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Comfort is a Slow Death…Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In one of the workout videos I like to watch, the trainer says, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I’ve also been eyeing a workout t-shirt that says, “Comfort is a Slow Death…Prefer Pain.” Maybe pain is too strong of a word, but discomfort certainly applies to most of my workouts, but I’ve found that this idea goes much deeper than just the discomfort of a deep stretch or lifting heavy.

It’s all too easy to become comfortable, particularly as I get older.

It’s easy to stick with what I know, with what works, and not try new things. Why should I upgrade my phone to a newer model if this one works just fine? Why should I learn a new system at work if I’m an expert in this other one already? Why should I spend time with people I don’t know when I already have a group of friends? Why should I make friends with people who don’t think like me…or don’t look like me if it’s easier to stick with people who I already feel comfortable with? Why should I change out of my comfy clothes and dress up to go out to something? Why should I learn something new, risking looking silly or foolish when I already know so much?

It’s such an easy trap to fall into because it feels…comfortable.

And it’s something I consciously try to resist every single day because it really is a slow death. Avoiding discomfort slowly begins to restrict your growth. Just as refusing to move in new and different ways slowly makes your body tighter and tighter, your muscles freezing into one shape until you are trapped in your own body…the same thing can happen to your mind or soul. By refusing to look like an awkward beginner or feel the discomfort of the effort of trying something new, you allow your entire being to dry up and shrink back into itself, becoming rigid and inflexible.

Have you ever heard it said of someone older, “Well, that’s the way they are…they can’t change now.” The assumption is that this process is inevitable, that we have no other choice but to accept it and console ourselves with comfort as the world shrinks around us. The fact is that this is the source of so much suffering as we age. In our bodies, this plays out as all kinds of illnesses as well as injuries that come from not moving or making the same movements over and over. The avid golfer puts their back out because they’ve done little else but golf for 20 years or more. The tennis player’s elbow gives out. The sedentary person starts seeing issues with high blood pressure and diabetes. In minds, people can become more stubborn and opinionated, unable to see things from a different perspective. They can retreat and become isolated. There is even evidence that avoiding learning new things plays a part in the development of alzheimers and dementia. We become prisoners of our bodies and our minds, trapped in pain and suffering…all because comfort lulled us into complacency.

It’s not easy to try new things.

When I first started working out again last summer. I couldn’t do a pushup. Not even on my knees! It was embarrassing for me. I felt shame that I’d let my fitness slide so much. I could remember doing one armed pushups in college with ease and now here I was, shaking and struggling to do one pushup on my knees. I just kept doing what I could, trying to do a little more each day until now…I can do plenty of pushups on my toes again. It didn’t happen overnight and I had to struggle through that awkward stage where I felt ridiculous. When I went back to yoga, the first time I went to a studio class, it was all people in their 20’s and the were all wearing very little. Here I was in my 40’s, quite overweight, covered up more with my hair covered, too. I looked SO out of place as I looked into the mirror and saw myself among the rest of the hot yoga class. The teacher mentioned a song being out when she was in Junior High and I only felt older…that song had been popular when I’d already had kids! I was red in the face, sweaty, awkward, and shaking, but I kept up and I kept doing yoga even when I felt awkward or silly.

I certainly felt silly signing up for a yoga teacher training. I’d done yoga for about 20 some years off and on, but I’d never been the super bendy, tall and willowy yoga girl. I am built stout, short and stocky. I often can’t do some poses simply because my anatomy doesn’t allow it. I have muscles and curves in the way or my arms or legs simply aren’t long enough. I was also still working on regaining strength and flexibility. (Remember the pushups?) I signed up anyway and set myself to really working hard in the two months I had before my classes began. Even so, when I logged on for my first online class, I felt SO vulnerable. They had us start teaching that very day, on camera, watching and writing notes for feedback. I felt like they probably would just tell me to quit. I was older than many of the students and less flexible or fit than many.

And yet, I also was a better, more thoughtful speaker than some. I found that because I am not that “bendy yoga girl,” I could talk people through poses and modifications more clearly than some of my fitter or more flexible peers. Having struggled with some of the poses myself, I knew more how to help students. And…after hour after hour of doing the poses and getting solid feedback, my own form improved along with my strength and flexibility.

These same things carry over to learning a new skill at work or trying to broaden my mind or social circle. The more I dive into uncomfortable new things, the easier it becomes and the more flexible my body and mind become. I even FEEL younger, with a similar ease in my body and my mind as I had when I was younger, but somehow lost for a while as I settled into what was “comfortable.”

So…how do I do it?

