Exercising the ‘Four Kinds

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur pass, and the last of the apples and honey have been enjoyed, we now set our sights on Sukkot, The Feast of Tabernacles. When our daughters were little, we would decorate the backyard tree house with paper cut-outs of leaves and fruits, suspend them from the awning, and enjoy after-school snacks in our makeshift sukkah. These are cherished memories, but there is certainly more to the holiday than the outdoor dwellings.

The tradition of shaking the lulav in 6 directions, an integral part of this holiday celebration, invokes Jewish unity as one of the central themes of Sukkot. The “four kinds” which are represented – palm branch, willow, myrtle and etrog – symbolize four types of Jews, each with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents unity as a Jewish nation—despite our external differences.

When creating a balanced fitness plan, it is also important to include the “four kinds” of exercise in your routine: flexibility/balance, cardiovascular/endurance, resistance/strength training, and rest. Like the branches of the lulav, these key components join together to ensure unity and harmony within a healthy body, despite our physical differences from anyone else in the gym.  All physiques, from novice to professional athlete, can benefit from each of these aspects, and we should strive to engage in all four of these dynamic endeavors at least once a week. 

Some may question the value of rest as a necessary component in a fitness routine.  We place stress on our bodies when we engage in physical activity, placing heavy demands on our musculo-skeletal systems.  “Time under tension”, coupled with proper nutrition and rest, will lead to positive gains in strength and lean muscle mass. If we don’t allow the body to recuperate from sessions in the gym, we will not reap nearly the benefits for which most of us are striving.

This New Year, count unity and harmony among your many blessings, and set up a fitness program that will include all aspects of exercise. Despite our external differences, we all share the same desire for balance within our physical space and being, as well as in our lives.

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.