For over 25 years Donna Richardson Joyner has been inspiring men and women across the country to get “faithfully fit, and fabulous!” She’s not just the wife of nationally syndicated radio talk show host Tom Joyner, she is an advocate for healthy living, a woman of extreme faith, and a philanthropist in her own right. Donna epitomizes the WOWderful Woman and shares with us her new revolutionary workout, Body Gospel.
I love the scripture I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me, that has to be one because it doesn’t matter if its health, your spiritual health, your finances, your mental health: I can do ALL things through Christ – that, to me, is probably my favorite.
CAP: I’m so pleased that you are able to talk to us about your powerful ministry and we’re appreciative of the time that you’re sparing for us. Many people know you as Tom Joyner’s wife, but of course you have an identity all your own, and many accomplishments and we’d just like to know a little bit about your background. Where were you raised and what was your upbringing like?
DRJ: Well I was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Silver Springs, MD, and I had a very blessed and beautiful childhood. And I came here (to Dallas), got married, about ten years ago and I’ve been here for the last 11 years now.
CAP: Do you have any siblings?
DRJ: Yes, I have a brother, he lives in California. He is 5 years older than I am.
CAP: Everyone knows you’re a fitness guru, and we were introduced to you through your Sweating in The Spirit videos, which I’ve tried also, and we can also definitely see your imprint on Tom, cause he’s lost a lot of weight, lol. How did you get involved with fitness? Why is it so passionate to you?
DRJ: Well, I grew up, participating in sports and dance. So, I was active all of my childhood, so I think it was a natural transition, going into fitness and health. And at that time, that’s when the big aerobics boom happened, with Jane Fonda, and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, so it was, for me, a great opportunity and then I got to travel around the world, helping people get healthier. And you know, I’ve been in this business for the last 25 years now and I’ve traveled to over 40 countries. I remember during those travels, you know, I was working with everyone, from the poor to the rich, the overweight to the undernourished to the willing and a lot of reluctant, (laughing) but, my greatest challenge was not overseas. Every time I would come home from a trip, my greatest challenge was at home. It was my family, it was my church, it was my community, I just got sick and tired of seeing so many loved ones suffer and die from so many illnesses like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, I mean, you name it. And so, I decided to take action. That’s when I developed Sweating in the Spirit workout, which was the first ever spiritual workout, with a combination of exercise and entertainment; as we know it is worship and workout and we had the blessing of having gospel artists to sing as I did the workout. You know, we had Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Shirley Murdock -they were on the first Sweating in the Spirit video. The second one had Martha Munizzi, Yolanda Adams, and Byron Cage, so it was really the first of its kind, and you know before, no workouts had live entertainers or original music, so that was pretty trailblazing at that time. Then I realized that not only products, there needed to be programming, and I developed Sweating in the Spirit programs that went out to churches around the country, so Sweating in the Spirit was my start, and then it evolved into Body Gospel. I’ve gone from Buns of Steel to Blessed Buns.
CAP: Well, I have to tell you, there’s so many fitness programs out there today. We seem to be bombarded with things. Every single day, there’s a new gadget vying for our attention. Tell us about this new initiative with Body Gospel and why is it so different than all the other things that we’re seeing today?
DRJ: Well, you know, just like you said, we know that people have tried different programs and different gadgets, and different diets, and a lot of them have not been successful. They fall off the wagon, and then they start back again. And so, I think, that people are looking for a program that has more substance, more purpose. And I think when you look at this particular program, you have a foundation, God is the foundation so it’s using your faith as your foundation and when you use your faith as your foundation, it doesn’t get any more solid than that. And that’s unmovable, unshakeable, unstoppable. And so, working with people and changing their minds that if you trust in God with everything in your lives, why aren’t you trusting in God with your health? And you can’t glorify Him with bad health. You know, I go out and I’m speaking every weekend almost at churches, community centers, schools and corporations and I see people who have dominion over their spiritual health and even financial health, but may neglect their physical health. So, this program really is about wholeness in health, it’s about integrating the mind, body and spirit. It’s all integrated so it’s important for us to work on making sure each of those areas are growing and evolving. That’s really what makes this program so different, it’s because it is spiritually based and you know, we’ll waver on a lot of things in our lives but we don’t waver in our faith. So, I tell people in terms of your health, you can’t compromise. And it’s not up for negotiation. You only got one body, and it’s the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you can’t turn your body in for a new model. You know, you can’t get an upgrade on it! It’s up to you to change your mindset and too many are trashing their temple instead of treasuring their temple. So, we have to get people to first change their mindset about how they take care of themselves, and that does require change. And, you know I’m speaking to people I have to tell them, you have to want to change more than you want to stay the same. Cause if you want something different, you gotta do something different. So many people are stuck in their past. When I say that I hear every