Tag Archive: Progressive Development

Shatter Your Limitations – Leaving Your Mitzrayim

What Will You Do With Your Freedom?

 

What would you like to be?  What would you like to do? So nu, what are you waiting for?

 

Yeh, if only life were that simple…

 

           “I can’t because I have no time”;

           “I can’t because I have no money”;

           “I can’t because I have no control” (of my food, of my job, of my family);

           “I can’t because I have no support” (of friends, of family, of coworkers, of supervisors);

           “I can’t because I have no will or ability” (to do what is necessary).

 

Does any of this sound familiar? How do these excuses appear to you? Unbreakable shackles? Overwhelming obstacles?

 

Mitzrayim, the land from which we were redeemed, literally means “borders” or “boundaries”. In fact, ancient Egypt prided itself on its exclusivity and superiority; they had everything they needed, and there was no need or desire to leave its borders. Its workers were both physically and emotionally trapped, with no will or thought of escape. This was the land in which our nation developed. After two centuries of gradual constriction, we became slaves with a slave mentality, inured to our state of being, unable to make a difference in our own destiny. We blamed others for our downfall, we blamed others for our failures, we blamed others for our inability to pull ourselves back up.

 

Some of us, unfortunately, have not changed much in nearly three and a half thousand years. “I can’t because I have no…”? You need something from someone else before you can move forward? Why? What have YOU done to alleviate your misfortune? What have YOU done to attain your goals? We blame our parents, our coworkers, our boss, our spouse, and the list goes on… Enough! Change starts with YOU, not anyone else. If you don’t surround yourself with inspiring motivating supportive people, time to move on and find a new place to call “home”. In the end, your power can only come from within and from Above, nowhere else; you must use your abilities and your intellect to make it happen, and to find people who can help you make it happen yourself – the strength must come from you. Be intrinsically motivated and driven, not extrinsically pulled and cajoled.

 

When Hashem gave us the freedom to escape Mitzrayim, he gave us the ability to break through our own boundaries and limitations. But most people don’t push themselves hard enough. Most people don’t do what it takes to realize their God-given potential. Laziness is not an excuse; “I have no…” is not an excuse. What have you sacrificed to achieve your goals? Where are your priorities?

 

“If only life were that simple…”? The truth is, at the end of the day, life is that simple, and only our excuses complicate it. It’s time to shed the slave mentality.

 

When your body is tired, push a little more; when your mind is weak, push a little longer; when your will is drained, push a little further. Always press your limits. If you don’t, you’ll never know how much you can attain and of how much you’re truly capable. Always push against your own “Mitzrayim”.

 

Every day, be a better person than you were the day before, spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, and intellectually. Progressive development, as I’ve written before, allows you to take small steps each day to achieve your goals. Your only deadline is your “deadline”, so don’t procrastinate – as long as you move forward every day, striving to do better today than you did yesterday, with the ultimate goal of being better tomorrow than you are today, one day, with Hashem’s grace, you will realize your potential.

 

We weren’t put here to just be, we were put here to become. This isn’t a fanciful philosophical notion, this is our chiyuv. A day without trying to improve oneself and/or one’s environment is a day wasted.

 

We ALL have this ability, each with our own strengths. Inspire yourself, inspire others. After all, look who led us out of Egypt: an 80-year old stuttering little brother; a humble fugitive who, ultimately, found his calling and realized his own abilities.

 

Freedom means the ability to choose – so choose wisely… what are you going to do with your freedom?

 

 

How Much Should I Exercise?

Working on the Whole of You

 

For some people, asking “how much should I exercise?” is the wrong question. In some cases, “should I exercise at all?” or “what exercise is best for me?” are more suitable questions. I will answer the first question by simply responding ‘yes’, and will address the second question by responding “exercises, plural”. Let me elaborate.

 

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the general exercise recommendations for healthy adults include at least five days per week of moderate intensity aerobic (cardiovascular endurance) activities, weight-bearing exercise, and flexibility exercise (or at least three days per week if the exercise is vigorous); and two to three days per week of muscular strength and endurance (resistance), calisthenics, balance and agility exercise. This applies to most healthy adults, regardless of age or gender; this means, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, these should be your exercise goals. Quite a lot of exercise, right? But what defines “moderate” and “vigorous” exercise, and how are you meant to pack all of that into one week? Which exercise is best for you?

