Going Easy on Yourself at Home

dead cat

Since I became a personal trainer, one of things I noticed is that I seem to have less time to workout than I did when I was just a regular gym-goer. I have even blogged about how this trainer needs his own trainer. Over the years, when I worked with a trainer, I was pushed a lot harder than I push myself–which is why a lot of us get personal trainers in the first place. Now, I have to rely on myself…and sometimes I go too easy.

I have noticed that some of my clients (many!) are taking the easy route too during this period of isolation and social distancing. I communicate with them about what they are doing to stay fit and from some I get either “I go out for a walk” or “I’m mostly just sitting on my couch.” This is not a formula for long-term fitness. Much of the progress that we make on our fitness journey can be undone quickly if we are not persistent.

As many of you know, I have been doing a daily online workout through Facebook Live. I create the workout every day. I find that now I have the time to work out longer than I usually do. Not only that, these workouts are pushing me harder than I would otherwise. I cannot wimp out when I know that people out there are expecting a good workout each morning. Also, unlike people who log into the workout, I cannot just leave in the middle or take a break. I’ve got to keep going!

I saw a meme recently that said “You will either finish this period in the worst shape of your life or in the best shape of your life.” True dat. Most of us have a lot of time on our hands now. It is a great time to catch up on books we’ve been meaning to read, binge-watch that new series, or do that puzzle that’s been on the shelf for a few years. It is an even better time to commit to our own good health and fitness. Now is not the time to go easy on ourselves. Now is the time to build ourselves up. We’ll be glad we did–not just now, but when this period in our lives finally winds down.

Follow my daily workouts by joining the Kosher-Fitness Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/657944601631108/.

How is Quarantining Helping You Grow?

Weight Gurus black bathroom scale on wood floor

OK. So this was not really the kind of growth I was looking forward to. I will admit that I have learned a lot about myself and those around me during the current COVID-19 unpleasantness. It has come at some cost to my fitness for sure as my waistline is growing too.

A few posts back I mentioned that I was going to give Intermittent Fasting a shot…and I did. I tried it for one week, but found it untenable. Most folks doing this choose to eat only from 11 am – 7 pm, while the rest of the time they only drink liquids. I teach a daily workout online (search Facebook for Kosher-Fitness) at 10 am and I’ve got to fuel up before that. We also usually sit down to dinner between 6:30 and 7:00 pm which doesn’t fit the schedule either. The real proof was (you should pardon the expression) in the pudding; I was continuing to put on weight.

This is totally to be expected since most of us are way less active now than we usually are. Typically at work as a personal trainer I am doing a lot of walking around with clients, demonstrating exercises, and sometimes even doing certain things right along with the person. Ironically, the workouts that I teach online are more strenuous than my typical exercise regimen. Even so, I’m still at a deficit when it comes to burning calories.

I’ve decided to follow the advice I give to my own clients. I am counting calories now. It’s not as bad as it seems; I’m using the My Fitness Pal app–which I have used on and off over the last year. I find that it benefits me in two ways at least. First, it makes me aware of just how many calories I am consuming–which is usually more than my ballpark guesstimates. Second, I’m too lazy to keep going to the app, so I simply decide not to have that little snack so that I don’t have to go through the trouble. It’s like keeping kosher–observing the Jewish dietary laws; I make myself much more aware of what I am consuming.

I will keep you posted on my progress. How are you all doing? Are you finding that you are growing in unexpected ways too? No one knows how long this will go on, but if we put on a pound a week for a couple of months, it will be a challenge to get back to where we were.

Finally, remember that weight is only one aspect of health and fitness. Don’t forget about maintaining strength and cardio-vascular health. Remember to be kind to yourself and care for your emotional self too. Staying healthy is a multi-level endeavor; don’t ignore any of those parts and pieces.

The Comfort of Familiar Faces

Image result for faces

Today the Personal Trainers from the JCC joined in on a Zoom call. It has been 10 days since our facility closed and there is no determined end in sight. It was great to see co-workers–even if over the internet.

We spent most of the call talking about what we have been doing to reach out to clients, etc. As many of you know, I have been offering almost daily workouts (light weights, body weight & cardio) through Facebook Live. You can find the FB group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/657944601631108/. Other trainers have been sending videos to clients, Skyping workouts, or emailing training plans to them. One of the trainers noted that she was wary about doing her own workouts online since it seems like nearly every fitness professional out there is doing it. One of our supervisors noted–and I think she is correct–that while there may be lots of videos and live sessions out there, people like to see a familiar face. There is something familiar and comfortable about seeing your own trainer leading the video or showing you a workout. This is especially true now when we are socially isolated. It is wonderful to see a face you know.

