How to Help Your &%$#ing Workout

Image result for potty mouth

Today I was working with one of my clients doing bench step-ups; these are not easy and when she lost her balance she let out a word not used in polite company. She was mortified–I think because not only am I a personal trainer, but I’m also a rabbi. She apologized, and I let her know it was OK. In fact there is a study that shows that swearing may actually help your workout.

Research from Keele University in England and Long Island University in Brooklyn shows that swearing can help us push through a difficult workout. It has also been shown to have an analgesic effect; letting out a curse word when we stub a toe or bang an elbow can actually decrease our sense of pain. The study shows that swearing can increase our endurance and strength. The final analysis: dropping the f-bomb can help to manage pain–whether sudden and unexpected or the anticipated pain of a difficult workout.

The research showed that this does not work with everyone in all situations. People who have a tendency to catastrophize (to expect the worst), did not find relief from swearing. It also seems to have a lesser effect on women than men. To read more on this, see the article from http://www.cnn.com that was quoted and re-reported across the globe: https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/30/health/swearing-good-for-you-wellness/index.html .

My thoughts are that this is interesting, but I wonder if swearing under your breath would be just as effective. Can we say “freakin'” instead of *you-know-what* and still get the same result? Gyms already have enough coarse language and grunting and groaning; is swearing (which may contribute to further breakdown of civility in our society) worth it for the extra rep or the slightly faster sprint? In my humble opinion, the respect that I pay to my fellow gym-goers dictates that I should try to avoid swearing as much as I can. It’s just not nice. Unless, of course, I drop a 25 pound dumbbell on my foot…in which case all bets are off.

78 Years Later

Arizona Memorial

This Shabbat is not only Parashat Vayetze, but it is also the 78th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that brought the US into WWII.
By December 7, 1941, Nazi forces had occupied Poland for over two years and their control over other countries by conquest or acquiescence continued to grow.  The systematic persecution and murder of Jews had already begun.  The US stayed out of the war for many reasons; after Pearl Harbor, there was no choice but to enter the fray.
Historians can (and have) talked about why we did not get involved earlier, especially when there was so much intelligence about the atrocities occurring in Europe.  On a more personal level, we know that as human beings we tend to not get involved in matters unless they directly touch us.  Judaism, however, teaches us that we cannot sit idly by the blood of our brothers and sisters–whether or not they are actually relatives, coreligionists, or fellow citizens.  It is up to us to speak up and act whenever we see injustice.
Of course, this is easier said than done.  We are risk averse, and getting involved often means taking a risk.  We do know, though, that there are times when others have put their necks out for us; we know what it feels like to be helped.  We also know what it feels like to be abandoned.  Our experience shows us that we cannot sit by the sidelines; as Pearl Harbor Day reminds us, unless we confront evil and injustice, they will come and confront us.
We remember those who lost their lives on that terrible day and pray that we learn the lessons of WWII, a time that forever changed Jewish and human history.

How to Keep the Weight Off

Christmas Break 2008 10

This time of the year, many people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and a popular one is to lose weight. Just ask anyone who is a regular gym-goer and they can tell you that the first few weeks of January are always the busiest; fitness facilities are loaded with what I call “resolutionaries.”

Of course, a better way to look at this is to go beyond the mere number on the scale. While weight as a number is a data point, our fitness level depends on other factors as well: endurance, strength, power, cardiovascular health, etc. A better resolution might be to “become more fit” or “pursue a healthier lifestyle.” What both of those mean is up to individual interpretation, so it is important to come up with goals that are beyond merely a number on a scale such as “I want to be able to run a mile without stopping” or “I will do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times per week” or “I will begin training regularly with a Personal Trainer.”

Numerous studies have pointed out that we should take a more holistic approach rather than simply focusing on the readout on the scale. In fact, when we focus more on overall health we actually have greater success at weight loss and especially keeping the weight off.

Research shows that those who put an end to their sedentary lifestyle and become more active will do a better job of losing weight and keeping it off compared to those who simply diet. Studies show that dieting can take the pounds off but unless we engage in a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and other healthy habits (not smoking, getting enough rest, etc.) , there is a higher chance that the pounds will return.

There is no easy fix to getting healthier. Diet alone or exercise alone won’t cut it for the long term. It is all about a lifestyle that promotes healthy habits. A lifestyle isn’t just something that lasts for a month or six months or a year until we achieve our goal weight; a lifestyle is about what we do from this point forward.

As the New Year approaches consider not only the changes you want to see right now, but also how to make them last for a long and healthy lifetime!

Jacob and Esau at Thanksgiving Dinner

I always read Parashat Toldot with extra interest since I am a twin.  The story of the rocky relationship between Isaac and Rebecca’s sons, Jacob and Esau, begins in our Torah portion.  From the very beginning, we are told that Isaac favored Esau and Rebecca favored Jacob.  We are told that this is because of the different lives they led.  As we know from the rest of the story, “playing favorites” did not really work out for the family.

