Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,

I need to lose weight, for reasons that are none of your business. Do you recommend getting membership in a gym or signing up for an exercise class?

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A class, definitely. If you don’t take a class, how are you going to know how to work out? You’re going to be lifting up weights and going, “So where do I put these now? Really?! But that’s where I found them!”

 

BENEFIT #1: SOMEONE TELLS YOU WHAT TO DO

I actually go to a workout class, because my wife told me to. Sure, I can work out at home, but when I’m at home, I have a million other things to do. Whereas when I’m at exercise class, all there really is to do is work out and drink water. And the teacher yells if we drink too much water.

The class I go to (which is called “The 90-Day Challenge” even though it keeps restarting every 90 days so that you’re never actually done) is given by a large Italian-Argentinean gentleman named Marcello, whose hobbies include working out and yelling instructions in a thick accent that is barely decipherable, especially while you’re counting pushups under your breath and trying to focus on not dying. He yells and everyone asks, “What did he say?” (This is why it’s helpful to go with a group.) And then we all just copy the guy next to us, until Marcello goes around and corrects everyone. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly difficult exercise to understand, Marcello demonstrates it, while we all stand there and think, “Thank you. I can also do it once.”

Also, in general, when I’m working out on my own, I tend to – and this is the problem – stop working out. Whereas Marcelo doesn’t let me.

“Ees a shallenge!” he yells. Or something.

“What?!” I yell back.

“No talking!” he says.

Okay, so no matter what exercise he asks us to do, some part of me complains. Though I don’t know why I’m there if not to do these things. I guess I’m hoping to lose weight by just showing up, through osmosis. Or schar halicha.

 

BENEFIT #2: IT’S A MECHAYEV

Gyms are convenient, because you get to pay membership and then never show up again. They count on this. When you sign up, they don’t pick up the phone and go, “Another guy signed up! Buy more machines!” No, they know you’re not coming. But at least you’re not coming on your own schedule. Whereas with an exercise class, it is when it is, and if you don’t come, people ask you why.

“Oh, you had excuses? We all have excuses. Our entire class is people who don’t have time to be here.”

Also, if you miss a class, who says you’ll understand the next day’s class? You’d have to copy someone’s notes.

“Why are your notes all sweaty?”

And I’m not only motivated to come, I’m also motivated to come on time, because otherwise I miss the stretches. I’m at a point in my life where I even have to stretch before hakafos, and that’s not halachically considered dancing. And it’s not like I could do the stretches in my car on the way over, with one leg hanging out the driver’s side window. Nor can I stretch after I get there, when he has everyone run circles around the room to warm up.

 

BENEFIT #3: YOU GET A MORE ROUNDED WORKOUT

When you go to a gym, you can spend the whole hour on the same machine because it’s open and it’s working out whatever doesn’t hurt that day, and because it has an area where you can put down your Pringles can.

At workout class, everyone does everything. For example, some days, Marcello sets up various exercise stations around the room, and each person does one, and then he blows a whistle and everyone moves on to the next one and realizes they have no idea what to do, because at the beginning of class, when Marcello gave instructions, in broken English, we lost him after maybe the first three. Or the instructions flew out of our heads at some point when we hit ourselves in the head with the medicine ball.

So basically, it’s like playing a game of telephone. You get to the next station and go, “What were we supposed to do here?” And the guy before you says, “I don’t know; I was guessing. I forgot to ask the previous guy,” so that by the time the last guy gets to each exercise, he’s basically lying down next to the equipment.

“What?! This is what the guy in front of me was doing!”

“No, I wasn’t. I was trying to lift them.”

But it’s great to do a mix, because different people have different strengths. (Mine is not technically gym-related.) For example, there’s a rabbi there who’s great at jumping rope. He must go to a lot of chasunahs. Or he grew up with a lot of older sisters.

 

BENEFIT #4: YOU GET TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER AS A GROUP

The way our “Challenge” works is that at the end of the session, whoever lost the highest percentage of bodyweight gets a cash prize. On our very first challenge, a friend of mine lost 75 pounds and won $3,000.

I was like, “What are you going to do with the money?”

And he said, “Buy new clothes!”

He ended up giving it all to his kids’ school. He then spent the next few months walking around in clothes that were way too big for him, with his shirt pocket tucked into his pants.

Our group is great because we keep coaching each other to lose weight, and we schmooze afterward while we’re getting dressed, mostly about food. We’re all starving. Mostly guys talk about food that they’re starting to cut, and suggesting everyone else do the same, because they are this close to bringing that food back.

For example, one guy said, “I cut out potatoes; it made a big difference.”

I’m like, “Potatoes? What am I supposed to put in the cholent? Just kishke?”

Then another guy said, “I cut out fruit.”

And I’m like, “I can’t cut out fruit. If I cut out fruit, I’m going to have to go back to candy!”

Since when is fruit unhealthy? When I was growing up, if I wanted to eat something before supper, my mother was all like, “Take a fruit.” Now what am I supposed to do? My wife keeps buying fruit! I think she’s trying to kill me.

Maybe that’s why she keeps sending me to exercise class.

 

Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?” I’ll get to it when I get the feeling back in my arms. Hey, why is it sweaty?

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