Bringing Passover customs to the gym

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Chag Sameach! 

Pesach is upon us, a wonderful week richly steeped in tradition, laws and customs.  In addition to enjoying countless variations on the theme of creative uses for matzah, there are many interesting aspects of this holiday that often get bypassed in our eagerness to delve into the charoses.

One unique theme of the Pesach seder is the prominence of the pattern of ‘”four.”  According to Exodus6: 6-7, The Lord promises to do the following for the Jews as they make their departure out of Egypt:

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  • Deliver from bondage
  • Redeem with an outstretched arm
  • Take the Jews to be His people
  • Be unto us a G-d 

These four key concepts extend to other quad patterns, such as consuming four cups of wine during the telling of the story, discussing four types of children, and of course asking the four questions.

If during this week, with commitments to food preparation and family gatherings, you find yourself short on time for your workouts, carry on with the theme of “four”.  Select just 4 key exercises and aim to complete only those four on days when exercise time may be limited.  This could include the following:

  • Squats: two sets of 10 repetitions
  • Lat Pulldowns: two sets of 10 repetitions
  • Chest press: two sets of 10 repetitions
  • Bicep Barbell Curls: two sets of 10 repetitions

By exercising in this manner, you are guaranteed to at least empower the larger major muscle groups, with the smaller ones working as secondary assistors (such as the triceps during a chest press).  Your gym time will have been spent both effectively and efficiently, leaving no room for guilt.d

The word “seder” actually means “order.”  Following suit in the gym, perform your four chosen exercises in a particular order.  Begin with the largest muscle group and end with the smallest muscle group.  Your energy will be appropriately split where it is needed the most, thereby enabling you to derive the maximum benefit out of your training time.

This type of workout may be done two to three times during the week of Pesach, or any other time you are facing scheduling dilemmas.  Remember to leave a day or two of rest between training the same body parts, to allow for optimal recovery of the muscle fibers.  While matzah has been referred to as “the bread of affliction,” it is also a good source of complex carbohydrates, and will serve you well as a pre-workout snack.   Remember to hydrate plentifully.

“Next year in Jerusalem!” (I understand they have very nice fitness centers there, too!)