Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Jogging the Rosary Transforms Body And Soul

By MARK MEREDITH, Special Contributor | Published April 1, 2004

I will lose weight. I will pray more.

Little did I realize that these two separate millennium New Year’s resolutions would take me on a journey of self-awareness and discovery. Praying the rosary while jogging has transformed my life.

I’ve never considered myself much of an athlete or a particularly prayerful individual. I had acquired a middle-aged spread. I felt stuck in a rut when it came to my physical well-being.

I went to Mass every week, taught Sunday school and was a worship leader and reader at our parish church, and yet I felt there was something missing in my spiritual life. On the first Monday morning of January 2000, I started jogging to facilitate my goal of losing weight. For me, the hardest part of an early morning jog is the first step—out of bed. The thump, thump, thump of my feet pounding over the payment in darkness began to waken my numb mind, and I started to take in the sights and sounds around me. The cold air, softly glowing silhouettes of trees and shrubs cast by the pale moonlight and the stillness of sound of a world not yet awake reminded me of the beauty of God’s creation. It seemed a perfect time for reflection, yet my mind began to wander to the events of the day about to unfold. I implored in my inner voice, “God help me during this day of hope and fear, joys and sufferings, to do your will. Amen.” Just a simple little prayer, but saying it created a very satisfying “a-ha” experience. The cadence of my jogging seemed to make a connection in my mind with the rhythm of praying a decade of the rosary, and that’s how my journey of prayerful self-discovery began.

As I said the 10 Hail Marys, I noticed how my breathing got into a natural rhythm and my jogging gait became steady and relaxed. My mind shifted its focus from my body to the examination of the simple and beautiful Hail Mary prayer. As a result, I stopped thinking about how hard I was breathing and how tired I was to really focusing on the words of the prayer and its meaning. Little by little, I started to pray more as I ran more. Things just evolved into saying five decades of the rosary every time I do my early morning run.

As I make the sign of the cross, I literally take my first step in my jogging regimen. Reciting the Apostles Creed clarifies my Catholic beliefs and shifts my mental energy on the spiritual versus the physical. The introductory Our Father, three Hail Marys and Glory Be prayers create a great warm-up for both mind and body before launching into the first Joyful Mystery. Now I am ready for both physical and spiritual exercise.

I vary the perspectives that I use when praying the mysteries so I don’t get stale.

While I’m jogging I breathe the 10 Hail Marys in and out of my lungs and use my fingers to keep track of how many are left in the decade, as I’m reflecting on Gabriel or Mary or Joseph and the myriad perspectives of trust, faith, free will, obedience and love manifested in the first Joyful Mystery alone.

Although by now I’ve broken a sweat, I’m still keeping my mind off the repetitiveness of the exercise and on the progress being made through the rosary. I announce each mystery followed by the singular Our Father and, in a similar fashion, reflecting on each mystery followed by the 10 Hail Marys and a Glory Be. I’ve learned to adjust both the pace of my jog and the speed of recitation of a particular mystery to coincide with the completion of my 30-35 minute aerobic exercise.

After reciting the concluding prayer, “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy…,” I pray for my wife and children, my family and my wife’s family. I offer intercessions to the Blessed Mother for those who are sick, who have died and those who have asked to be included in my prayers. After making the concluding sign of the cross, I stop my jog and tiredly but joyously put closure to this spiritual and physical routine.

I’ll admit that there are still times when my mind wanders when I’m running and staying focused entirely on the mysteries decade-by-decade can still be quite a challenge. However, I’ve also experienced the bliss and peace and joy and exhaustion of coming to some meaningful insight in my life and my spiritual existence as a result of combining physical and spiritual exercise.

I think there are a myriad of ways we can integrate prayer into our lives if we just become open to the notion. Walking, lifting weights, running on the treadmill and hitting a tennis ball are all ways we can begin letting go and letting God through our physical activities. As a result of this heightened awareness, I’ve also started to pray more when I’m in the car stuck in traffic, on an airplane or just mowing the lawn.

So, if your New Year’s resolution or even your Lenten intentions included getting in physical and spiritual shape, consider ways you can combine the two like I did. I’ve unexpectedly added many more hours of prayer into my week and have shed a number of pounds (consult your doctor before engaging in any exercise program). The concept of “Jogging the Rosary” works for me. I bet a version of it can work for you, too.


Mark Meredith is a member of Holy Family Church, Marietta.