Exercise: Ugh or Yay!?

Liverpool Discovers - The Runner

A few blog posts back I wrote about how weight loss is not “one size fits all.” The same is true for exercise as well. I know folks who love to run but cannot stand swimming, and those who love bike riding but hate running. It is very highly individualistic. That is not to say that an “ugh” cannot turn into a “yay.”

At the Mandel JCC where I work, we offer Jump Start Orientations for all our new members. Each new member is entitled to two complimentary sessions with a trainer; one is an orientation to the cardio equipment and stretching equipment while the other focuses on the strength equipment. It is, of course, a clever way to try to get folks to sign up for personal training, but it has a more important role to play. Many people walk into a fitness center and are simply overwhelmed. There is a lot of equipment. There are people who look like they know what they are doing. There is music playing but people have on earphones. Some individuals are sweaty and grunting. It is a lot to take in unless you are used to going to a gym. The JSO helps the new member feel more like an insider; they now know one of the trainers who knows him/her back, and they can walk into the gym and have a mastery of at least some of the equipment.

In the JSOs, I often encounter new members who think they won’t like the elliptical or the stationary bike but once they try it out they decide they really enjoy it. There are also many people (like I used to be) who don’t see themselves as gym-goers or athletes or runners…but, in time, they find they have become “that person;” you know, the one who has to check an extra bag at the airport just for all their athletic gear even when they go on vacation.

A recent article on http://www.nbcnews.com talks to this very point, focusing on running. Running is one of the most difficult individual sports in which to engage; it requires perseverance, special athletic footwear, and endurance. I am not sure how or when I became a runner, but at one point I realized I was. I enjoy biking and swimming (although less so), but running is my thing and I am glad to finally be getting back into it after my foot surgery in April.

The article talks about how there is no one way to approach running. Some people like to run with others, while some like to do it alone. Some prefer a treadmill while others want a track or a trail. Some run the whole time while others walk part of it. The author, Amanda Loudin, notes that it is important to know yourself and what works for you so that you can find a way to run that is feasible and enjoyable.

This, of course, could be said of any sport. Some people like to swim competitively, while others do it for fun. There are those who enjoy a leisurely bike ride to the coffee shop, while others ride 300 miles over three days for charity. There is no “one size fits all,” there is only what fits you.

Don’t give up. Don’t be like the new members at the JCC who at first are intimidated by what they see when they walk into a huge fitness center. Rather, keep an open mind. Know yourself. Don’t try once and declare it a failure. Realize that getting into a sport and a regular routine takes time and commitment. Of course, the rewards–both physically and emotionally/spiritually–are well worth it.

Read the article at: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-run-guide-people-who-think-they-can-t-ncna1064311

We Write Our Own Legacies Daily

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A Thought for Shabbat

Our Torah portion this week, Ha’azinu, is a poem delivered by Moses to the Israelites as his life is coming to an end.  Up until now in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses has shared a lot of laws and reminded the people of their history.  Now, as death approaches, he shares final thoughts and warnings.

Moses is fortunate to be able to do this; he knew exactly when his life would be over.  We, on the other, do not know when our last day will be.  Moses was able to consider his words, understanding that they would be part of his legacy.  Do we have that opportunity as well?It is not often (despite what we see in the movies) that we have the chance at the end of our lives to share how we want to be remembered, what we want our descendants to uphold, what values we want passed on. 

Many do write ethical wills while they are in good health, but the most effective way for us to ensure a positive legacy is not through words or documents.  Even though Moses was able to share these thoughts, what we know about him and what we esteem comes from the way he lived his life.  It was not just a poem at the end of his life, but years of sacrifice and leadership that made him so memorable and deserving of emulation.

In our own lives, this is true as well.  We write our metaphorical poems and record our legacies every day of our lives.  Any day could be out last, so let us consider how to act to wisely ensure that the values that matter to us, the love we have shared, and the positive deeds we have performed will remain even after we are gone.

Shabbat Shalom!

Power to the (Older) People

Power to the people

In the world of fitness–as in the world of physics–there is a difference between strength and power.

Muscle strength is the maximum amount of force a muscle can exert against resistance in a single effort. For instance if a person is able to press 135 lbs in a single rep of a bench press, that would be their muscle strength.

Muscle power, on the other hand, is the ability to exert maximal force in as short a time as possible; this could mean accelerating (as in a run), jumping or throwing an object (a ball, a discus, a javelin). Muscle power takes into account speed.

The way a person trains their muscles depends on the outcome they are looking for. Those seeking sports performance often focus on power training since speed is usually a factor in competitive sports. Many others who look to improve muscle tone or who want to be able to carry out activities of daily living may focus on strength training.

The most recent issue of ACE Fitness Journal (Sept. 2019) had a brief article on power training vs strength training for older adults by Shirley Archer, JD, MA. She reports on a study out in Brazil reporting on the benefits of power training in an older population. It showed that subjects in the study who were above the median in maximal power had better survival rates than those below the median; in other words, if you have more muscle power there is a tendency to live longer.

This is exciting news to those of us who work with many older clients. The study can be found in https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/pages/default.aspx, vol. 41, issue 1.

The article by Archer notes that there is need for more study and caution. Power training requires more balance and coordination; some seniors may not have the necessary skills to perform power training. Even so, it is interesting to note that this is a promising direction for trainers and clients as we age.

