Religion & Beliefs

How To: Train at Temple and Get in Ship Shape at Shul

We all know that working out it is good for you in a myriad of different ways: It lowers the risk of everything from diabetes to depression to dementia to erectile dysfunction. Physical wellness should be important to all of … Read More

By / June 12, 2008

We all know that working out it is good for you in a myriad of different ways: It lowers the risk of everything from diabetes to depression to dementia to erectile dysfunction. Physical wellness should be important to all of us, and there’s no reason to divorce it from spirituality. If we don’t hesitate to ask God to heal us when we’re sick, why not involve God in our preventive measures? There are already Christian gyms that capitalize on the market of people who want to work out in an environment that’s more focused on whole body health and wellness instead of spandex and muscle shirts. In the past, we’ve told you about the Kosher Gym, and Torah Yoga, but here are some tips for bringing fitness to your synagogue or minyan:

  • Tack Fitness onto Existing Programs: Going to help out at a soup kitchen on a Sunday afternoon? Have a weekly study group, or a monthly book club? Add an hour of hiking before or after the program, hire a yoga teacher to give a private lesson, or head to a local climbing wall when you’re done discussing As A Driven Leaf. Instead of asking people to come out to another activity, you have one longish afternoon planned. Easy!
  • Join A Charity Race: There are tons of options—March of Dimes, the Avon Breast Cancer Walk, Relay for Life, AIDS Lifecycle, Y-Me Run, Destination Cure—you name it, there’s a walk, run or ride dedicated to raising money for it. Form a team, help each other raise money to support the cause (bonus points because it’s tzedakah and fitness in one) and train for the big day (or days). When it’s finally time for the race, ask other members to come cheer you on.
  • Offer Fitness Alternatives to Regular Programs: Traditional Shabbat services bore some of us to tears, but yoga, hiking, or even surfing can be somehow spiritual. Find a fitness captain who will lead alternative programming for those who want the community, but feel more fulfilled with non-traditional means of prayer and/or meditation. If the fitness captain can integrate some text study or Jewish songs into the practice, all the better. This doesn’t have to be every week, but it’s a nice option to give once a month or so. See Rabbi Jamie Korngold’s book God in the Wilderness for specific pointers.
  • Celebrate Your Success: We give an aliyah to someone when he graduates high school, or is about to get married—why not when he qualifies for the Boston marathon? Be sure to publicly congratulate those who complete marathons, triathlons, and other fitness milestones; from the bimah, if possible. Mention those who are training for big races or competitions, and recognize both their effort and their accomplishments. It’s a relatively minor way of providing incentive to other community members, but will make clear that your community values wellness.
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