I’ll be baaahk…

Shavuah Tov! (A good new week to all)

This past weekend I was in Columbus visiting my kids. I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast not too far from the Convention Center. This past weekend was the Arnold Classic 2019, the largest fitness expo in the country; it is held every March in Columbus.

You should know that I lived in Columbus for the last 16 years and not once did I ever attend this event. This year as well, I had not planned to visit, but on Shabbas afternoon there was not a lot to do at the B&B, so I headed out on foot to the Convention Center. It turns out you only need tickets to get into certain parts (including the marketplace), but there was still lots to see without a ticket. I was able to catch some weightlifting competitions, as well as fencing and ballroom dance (a mambo to the turn of “Baby Shark!”). There were also exhibitions of jump-roping and aerobic dancing. The place was PACKED and all those muscles meant it was even more crowded!

The marketplace has many different kinds of vendors (at least what I could see from outside the doors). Lots of sports nutrition products are available; many are certified kosher…but many are not, so it is important to check labels and ask manufacturers.

Still, it was worth the visit. Next year, I will try to go and get tickets in advance. The event starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday, so if you are Shomer Shabbat, it is possible to do a lot before Shabbat. It is not far from the Ohio State University, so it is possible to arrange to go to Shabbat services and dinner either through OSU Hillel or Chabad. If you are going to make the trip, plan ahead as hotels and home-sharing companies will book up quickly.

Take-aways? Even if you are not a body-builder there is a lot the Arnold Classic has to offer. The event has really expanded to cover many different forms of fitness–over 80 different kinds in fact. There is something for everyone–even if you do not consider yourself a hard-core athlete or fitness enthusiast.

In terms of the Arnold Classic 2020, I think there’s a good chance “I’ll be baaaahk.”

Who am I?

My name is Michael Ungar. I am an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and an ordained Rabbi.

I was born in Detroit in 1963 and grew up in Southfield (a suburb). I graduate from Kalamazoo College with a double-major in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Latin America Area Studies. I was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in 1992, where I also received an MA in Jewish Education, specializing in Holocaust Education.

I served as a congregational Rabbi from 1992 through 2018. When I moved to Cleveland in the summer of 2018 I became the spiritual leader at Beth El- The Heights Synagogue in Cleveland Heights; it is a small, independent, traditional egalitarian congregation with about 70 families. I also began working as a Personal Trainer at the Mandel Jewish Community Center; my clients range in age from 16 to 77.

On a personal note, I have five kids (blended family) ranging from 18 – 25, an amazing wife who supports my hopes and dreams, and a bichpoo named Belle.

I love to travel and have been all over the USA, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Israel, Egypt and the Caribbean. I speak English, Spanish and Hebrew fluently; I can get by in French, and know just enough Yiddish to get in (and out of) trouble.

Growing up, there was not a real emphasis on fitness in my family. I was typically chosen last for every team in elementary and middle school. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at age 12 and spent much of the next three decades trying to keep that under control.

In my late 30s I was given a 5-pack of personal training as a birthday gift. At my first meeting, the trainer said, “I’ll meet with you once a week, but you’ve got to get in here at least two times a week on top of that.” I did not want to disappoint this guy; after all, he could crush me! That was the beginning of my beginning to take my fitness more seriously.

I made use of the services of trainers on and off over the years, but pretty consistently once I moved to Columbus in 2002. Two trainers in particular, Todd Johnson and Carlie Snyder, inspired me to set audacious goals and work to achieve them. I competed in my first triathlon in 2011. I have competed in more 5Ks than I can count (and even won two of them in my 50s!), have completed 3 half-marathons and several obstacle course races.

After 26 years as a congregational Rabbi, I decided to focus on helping people in a different way as a Personal Trainer. I attended classes at the Ohio State University to prep for the ACE exam and passed on my first sitting–such naches! I am thrilled to be the Rabbi at BE-THS; I love the people and I love the davening. I am also thrilled to be a Personal Trainer at the Mandel JCC.

I hope to make contributions in both of these careers through this blog. I look forward to getting to know you, my readers, and allowing you to get to know me too!