I find that I have to not overthink it. If an opportunity to try something new comes up and there aren’t any huge costs or risks beyond making a fool of myself…I commit myself to it before I can think of all the logical reasons why I shouldn’t. Even better if it comes with some kind of commitment that I can’t take back because then I know my sense of obligation will pull me along. This can be as simple as committing to a friend that I’ll try something with them…I wouldn’t want to let them down. Or, as for my next yoga teacher training, I went ahead and put down a non-refundable down payment today and the dates are on the calendar. When my husband brought up the idea of renting a cabin in the woods for Passover, I said yes before I could think through how difficult the logistics might be, knowing that we could figure them out. When a new project comes up at work that sounds interesting that that I could learn from, I volunteer before I have a chance to think through all my self-doubt.

If your first gut response to something is “Yes! I want to try that,” then say yes before every doubt you have about yourself can be brought to you by your mind…because it will. Let’s say you want to learn to play guitar. If you don’t hurry up and sign up for lessons and get a guitar, your mind will start helpfully pointing out every reason why this is a dumb idea before you even begin. It will tell you you’re too old to learn, that you’ve never had musical talent, that it costs too much and there are more important things to spend your money on. It’s selfish of you to take the time and money to do this. Then, it will dig into all your memories to find every embarrassing time you tried something new and made a fool of yourself. Remember that time you tried out for the Junior High Volleyball team and the ball hit you in the face and everyone laughed? Yeah? Well, this is going to be just the same. You’re going to try to play the guitar and you won’t be good at it and everyone is going to laugh at you. You might as well not try at all.

If you’ve already paid for the lessons and bought the guitar, it’s easier to tell that negative voice to shove it. If you’ve already paid the down payment and asked for the time off, it’s harder to back out. If you’ve told a friend you’d go try goat yoga with them and they’re counting on you to be there, it’s harder to let them down. Make it easy for you to say YES to those things that you keep thinking you might like to try and hard for you to say no. I also try, when I can, to make the first step to my new goal right away, rather than off in the future. The sooner I get started, the easier it is to keep going. If I sign up for a 5k in one month, I go running that day and I buy the new shoes that I’ll feel guilty leaving sitting in my closet.

Like Nike says…”Just do it.”

Life is far too short and precious to reach the end of it and think of all the things you didn’t let yourself try because you were afraid of what others might think or that you’d fail. Failure isn’t the worst thing in the world…it means that I tried and learned something. Sometimes…it’s learning that something really isn’t for me. I also find a good sense of humor helps. It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. I laugh all the time when I do balance poses because I fall in and out of them. I keep trying, but I laugh when it doesn’t work. I also find that when you laugh at your own awkwardness, people tend to take it less seriously, too and are more likely to remember your good sense of humor than how awkward you were.

Life can be a wonderful adventure if you are able to be open to it rather than slowly closing yourself off to it. I encourage my kids to lean into the things that make them uncomfortable because that’s where their greatest growth is. For my daughter, this means pushing her out the door into social situations or signing her up for camp. She’s more comfortable at home, but the more she stays there, the harder it’s going to be for her to step into those awkward social situations and the more her world will close in around her…and she’s far too young for that to start now.

So…what new thing are you going to do to step out of your comfort?

Today, I’m putting on a huge inflatable unicorn costume to deliver treats to my community. I’ll look absolutely ridiculous and probably laugh most of the time and it’s definitely outside my comfort zone…so it’s a perfect way to celebrate Purim. After all, I’m pretty sure Esther felt pretty uncomfortable stepping up to talk to the King and confront Haman, but it was her way to grow into who she was meant to be.



This idea has been front and center in my mind these past few days. I’m in the midst of preparing for my final exam in my Yoga Teacher Training and also preparing for holidays as well as watching weather crises wind down in the south and the slow roll of Covid vaccine rollout in my state.

And in the midst of all of it, I keep coming back to this idea of interconnectedness.

We have this blind spot in American culture where we tend to like to look at things as belonging in separate containers. In school, subjects are neatly divided, with science keeping a safe distance from history and history not interacting much with english and so on. Anyone who has ever had a medical issue that falls between two specialties knows acutely how our medical system divides up the body into different systems, each with specialists focusing on just one part. We ran into this figuring out which insurance applied to my daughter’s oral surgery…on the one hand, it’s teeth, so maybe dental? On the other hand, it’s surgery in her jaw…so maybe medical? It turns out the answer is…it all depends.

Over and over this pattern is repeated. We are a people who like things to sit in very neat, well-defined containers.

We divide up our land similarly into discrete states. This past year, a problem cropped up when states realized that with employees working from home, many people were working in a different state than their company was in…and then scrambled to figure out how that impacted state taxes. We try to easily categorize people as well, trying to simplify complex ideas of identity into simpler containers.

