Gonna Make You Sweat

Sweaty Sheep Ministries

by Mary Boland

Ryan Althaus, founder of Sweaty Sheep

“When did we decide that faith was a passive experience?”

Ryan Althaus, a fitness enthusiast and recreation specialist, says that it’s not. Recognizing the disconnect between recreation and the church, Ryan saw an opportunity to merge the two, and Sweaty Sheep Ministries was born.“Movement is so tied to fitness and wellness overall,” he stresses, “it’s really hard to be in a good relationship with God and feel good about your faith when you don’t feel well.”

Sweaty Sheep started as a running group in which runners would pray after a run, while still caught up in the vigor of exercise. The ministry soon added different avenues for movement and faith, such as yoga and spinning. Althaus even converted a typical one-hour spinning class into a full-blown worship service called Spin Church, with Scripture, reflection, and a sermon all from the seat of a spin bike.

Realizing a greater potential for this ministry, Sweaty Sheep started an annual 5K that sought to include some of the most marginalized of society—the homeless. While the homeless were initially only invited to the communal meal after the race, it became clear that food wasn’t enough; they wanted to run, too. “We ended up with about 25 homeless coming out and running in old penny-loafers,” Althaus says. “So the second year, we raised money and bought them all shoes.” With all these people suddenly equipped for running, a new program emerged, called runPossible, that pairs volunteers with homeless individuals as part of a training regimen. Every week, they meet on Tuesday for a group run or walk and on Thursday for a yoga class.

Beyond the ministry of Sweaty Sheep and runPossible, Ryan also helped to develop ActiveLifeChurch.org which features a number of free online resources, including an extensive handbook for a faithful integration of movement, nutrition, and wellness into congregational life.

Althaus sees the value of runPossible going beyond a simple fitness program, “There are so few opportunities to break barriers … but movement transcends those lines we draw. It [runPossible] is a really organic example of how movement is able transcend any socioeconomic lines.”

Althaus has recently relocated to Santa Cruz, California, where he works with the Homeless Garden Project and continues to foster new opportunities for Sweaty Sheep. The newest Santa Cruz chapter of the ministry is off to a great start, and Althaus is eager to expand its reach. Anyone interested in starting a Sweaty Sheep chapter may contact Althaus at ryan@sweatysheep.com to get started.

To learn more, visit SweatySheep.com.

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