Pretzels and the People- A Story From Our Afterschool Program

All around the world, people are embracing a commitment towards a greener, more sustainable planet. Even in the United States, where climate change skeptics have often derailed the conversation with cries of false science and a nefarious liberal agenda, recent extreme weather events like the summer droughts, raging fires, and hurricane Sandy are causing people across party lines to sit up and take note. But what does it mean for our Jewish community—individuals, institutions, movements, etc.—to truly embrace a commitment to tikkun olam and start repairing the world? With many of our natural resources exploited, wildlife populations threatened, and an ever-growing sense of futility in the face of a dire yet abstract crisis, where should we even start?

How about with a room full of energetic K-5th graders in afterschool at the 14th Street Y in New York City? Let’s start with something tangible and mundane, like that small bag of pretzels we eat for snack. And let’s start with a question: how do those pretzels get to us, and where do they go when we’re done?

Since Oct. 5, the kids, afterschool director Chloe Markowitz, and I have been in hot pursuit of the answer. We know that everything starts with the earth and goes back to the earth in the end. We know that, somewhere in the middle, those earth-products pass through our mouths and hands. And we are beginning to uncover many of the untold stories lying latent inside the cellophane—from the farmers growing wheat to the factories assembling the package, to the landfills and sewage works, and all the pilots, conductors and drivers who earn their wages connecting the dots.

On paper, “sustainability” is incredibly simple and instinctually obvious. All we have to do is live in balance with our natural habitat, avoiding unnecessary damage, and only taking that which can be replenished. In the real world, however, our attempts to live sustainably get caught up in a tangled and complex web of pre-existing, enveloping, and often unsustainable systems.

A bag of pretzels is not just a bag of pretzels. The ingredients represent a farm bill that subsidizes industrial monoculture, highly processed foods, and underpaid, overworked laborers. The bag denotes our dependance on oil for disposable, sanitary packaging, and an underlying assumption that we can afford to waste. Its physical existence and near instant evaporation embodies big rigs lumbering down long stretches of freeway, and delivering gratuitously high asthma rates to New York City’s disenfranchised outer boroughs, where most warehouses, waste transfer stations, and unsightly sewage treatment works are located. Etc., etc., and so forth.

But we are not just the sum of a system. We create and shape our society every day in innumerable actions both pedestrian and profound. Who we vote for, how we spend our money, the ideologies and policies we promote in our companies—almost every engagement with the larger world serves to sustain the status quo or forge a path towards greener pastures.

The key word, however, is “we.” There’s really very little that the average person can do. Even a CEO, who may cast a wider net when she takes her company green, represents only one link in a global chain. Yet those links are all connected, and seven billion average people maintain what already is, even when we can’t see them doing it.

Our after school kids now know that the tables they sit at for snack don’t set themselves up. Sami sets them up. They know that they are warm in the winter because there are radiators. They took pictures when Conrad, the Super, brought them to what he calles “the heart of the building,” turned on the boiler, and pointed out the pipes that carry steam up, up and away. They understand that every plastic wrapper means more waste into the large dumpster Jane showed them out back, and more trips to our out-of-state landfill.

And then Jane opened the compost bin so they could look inside.

We can’t just talk about change; ideas are only one link in the chain. We have to support new paradigms with concrete action. Our afterschool “Green Friday” program is only one piece of the 14th Street Y’s greater commitment to sustainability  under Executive Director Stephen Hazan Arnoff. From a pedagogical perspective, it’s important that our kids can talk about industrial food systems with me, and also taste local produce from the Hazon CSA on Thursdays. From an institutional perspective, it’s critical that their commitment expresses itself holistically—from the way their physical structure is maintained and improved, to the supplies ordered and materials produced, their egagements with stakeholders and the greater community, etc. Otherwise the change itself is not sustainable.

It’s not always obvious or easy. In just one bag of pretzels, we found a whole Pandora’s box. But if there’s one thing the kids have taught me so far, it’s that we can’t see the forest until we’ve seen the trees. If we want to get closer to the earth, we have to know just how far we’ve come from it. Only then, piece by piece, can change begin to ripple from the farmer to the factory, to the front desk, to us, and right back out again.