Who knows how long we’ll be in this COVID-19 mess? Follow the rules recommended by the CDC and your local government. Also, keep active; don’t let the progress you’ve made disappear. There are so many resources available on-line…but remember to reach out to the fitness professionals you know best. They know you (or are willing to get to know you) and understand your needs and interests. Reach out. We are happy to help!

Thought for Shabbat – Coronavirus Edition

Community Can Be Beautiful

I won’t be at the congregation where I serve as rabbi this Shabbat…and it’s not because I am afraid of the COVID-19.  Under normal circumstances, I would be there in order to ensure that we have a minyan during this difficult time.

The virus has found its way into NE Ohio and into the Jewish community.  Unfortunately, there seems to have been a fair amount of exposure to those who attended the AIPAC Policy Conference recently in Washington, DC.  This includes the clergy at a number of congregations here in Cleveland.  I was asked by our friends at another congregation where I am also a member and attend services on Monday and Thursday mornings if I might be able to deliver the sermon this Shabbat since both of their rabbis are self-quarantined; of course, I said yes.  It gives me satisfaction to know that the members of my congregation will be able to carry on (pun intended) without my presence this Shabbat, and I am grateful to be able to help out others in the community.

None of knows exactly where this pandemic will lead.  Social distancing makes us uncomfortable–especially in the Jewish community.  While we may not be able to be physically close to each other, this is a time to draw close and help each other out.  Make sure to reach out to friends and family who are stuck at home.  If you are healthy and not at risk, find out how you can help.

I pray that this pandemic will not be as serious as the worst predictions.  We cannot know fully what the impact will be.  As Rabbi Harold Kushner suggested, though, what we can do is be there for each. Coronavirus makes this complicated, but the last thing we need right now is to cut ourselves off from each other.

Wishing you all a peaceful and healthful Shabbat!

To Shovel or Not to Shovel…

Shoveling over my head

Here in Cleveland we just got another blast of winter cold and snow. Invariably the conversation turns to which suburbs do the best job of clearing the roads, as well as the usual observations about whether the person hired to clear the driveway and sidewalk had done their job satisfactorily.

For many years while I lived in Columbus, I used to shovel my driveway. Later on, when I had more responsibilities at work–and when it always seemed to snow on Shabbat when I couldn’t shovel–I paid someone in the neighborhood to take care of it.

A topic that comes up every now and again is how dangerous it might be to shovel snow from a health standpoint. We hear stories about people having heart attacks while shoveling, but what is the real story?

According to MetroHealth’s website here in Cleveland: “Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart. All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack.” What we have here is a kind of double-whammy. On the one hand, the physical exertion leads to elevated and respiratory rates, while on the other hand, the cold air may prevent the additional oxygen from reaching the heart where it is needed most.

For most folks in decent health, the risk still remains relatively low. In fact, according to an article from Harvard Medical School, only about 100 people die each year from shoveling snow. Here is the link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-shoveling-snow-put-your-heart-at-risk-2017120612887. If, however, a person already has compromised heart or lung function or is elderly, there is definitely a risk factor here.

Each person knows their own body best. While there may be a low risk of a cardiac event, others may develop issues with soreness of muscles as a result of shoveling. There is also the danger of slipping on the ice if such conditions exist with an increased risk of fractures among many older adults.

Weigh the pros and cons…and consider that paying a neighbor’s son or daughter to shovel may not only help preserve your health (definitely a Jewish value) but also help a young entrepreneur on their way to self-sufficiency!

C’mon, Get Happy!

Pharrell Williams #1

This Shabbat we will announce the new month of Adar.  As the expression goes:  “when Adar begins, our joy increases.”  This month contains the holiday of Purim, arguably the most fun (and frivolous) holiday on the Jewish calendar; its celebration is a kind of mash-up between Mardi Gras, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve…all based on the Book of Esther.

Our tradition tells us to be happy, but it’s not like we can just flip a switch when the month begins and suddenly find our mood improved.  Making ourselves happier involves effort and practice, but it is something that most of us are capable of accomplishing.  A recent article on www.cnn.com discusses this topic along with the research showing that being happy can actually help us live longer!  Here is the link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/30/health/happiness-live-longer-wellness/index.html.  It turns out that we can concentrate on certain behaviors that can lead us to be happier, which has a kind of snowball effect.

Judaism gives us many opportunities to find joy–more than just on Purim.  The blessings and prayers we recite help us to focus on the many good things in our lives; they help us to recognize the beauty and wonder of our world.  The Sabbath and holidays also have elements of celebration, allowing us to transcend the often-depressing reality of most of our days.  Adar is an opportunity for us to re-focus on joy.  It is not a one-time shot, but rather an ongoing practice that cannot only make us happy, but also give us more time to enjoy that happiness.