And yet…all of this is absolutely an illusion and that illusion breaks down pretty quickly when catastrophe strikes.

In my Yoga Teacher Training, we talk a LOT about anatomy and physiology. Now, I’ll always refer you to your doctor or physical therapist or chiropractor if you suspect you might have some kind of issue with a joint or muscle or connective tissue. Where I come in is after you’ve seen that professional, they’ve cleared you to practice yoga, and you come to me to learn which poses will help your issue and which ones you should avoid or modify. What I’ve learned in my training is a lot about how the body really isn’t so easily divided into discrete parts. Pain in the knee can actually be caused by a muscle imbalance or problem in the lower back. Stretching your chest can sometimes help relieve a headache or pain in your neck. Our bodies are amazing, intricate structures and each part is connected and dependent on others. A weakness or tightness in one place can show up as a problem far along down the line and the key to a healthy body is understanding this interconnectedness and keeping the parts in balance so nothing is doing more work than it’s meant to because another muscle group is slacking and weak or pulling on other joints or groups of muscles.

Think of an orchestra, with each instrument performing its part in harmony to create the whole.

Zooming back out, it’s easy to see how a lot of things are not in balance around us and how often we try to treat each part of a complex system as if its separate. This year taught us SO viscerally that what happens in one state or even one nation…ripples to others. A tiny virus that jumped to humans on the other side of the world has changed everything here where I live. The storm in Texas showed that no state, even the Lone Star state, should try to stand completely on their own, that being connected to others can be a reservoir of strength to draw on when our own energy is threatened. Texans reached out to their northern friends and family for tips on how to handle the cold and power outages and I’m betting that they will be better prepared if anything like this comes their way.

If there’s anything I’ve really learned this year, it is just how interconnected we all really are. In America, we have this fairy tale of rugged individualism with a mental picture of a frontiersman living out on his own, completely self-sufficient. The reality then and now doesn’t quite fit that fairy tale. We’ve always needed each other and worked together to face challenges from extreme weather to bad harvests to other threats. When we lived in Alaska, in the last frontier, even there, most people had others they were connected to and practiced a form of interdependence with. Neighbors would share the costs of a plane flying to Anchorage for supplies or would divide up a moose kill to share in exchange for help packaging the meat.

We’ve seen that independence can make us brittle and much more vulnerable when circumstances change and that being connected to others, while it carries risk, is also a source of strength.

I hope that as we slowly emerge from this extraordinary time that we’ll each find a better balance between independence and interconnectedness. I hope we’ll keep working together to help our neighbors and community members. I hope we’ll also understand that connection does take effort after having to work through social distancing rules and having to find new ways to connect. I hope that we’ll each begin to let go of the fairy tale of every man for himself and instead embrace the idea that we are all in this together and that we’re stronger when we work together.

I hope we find our balance again, so we have the same ease as a well-balanced body after a good stretch rather than limping along hunched and in survival mode.

Why Yoga *Probably* Isn’t What You Think It Is…or Yoga the Physical Practice vs. Yoga the Religious/Spiritual Practice

If you ask the average American to describe what Yoga is, they’ll probably talk about people bending themselves into contortions, thin white women in yoga pants, chanting, and breathing. Until recently, most Yoga studios had a very particular aesthetic, with lotus blossoms, mood lighting, and even elements of Buddhism or Hinduism mixed in with art and sculptures. If that is what you love about Yoga, then what I’m about to say might upset you and please feel free to ignore me and keep doing what works for you.

Most of that…isn’t really Yoga or at least is more of mashup of various spiritual traditions mixed with a physical practice that really can stand on its own without it.

I’m saying this not because there is anything *wrong* with mixing the physical practice with any spiritual or religious tradition that works for you, but because it has caused a ton of confusion that pushes away many people who might otherwise enjoy and benefit from the physical practice. They may avoid it because they don’t think it fits with their own spiritual or religious tradition or because they aren’t really looking for that at all and just want something to help them get into better shape or gain more flexibility. This kind of confusion even led recently to a teacher telling my own daughter that Yoga was idol worship and shouldn’t be done. That may be some people’s opinion, but in my own, it’s a very over-simplified and incorrect assumption.

To explain how this all happened and why it’s unnecessary, we need to go back for a history lesson and clear up some confusion between the two Yogas, so bear with me.

