By Rabbi Zolly Claman
(Edmonton) – In 2010, Ellen Latham founded an exercise studio in Miami called Orangetheory. What began as one small business, that she opened to rebound from a devastating job loss while raising her 9-year-old son on her own, now boasts over 1 million members and 1,200 locations worldwide.
The epicenter of her business is a science-based fitness regime that is known by the acronym “HIIT,” and it stands for High-Intensity Interval-Training. Unlike most forms of exercise, participants repeat short spurts of high-intensity exercise, intermingled within longer stretches of lower intensity activity designed for active recovery. Say, within a 60-minute workout, the goal is to keep the heart rate raised above 85% of your max for only around 15 minutes in total.
The science brings to light many physical benefits and on top of that participants find it easier to stay motivated. It is very hard to be motivated for a long and intense exercise that tests our physical and mental capacity for a sustained period of time. But during a HIIT exercise, since the recoveries are built-in and part of the process, the motivation is far easier to conjure up.
I believe that in a way, our Jewish calendar is designed as a HIIT workout – a spiritual one that is. We are challenged to push ourselves in high-intensity spiritual spurts, tap into different themes and energies via the holidays, and take the experience back into the recovery periods, also known as ‘the regular days,’ where it continues to enrich.
In a micro sense, the added dedication to Hashem and the spiritual realm on Shabbat is designed to surge our week with a higher level of awareness and mindfulness. In a more macro sense, we have our annual calendar that puts us through a constant interplay between intense pushes and recovery.
With that said, having Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah all back-to-back, the Jewish month of Tishrei is the ultimate intense interval in a HIIT spiritual workout. But we need to find the motivation within to push, because done right, it can fill our valve with passion and excitement for the entire year.
The science behind the HIIT workouts demonstrates that even during the recovery modes, our bodies are still stimulated with a continued rise in the metabolism even when recovering. May it be that the same will hold true for each and every one of us in our spiritual HIIT exercise – that it leaves our Neshamot feeling more alert, in tune and sensitive to opportunities to grow and connect even post-High-Holidays.
May your Rosh Hashana be sweet, your Yom Kippur be meaningful and your Sukkot be joyful – שנה טובה ומתוקה.
Rabbi Zolly Claman is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation, Edmonton’s Modern Orthodox Synagogue.