Shabbat Surfing: Tu B’Av – It’s All About the Love!

If you’re feeling an extra bit love and affection floating around today, it’s the effects of Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love.

(Or as other Jewish denominations pronounce it, lurve.)

If you want to pass along the love, you can send a free Tu B’Av ecard to your special someones, designed by contest winner, Rachel Scheer.

Tu B'Av ecard by Rachel ScheerAnd isn’t a Day of Love the perfect time for a Kiss-In?

The Jewish community was recently polled to find that 81% support equal marriage for all. Some will be celebrating the today with National Same-Sex Kiss Day, in support of equality for all, and in response to Chik-Fil-A’s Chickens for Bigotry* campaign. It seems all expressions of affection (kisses, hugs, holding hands) will be welcome, as will as any and all who would like to come and kiss.
*Not the actual name

Whether you are celebrating with a quiet dinner at home, or a huge white party with hundreds of your nearest and dearest, our Tu B’Av wish is that you know how much we love our readers and all who join us at the DCJCC.

Find your Inner Olympian

Sue Bird

As it hits Day 4 of the Olympics, most of the talk has been surrounding the USA swim and gymnastics teams, and whether or not they are competing at the level that many people want them to.

But let us focus on athletes who have not gotten as much attention–mainly the USA Women’s Basketball team and, for us here at the DCJCC, one of the players, Sue Bird.

Sue Bird, who currently plays for the WNBA team Seattle Storm,  holds a dual citizenship to both the USA and Israel.  The USA Women’s national team has so far cruised in their first two games of the preliminary rounds.

Aly Raisman

Not only do we have Sue Bird to root for, but  in the Women’s Gymnastics team final, we have yet another athlete to cheer for: Aly Raisman, who is competing for Olympic gold tonight and in the next few days for the All-Around Gold medal in gymnastics.  In this year and years past, many Jewish athletes have medaled in the Olympic games.

Join us here at the DCJCC as we start our very own fitness challenge next week–we’ll walk, bike, run and swim the length of England to meet our athletes at the games.

Find your inner Olympian!

Telling It Like It Is: Jews, Sports and Writing

With baseball season in full swing, enjoy this podcast from the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival, Telling It Like It Is: Jews, Sports and Writing.

Former New York Times columnist and Emmy-winning television host Robert Lipsyte, author of the memoir An Accidental Sportwriter; historian John Bloom, author of the biography There You Have It:  The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell; and moderator Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post’s “D.C. Sports Bog” discussed sports, culture and modern media.

This event was part of the The Chaim Kempner Author Series, which brings authors of recently published books to the 16th Street J for the learning and enjoyment of the entire community, and was presented in partnership with the 16th Street J’s Sports Leagues.

Right click and “save link as” to download as an MP3
Or listen online here

Body Pump Breakthrough

By Lynda Espada
Director of Sport and Fitness, DCJCC

Les Mills Body Pump

photo credit: Les Mills Body Pump

In the 20+ years I’ve been a group exercise instructor, I have taught some form of just about every type of group exercise. Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to certify for Les Mills Body Pump.

Did I really want to get another certification?

I have seven certifications already, but I was getting bored teaching the same Hi-Low and Step classes every week. Maybe, it was time for something new and challenging? I accepted their invitation.

I attended the three-day certification training, and the first day of training was tougher than any other certification I had ever done. Many times throughout the day I kept asking myself, did I really want to do this? But I somehow finished the days of training, plus all the other requirements, and got my certification.

And… I have since loved every freakin’ moment of teaching Body Pump.

What do I love about Body Pump?

