Dear Dr. Yael,
While I know this column primarily deals with marital and family relationships, as a frequent reader, I know you have addressed other issues as well.
I just turned 40 and I’ve never abused alcohol, but I do smoke. After a lifetime of responsibility and hard work, I find myself feeling old for my own good. I want to stay healthy for my family and, of course, for myself, so I have decided to start exercising. I tried to start this process on my 30th birthday, but pushing around machines in a gym bored me and I have always been a bit too heavy for jogging. I worry about my family and I want to be healthy to take care of them and protect them.
My reason for writing is two-fold:
First of all, what exercise program do you suggest I do that will keep me engaged? And second, how do I find the time to do it with a full time job and a full family commitment?
Thank you for your time!
Since fitness and self defense is a specialty of Captain Eilon Even-Esh, I asked him to answer this question. Captain Even-Esh has trained my son and his friends in Krav Maga and has helped many children and adults gain confidence and increase their physical and emotional strength.
Thank you for asking such important and relevant questions. My first suggestion would be that you pick up the phone and make an appointment to see your physician. Before beginning any exercise program, you want to make sure you are healthy.
For now, my suggestions will assume that you are basically healthy, just “out of shape.”
Allow me to address the second part of your question first, that of time. In our circles, it is rare to find anyone with “free time.” So sneak in the physical activity whenever possible. Take the stairs, play with the kids, go for a walk with your wife, and gradually work yourself up to more strenuous activity. Whatever you do, don’t let the illusion of free time be a prerequisite for an exercise program. We can all wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. Most of us would do well to turn off all electronic devices after a certain hour and salvage that time for the betterment of our health. Ultimately, you have to follow Nike’s advice to “Just do it.” That’s how to start.
The secret to keeping at it and turning physical activity into a lifestyle is to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing.
Work is difficult and, well, that’s why it’s called work. Exercise, however, shouldn’t be work. It should be play. The Rambam suggests engaging in exercise that also “speaks to the soul.” That being said, everyone has a different temperament. Find the activity that moves you and develop that activity into your own exercise program. I am a former military man and a Krav Maga practitioner, but we are all attracted to different activities. I recently walked nearly a half marathon with a teenager who previously refused to do any physical activity. How did I get a sedentary teenager to walk that far and to want to do it again? During our conversations I discovered that he had a certain GPS-oriented game on his cell phone. It is essentially a scavenger hunt game where the player needs to walk certain distances in order to find more and better virtual stuff. The game is addictive and I have seen grown men in suits play it. The previously sedentary teenager had so much fun that we walked for four hours straight and he wanted to do it again.
Do you have kids? Find out what physical activity they like and do it with them for thirty minutes a night after dinner. They don’t know what they like? Try shooting hoops or riding bicycles together. At the very least, go for a walk and have a nice chat. You’ll strengthen the bond between you and your children and burn a few calories while you’re at it.
You mentioned that you were too heavy for jogging and the gym bored you. I suggest your exercise program involve learning a skill that also helps protect your family. As self-defense is something I enjoy, I would suggest learning Krav Maga, which is a reality based martial art developed by the Israeli military. Since most folks outside the military don’t wear body armor and carry rifles, with time it further evolved into a civilian-appropriate application. There is something very satisfying about learning how to use your body to defend yourself and your loved ones. And sweat brought about through punching and kicking pads full force is almost always accompanied by a smile.
You mentioned that you smoke. I have had more than one student quit smoking altogether because it interfered with their training. Beyond that, I have students who trained and were pulled out of depression, learned how to control their anger and of course were able to defend themselves in a dangerous situation.
I hope that answered your questions. Feel free to contact me with any more questions, and good luck.
Eilon Even-Esh is the founder and head instructor of Shomer360, an organization whose mission is “to instill strength and confidence through world class self-defense within a Torah observant framework.” To contact him, please call 917-376-3637, visit www.shomer360.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.