I look forward to more research as I continue to help my older clients live longer, healthier and more independent lives.

Shabbat Shuvah: Recharge

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This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath that comes between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Traditionally, it has been considered (along with Shabbat Hagadol before Passover) to be one of the most “important” Shabbatot of the year; it was one of two times during the year when rabbis were required to give a sermon to get the flock in order.
Why is this Shabbat so critical?  In the coming days, we will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  According to our tradition, this is the day on which our sins are forgiven and wiped away…well, at least some of our sins.  Transgressions committed against God could be erased, but those committed against our fellow human beings could not be forgiven until we had made proper atonement for our offenses.  
But can’t this process occur at any time?  Can’t we choose to make things right with God and those around us during the other 364 days of the year?  Yes we can.  Yom Kippur, however, is kind of like marking a fiscal year; it is the day that Judaism recognizes as a time to take care of all that unfinished business.  The fact that it is accompanied by fasting and prayer helps us to focus on our spirits and less on the everyday distractions that often prevent us from being our best selves.
Shabbat Shuvah is the day on which we rest and recharge from Rosh Hashanah to prepare ourselves properly for the task at hand.  We need all our energy–physical and spiritual–to make the changes so that we can be right with our fellow humans and God.  Shabbat Shuvah (with or without a sermon!) is essential for our success.
Wishing all a Shabbat Shalom, and meaningful and productive fast.

When it Comes to Weight Loss, One Size Does Not Fit All

Bathroom Scale

An article that appeared today in the health section of http://www.nbcnews.com highlighted the story of a woman and her husband who embarked on a weight loss journey together. A big part of the article talks about what sparked the change and how the two of them set out to make healthy changes in their lives. Their choices and approach are instructive and are highlighted in the article in a sensible way.

Samantha Cassety, a dietitian and weight-loss expert in NYC whose articles I have referenced in the past, drew some conclusions from this story.

  • Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived has less of a chance of success in the long run. Recognize what you need and make sure you get at least some of it.
  • Having a supportive partner–or someone who is going through the process with you–can bolster chances of sticking to the plan. Joining forces with someone else to get healthy is a powerful thing.
  • In contrast to the top bullet point, identify not only what doesn’t work for you, but what does work for you. The process is highly personal and what is beneficial for one person won’t necessarily be effective for someone else. One size does not fit all.
  • Watch your weight in a way that makes sense. Monitoring is important–whether it is daily, weekly or at some other interval. This is especially helpful in triggering you back to the right path after vacations, holidays, etc., where eating habits may have changed. One size does not fit all, so find what is best for you.
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers; be aware of what comes with healthy habits: increased energy, greater mobility, ability to participate in activities, clothing fitting better, etc.

The main point is really that the process must be specialized to each person. Recognize negative triggers. Understand what you need. Understand your weaknesses and strengths. Find others who will support you or join you in your journey.

The healthy choices we make today, affect the health we have tomorrow.

To read the full article, go to: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-woman-lost-80-pounds-visual-cue-sparked-her-weight-ncna1059276

Asking “Why?”

Why?

I’m not usually big on New Year’s Resolutions–either for the secular or Jewish New Year–but for the Jewish Year 5780 (which commences in just a few hours), I have resolved to ask “Why?”

I have found that many times in life I have jumped to conclusions about why someone feels the way they do or acts the way they do. I often think that I know what their motivations are. I make assumptions about who they are, their background, their situation, or even their hopes and dreams. Often this is based on the political party they support, the TV News channel they watch, or their views on issues in the US and in Israel. I think we all do that.

Sometimes we nail it, but other times we are not exactly right or completely wrong. How will we ever know if we don’t ask?

This year I am resolving to as “why?” a whole lot more. Instead of thinking that someone is a jerk, or an idiot, or uncaring, I will ask “why do you feel that way?” “Why did you do that?” “Why do you support this?” “Why do you oppose that?”

In the end, it may turn out that I do not like their motivation or their explanation. I might still disagree with that person on an issue. Even so, it least I will have a better understanding of where they are coming from and what makes them tick.

Even better, instead of just dismissing a person out of hand or giving them a round of applause and a bunch of “you rocks,” I will let them know that I am truly interested in them. I think we need more of this in the fractious society in which we live. We all need to stop judging books by their covers and start asking “why?”

Want to know more about why I chose this as my resolution? Perhaps you can ask me why.

Be Prepared…for Rosh Hashanah

Image result for lion king be prepared

As the clock ticks down to Rosh Hashanah, there is a lot on my mind.  Just like any Shabbat, there are all kinds of preparations that need to be completed:  food prepared, Divrei Torah to write, clothes to get ready, etc.  
In the midst of all those preparations, we can sometimes lose sight of why we are doing all this preparation.  If we have a wonderful meal on the table, new clothes, shiny shoes and the house all tidied up, but we have not given serious thought to the hard job of Teshuva–doing atonement–we are not really ready for the holiday.
We are lucky to have this coming Shabbat to take a break in the rush to get ready for the spiritual part of the holiday.  It is a great time to consider:  what have I done well this past year?  What needs improvement?  What goals did I set last year, and did I achieve them?  How will this year be different?
None of this is rocket science, but it is easy to forget the “reason for the season.”
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah from my family to yours!