  1. It WILL change the way your body looks because it works all major muscle groups to fatigue. You will “feel the burn” in every muscle group if you perform the reps, moves, and form correctly. (And I’m a stickler for form in my classes!)
  2. There will ALWAYS be a challenge awaiting you! It keeps your muscles/body guessing (i.e. the overload principle) so your muscles have to work harder, thus becoming stronger and more toned. You can always go up in weight (without sacrificing form!) or perform the movements at the correct pace. Body Pump is designed to move through different speeds to work the muscles differently, thus producing faster changes in the body than otherwise could be accomplished with some other weight training programs.
  3. It is a fun, upbeat, and motivating atmosphere! I try to keep my class motivated and challenged throughout the 55 minute class and keep them coming back and looking forward to the next class – and most of them do!
  4. It challenges your mind AND your body. As you perform the moves correctly and with the right form, you get to make your MIND decide how your MUSCLES move. The body likes to cheat. Yep, the body WANTS to cheat, so the mind has to take over and decide that, no, the muscles will slow down and perform the proper speed with the proper form. But of course, no cheating in my class!
  5. It gets you out of an exercise rut, my friends!  Every quarter, we change routines and music so your mind and muscles get challenged a bit differently each time.
  6. It is the best way (I have found) to work every muscle group without boredom and without having to have a lifting partner. It is a muscular strength AND endurance class, so remember, it will work the entire body, it does have a slight cardio component in some tracks (depending on how fast the movements are). You WILL burn an average of 450-650 calories per class (ALL dependent on body size, weight lifted, body weight, fitness level, correct form – and of course, your effort).

So maybe today or next week, if you are looking for something new and challenging like I was, consider a Body Pump class.

You’ll thank me… after that initial soreness goes away.

Shabbat Surfing: They Get to Play

Earlier this week we were introduced to the boys’ basketball team from the Orthodox day school Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas. The team had made it to the semi-finals but couldn’t play because the game was scheduled for 9pm tonight (Friday). Throughout the season several of Beren’s opponents had agreed to reschedule games to avoid conflicts with Shabbat, but the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) would not budge on this tournament game. TAPPS shot down Beren’s appeal to play the game in the afternoon in a 8-0 vote, with one member absent. It seemed certain that the 23-5 Beren team would have to forfeit.

Petitions circulated, inflammatory blog posts were published, and Houston mayor Annise D. Parker expressed her disappointment in a letter to TAPPS. “It is also my understanding that TAPPS teams are not allowed to play any sports on Sundays,” Parker wrote. “Which I presume is out of respect for the Christian Sabbath.”

Yesterday it was decided that the game would be rescheduled for 2 pm. In the end, however, TAPPS cited legal concerns as their reason for rescheduling. DC-based father-daughter legal team Nathan and Alyza Lewin contacted a pair of attorneys in Texas to take on the case. Together and pro bono, the lawyers filed a complaint and application for a temporary restraining order  on behalf of Beren Academy players and their parents.

Players and parents are happy that TAPPS, whatever the reason, finally made the right decision. The future will likely bring up more issues and discussions of pluralism in the organization but in the meantime: GO STARS!

Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Note: Nathan and Alyza Lewin will be going head-to-head about Baruch De Spinoza’s excommunication in Theater J’s Spinozium on April 1. Find out more about the Spinozium and Theater J’s production of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza here.

Don’t Think “Diet and Long Workouts” – Think “Lifestyle Change”

Don't let this happen to youWe’ve all been there, trying the quick-fix diet plans and workouts.  We’ve tried them all – low-fat to low-carb to low-cal.  We’ve tried the “we are going to do cardio every day this week!” –  running from indoor cycle to Pilates and yoga to body sculpt. By day three we realize, UGH! – we can’t even move a muscle in our aching bodies.

This is crazy and we have not even lost a pound.

With little or no satisfaction, we are back on the couch with the remote in one hand, our favorite junk food snack in the other and lots of Advil, swearing that there has got to be an easier way.   

As a personal trainer and fitness instructor for twenty years and someone who has struggled with personal weight gain and loss issues since age five, I am able to relate to the many of the same issues as my personal training clients   Unlike most kids who have their distinct likes and dislikes of certain foods, I can honestly say there were very few foods I didn’t like… I have travelled up and down and back again on the very same path as my clients.   I was always the “healthy kid.”

Through many years of trial and lots of errors, I have figured out what works for me- but that does not necessarily mean it may work for another.  We all have different body compositions, likes and dislikes, and I have found success in making healthy lifestyle changes comes without much effort –they are just part of my every day. There really is not one lifestyle change fits all.  Even working out five times a week does not mean I do not need to watch what I eat carefully.

