Moving purposefully through the New Year

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

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

The High Holy days are upon us! This is such a fabulous time of year, rich with customs, prayer, and of course, apples and honey. There are so many “messages” implicit within these days, especially during the 10 Days of Teshuvah, that period of time that comes in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Traditionally, this is a time when Jews engage in intense introspection for the purpose of self-improvement. How fitting this is for those of us wishing to make resolutions regarding self-improvement in fitness and overall health! Research indicates that, with the exception of Shabbat, regular “work” schedules can be adhered to during these days, and exercise is no exception.

If we were to dissect the word “atonement”, one of the hallmarks of this time of year, we find the message of “at one” contained within the letters. Introspection involves being “at one” with ourselves, our psyches, our very souls. While this surely can be accomplished in synagogue or in our homes, consider a novel method: be “at one” in the gym. If you have ever been tempted to engage in a stretch class, or yoga practices, this is a perfect way to start your New Year. These disciplines require as much mental energy as physical exertion…yes, it is physically taxing to hold those yoga poses for 20 seconds, or even many flexibility stretches!

Treat yourself to some quiet time this holiday season. Get a comfortable mat, put on some soothing music, dim the lights…allow your breathing to slow down, your mind to clear, and your muscles to stretch and relax. Once you have achieved a desirable level of calm, turn inward. Allow your thoughts to drift toward the past year, and your hopes for the year just beginning. As introspection takes you deeper into your psyche, you will begin to feel the flexibility within your limbs increasing. As your muscle tissue warms and lengthens, ponder how you might want to improve your personal well being in the days ahead. What might you do for yourself this year?

While embracing your inner serenity, assume a plank position (prone, on forearms and the balls of the feet) and hold, hold, hold. Breathe deeply. While the core of your body is being strengthened, so too is the very core of your emotional health. If you find yourself physically challenged while in this position, take the opportunity to quietly plan how you might challenge yourself in the New Year. This could be something as simple as committing to workouts 3x/week instead of just once. It may escalate to setting out on a “plank challenge journey”, increasing the hold by 10 seconds each time, over the course of several weeks. For some, there will be a burning, not just of the muscles as they begin to fatigue, but also a burning desire to take on something previously thought to be insurmountable: training for and participating in a 10K run, learning martial arts, or preparing to set a personal record in the Senior Olympics.

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As you slowly bring yourself out of this delightful exercise, every cell of your body having been transformed by the experience, realize your personal potential. These Days of Teshuva are a gift to yourself, a unique period of time to be at one with your thoughts, your body, and your creativity. Set your sights on self-improvement this year. Rejoice in the human body’s abilities to move in any direction you choose. This year, choose wisely.