As a child, my parents always made sure that they supported whatever my sister and I did.  They never dressed us alike; they wanted us to have our own identities.  They also made sure that we understood that we could follow whatever path we wanted in life and we would be loved and encouraged.  To this day, my sister and I (and our older brother) have a close and loving relationship.

Just yesterday, many of sat down to a festive Thanksgiving Dinner with our families; it may have been wonderful or perhaps less than wonderful.  Often, the discomfort comes from events that happened years ago.  Sometimes we can repair, but other times–as was the case with Esau and Jacob–we understand that it may not be possible.

All the more reason for us to think carefully about how our actions today can affect the connections we hope to build and maintain in the future.Shabbat Shalom!

How to Eat Healthy at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner @ Boston Oak Room

Reality Check: For most of us, this won’t be happening. Those trying to watch their weight or just not overdo it will find that Thanksgiving Dinner is a huge challenge.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

–Stick to healthier appetizers like raw vegetables. If we fill up on those, we are less likely to eat the richer stuff that are part of the entree.

–Drink lots of water; water makes us feel more full and can prevent us from eating too much. Plus, it’s always good to hydrate.

–Fill your plate once…and then don’t refill it. Pile it as much as you want the first time, but then stop. A good way to do this is to remove your plate from the table.

–Eat until you feel about 3/4 full. Our sense of being full is slower than our mouths; if we stop eating at 3/4 (or earlier) we can avoid the overstuffed feeling.

–Choose one or two desserts and then ask for a small serving. Don’t deprive yourself of pumpkin pie or other treats; rather, enjoy with a small portion.

–Don’t fall for the idea of going to the gym and working out like crazy so that you can eat more at dinner. Unless we are running a marathon on Thursday morning (and some of us might be) we’ll never burn enough calories to make up for what we’re about to eat. More likely, we will be hungry from our workout and eat even more. Avoid this trap!

Finally, if all else fails:

If you get on the scale on Friday and the news isn’t good, be kind to yourself and realize that Thanksiving day is one-of-a kind. Don’t get down on yourself for “being weak.” Accept that we all have days when we eat healthier than others. Commit to getting back on the program.

It probably won’t take too long to undo the damage…before Hanukkah and Christmas come in four weeks! Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

A Thought for Shabbat

Approaching the Herodian building over the cave

It has been noted by the Rabbis of our tradition–and by alert readers of the Torah–that even though our Torah portion for this week is called Chaye Sarah (literally, “the Life of Sarah”), the text actually talks about her death and the preparations for her burial.Of course, from the previous week’s Torah portions, we know something about her life…but not as much as we know about Abraham.

It is noteworthy that for all the praise that is heaped on Sarah by our Sages, Abraham seems caught off guard when she passes away.  Even though both of them were in advanced age, they made no preparations for burial plots; the resulting negotiations and purchase are what make up the entire beginning of the Parasha.

How could Abraham have overlooked this?  Perhaps it was that he was so focused on life that he couldn’t look forward that far.  Abraham does several things that show his focus on saving life (Sodom and Gomorrah, telling Sarah to pretend to be his sister, etc.)…even though he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac.Jewish tradition asks us to maintain a balance.  We must live in the moment and make the most of life, but we must also prepare for the fate that awaits all of us (we should live to 120!).  We cannot so focus on our end that we forget to live our lives to the fullest; we live so much in the moment that we forget that we do not have forever to be in this world.It is a difficult task to handle successfully.  The story in our Torah portion reminds us of this in a most dramatic way.

Would You Rather Be Happy or Live Longer?

Hour Glass

If you had to choose between long life and happiness, what would be your choice?

Guess what? You don’t have to choose. Happy people live longer. At least that is what research is showing. Studies about the connection have been going on for years, but all point to the fact that that happier we are, the longer we live.

Of course, what defines happiness for one person doesn’t necessarily define it for someone else. There are research questions that helped to identify the components that make up happiness. Five main areas are: 1. Having satisfying social connections, 2. Looking on the bright side, 3. Meaning and purpose in one’s life, 4. Spirituality, 5. and what Martin Seligman (co-founder of the Positive Psychology movement) calls flourishing with PERMA (Positive emotion, engagement, relationship, meaning, and accomplishment). For a full explanation of all of these, go to the article from http://www.cnn.com: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/30/health/happiness-live-longer-wellness/index.html

On this blog, I talk about nutrition, exercise and spirituality and how they can help to improve our health–physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is noteworthy that research now shows a strong link between happiness and long life.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It is a time for recognizing the blessings in our lives. That sense of gratitude helps to bring happiness our way. This is not an exercise just for the end of November; Jewish tradition’s mussar movement encourages us regularly to practice gratitude. Rather than focusing on the negative, we should be grateful for all the positives. The research shows: we will be happier…and for longer too!