Thursday, September 22, 2005

Making It Personal

As life moves along its merry path, I’ve begun to notice a paunch developing around my midsection. As someone who used to run six miles a day since high school and who’d always been thin, this was nothing short of a debacle. I never imagined the day would come when I might need to lose weight. But more than the issue of pounds is the issue of health. Quite frankly, I’m out of shape.

So I joined a gym.

Along with my new membership came a complimentary (as in free, not flattering) session with a personal trainer. I’d never worked with a personal trainer before, because I’m what you might call the self-starting type. Even with a free session waved in my face, I was reluctant to turn my body over to a professional. I kept pushing it off, preferring to begin on my own—some bike work, weights, swimming. But eventually, I relented, and got around to booking an appointment.

What a world of difference.

The level of workout you get with a trainer far surpasses that which you would achieve alone. A trainer motivates you, pushes you, and simply witnesses your workout. Sure you could probably put together for yourself an exercise regimen from a fitness book, but when you have someone else telling you what to do, showing you how to do it, coaxing and goading you to do those last two or three reps, and then calming you down when you think you’ve seriously injured yourself—the quality of your workout, and thus your overall health—improves dramatically.

The trainer also makes working out easier. First, even if you want to skip the gym, you can’t because (a) he’s expecting you and (b) you’ve already paid him for the session. Moreover, the psychological aspect of the workout is less stressful, in the sense that all you have to do is show up, shut up, and do as you’re told. No more worrying about the quality of your workout.

I don’t know about you, but, I’m always concerned with my workouts. With weights for example, am I lifting too little and not building muscle, or too much and risking injury? Is that extra rep the one that’s going to give me the chiseled torso I covet, or send me to the hospital with a herniated disc? Are ten more minutes on the treadmill going to enhance my cardiovascular health or give me a stress fracture? Is this workout going to motivate me to come again tomorrow or make me so sore that I’ll never step foot in a gym again?

Am I pushing myself too much or too little?

With the right trainer, these questions disappear. I know if I surrender myself to his regimen that in three months I’ll be a dramatically different person.

So I got to thinking: What if I had a personal trainer for my whole life—work, learning, writing, family?

It's not such a wild notion. The Mishnah advises us, “Kenei lecha chaver—Acquire for yourself a friend.” This friend, explains Rabbeinu Yonah, has a three-fold purpose: Someone to study Torah with, someone to look after your religious observance, and someone to consult with and advise you on all matters of life. Rabbi Efraim Epstein once suggested getting a personal mashgiach—a paid professional, to follow you around during your day and motivate you, encourage you, steer you, rebuke you. Whatever the situation calls for.

Imagine someone who wakes you up in the morning, hauls you out of bed and drives you to the synagogue. After services, he studies with you, then serves you a nutritious breakfast. He escorts you on the subway ride to work, elbowing you when an elderly woman gets on—a subtle nudge to give up your seat. At the office, he listens in on your phone calls, lifting a finger as the conversation begins to veer off into loshon hara and slapping your wrist when you accidentally let slip a profanity. He scrutinizes your interaction with your colleagues—making sure you don't stare at the woman whose blouse is a bit too low cut, even by Corporate America's declining standards—all the while scribbling notes in his mashgiach notebook.

Wouldn’t your life—spiritual and otherwise—improve dramatically?

We need partners in every area of life. A spouse, a chavrusah, a best friend. It's one of G-d’s ways of saying He doesn’t want us to be alone. We should always have someone to keep an eye on us, someone to lift us up when we’re down, someone to set us straight when we're on a bender, someone to bounce ideas off of. And we must also assume that same role for our friends and colleagues. It may not take a village, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we can go at it alone.

If you need me, I’ll be at the gym.


Blogger Mata Hari said...

quite the renaissance man :)

you might want to consider writing an article for the website...take it a step further, get a wider audience

Fri Sep 23, 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

This is strong stuff! I know people who hang a portrait of the Chafets Chaim in their homes because it helps them to refrain from speaking lashon harah.

