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Improving your body, mind: Jewish olympians weigh in
by Masada Siegel/JointMedia News Service
Oct 25, 2011 | 3951 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<i>Sasha Cohen</i>
Sasha Cohen
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Four-time Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg opened a swim academy at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles to teach kids about safety—not to turn them into career athletes.

“We start teaching children at three months old, and can start younger, but our mission is to make sure kids are water safe,” Krayzelburg said in an interview with JointMedia News Service. “A majority of our clients are trying to satisfy that goal. It’s not about making them into competitive swimmers.”

Yet, after talking to Krayzelburg, most parents would be inspired to have him as their children’s professional role model. Krayzelburg was determined to be a world-class athlete no matter the hurdle. Whether it was commuting 45 minutes by bus and foot to get to swim practice or learning a new language, he accomplished his goal, and said competitive swimming taught him how to persevere and to deal with not always winning.

“I learned from my mistakes and, most importantly with swimming as it’s an individual sport, what you put in is what you get out,” Krayzelburg said. “There are no shortcuts.”

The way that Krayzelburg derived inspiration from fitness is just one example of how taking care of one’s body is closely related to taking care of one’s mind.

Judaism even has a commandment that focuses on being fit, according to Rabbi Micah Kaplan of Congregation Or Chadash of the Northeast Valley in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Judaism embraces the commandment of Shomer HaGuf, taking care of the body. Being athletic enables us to take care of ourselves and then have the emotional and physical ability to take care of others and bring Judaism to the world,” Kaplan said in an interview with JointMedia News Service.

Figure Skating and the ‘Mind-Body Connection’

From the pool to the ice rink, many think of figure skating as a winter sport, but it actually is appropriate throughout the year. It is also one of the highest calorie-burners and an excellent form of exercise. 

Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion Sasha Cohen started skating at a young age, and figure skating taught her more than just how to be an athlete.

“There is a mind-body connection; figure skating teaches you how to have an intense focus and awareness at the same time,” Cohen said in an interview with JointMedia News Service. “You learn to pick up what is going on around you and even who is watching you. It makes you hyper-aware of your surroundings and what is going on inside of you.”

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