The Spiritual Beast Within

workout buddy
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I’m not really interested in a personal trainer. One of them at my gym runs a class from 5 to 6 in the morning when I workout. Frequently, they occupy space I need to occupy in a rather annoying way. And having watched this same group of people for quite some time, the guys in the class don’t seem to be shrinking their guts any, so I question the efficacy of this trainer’s particular routine.

That said, there are always times when you will need to ask for help. In my case, I tend to ask my son David, since he’s got a fair amount of experience in lifting from his time in the Marine Corps (he now does a bodyweight routine rather than any form of weight training).

However, an exercise program can yield more than physical benefits. I’ve written before on how exercise might be better than seeing a shrink and that working out is only one part of pursuing a balanced life.

I try not to make this blog “religious” but I think even some atheists would agree that human beings have a “spiritual” side to our natures.

Hence the following:

All of us come with a built-in spiritual fitness trainer.

The trainer’s job is to gauge our spiritual capacity at every step and adjust our program accordingly. Just when things start getting too easy, our trainer will turn up the friction on the standing bicycle or add more weights to the pulley-lift.

This innate personal trainer has many titles. It’s crucial to know at least some of those titles. If you don’t know the identity of this trainer, you might get the idea that you are failing when really you’re making great progress.

Most popular title: “the beast within.”

See Tanya, book 1, chapter 28.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Personal Trainer”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

“The beast within.” I rather like that. I think it applies, at least in male psychology, to lifting weights at the gym and the pursuit of “beast mode”.

However, the way Rabbi Freeman is likely applying the metaphor is in working just as hard on your spiritual development, however you choose to define that, as on your body. The idea of balance is not to focus too much on any one attribute you possess, but rather to treat each aspect as part of the overall “you.”

It is certainly possible to become addicted to the gym and there are times when I think I am. Even my wife thinks I workout too often. I choose to set aside her advice (which I do at my peril 😉 ) and maintain my current level of frequency.

gym addict the rock
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But I also try to reserve time for other pursuits, including spiritual studies. I’ll spare you the details since I have a have a separate blogspot for all that. I also don’t want to use this blog to promote any one particular faith, religion, lifestyle, orientation, or anything else. While we may have health and fitness in common, I’m aware that we may diverge in many other areas.

I suppose since I’m writing anyway, I might as well let you know what I did today at the gym. This is a “rest” day from weightlifting, so I focus on abs and cardio. 60 seconds rest between sets, since ab work isn’t nearly as physically stressful as lifting.

Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts (bodyweight)


Decline Bench Crunches (bodyweight)


Weighted Cable Crunches

15x 160lbs/72.57kg
12x 160lbs/72.57kg
10x 160lbs/72.57kg

Overhand grip body hang (bodyweight)
x25 seconds

Then I did 40 minutes on the Elliptical while upping the resistance one level and doing five minutes of sprints before settling in on a regular pace. After a total of 35 minutes, I slowed down to a walk for my five-minute “cooldown.”

incline situps
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The only other thing I changed slightly in my ab work was to do the decline bench crunches with just bodyweight. Normally, I use a 25 or 35 pound plate, holding it against my chest, but I wanted to switch things up slightly.

My workout took the whole hour today which kind of surprised me, but I threw in an extra set on the captain’s chair, too.

While I didn’t go into detail about how I maintain my “spiritual beast within,” let me know how you nurture yours by making a comment below. If you don’t want to comment, that’s fine, but you could use this opportunity to check in with your spiritual side and see how its doing.

It might need some attention.

A little tug can bring in a great ship.

Rabbi Shraga Silverstein


8 thoughts on “The Spiritual Beast Within

  1. I have been extremely frustrated lately by news at home and abroad, and by clients in our business. I went to the gym for my weekly meeting with my trainer, and usurped her plan, asking to do 10-lb medicine ball slams. Standing on alternating feet, and whomping that thing down with all my might, 2 sets of 10 reps. Man, did that feel good, and I left calmer, anger drained. Not very spiritual, but it sure helped.


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