There IS a religious/spiritual tradition called Yoga that is ancient, thousands of years old. It originated in India. There are old texts describing this and they do mention one “limb” of this tradition called “asana” which is a sanskrit word that we loosely translate to mean “pose” and this is where the term in the physical practice of yoga comes from. However, in these traditional texts, these poses are very simplistic and are used to prepare and stretch the body before sitting in meditation. They are not used in any worship or rites and are mostly sitting positions that are used across meditation traditions. This is all we have documentation of when it comes to yoga poses in a religious context. Chanting, which some people mix in with their yoga practice, is actually a completely separate limb of the ancient religious tradition and there were other limbs that related to cleansing practices like neti pot as well as ethics and such. It was a monotheistic religion with an ascetic bent where it was believed that discipline over one’s body, thoughts, and actions could lead to a higher spiritual level.

About 100 years ago, a man named Krishnamacharya begins teaching yoga at the Mysore Palace in Southern India. He is a practitioner of the Yoga religion and he begins teaching young men and boys a very rigorous, athletic practice that is the first recorded incidence of what we might recognize as yoga. He claims that he learned this from the man who taught him and makes other claims also that this practice was written down on a banana leaf document that was then eaten by insects, but there is no previous documentation of a practice like this. This was also during the time of English occupation of India and this new practice shows quite a few influences from other athletic pursuits like gymnastics and conditioning exercises used by the military. His practice hall for these poses was actually originally a gymnastics hall at the palace. Like good food, influences from these different cultures were blended into something more than the whole of the parts and it quickly became popular and he taught several students who went on to have a huge impact on yoga as we know it today. He continued to teach the physical practice of yoga alongside the religious studies, believing that the two complemented each other.

In the 1960’s, many Americans were looking for something spiritually and it had become popular to search within Eastern religions. At this time, Yoga instructors from India were branching out, leaving India and teaching the physical practice in Europe and the US. They quickly found that Westerners were eager for a certain aesthetic and a mixing of spiritual practices with the physical practices and so…modern yoga often mixed the two and even began to mix in other Eastern spiritual traditions as well into a kind of stew that many people found beneficial but others found off-putting. For better or worse, a physical practice became synonymous with Eastern religions.

There are MANY misconceptions about Yoga that stem from this. One is that the names of the poses in sanskirt have some sort of deeper meaning. In actuality, they are descriptive names that describe the shape of the pose. Many are names of animals, like cat and cow and lizard. Others are names of shapes and many are variations on a stance a warrior might take, but the purpose of the names is to describe the pose and it’s just as easy to use a translation to whatever language your students use. It just sounded cooler to some people to use a foreign language for it. Another misconception is that these poses were used in religious worship, which they were not. They were used to strengthen and open up the body, which was believed to benefit a person in their spiritual life as well. Sequences of poses like “Sun Salutations” were not used in worship of the sun, but were named this because it was intended as a warmup sequence and typically done at the beginning of a practice. The yoga religion itself did not worship animals or the sun, so even if you try link the two, this makes zero sense.

Recently, as more Yoga studios consider the implications of cultural appropriation and more students seek yoga with more of a fitness emphasis, more and more studios and classes are dropping the Eastern religious aesthetic and terminology in favor of a more inclusive, western yoga. You can see this in action at most “Hot Yoga” or “Power Yoga” studios that really look much more like an upscale gym or pilates studio. You also see more fusion classes now with things like functional movement training, dance, pilates, and barre mixed in with yoga poses. To me, this seems a much healthier perspective that opens up yoga to a lot more people and, when you think of it, is really more true to its roots as a mashup of many athletic traditions.

Yoga can be used in so many different ways to benefit the body and mind. A rigorous flow class can build cardiovascular health. A power class can build muscular strength through body weight exercises. A deep stretching class like yin can really increase flexibility and mobility, which is badly needed in modern society. All of them can help train the nervous system to relax in moments of discomfort or stress and help with stress and anxiety.

Of course you can choose to blend whatever spiritual or religious tradition speaks to you in your own personal yoga practice or a class that is held within your faith community. I personally set an intention before I practice and I find meaning in it being a religious one that is grounded in my own faith tradition. I’m just happy that studios and teachers are moving to a more inclusive environment that recognizes that not everyone is coming there for an Eastern spiritual experience and that many students come with their own spiritual paths. It’s also good that Yoga teachers are starting to understand that unless they have other training, they are not qualified to be spiritual leaders or therapists, particularly since there has been a lot of harm in the past from attempting to do so. This is also happening at the same time as Yoga classes are becoming more inclusive of different body types and abilities rather than focusing on poses only the very lean or tall can do as well as promoting more diversity among teachers.

I embrace this more humble, approachable, and inclusive Yoga that has room for anyone who wants to try it!