Fri Sep 23, 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

god follows you wherever you go too so you not alone

Fri Sep 23, 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Elster said...

How much would you pay for a personal mashgiach? Are you taking resumes? Can we go to a late minyan in the mornings?

One question Cloo: How do you find time to get to the gym? I'm out of the house from 6:30 am till 8:00 pm. By the time I finish dinner, it's close to 9:00. Lucky man.

Fri Sep 23, 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

It's tough. The most sleep I got this week was five hours. I went to the gym again last night at 9:30 after a whole day of meetings. I've got a ton of work to get done before Shabbos and will probably be in the office most of Sunday--yet here I am checking in on my blog (which I finished and posted AFTER the gym).

I think that a little exercise goes a long way to making you a healthier, more productive person. So it's a necessary investment of one's time.

As for MY personal mashgiach, I think TRK already took the job!

Fri Sep 23, 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

Yep. Currently, I lack the proper motivation. Now that "bathing suit season" has passed and all. Also, I don't diet well around the yomim tovim.

As for TRK, I'll take that guy down...

Fri Sep 23, 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

cloo - sounds like you're burning the candle at both ends. be careful - even cloo is not superman
don't know if you're single or married, but where does mrs. cloo fit in to the picture?

you know - you keep mentioning these great investment strategies. just wondering - is this all an elaborate ploy to develop a fan base and then suddenly reveal your identity so you'll get a whole slew of clients? very clever.

Fri Sep 23, 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

I used to be a personal trainer, and one of my clients gave me the best compliment when I quit my job to work on wall street. She said

"No one make me as strong as you did, remember when you leave us, you will always have yourself"

Fri Sep 23, 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger int said...

I disagree. If you have someone who always tells when you've just begun to sin, then this would take away a large chunk out of your free choice potential.

Fri Sep 23, 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Semgirl said...

Another fantastic post.. I hope you are very sucessful in your investment job, cause otherwise you should seriously consider writing professionally..

Sat Sep 24, 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Aw man, now you're making me feel guilty that i haven't worked out or done any significant exercise in like 2 years...

I need to go find some capoeira...

Sun Sep 25, 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I'll set the sprituality aside for a moment and stick to the physical and say that I'd love to have my own P.T. It would be pretty cool, aside from time and money I see no reason why I cannot make it happen.

Mon Sep 26, 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Jew Speak said...

cloo, very nice post. Rabbi Pliskin makes an interesting point. He said that some people train so hard in sports so that they can hear the cheer of the crowd at the real game. He notes that we can make our own cheers, inside our own head! We can make a positive tape and play it inside our head all day long. This will keep us happy and movitivated... just like having your very own trainer.

Mon Sep 26, 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

jew speak,

those are called endorphins (or for some - the alter ego)


Mon Sep 26, 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Limey2001 said...

the kosher gym????

Mon Sep 26, 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is this hoodie? Why doesn't she have a blog? (did the big bad wolf get to her?)

Mon Sep 26, 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

elster - bring it on!

CJ, another good post, piling on the mussar for us spiritually bereft individuals. I reiterate mh's point about the spouse being all-important, and may be posting some of thoughts on this matter soon - what are yours? should a spouse be a mashgiach as well?


Tue Sep 27, 01:46:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

"Should a spouse be a mashgiach as well?"—TRK

That's a tough one.

Defining the Torah's description of Chavah as "eizer kenegdo," the Gemara states the opinion, "zachah, eizer; lo zachah, kenegdo—if he is meretorious, she will help him; if not, she will oppose him." The Brisker Rav, I believe it was, famously quipped, "When is she an eizer? When she's kenegdo." The implication being that a wife has to push and challenge her husband.

