I was at slichot services last week, pounding on my chest while chanting a list of things I was repenting for, hoping I wouldn’t accidentally bruise myself while repenting.  (A friend of mine claims that you’re not supposed to think of it as whacking yourself because you feel guilty, but as giving yourself a sort of comforting hug.  I argued that it doesn’t really make an amusing sound if you hug yourself while singing, and why should you deserve comfort if you’ve been sinning like crazy all year anyway?).  As much as I like beating myself up, it seemed like a fairly large waste of energy that I could be spending doing other things.  “If only there way a way to repent in a more productive way” I mused, yawning my way out of shul.

The morning after slichot I dragged myself to the gym for my most spiritual moments of the day, when I fervently prayed “God, get me off this machine!  Get me off this machine now!  Seriously, I’ll do anything you want…GET ME OFF!”  It was then that I realized that my desire to combine pain with tshuva without wasting energy could be resolved, and I invented the tshuva-cycle. 

Every fifteen amot the tshuva-cycle’s screen flashes one of the sins from the vidui in Hebrew and English transliteration.  If you feel you are guilty of the sin, you press the “I repent” button, and the intensity of your workout is increased.  All the discomfort of chest thumping, none of the bruises (or fun effects of playing with the way your voice sounds while you hit yourself, the enjoyment of which dramatically counteracts the effectiveness of any repentance you might be attempting) and it increases your cardio fitness!  Place your orders before Pesach if you want a tshuva-cycle of your own for the next tshuva season.

by Amanda Milstein