Exercise and Brushing Your Teeth

When I was in college, I was also in Air Force ROTC for 2 years. I didn’t complete the program due to my genetically imperfect knees, which in the 90’s was enough to get you bumped. Still, I learned a lot and found myself in the best shape of my life. Even so, I hated getting up every morning for PT. I did it, but grumbled. A friend a year ahead of me never seemed to struggle with motivation to exercise and so one day I asked her what her secret was.

She explained that she saw exercise as something she was going to have to do anyway, so it didn’t really matter that she had to do it for AFROTC. She said it was like brushing her teeth. No one is really looking forward to brushing their teeth or excited about brushing their teeth, but it’s a thing that everyone just does each day and gets it out of the way.

That idea stuck with me for years even if the habits that came with it didn’t.

There are times that I am excited for my workouts, but those really are rare. Most of the time, it’s a habit like brushing my teeth. I get my workout in and then cross it off my list for the day in much the same way. By viewing it as something I just have to do whether I feel like doing it or not and just another healthy habit to get done, I find I fight less with myself on those days that I’m just not feeling motivated.

After all…how often do I really feel that motivated to brush my teeth? I can’t remember a time when I woke up and thought, “YES! I get to brush my teeth now!” But…I always do feel better after I have and I always feel better having got my workout in and out of the way.

Living with One Bag Packed

Due to some interesting quirks when it comes to insurance and our son’s treatment, I’ve been living with a bag packed, ready to drive across states and not knowing when the next trip will come. I log in to work each day and plan my projects not knowing if I’ll be here for them or on the road. I prepare food for days to come not knowing if I’ll be here to eat it.

It’s really not as bad as it might sound, but it does put me into a very unusual mindset. I literally don’t know what day I’ll get up out of bed and need to grab that bag and hit the road. Everything is so temporary and there’s this feeling of having only one foot in my daily life. You’d think that would be anxiety-inducing, but oddly…it’s not at all. I find I don’t hold onto the minor annoyances at work as much because I don’t have the perspective that I’ll have to deal with them every day…I don’t know that today isn’t the last day before a couple of days off and on the road. I also really see the good things in each day, like spending time with my husband and daughter and dogs or having the time to chat with a friend rather than trying to send a quick text at the gas station. Every day is unwritten suddenly, unknown and waiting for an email from the facility where our son is. Until that email comes…who knows? Anything could happen, so why sweat the small stuff or dwell on the negative and why not make the most of the positive?

When I explained my predicament to my Rebbetzin, she mentioned that this is how we’re all supposed to live as we wait for Moshiach and that’s when it really hit me. Just like so many things have been revealed in this past year that we’ve all had our lives turned upside down with Covid, this is yet another thing that’s always been there but hidden before for me. Everyone’s life is always temporary, always able to be changed at a moment’s notice. We never know which day is our last or which day is the last day before a major change in our lives.

We ALL live with a bag packed, waiting…we just don’t see it.

We all go about our lives as if the way things are today is the way they always will be, taking for granted the good and really blowing the bad out of proportion. It’s human nature. But…if we could only see that today could be the last time we ever talk to that coworker that drones on and on or that family member that pushes our buttons…how differently would we talk to them? If we could see that today was our only chance to do so many things, wouldn’t we jump at it and make the most of it? If we knew that we only had one last day to fit in all our priorities…how differently would we live?

My husband, when I first started riding motorcycles explained a phenomenon to me. I was laughing that someone who had just met me acted as if I was a “real biker” who had been riding all my life when really it had only been a couple of months. He explained that when someone meets you, however you are right then kind of becomes stuck in their minds as “you” and how you’ve always been. So, if they meet you and you ride a motorcycle…then you’re a biker. If they meet you and you have children, it’s like you have always been a parent. You’ve always been with your spouse, always had that same career, etc. This is why it’s shocking sometimes to learn that someone did something you never would have expected years before you met them. A similar disconnect happens when you visit a place you haven’t been to in a long time and find it’s different. In your mind, you expect it to be just as you left it. Our minds trick us into thinking of things as static and unchanging when really? Things are constantly changing all around us. The world we think we live in is gone when we blink and a new one is here in its place. In any moment, we’re each just one choice or situation away from a completely different life.

And that’s why my packed bag is such a gift. I have a unique opportunity to live in a space of taking each day and moment one at a time not knowing when I’m leaving without the sadness of leaving for good. It’s like a taste that reminds me that this is how I should live each day even when there isn’t a bag packed. It reminds me that however good or bad this moment seems…it’s never my ultimate destination. I can’t dwell here forever, it’s just a temporary stopover on my way. I want to hold on to that feeling long after I’ve been able to unpack.

How would your life change if you lived like you had a bag packed?