  The 14th Street Y sang about going GREEN last Spring with this original song by Nathan Tysen

Shawn Shafner is the Founder of The POOP Project and Green Educator for the 14th Street Y Afterschool Program.

Family Fitness Continues!

The 14th Street Y is committed to the fitness and well-being of your entire family.  Though our Family Fitness Intensives had to take a break due to conditions from Sandy, this Sunday we’re back, and more fun than ever!

Family Capoeira is a fun and energetic workout based on martial arts, dance and simple acrobatic moves.  You and your kids will have a blast together and get a great workout at the same time! 

Family Capoeira is FREE for members.   If you have a friend or two you’d like to bring with you, please contact Camille_Diamond@14StreetY.org.

We can’t wait to Capoeira with you!

FAMILY FIT DAY This Sunday October 21st!

Why?  Because Families are busy, but still want to spend time together, build great habits, and model a healthy lifestyle for their kids. 

We’re celebrating our Family Fitness Initaitives with FAMILY FIT DAY  at the 14th Street Y.  Climb a rock wall, play silly sports, run fun relays (gunny sack races, anyone?) and play super soccer stars TOGETHER.  Sponsored by Beyond Sushi (YUM!), East Village Body Works (chair massage for adults!) Tu-Lu’s Bakery (also, YUM!) Gym Source, Web MD (thanks!) and our friends at the wonderful Ciao for Now.

11:00AM-2:00PM.  Hope to see you there!

Family Fitness at the 14th Street Y!

Family Fitness is more important now than ever before.  Like it or not, our kids are on track to be the first generation to have shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.  For this reason, the 14th Street Y is making Family Fitness a priority!

Because we understand that families are busy, we know that combining exercise with fun and being together is the best way to ensure a healthy amount of activity.  With your membership you and your kids can enjoy Family Swim 7 days a week,  Family basketball court time every Saturday,  plus Special fitness intensives for the family the 2nd Sunday of every month.

Join us for our first Family Fitness intensive THIS SUNDAY!  Our goal is to not just create opportunities for families to be FIT TOGETHER, but to create memories for healthy  habits to last a lifetime.

Save the date for our FAMILY FIT DAY event on Sunday, October 21st!  Rock Wall Climbing, great food from Beyond Sushi and Tu-Lu Bakery, plus fun relay and fitness games that you and your kids can do together!  Check  www.14StreetY.org/funwalk for more details!

The BUFF BRIDE’S Trainer

Today our blog features an interview with Jordan Forth, our BUFF BRIDE’s Personal Trainer.  Christen, our Buff Bride has been working with Jordan since March and getting into the best shape of her life for her Fall ’12 wedding.  Christen has been consistently working out in our fitness center with Jordan for  Strength training workouts, combining this with Evening Yoga classes and gym workouts on her own.

The Y:   Hi Jordan, thanks so much for meeting with us today.  To start, we’d like to know how have the workouts have affected her progress?

Jordan:  People when they work out, or in life, tend to play to their strengths.  As a trainer,  I’m someone who motivates her through the things she doesn’t like as much. Consistency with a trainer especially,  always affects the progress, as opposed to her working out on her own.  When you’re with a trainer, you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, someone else does that for you.  And you also have someone who can motivate you, which has a huge impact on progress.  In fact, I always tell people to work out with a partner or with a team, because it keeps you accountable to someone.

The Y:   And takes them to the next level?

Jordan:  Exactly!  It’s very  motivating.  Even me, I’ve been working out since I was about 12 years old.  And if I’m working out with someone else, or a team, I’m always going to push it that much more, not only for myself but for the people who I’m with.  As far as a trainer is concerned, people will push it that much more because they have someone to do it for.

The Y:  Christen’s workouts went for the mix of the strength and endurance workouts combined with Yoga.  How have they complimented one another and affected her progress?

Jordan:   Yoga is great.  I do it and have done it for 13 years.  Flexibility is essential, along with strength, cardio and endurance, those are the keys to fitness.  With most people there are specific things where they need flexibility.  In general, one has to be careful about hyper flexibility, and putting joints at risk by creating hyper flexibility where you don’t need it.  As I mentioned, People work towards their strengths. Christen has done really well balancing the flexibility training from Yoga with the Strength and muscular endurance training with me.   Christen has also been working around her busy schedule.  She’s got a great career, she travels a lot, and she works out when she can and what works with her life.  She needs to reduce stress as much as she needs to build strength, and the yoga and cardio training she’s done outside of the workouts with me have been great for her.

