Terms of Renewal

Just over 2 years ago, I posted about the process of healing the body and spirit following a prolonged period of stress. It was the month before Rosh Hashanah, and I’d been reflecting on the meaning of teshuvah as restoring oneself. I’m not surprised to find myself thinking and writing about these same themes as we begin the new Jewish year in the midst of a second year of the pandemic.

One of the things that helped me maintain my emotional equilibrium during the past year was returning to the gym after months of quarantine. At first, classes were limited in capacity with participants distanced from one another, and the coaches and other staff wore masks. The manager had installed a state-of-the-art air filtration system and barrels of sanitizing wipes all around the studio. Wearing a triple-layer mask, I worked out twice a week; I’m sure I sweated more during those 2 hours than the other 166 hours of my week combined. I’m also sure I felt better while “emptying my tank” on the rower or treadmill.

In late spring—after I’d been vaccinated—I took off the mask, and in early summer I upgraded my membership so that I could attend classes 3-4 times a week. I was determined not only to manage my stress level, which was rising along with the Delta variant cases and hospitalization numbers here in Georgia. I renewed my commitment to take care of myself, to make my health a priority. I’m focused on increasing my strength and endurance, on maintaining my physical and emotional balance. This, I believe, will help me be more flexible and resilient in the year ahead. 

When I wrote 2 years ago about working out at OrangeTheory Fitness (OTF), I described the process of teshuvah, often translated as repentance, as an individual pursuit: “I think of teshuvah as repair work that takes time, as we return to ourselves, better now than before we were broken. Restored.”

In rereading these words, I realize I learned another lesson at the gym this summer: we need to work together to restore our sense of community in order to be stronger now than before we were broken.

I’m grateful to the coaches and to my classmates—especially the 8:45 AM regulars—who offer encouragement, inspiration and support. May we continue to lift each other up, one hour at a time, and renew ourselves in body and spirit in the year ahead.