Supplement Review – Garden of Life SPORT Plant Based Recovery

So, I’ve talked previously about supplements and the main categories that most people begin with and whether you even need them, but this time around, I’m reviewing a specific product I tried out this week, which is a recovery drink. The purpose of this drink is to try to help your muscles recover faster after a tough workout. It’s vegan and kosher certified OU pareve and retails for about $30 US for 15.7 ounces, which is about 30 servings, so about $1 a serving.

Unlike a lot of other workout recovery beverages, this one isn’t that heavy on the protein with just 2 grams of protein per serving which comes from organic pea protein and magnesium amino acid chelate. So, this product really doesn’t seem to be focused on muscle building, but more on reducing post-workout soreness. To do this, it relies on a mixture of B vitamins, magnesium, and “antioxidents” which basically boils down to several fruit extracts. It comes in one flavor, blackberry lemonade.

How to Use

Basically, within 1/2 hour of your workout, you mix 1 scoop of this powder with 8 ounces of water. I mixed mine in a shaker bottle and found that it’s kind of tough to fully disolve without some grit, but it wasn’t too bad. The flavor was a little like a watered down fake fruity lemonade. The color was the more off-putting part, but this company prides itself on not using artificial colors or flavors, so that’s probably a trade-off there. I definitely was not drinking this for pleasure or the taste, but I also didn’t gag on it, either.

My Results

I do feel like the B vitamins and magnesium were helpful for my recovery after my workouts. I did 2 weight workouts and one cardio workout and I do think it helped some with delayed onset muscle soreness and with my energy after my morning workouts as I headed into my work day. I did find that it wasn’t as filling as my usual protein powder recovery. I also felt like I could have had similar benefits if I took magnesium and vitamin B supplements along with a greek yogurt with berries, but it was nice to have the convenience of a quick drink I could swallow down on the way to the shower.

Worth the Money?

This…I’m not sure on. When I bought the container, with shipping it was about $35, which seemed pricey for such a small bottle, but then again, the scoop is also small. Cost-wise, it probably stacks up just find against comparable products. I do wish it had more protein and I will probably use it along with a protein blend. After I use this container up, I’ll probably try workouts without it before deciding whether or not to buy more and I’ll update this review accordingly.

Where to Get It

You can find this product either on Amazon or I don’t get any money from either of these, so pick whichever works best for you or do a quick google search for your own source.

What Supplements Do I Need If I’m Working Out?

The simplest answer is…you don’t. If you’re already eating a healthy diet that has plenty of protein and antioxidants, then you probably don’t need any of the wide variety of products sold as “fitness supplements.” I view these very similarly to the vitamin aisle at the pharmacy or grocery store. If you’re already eating a healthy balanced diet, then you probably don’t need any vitamin supplements. They can be expensive, complicated, and often their health claims are difficult to prove. Still, I often take vitamins for the same reason I use some fitness supplements and that is because I’m often in a hurry and I like a little extra insurance or convenience.

When it comes to deciphering all the different kinds of supplements out there, I like to keep it as simple as I can and think of them in terms of when I’d use them. They fall into 3 main categories for me…

  1. Pre-workout – these are supplements that claim to help improve your workout performance so that you get more out of that time.
  2. Post-workout – these claim to help with that after-workout soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
  3. Protein supplements – These can be taken any time and help add protein to the diet.

There are others, but most of them aren’t for people just trying to get into shape and are more for the serious bodybuilder or endurance athletes. I also am leaving out hydration supplements, like gatorade, on purpose as well because most people are already familiar with those and unless you’re working out longer than an hour a day or in really hot conditions or you have special circumstances, water is probably fine. So, on to the deeper dive.

Pre-workouts generally are a powder you mix with 8oz or so of water and drink about a half hour before working out. For most, the biggest, most effective ingredient is caffeine, which wakes you up and gives you a boost of energy to get moving. I could drink a cup of coffee instead, but pre-workout powders generally sit better in my stomach during a workout than coffee does. I use one of these for most of my 5am morning workouts and I have noticed a difference on the days I don’t drink it versus the days I do. It actually does help me put in more effort during my workout.

I’m not as sold on post-workouts. Many of these contain BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which is a fancy way of saying that they contain a broken down form of protein. Most experts aren’t sure if this is better or worse than just using protein. They will often have some kind of antioxident mixed in, like berry juices or pomegranate and the ingredients can sound very exotic. The idea is that drinking this gives muscles a quick jolt of just what they need to rebuild tears after a weightlifting workout. Tiny tears in muscle fibers are a good thing because the body repairs those muscles stronger, but sometimes they can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness the next day or day after. In my own experience, I don’t see a huge difference between taking one of these or simply eating or drinking plan old protein after a workout, except when it comes to cost.

