Exercise, athletics, and competitions have been constants in the life of Spencer Arnold (MA/CE, 2014) since he could walk. He picked up the sport of Olympic-style weightlifting at age thirteen to complement his participation in football and wrestling, but football and wrestling soon became secondary to his weightlifting.
Arnold began coaching Crossfit during college, and before long he was coaching and programming for elite Crossfit athletes, helping them to reach their goals in the Open, Regionals, and the Games. Prior to starting seminary and throughout his time at DTS, he continued to train and stay in shape. In December of 2014 he competed in Thailand at the International University Sports Federation (FISU)/International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World University Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Team USA athletes earned their spots based on their individual performances at the 2014 National University Championships and the 2014 USA Weightlifting National Championships—at which Arnold placed second.
Recently, Arnold talked with Kindred Spirit about his experience.
Why did you get involved in weightlifting?
As an eighth-grade boy, I was undersized and not very athletic. I wanted to compete in sports and ultimately wanted to change my body composition. I picked up a barbell in the spring of my eighth grade year and was blessed to have a high school weightlifting coach who allowed me to work out for two hours before school and an hour during school. While I did play sports in high school, it became clear quickly that I was most fit for the sport of weightlifting.
I train between three and four hours a day, five to six days a week in an effort to compete on the national and international levels.
Weightlifting as a career has taken me all over the world. Four years ago when I was in Dallas attending DTS, I began working at a nearby gym, and the Lord opened door after door. My experience has allowed me to lead seminars all over the country bi-weekly teaching the sport of weightlifting. Furthermore, it opened up multiple career opportunities in multiple organizations. Most recently, I was given the job as head strength and conditioning director at King's Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Georgia. I am also teaching three Christian education classes. What began as an attempt to be more athletic and gain some weight has turned into a career and one of my life's greatest passions.
How did you end up at DTS?
After earning my bachelors degree in religion from University of Georgia, I had intended to plant a church in the metro-Atlanta area. I was working as a youth pastor, and knew I needed to further my education to pursue that desire. My wife and I married in June 2010 after she graduated with her master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Georgia, and I started at DTS that August. Within the span of two months, my wife and I graduated college, got married, picked up our lives and moved to Dallas, and I started school while she started a new job.
Whoa. How has it worked being a student, married, and a serious athlete?
The first year or two at seminary was also my first couple years of marriage. I was not prepared spiritually and mentally for the rigors of seminary, nor was I prepared spiritually or mentally for the rigors of marriage. Add the necessity to train three or four hours a day as well as the desire to provide for my family, and we had quite a mess. But I learned a lot over those couple years, and I am still growing in understanding of how to balance our lives. Balance became key for me. Understanding priorities, lowering expectations a bit, and holding fast to the family schedule were just part of the solutions. My wife and I both realized that the things the Bible doesn't mandate needed always to remain in flux around the things the Bible does mandate. Once our family was able to balance those things a little better, training and schoolwork became less of a burden and more of a joy and passion.
What parallels do you see between weightlifting/athletics and your spiritual life?
I firmly believe that the Lord put weightlifting in my life to teach me many disciplines early on that have been instrumental in my sanctification. In weightlifting the only way you excel is (1) through years and years of consistent hard work, (2) trusting that your hard work will pay off, and (3) recognizing that nothing good comes easy or fast. Those three things are exactly true about my walk with the Lord. I'm not going to be a sixty-five-year-old man who's been walking with the Lord for fifty years at age twenty-seven. It takes consistency, especially in the midst of hard circumstances, trusting that spiritual maturity is a process, and ultimately God's timing moves at God's pace, not mine.
What, if any, opportunities have you had to show the love of Christ as a result of your athletic successes?
As the Lord began to bless me with success after many years of work in the sport, I did not have a category for how to make much of the Lord in the midst of it all. In 2012, my career really began to take off, and I started looking for ways to use the platform that the Lord had given me for his glory and to make much of him. That desire ultimately culminated in two specific ways. I write a blog that is now a major part of my career. That blog is powerandgraceperformance.com, and every week I post all kinds of material that relates to weightlifting, but weekly I post devotionals designed for the athlete who visits that page. In that devotional, I link weightlifting in training and fitness with God's desire for His glory and our affection.
Further, I was blessed with the opportunity to help start a nonprofit organization called Faith Rx'D, the aim of which is to help gym owners, coaches, and athletes leverage their role as a coach or their gym for the good of the gospel and the glory of God. We help facilitate Bible studies that happen weekly in their gyms, and we hold training camps in which we equip these coaches to be both excellent in their coaching or performance role as well as excellent in their elevation of Christ. Basically, we try to help them marry their passion for the Lord and their passion for fitness. The Lord has been good to reveal multiple other opportunities in which I can exalt Him.
You can visit Spencer Arnold’s profile page on the U. S. Olympic team’s web site.