About two years ago, I started by making small significant changes to my diet, and not overnight, but slowly. I wanted to lose 15 lbs. as I felt my wardrobe was fitting a bit snug in all the wrong places and buying another wardrobe was just not going to be an option.  I started with eating a small healthy breakfast every morning.  But I ate food I liked.

Then, after a healthy breakfast was part of my normal routine, I started to eat both a healthy breakfast and lunch. Before long, this lifestyle change became part of my every day.  You need to do what works best for you –a lifestyle change as part of your every day life, not a crash workout binge– that will keep you healthy and motivated, at least most days.  When it comes to lifestyle change, it is all about you. 

As a personal trainer, when I start to work with a new client, we never discuss the word “diet;” we discuss lifestyle changes that are easy and do not take much effort.  If the changes you make are not easy, there is no way you are going to keep them up and eventually, most of us fall back into our old patterns.  Your diet should be balanced and healthy most days, but is definitely okay to splurge on occasion. 

Start with small steps and before you know it, the change is part of your lifestyle.  When you get up today, take a 10-minute walk, or instead of skipping breakfast, eat a small meal consisting of healthy carbs, protein, and a little fat.  Try it for a week.  When that step works for you without effort, it is time to make another small change: a 20-minute walk or a eating both a healthy breakfast and lunch. 

There’s one basic fact that can’t be denied: we are creatures of habit. To make health-conscious changes, the changes have to fit in with our habits. Quick fixes don’t exist for long-term health.

Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian

By Kristen Gardner, Wellness Director

As summer comes to an end and the weather starts to cool, I start to see more members coming into the fitness center, and they are looking for healthy nutrition ideas.  It’s finally starting to cool down, so I don’t mind turning on the oven.  I love this healthy late summer vegetable tian (pronounced tee-ahn), which originated in Provence and references the shallow earthenware casserole as well as the food it contains.

Farmers’ markets around the city are abundant with many different varieties of succulent squash, sweet onions, juicy heirloom tomatoes and earthy potatoes. It can be served as a gorgeous vegetarian main course with a nice salad of market greens and a crusty French baguette, or as a side dish to meat or fish.

This nutrient-dense tian contains many richly colored vegetables, which serve as a great source of carotenes that protect the body from cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. These tasty vegetables also provide a healthy dose of potassium and vitamin C.  So, enjoy this delicious recipe – guilt free!

Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian

2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes
Sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with sea salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned. Enjoy.

(from For The Love of Cooking)

Jason Marquis: By the Time He Gets To Phoenix, We’ll Have No Jewish Baseball Players in DC

Shalom Chaver

It wasn’t exactly a shock. On the spectrum of possible events, the prospect of the Washington Nationals trading Jason Marquis, their one Jewish player, fell somewhere between “unavoidable” and “most likely.” And so when word came down on Saturday, just hours before Jason was scheduled to pitch against the New York Mets, that he had been dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a minor leaguer, no one was terribly surprised. After all, he’s a 33-year-old pitcher going into free agency, who is going to want one last big payout that the Nats were unlikely to offer given their bumper crop of young pitching coming-up from the minors. Baseball 101 demanded that you trade this guy and get some possible value for him while he’s still worth something — in this case, a Single “A” infielder you’re unlikely to see down at Nationals Park anytime soon.

Still, as a Nationals fan, I applaud the move.

As a Jew, I wonder: They had to trade him on Shabbos? Right before this kid from Staten Island was going to pitch against the New York Mets? Couldn’t they wait so his mother could shep some naches? Never mind the subtle hint of sending an aging Jew in the twilight of his career to Arizona. Any time your local team happens to have on its roster a Jewish athlete, there is a tribal feeling of pride at the accomplishment — it’s an anachronistic but widespread reaction. And while it is more in-line with the current American Jewish ethos to want your child to become a member of Congress rather than a member of the starting rotation, there’s no denying that Jason Marquis leaves Washington’s Jewish pride in better shape than Anthony Weiner did at his exit.

I enjoyed watching Jason pitch. He was no Sandy Koufax, but he was ours. And now he’s theirs.

