lost his membership at one of those large chain fitness centers because other customers complained about his grunting and because of a subsequent verbal confrontation with employees at the gym.
The article that I read about that incident delved into the relative merits of grunting while working out. Some studies have indicated that there may be some slight improvement in one’s workout performance when one grunts. Some experts don’t put too much stock in those studies, though, chalking up whatever advantage might be gained from grunting to psychology—you know, if you think it helps, it helps. One of the more interesting comments came from sports psychologist Belisa Vranich who works for Gold's Gym Fitness in New York City, who told the Orange County Register,
Some people grunt to give others the impression that [the grunters] are doing a lot of work. It's just like flexing and strutting, trying to attract attention. The other reason is a more physical one -- they're not breathing properly. In order to grunt, they have to hold their breath and exhale forcefully.
So some folks grunt because they want to attract attention or because they aren’t breathing right. That, like everything else, got me to thinking about the Christian life.
Do we sometimes want to give outward evidence of how hard we’re trying to exercise our Christian faith? Do we sometimes grunt and groan and sigh and complain and otherwise verbalize because we want it to be seen that we are diligently bearing up under our suffering, be it real or perceived? Are we sometimes just trying to draw attention to ourselves? Are we inappropriately practicing our piety in public in order to get credit in this life for it? Or, do we sometimes give outward evidence of stressing and straining in our faith because we have never really practiced the spiritual disciplines enough to learn to do them right? Do we grunt and groan because we’re so out of shape spiritually?
On the other hand, sometimes we just can’t help it. Sometimes we really are in a situation where there are no words and there seems no other release and we just to sigh or groan or issue some other kind of holy mutter.
Let’s don’t be showy or flabby.
But let’s acknowledge that sometimes we just have to let it out.
After all, sometimes when we let it out we’re admitting that we can’t do anything with it and that we just don’t have any choice but to give it up to the good Lord.