 

Well, unfortunately, no single exercise will best provide the physical challenges needed to enhance all aspects of your fitness. Weights/resistance training will improve your strength and musculature, but is not the best option for development of your cardio-respiratory system. Running is great for your heart, but will not improve your flexibility as much as yoga, Pilates or other similar stretching routines will.

 

It is a common misconception (particularly of women and older individuals) that weight training is “not for them” because they “don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger”. That performing resistance exercises will inevitably “bulk you up” is simply not true. Unless you train specifically to gain mass (including consuming the requisite large number of quality calories necessary to promote and sustain muscle growth), you will not develop huge muscles. Instead, you will become strong and toned. Similar to your teeth – you only have to brush those you’d like to keep – muscles work the same way: you only have to exercise those particular muscles you’d like to keep; if you don’t use them, they’ll likely deteriorate. After all, why should your body allocate its valuable resources and energy to a part that isn’t being used? Like any efficient company, departments are downsized if they’re not profitable. So, in short, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, everyone should incorporate resistance training into their weekly exercise regimen.

 

Another common misconception (particularly of men) is that flexibility training, such as yoga, is “only for girls”. This is also a fallacy. First of all, yoga is pretty tough, if performed correctly. More importantly, though, if one doesn’t train one’s body to extend through a full range of motion, muscles will stiffen and injury will ultimately occur when, inevitably on occasion, one has to perform a physical activity that necessitates a wide movement (picture reaching for something and feeling something “go”). Again, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, everyone should incorporate flexibility exercises into their weekly routine.

 

Finally, while some people (often men) strive to become more muscular, focusing primarily on [anaerobic] resistance training, one should not forget to train the cardio-vascular system as well. Yes, working with weights can improve your heart health, but it cannot completely negate the value of pure aerobic exercise. Once again, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, everyone should perform some aerobic exercise at least three times per week.

 

That being said, some workouts aim to satisfy several requirements of physical fitness development simultaneously, such as resistance circuit training (think of weight training without stopping for long breaks) or power yoga (intense isometric poses that push your muscles to the limit; definitely NOT sitting cross-legged and humming ‘um’). Be warned, however, while these more extreme training methods can save you time, they’re definitely more intense than a leisurely jog on the treadmill or a walk around the block.

 

Most of us are, baruch Hashem, reasonably healthy, and so have a wide array of exercises to choose from with which we can maintain and better our wellbeing. Others, though, may currently be unable to perform certain exercises due to poor health, rachmana litzlan. However, this typically does not preclude the performance of ALL exercise for these individuals. Though heavy resistance or high-intensity interval training may be contraindicated in certain instances, training with lighter weights to build muscular endurance, brisk walking to maintain a healthy heart, or gentle stretching to improve balance and flexibility is likely perfectly acceptable and should generally be encouraged. With a little creativity, there are always alternatives and options for those who want to maintain and improve their health.

 

Most importantly, however, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, whatever you end up choosing, the following two mindsets should always apply:

 

Progressive Development: always aim to improve, no matter what exercises you choose. If you perform resistance training, increase the weight you lift or the reps/sets you complete; if you stretch, try to increase your range of motion or the amount of time you can hold a difficult pose; if you run or perform another aerobic workout, try to increase the incline or the distance, or keep the incline and distance the same but aim to beat your last time, or try to gradually improve your heart rate response. Every moment you exercise is an opportunity to evolve, to be better today than you were yesterday, to test your limits and realize your true potential.

 

Prioritize: exercise should not be something you squeeze into your schedule. It should not be a chore to cross off your to do list. Exercise should be part of your healthy lifestyle, as much as eating meals or learning Torah. We exercise so that we can be strong and continue to serve Hashem with all our abilities. To not do so, I believe, is a repudiation of our true purpose as frum Jews; we must be strong and healthy physically, so that we can be strong and healthy spiritually.

 

Find exercises you can enjoy (either by yourself or with friends), and perform them as you would any other mitzvah – with love, energy, and passion. Every day is an opportunity to grow stronger, grow wiser, and grow closer to Hashem; don’t let your excuses shield you from your potential. If you haven’t found any exercises you enjoy, you haven’t finished looking.

Progressive Development: The Key To Realizing Your Potential

 

How To Be The Best You Can Be

 

In the last post 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 pasuk 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 5 in a row can feel impossible, but surely performing just 1 or 2 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 emunahMitzrayim, 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 I’ve always held dear to my heart, written by Donna Levine:

 

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.