excuse in the book, I hear about what they haven’t done, and about all of the different illnesses and problems they may have, so most of their energy and time is focused on something they can’t change cause that’s in their past, so I have to now redirect that energy and focus what do you have right now? Can’t change your past health, but, we can change your future health. So how do we at this point, at this moment, take steps to move forward? And after taking those steps, I have to get them in that right frame of mind and say ok, with every step I’m taking, I’m building on my blessing. The Bible it says He’s never gonna leave you or forsake you… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So we have to really go back to our spiritual roots and use that faith as our foundation. And we have to have a whole different mindset on how we take care of ourselves. Some of us pray and don’t fight, and some of us fight and don’t pray. We have to do both simultaneously, because it also says in the Bible, faith without work is dead, so you have to put your faith to work or God can’t bless what you don’t do, I don’t care how much you pray about it. So, you know the other part is teaching people to just say hey, you have this, you know you have the power; you have the ability to make these changes to make the decision and do it, and take this moment to do it, we’re not gonna worry about what happens, and I try to just get them to wake up each morning and just be thankful that you’re alive, first of all, and then say to yourself, hey this is a new day, new opportunity, a new blessing and it’s up to you to challenge your energy and move forward or you’re going to stay right where you are. Unfortunately, you have a lot of people that if you don’t move forward you’re taking steps back and you’re never going to be able to change or have good health, healing, happiness if you’re always looking backwards. Life is moving forward! Like with anything else in life, if it’s worth it, you have to sacrifice for it! So the goal is to move forward!
CAP: I agree with you that we can do so much more for Christ when we are healthy and disease free and we are at that time of year when people will have at the top of their New Year’s Resolution to get healthy and lose weight and what would you say is the most simple advice or practical tip that you can give someone who really is determined to make fitness a lifestyle and not just a quick fix?
DRJ: I think first of all that they have to make a decision – you can’t help someone unless they first help themselves. So they have to make a decision and say to themselves ‘I’m not going to stay in the same spot, or in the same situation, I gotta move forward.’ Then once they have made that decision, then it’s about having a plan, even though God orders our steps, so when you have that plan you can move forward and say, just like when you have your daily devotion, ‘what do I need to do every day, in terms of moving my body? In order for my body to stay healthy I have to incorporate some type of physical activity.’ So just like you schedule everything else in your life, schedule in an activity on a daily basis. Just like you schedule in other things in your life like picking up the dry cleaning, picking up the kids, making dinner…what are the changes I need to make so that I can eat healthier and take in more nutrients and not foods that are going to rob my body of energy – have a new eating plan. That’s why we are ever so grateful to have this project because Body Gospel is very comprehensive – it involves nutrition, recipes, physical activity, a schedule that you can follow along. It also has a transformation journal which I think is so beautiful because it allows you to journal your goals spiritually and physically and it has scripture because a lot of times if you are not feeling good that day or are about to make that excuse, you can read that scripture which will help you or go into prayer which will help you. So, I think having all those components in there is setting people up for success. This is about a healthy, life long journey this is not about something that is going to happen in 30 or 60 days because you didn’t get there in 30 or 60 days. So its really about having people have a healthy lifestyle. I always tell people it starts with your faith so you have to be faithful, be fruitful (you gotta be productive and do the work) and then be a fighter, fight with your faith and fight to win it! Be relentless and have tenacity and you also have to ask God to give you the grace to make those changes and reach those goals.
CAP: Tell us about your appointment to the President’s Council on Fitness and what exactly does that mean?
DRJ: I am ecstatic. I served two years under President Bush and was the only person reappointed to this new administration so that was a lot of favor, but favor ‘aint fair (laughs). When you look at this country and the diabetes issues, obesity issues, you have a first lady that has stepped up to the plate and created a Let’s Move campaign to get our kids healthy. It’s a shame that the childhood obesity rate is so alarming right now and that this generation may not outlive their parents so she is sounding the alarm, giving us that wake up call, she is out there making a difference and getting us to be accountable and take on responsibility so I work with her on that campaign. Also as a council member it is up to us to get America moving and one of the ways we can get them moving is to just get them started. Sign up for the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge which is for six consecutive weeks, adults 18 or over to do 30 minutes of activity five days a week, under 18 it’s 60 minutes five days a week, and at the end of those six weeks you get a certificate from President Obama acknowledging your accomplishment. It takes 21 days for a new habit so this is one of those things that you can get started with right away – you go online and you register and every day you log in your activity. That’s one of our goals and then we speak at a few large conferences and we are part of establishing new programs, we have family fitness through schools around the country and other programs that gets the entire family involved.
