Friday, March 24, 2023

In the last issue of the Jewish Link I presented eight ideas to enhance your exercise experience, adding fun and inspiration to what, for many people, can feel like a chore at best, to something that should be avoided at all costs, at worst. In fact, viewing exercise negatively at all is, I would argue, tantamount to disdaining one of Hashem’s mitzvot.

Indeed, like many commandments we must perform, one can demonstrate differing levels of commitment and love. If you exercise at all, do you do it halfheartedly and sporadically? How important is being healthy to you? Yes, something is better than nothing, and learning even a single posuk a day is better than never opening up a sefer. But is that why Hashem created us?  To cruise through life, only aiming for a “C-grade,” setting our bar low enough to barely succeed just so we can stroke our ego and kid ourselves into thinking we’re doing all we can?

Don’t treat your health as something you merely maintain; view it as something to improve. Don’t grow older, don’t grow tired, just grow. It’s a myth that we must all age, with progressive degeneration our only lot in life. No! Rather than “progressive degeneration,” let me impart to you the secret to achieving one’s potential: progressive development.

This simple idea allowed Alexander the Great to create one of the largest empires in the ancient world; it forged the very heart of the United States; and it’s the essence of humankind’s continual advancement. Progressive development is simply the principle that one must always move forward, always strive to do better today than you did yesterday, with the ultimate goal of being better tomorrow than you are today, and one day, with Hashem’s grace, realizing your potential.

Progressive development is not a lofty philosophical aspiration. Not only should you view it as absolutely attainable, but a chiyuv for each and every one of us. A day you haven’t tried to improve yourself and/or your environment is a day wasted.

With regards to exercise, this could mean running just 10 seconds longer than you did yesterday; finishing one more rep than you pushed out during your last workout; or lifting a few more pounds on the barbell than you managed the previous week. Whatever the improvement, always improve. Never stay stationary; never be satisfied with simply repeating the same workout week after week, month after month. Never let your workouts grow stale. Never let your ambitions wither. Never let your life fade before your eyes; just as we should evolve, one day at a time, so can we also falter, gradually, but very surely, one day at a time.

Last time we discussed setting short, medium and long term goals to push us forward. Losing 50 pounds might seem impossible, but losing 5 pounds is certainly doable. Completing 20 pull-ups or 50 pushups in a row may seem like the stuff of legend when doing even five in a row can feel impossible, but surely performing just one or two reps is well within everyone’s reach. The idea of running a marathon is likely totally preposterous to most people, but jogging around the block should not be something that scares you. To butcher the famous quote of Lao-tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, “A journey of a thousand steps starts with one.” We must all begin somewhere.

You CAN be that strong, you CAN run that distance, you CAN do anything you set your mind to. It took you a while to get to where you are now, and it’ll take you a while to get to where you’re going, so be prepared for the long haul. There’s no easy fix, there’s no magic bullet; just hard work, discipline, commitment and the determination to take things one step at a time, one meal at a time, and one day at a time. Small steps are easy and, just like the shaky steps of a toddler, even though you may fall down, you must resolve to get right up again, brush yourself off and keep on moving. All you can do is your best. Each day, moving just a little more, growing just a little more, pushing your limits just a little more.

You are confined only by the walls you build yourself, and are constrained only by your imagination and emunah. Mitzrayim, the land from which we were redeemed, as we are currently reading, literally means “borders” or “boundaries.” When Hashem gave us the freedom to escape Mitzrayim, he gave us the ability to break through our own boundaries; we shattered our shackles, and that’s why we survive. Always push your limits. If you don’t, you’ll never know how much you’re truly capable of.

Let me end with a poem written by Donna Levine I’ve always held dear to my heart:

There is inside of you all of the potential to be whatever you want to be – all the energy to do whatever you want to do. Imagine yourself as you would like to be, doing what you want to do, and each day take one step towards your dream. And though at times it may be too difficult to continue, hold on to your dream. One morning you will awake to find that you are the person you dreamed of—doing what you want to do—simply because you had the courage to believe in your potential and to hold on to your dream.

Chemmie Sokolic is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Frum & Fit LLC. Chemmie can be reached at chemmie.sokolic_frumandfit.com. Visit www.FrumandFit.com or www.Facebook.com/FrumandFit for more information.

By Chemmie Sokolic

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