Thankfully, G-d never closes one door without opening another. As if in anticipation of Jason’s departure (and hockey season), the Washington Capitals signed free-agent and local-boy-done-good Jeff Halpern to a one-year contract at the beginning of July. So, the region isn’t without a major Jewish athlete — (we’ll see if Jeff opts not to play on Yom Kippur again this year — the press always loves a good Hank Greenberg/Sandy Koufax Day of Atonement Dilemma).

But let me take this last opportunity to wish Jason Marquis “shalom and lehitra’ot.” He’s a good pitcher, and a mensch.

Live Longer, We’ll Show You How

by Lynda Espada, Director of Health and Fitness

Psalms 90:
The span of our life is seventy years, or if we are strong, eighty; yet at best it is toil and sorrow, over in a moment, and then we are gone.

NOT!

Health and Science Editor of The New York Times and author Barbara Strauch has a new book The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. In it, she looks at the latest scientific research about the middle-aged brain. And if you are between the ages of 40 and 68, this means your brain. If you’ve ever joked but not really about your early onset of Alzheimer’s when you’ve walked purposefully into a room and then been totally mystified about what your original purpose was in going there in the first place, there is good news.

The latest science tells us that if we keep ourselves healthy, we not only can maintain our brain function, but can actually improve our brains from middle age and beyond. In fact, genetic quirks aside, we can live throughout our lives with pretty sharp brains. Not that you won’t pick up the phone and forget who you meant to call. But other brain attributes of the middle-aged and older brain are not only so much better than anybody ever thought but even better than in the younger brain. We are not losing brain cells, we get to keep them.

What are some of the things you can do to maximize your odds that you are a pristine ager with the brain cells and sharp memory to, forgive me, knock ‘em dead? Well, there’s nothing new under the sun. Eating right makes a difference not just to your body but to your mind. And you need to exercise not just for your body but for your mind. It turns out that your brain really is a muscle much like the heart in that working it makes it better and stronger. The best data is with exercise and across the board they find that if the brain needs anything, it is very much like the heart and it needs blood. The blood needs to be circulated. Your brain needs oxygen. You don’t need to run a marathon, just get your heart pumping and know that your brain, in its own special way, is pumping too.

Come in and talk to our Sport, Fitness and Aquatics staff  about nutrition, exercise, wellness and fitness concerns and plans that will get you on the right track. And consider attending our upcoming June 16 program, How to be Happier and Healthier Until 120 , where Rabbi Jonathan Perlman will teach life lessons from the Jewish tradition about staying engaged, taking risks, forgiving, expressing gratitude, and other values that can grow as we grow older.

Because There Are Only 879 Days Until London 2012

The Olympics have wrapped up and armchair athletes can take a breather. Not a single athlete has been sanctioned over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But you, Mr. and Ms. Olympic “Could Be If You Only Made an Effort” Athlete, you are fully entitled to the rush to be gained from endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds. Yes, we’re talking endorphins. No need to go to some sleazy dive, no need for illicit materials, no, the source of these is right there in your very own body. You too can have feelings of exhilaration, a sense of power and control over yourself. How, you ask?

Get out of that armchair and stop watching others exercise. Run, swim, bike, take a group exercise class, whatever, it just doesn’t matter, just move something in some direction other than sitting down. (Though of course we do want you to stop moving long enough to read this rant).

Not that you aren’t aware of this already, but the Mayo Clinic (stellar reputation as a pioneer and innovator in medicine) gives you seven reasons to exercise:

  1. Exercise improves your mood, in part because physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. (now that’s what we’re talking about here)
  2. Exercise combats chronic diseases
  3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
  4. Exercise boosts your energy level.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
  6. Exercise can be — gasp — fun!
  7. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.

Really can’t argue with any of that. And may we suggest that the full range of fitness facilities available at the 16th Street J, to say nothing of the nationally-certified personal training staff, are here for you. Run on over (or walk, we’re not particular) and we’ll give you a free day pass to try it out. And if you’re already a member, mix it up a bit—swim if you usually run, take a class if you usually do the bike, try free weights one day instead of the Cybex. And if you ever have questions about membership or fitness, you can’t do better than to go to Lynda Espada, Director of the whole shebang (formally known as the Sport, Fitness & Aquatics Director).

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