Take Care of your Tootsies

Gym Shoes

When I was studying to become a personal trainer, one of the units we studied had to do with proper footwear in the gym. When I first read it, I thought “duh.” Everyone knows we need to wear the “sneakers” in the gym, but do know we what a difference it can make? The right support and alignment is essential. With the wrong footwear, we can misalign our kinetic chain (ie., we can throw off our knees, hips and back).

It can actually be a bit confusing. It should go without saying that wearing street shoes in the gym is not a good idea, but it is not that unusual to see them–especially on older adults. I’ve had to have the conversation with clients more than once about having the proper shoes on during our workouts.

What kind of shoe is best to wear? It depends on what you are planning to do. If you are planning to simply do strength training, a pair of cross-trainers is usually a good bet. These are not the same as running shoes, which are specifically designed for running–providing support in different ways than cross-trainers. Basketball shoes are different as well. Of course, if you are going to a spinning class (riding stationary bikes), there are specific shoes for that as well. It can get pricey.

How do you know what to do? If you already have foot issues (pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.), talk with your podiatrist first. Find out what s/he recommends. I was wearing one kind of shoe for a while but once my plantar fasciitis kicked in, my doctor had me change the kind of shoe that I wear; I now use one with a much firmer sole.

If you do not generally have issues with your feet, your next step is to go to a good athletic footwear store. Every city has one. This is not your big box store but usually locally-owned or a small chain. The folks in these stores deal with pretty much one thing and one thing only: athletic footwear. If you explain to them the kind of workouts that you do, what issues you might have, etc., they can get the best shoe for you.

What not to do? I do not recommend getting your shoes from on-line retailers unless you are experienced and know the brand/model that you need. Also, do not go to a shoe warehouse–unless you know the exact brand/model you are looking for. Even then, exercise caution as you may not have the proper fit and those working in the store may not be well trained to help you.

Take care of your tootsies! It may not seem like such an important thing, but if you’ve ever had the experience of not being able to use one or the other, you’ll know just how important it is to care for them properly. Take the few simple steps to make sure that you are not only caring for your feet, but also everything above them!

Vaping in the Gym

No Vaping

You read that right, “vaping in the gym.”

Yesterday evening, I went for a run on the indoor track that runs around the main gym, but up a level. When running on the track it is possible to look below and see kids playing on toys, adults playing Pickleball, and teens playing basketball. I could not believe my eyes when I saw–of all things!–three teenage boys vaping IN THE GYM on the side of the basketball court.

I work at the gym and, even though I was not in uniform, when I got around the track to where they were I stopped running and called down to them. “Excuse me, gentlemen!” They saw where the voice was coming from and I said “You can’t do that here.” One of them said, rather sheepishly, “I’m sorry.” I responded, “don’t be sorry–just don’t do it!”

The same boys were seen and reported by two members vaping again the Fitness Center. I would say that I was speechless when I heard this, but this is a blog so I’ve got to write about it.

I know this shouldn’t matter, but what really bugged me was that the boys were obviously Jewish teens. How did I know? They were dressed in clothing and “accessories” that clearly identified them as Jews–and observant ones at that. Ugh.

I know this isn’t fair. I find it horrifying when I see any young person (or any person for that matter) vaping or smoking. It is so clearly detrimental to one’s health. Do I need to quote articles and health journals? We’ve known for a while just how damaging and addictive it can be. It is also a very expensive “habit.” How people still vape and smoke is beyond me.

Why does it bother me that they were Jewish…and apparently observant? How does one follow the Jewish laws so closely–so much so that it dictates their dress, diet, social interactions, etc.–and at the same time destroy one’s own body–a potentially holy vessel given by God?

There may not be a commandment in the Torah that says Thou Shalt Not Vape, but Jewish law clearly mandates that we have an obligation to preserve our health so that we will live and be able to serve God and our fellow human beings. How can someone care so much about the food that goes into their body and ignore the noxious chemicals they inhale? It is a total disconnect.

It is important for all religious leaders to share the dangers of vaping and smoking. We also need to call out the cigarette and vape companies that market to teens and young adults. They know that if they can create an addict early, they will have a customer for life.

Vaping in the gym? Sadly, yes. We can do better. We owe it to the next generation to get the message out.

Labels Stick (double-entendre)

Hello my name is...

I am re-posting a post from my brother, Joel, on LinkedIn. We grew up in a home where athleticism wasn’t really a thing. Don’t think my mom every worked out–aside from walking. My dad used to swim, but not real heavy duty. Now my sister, brother and I are all gym regulars.

I never thought of myself as an athlete until a few years ago when my doctor referred to me as “athletic.” My brother encapsulates a lot of what I felt growing up and what the change has meant to him.

Enjoy!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/really-im-athlete-joel-ungar/