One other thing about Yoga is that it also balances your nervous system, you connect with breathing, focus on body awareness, body mind connection.  Yoga and Strength complement each other tremendously for that.

 Pictured:  Jordan and Christen stretch using the fitness ball, activating core muscles while stretching the legs.

The Y:    How about nutrition and food?    Is that something you talk about?   Is there more of a craving for certain kinds of foods by working out this hard?

Jordan:   For sure, that’s always going to be the case.  The more intense your workouts, the more you’re zapping your body of glycogen stores in your organs and muscles. We have a tendency to crave carbs, which is fantastic but you want to do healthy fuel, less processed, more whole grains and foods.  We talk about nutrition some and use My Fit Pal.  When you live in New York and work in a tough industry, it’s tough to prepare healthy food from whole ingredients.  Overall, we want to have food that is the least processed.

The Y:   Any thoughts from you about what it’s like in general to work with one person and see the change?

Jordan:   Generally, in life and in training, What you get in is what you get out.  Hands down, no matter what you do.  Trainers are a medium, and  a trainer can only encourage you and provide you with the information and motivation needed to guide you through.  Sometimes a trainer’s work can be frustrating because the client isn’t putting in the work, and not getting the results that they want.  But when they Do put in that work, and they do get the results, I’m ecstatic the rest of the day.  It’s only frustrating when I want it more for the person than they do.  When I see someone who’s gung ho and dedicated, it makes me smile and excited in general.  That’s huge for me.  Being able to help people move better–When it boils down, that is why I do this.  I want help people move better.  The more they can do that, the more they can move through life’s challenges.

For more information about Personal Training at the Y, contact Adja_Diara@14StreetY.org.  Information is also available on our website.

BUFF BRIDE: Pictured!

Have you met Christen, our BUFF BRIDE?  Christen has been working out with Jordan, one of our stellar personal trainers in preparation for her wedding this autumn.  In addition to these morning workouts with Jordan, Christen has been a regular attendee of our Monday and Wednesday evening YOGA classes with Lauren.

For proof of how great she’s doing, take a look at Christen in this photo from a recent Monday evening class.  Christen is pictured in the front of this photo, performing a yoga pose that all at once works the core, creates space and flexibility in the back and chest, strengthens the legs (particularly inner and outer thighs), and releases tension through the breath.

Have you tried one of our Yoga classes yet?  Take a look at our schedule and see which one works for you!

The Latest from our BUFF BRIDE

  This is Christen!  Christen is getting into her best shape ever for her autumn 2012 wedding by working out with our Personal Trainer Jordan , 14th Street Y Yoga classes, and by eating enough healthy food to fuel her work and progress.  We’ve posted Christen’s most recent workout here.  Try it the next time you’re in our fitness center!

Warm-up:

-Elliptical: Intervals 10-15 minutes;

1.5 min work phase (heart rate up to 176) / 2 min recovery phase (heart rate at 151-164)

-12 Side Lunge to Balance on BOSU (Right)/Lateral Crawl 5 paces out /6 Plank Rotations/Lateral Crawl 5 paces back

Repeat Circuit on the left, beginning with side Lunges to Balance on BOSU

 

 This is a Bosu!

Strength:

20-24 Squat to alternating press and rotation

12-15 Assisted Pull-ups (using the machine in the fitness center)

12-15 Standing Cable Press

15-20 Sumo Squat Deadlift

 

Core:

30 total Plank with hand taps on step:  (Start in a plank. Keeping your body rigid (hips and shoulders level) reach to your side as far as possible with your left hand while balancing on your right elbow and feet. Bring your left arm back in to the plank position. Repeat with the right hand and continue. To make this easier, position your feet further apart.)

15 Swiss Ball Straight Leg Bridge to Glute Bridge

30 total Ball Twist

 

Various Stretch:

We like the routine in the stretch link!

 

Stay tuned next week for Christen’s next workout!