I was at a stage in my life that I had to start taking my health seriously. It was October 2013, just after the High Holidays and Sukkot, and Chanie made it clear that we were either getting a treadmill or I was joining a gym.
Having never been a fan of walking or running, I opted for the gym. But of course, I kept postponing that too. Until one day, while driving down Calumet Avenue, I noticed a sign announcing a new Crossfit gym that had just opened. I knew very little about Crossfit, other than that it was “crazy” and “intense.” So, against my better judgement, I stopped in to have a look.
Fast forward a year-and-a-half later; I am now 30 lbs. lighter and six pants sizes smaller. Oh, and I can lift about 165 lbs. over my head from the ground. I am in the best shape I’ve been my entire adult life and I have never felt so good and healthy.
Crossfit is a unique workout style, its motto being “constantly varied functional movements at high intensity.”
Many people are intimidated by the heavy lifting and extreme movements, but the truth is that nobody is meant to walk in and suddenly begin training like a pro. Aside for that being dangerous, there is hardly a purpose to it. The objective is with time to slowly work towards doing things better and at greater intensity.
It is always recommended to scale the workout to fit your current abilities, and to take it just a bit further each time. Never stay in the same place, but also don’t chew off more than you can swallow. Work on conquering your weaknesses, and before long you will be getting stronger, leaner, and more flexible.
I was literally a case of couch-to-Crossfit, and I am proof that taking it one step at a time, with just a bit more effort, pays off remarkably.
But I am not here to tell you about Crossfit (despite the unwritten first rule of Crossfit being “Always talk about Crossfit”), rather about something specific that can be applied to many other areas in life, including—and most importantly—Torah observance.
As with physical fitness, you don’t need to be a professional to partake in what Judaism offers. For someone not raised in an observant home, leading a religious life can be daunting. But that doesn’t mean you are counted out, G-d forbid. Instead, making small improvements in our Jewish behavior on a regular basis is how we all grow.
You aren’t ready to attend services regularly? No problem; join a Torah class once in a while. Not prepared to keep kosher all time? Start by checking labels and becoming aware of the many kosher options available today. Keeping Shabbat too big of a step? Consider turning your phone off for an hour, lighting candles and having a family Shabbat dinner every Friday evening.
Start off small; you’ll see that with time you will get the hang of it, and get better at it. And of course, when you see results—and you will—you’ll be motivated to keep it up.
Don’t think of it as what you cannot do, but how you can do just a bit better than yesterday. Don’t leave Judaism to the rabbis. It belongs to each and every individual Jew equally.