Protein powders, however, are a staple for me. Mainly, it’s because they’re convenient. I can mix protein powder with water or almond milk and get a serving of protein even if I’m on the go. I mainly use them if I’m traveling or for a morning smoothie before I work out. I can toss in ice, frozen fruit, and even spinach or kale (I don’t taste it) and really get a solid meal in before my workout and it sits better in my stomach than eating a regular meal. I use vegan protein powders for convenience and kosher reasons and I find a pea protein blend to be the best for me. If you’re already eating a serving of protein at regular intervals before and after you work out, you probably don’t need protein powder, but it’s one small way I make my own life a little easier in the mornings or if I’m on the road.

I’m going to share reviews of some of these supplements that I’ve tried and what I liked and what I didn’t, but for now, if you’re looking for kosher fitness supplements, I often use (I do not get anything from them for promoting them or their products.)

You CANNOT Make Someone Else Healthy…and They Can’t Make You Unhealthy

This is a difficult and painful truth. Many of us have people in our lives we worry about, people who desperately need to make changes in their lifestyle to be healthier. It might be a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or close friend and it comes from a place of love. You can see them suffering. You can see the pain and disease and you can also see how making some changes could really help ease their suffering.

And yet, it’s not in your hands to help them.

Unless and until the motivation to change comes from inside them…nothing you can do will help them. That’s worth repeating because it’s such a difficult thing to accept. Unless and until the motivation to change comes from inside them…nothing you can do will help them.

In my own life, I’ve struggled a LOT with this. I thought if I took all the work out of the changes those I loved needed to make, then they would be able to make them. If I cooked all the healthy foods and didn’t buy anything unhealthy…they’d eat healthy. Instead, they just snuck unhealthy foods outside the home or when I wasn’t looking. If I helped them find a workout program…they’d be able to work out and become healthier. Instead, they just skipped the workouts. The problem wasn’t that the diet was wrong or the workout program wasn’t a good fit. The problem was that the motivation to change was coming from me…not the person who needed to make the change.

Conversely, I also fell into the trap of using the sick people in my life as an excuse to ignore my own health. This is so easy to do. If everyone around you is not exercising and eating junk…why shouldn’t you? If you’re watching someone you love slowly die from lifestyle issues…why should you work hard to change yours?

It’s so easy to just give up, but that only makes the problem worse.

So…if you can’t change others…what can you do?

Counterintuitively, the BEST thing you can do in this situation is actually focus on yourself. Work on the things you need to improve and let go of whatever the other people in your life are doing. Take care of your health. Of course, keep hoping and praying that one day they’ll be ready to join you, but don’t wait for them. In this way, you create both an example and a healthier environment for them, but accept that they may never be ready to make those kinds of changes…and love them anyway.

Real love isn’t “I’ll love and accept you if you live your life the way I think you should,” even if that means that the person you love is making unhealthy choices…those are still their choices to make. Love is accepting the people you love wherever they are, just as they are. The best thing you can do is stay in your lane, remain positive, and keep working on yourself so that you are healthy and strong when they need you.

The rest? Is up to them and G-d.

EASY Non-Pinterest Worthy Food Prep

My food prep isn’t cute. I don’t have coordinated, perfectly-sized containers lined up in my fridge when I’m done. In fact, my fridge is smaller than a normal fridge to fit in our 1912 kitchen, so there’s no way all those cute containers you see on Pinterest would fit in there. I also am not just cooking for me…I have a family to feed and some of the food I prep needs to do double duty in meals for them, too. Lastly, there’s the cost of all those containers. It looks impressive in a post, but I tend to reuse a lot of containers, stuffing things into old pasta sauce jars and a mish-mash of Tupperware rather than buy all kinds of matching sets.

I’m also not one of those people who can eat the same thing, every day, all week long. That is pretty much right up there with boring salads as a recipe for disaster and me giving in to temptations. I have to have some variety and be able to mix things up on the fly, depending on what I’m in the mood for…and yet, my weeknights are also super busy!

So…this is what works for me.

I prep on Sundays, which is my least crazy day and I prepare some specific things each week to make sure I’m set up for success. I like to think about it kind of like I’m putting together a few different “teams” to support me in the big effort to eat healthy. Specifically, I have team veggie (non carby veggies, that is), team healthy carbs, and team protein. Everything else is easy enough to add in, like healthy fats, seeds, and such, but those 3 I need to have easy at hand for when my days get hectic. In order to get variety, I make 2 of each so that I pretty much have a mix and match capsule wardrobe of food in the fridge for the week. As things get used up, I replenish my “teams” from leftovers from dinners I make for my family or swap in easy things like frozen veggies or fake crab sticks and instant brown rice. This way, I keep my variety going and my teams filled, but I don’t have to do major food prep beyond dinner time during the week.