CAP: I’m going to switch gears just a little bit. I know that you’re a woman of faith, can you share with us your testimony about how you came to the Lord?
DRJ: Well I grew up in the church, my parents and all of my family; that was a part of how you built upon your relationship with God so as a child that was a part of my growing up. I ushered for a little while, but didn’t sing in the choir (laughing) I could move and act, but no-no for singing – I could lip sing (laughing). (My faith) It has always been a part of me and it wasn’t until years ago when I created Sweating in the Spirit that I realized that God was giving me a greater assignment and it was great. I was doing all these other programs but when you are out there and you realize that people have given up hope, that people were struggling and suffering, I understood that there had to be a program created for them that definitely was going to give them hope, that definitely was going to shield them and definitely have a blueprint or a strong foundation for them to live a healthier lifestyle – so I think it was just me hearing the stories and listening and I knew that I could make a difference. It’s not just about transforming their bodies but transforming their lives! I’m happy out there doing the work and I understand my role in serving people and I’m happy to see how this program has evolved and it is blessing people!
CAP: Is there a particular scripture that ministers to you most in your ministry?
DRJ: I love the scripture I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me, that has to be one because it doesn’t matter if its health, your spiritual health, your finances, your mental health: I can do ALL things through Christ – that, to me, is probably my favorite.
CAP: What’s next for Donna? What haven’t you done that you still desire to do?
DRJ: Oh my God! You have time to hear that? (laughing) I will say this – I just celebrated my 48th birthday and I am so thankful for all the blessings God has given me and my husband threw me a party and I said to my family and friends that on my 49th birthday on my wish list I am going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro so in March I am going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and a couple of my friends are going to climb with me. Also every time I do projects its always about helping people first so even though this is on my list wish, I’m getting sponsorship to provide water to some of the villages in Tanzania because they are still struggling and I want to be able to help my African sisters and brothers. I do go over to South Africa every year because I teach at Oprah’s school and that is one way of helping and now I have the opportunity to provide fresh water for them and this is a part of a legacy that what I’m building far behind when I’m gone, so I’m in the midst of that. I will also be doing a half marathon in January and this year I’m going to be blessing some of my Body Gospel soldiers – people that are on the program and need a little push or hit a plateau – I am flying them in, getting them a hotel, and they are doing the marathon with me – I think that there are 5 of them, that I’m blessing. So we are going to have a Body Gospel team and I’m going to help them get to their next level and reach their next goal. So in the next two years I will be 50 and I’m asking my family and friends to continue to support me because in two years I will be celebrating 50 years, I would have visited 50 states, 50 countries, 50 ways of giving back and then I would have crocheted 50 afghans for loved ones and for breast cancer survivors!
CAP: Donna, when do you have time to breathe!! (laughing)
DRJ: Oh, I’m non-stop, I’m like that little energizer bunny rabbit, I just keep going (laughing) because that’s what life is about – you have to keep moving! Part of it is too,when you are out there, my husband and I fully know what it is to serve because people can listen to his show or buy my videos on tv, but you have to be out there with the people –empowering them, encouraging them, energizing them and hugging and kissing them…you know that’s what we do every week we are out there. When do I find time to crochet? Every week or twice a week I’m on a plane so my downtime – part of my spiritual feeding besides going to my church, The Potter’s House, with Bishop T.D. Jakes who has poured into me and I’m ever grateful to him, my God! I’m a good student but he’s an amazing teacher! So, when I’m not able to be there I get sent the sermon and when I’m traveling I get to listen to the sermon and crochet these beautiful love afghans for loved ones and those who inspired me and then in the last two years I’ve been making shawls for breast cancer survivors, so that’s my ministry while I’m traveling. So right now I have 12 more states to visit, I have 6 more countries, I have 2 more continents and about 8 more afghans.
CAP: Final comments…
DRJ: Don’t become a victim of your own health. We’ve all gone through a lot of things in our lives, and surely when you see the struggles and you see people hospitalized because they didn’t go to the doctor and now you’re at the funeral… I believe that if you know better, you’ll do better and that’s a part of my responsibility as a teacher, but the other part is that we have the power to change and we have to get dominion over our physical being. Once you take control over your body, which is your temple, you can tackle everything else in your life, and you know that! Every step you take, you are stepping into your purpose which should be having a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Be faithfully fit and fabulous!
CAP: Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us and we will be praying for you and your ministry! To purchase Donna’s new program Body Gospel go to www.bodygospelwow.com For more information on the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge, visit http:// www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/active/ index.shtml
Featured in: WOW! Magazine Winter 2011
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