Not to, G-d forbid, disagree with the great Rav, but I think it really depends on the guy. Some guys do need a wife to keep them in line. But many more men need to They need their wives to "stand by their man," not take on the role of Jewish mother, as so many do. What many of those wives don't realize is that while getting their husbands to do their bidding, they sacrifice the intimacy of marriage, because quite frankly (notwithstanding Freud), nobody wants to make love to his mother. (That last idea is lifted from "The Surrendered Wife.")

Much more can be said on this topic including a full research of the verse wherein G-d tells Avraham, "Kol asher tomar eilecha Sarah shema bekolah." Perhaps in a future blog post.

PS, I wouldn't consider you or any of present company to be "spiritually bereft."

Tue Sep 27, 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

From what I've seen, when a married man learns regularly, goes to minyan, etc. it's due in large part to the encouragement and support of his wife (sometimes requiring a little push). Of course no one likes to be nagged, but if it's done with tact and diplomacy, it can be a tremendous help. You just have to be smart about it. Chachmas nashim bansa baiysa (or banta baita, depending where you're coming from). The meek little wife who doesn't make a peep is not the typical jewish prototype :)

Tue Sep 27, 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

Mata, tact and diplomacy are key. I think that a lot of it depends on the nature of the husband. If he's a self-starter, he may need to rely on his wife more for encouragement and support--to be his cheerleader, if you will.

If he's the undisciplined, carefree type, he made need a wife to keep him in line and help with structure.

That's where the chachmas/t nashim comes in.

Tue Sep 27, 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Well of course if he's a self starter and taking care of things on his own, then by definition she doesn't need to be a mashgiach - correct? So where's the issue?

Tue Sep 27, 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

Obviously, there are shades of gray. The question is: How does she view herself? As Mashgiach or as Cheerleader. Both roles need to be played at different times, but leaning too far in the wrong direction can really hurt the marriage.

Tue Sep 27, 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

I agree

Tue Sep 27, 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

CJ - do you check your email?

Tue Sep 27, 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger turquoiseblue said...

You guys are so funny... (cj, mh) this is all theoretical debating, right?

It so happens though, that you are quite close to what "real life" is/should be... Not one guy likes when his wife "tells him" what to do... yet it's our duty to subtly prod them IF they start slipping or need it... As well, I, as wife, want that in return. VERY subtle, of course :) Do it wrong, and it sure does "hurt the marriage" as CJ put it.

Doesn't mean it always IS that way... (accepted gladly) and many times husband/wife can drag each other DOWN... but it's an ideal scenario for "Kenei lecah chaver" and/or "Ezer Kenegdo"...


Tue Sep 27, 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

turquoise - what can i say...i enjoy a good debate with a worthy opponent - call it mental ping pong :)
yup - it's all "virtual" having never met the elusive CJ - but if i ever see a guy on the street with a gemorah in one hand, wall street journal in the other, looking very buff and like george clooney - i'll know who it is

Tue Sep 27, 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Elster said...


You got them all fooled with that picture of yours. I'm thinking about slapping a photo of Brad Pitt or something on my site so people will start thinking that way about me.

Tue Sep 27, 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

elster - if you are going to pick a hunk to pose behind, i would suggest you not go with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, or Jude Law, due to recent events (respectively Angelina, Katie/scientology, nanny gate). may I instead recommend Patrick Dempsey - one of my personal favorites.


Tue Sep 27, 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Lost said...

Ugh. You're reminding me I have to stop sitting at the computer and start moving. reading this post was depressing.. ;)

Tue Sep 27, 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

I think men who pray are sexy, nothing excites men more than a man getting emotional and passionate in his tefilah all wrapped up in his tefilin and talis.

Besides those guys need less therapy from me.

Wed Sep 28, 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Anonymous said...
Who is this hoodie? Why doesn't she have a blog? (did the big bad wolf get to her?)

among many a flock

Wed Sep 28, 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

The kind of professional you are looking for exists - it's called a "life coach." It's like "executive coach" but for your life outside the office.

Thu Oct 20, 02:51:00 AM  
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