So…what does this wind up looking like on an average week? Here were my teams last week that I prepped…

Protein – I roasted chicken breasts and salmon in the oven, both just with a healthy sprinkle of seasoning blends

Carb – I peeled and diced sweet potatoes, tossed them with smoked paprika, and roasted those as well on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil. I also boiled some quinoa.

Just smoked paprika makes roasted sweet potatoes something more.

Veggies – I cut up and roasted some cauliflower plain on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil, then tossed it with buffalo sauce. I also roasted a whole spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, then let it cool, cut it open and scooped out the seeds, shredding the flesh into a container. As a bonus, I cut up onions, zuchini, and baby spinach for my morning egg scrambles and those I do put into a single portion container so I can just grab them in the really busy mornings.

Roasted cauliflower with just store-bought buffalo sauce adds a kick as a side.

Boom…done. I put it all into whatever the smallest container it fits into and it’s all done for the week. I make sure I have quick additions on hand like string cheese and nonfat greek yogurt, those individual avocado portions from the refridgerated section, and frozen fruit, seeds, and almond milk for my morning smoothie that I mix with protein powder. I keep 2 different types of fruit on hand, whatever is in season.

When it comes time to eat? Most of my “meals” are 1 veggie, 1 protein, and 1 carb and I just pick one from each team, whatever sounds good and I put them all together in a bowl and microwave. For family dinners, I follow the same formula, but cook a protein, veggie, and healthy carb with a lot of fiber and then keep the leftovers to replenish the supply for lunches and snacks. By thinking in terms of these “teams” rather than individual meals, I’m able to keep the variety I want as well as keep my prep to a minimum so it’s less overwhelming.

You Are Absolutely and Utterly Unique

I was talking with a friend this past Sabbath about what I’m learning in my yoga teacher training. The biggest things are things you might not expect. Sure, I’m more flexible and my shoulderstands are better, but I’ve also been learning a ton about anatomy and physiology, the science of how our bodies move and it’s gone quite a bit beyond my high school biology classes. One of the reasons I chose the program I did is because it is based solidly in current anatomy, physiology, and neuroscience in order to understand what practicing yoga does to our bodies and nervous systems and how to get the most benefits. I’m a geek and this is a class more for a person into the science behind yoga and approach it more like a fitness pursuit.

And what I’m learning is pretty mindblowing, at least to me.

Just like in cooking where you’re taught hard and fast rules as if everything is a serious of unbreakable laws and then you see a Master chef purposefully break those laws, much of what I learned in high school biology, which is the last time I studied anatomy, was a bit oversimplified. The human body and brain are far more nuanced that I was taught. One person may have more ribs than another. Another may have more vertebrae or extra muscles that we don’t even know the function of. Even within a single person, they may be extremely flexible in one way, but even tighter than the person next to them in another. There is a wide variance in how one person responds to stress versus the next or how one person’s breathing affects their sympathetic nervous system. Over and over, I learn “this is how the human body is…except for this group of people, for whom it isn’t.”

All this adds up to the solid fact that you are absolutely and completely unique among all other human beings.

From your gut biome to what genes you were born with and which ones get activated by your environment to the way your brain works, your nerves fire, and your muscles work together…there never will be another you and you are only somewhat similar to the person next to you. Isn’t that pretty amazing? The exact combination of everything that you are has never been before and will never be again. I find that awe-striking beautiful.

Of course, this is important for a yoga instructor to understand, since they may be guiding a class of 30 completely different bodies and minds through positions that place stress on body and mind. We learn how to adjust for differences, where to urge students to go deeper and where to caution them to ease up and also how to help them honor and accept the difference of their body versus their neighbor’s without striving to be the same or competing.

But for me at least, this new awareness goes deeper.

The difference in your body or the way your mind works is absolutely unique and on purpose. In reality, there really is no person who is “average” or “normal” in all ways. As the mother of a young man with Autism and ADHD, this is a hugely comforting thought. Each of us is a combination of so many different variances and factors and this world would not be complete without our exact uniqueness added to it. Each of us is as intricate and complex as the universe of stars, solar systems, and galaxies and we’re even a home to a whole multitude of small organisms that work with us. All of this is beautifully and masterfully orchestrated to work together to create this thing we call “me” and I only more firmly believe that there is a higher intelligence that has designed all of this and that we each possess some small spark of that infinity that connects us to each other and to G-d.

Fearfully and wonderfully made indeed.