“C’mon. You can do it. You can change. You can push yourself. You know you want to. You need to believe it yourself.” All these (and more) motivational sayings are ringing in my ears. Not because I just entered an army recruitment office and not because I went to a class on the opportunities of the High Holidays. Rather, they’re from the leader of the Peloton running class I watched while on the treadmill.

On and on she went, encouraging, cajoling, pushing. And you know what? It works.

When I watch the class instead of just creating my own routine, I run harder and faster. I push myself to go at speeds I usually avoid. On an incline no less.

I still have to make the huge effort to turn on the class instead of the audio book I was enjoying, but once I do, I get a much more vigorous workout and I feel much better afterwards.

And even though it’s not a Torah class about growth and change, it could be. Because just as we need encouragement and a little extra push when we are exercising, we also need it when we are trying to work on our character. In fact we may need it even more because it’s so much more difficult. I usually run for 45 minutes/day. Working on my character is a 24/7 proposition – unlike the treadmill, I don’t get Shabbos off.

And even though I roll my eyes when the trainer starts with the clichés like “Dream it, believe it, achieve it” and “Be the change you want to be”, I know that there’s some truth there. I need to believe in myself, I need to know that with the Almighty’s help, change is possible. It can really happen but I must take the first step.

They’re also fond of chanting “Yes you can” and when taken out of any political context, it can also be encouraging. I used to rely on “The Little Engine That Could”’s refrain of “I think I can, I think I can” but perhaps affirming that I actually can is more powerful.

I exercise because it makes me feel better, it is healthy, it releases the tension and okay, it allows me to indulge in that bowl of ice cream at night! But even with all the external motivation, it is hard to get on the treadmill. I rarely “feel” like it but I push anyway – because the benefits are so clear.

The benefits to working on myself are even greater. They’re even more important. They matter so much more. And yet I still need some external motivation. It’s so hard to make the effort. My bed, that new novel, that bowl of ice cream (!) are so much more real and alluring…

Having a spiritual trainer is just as crucial as having a physical one. And if I can’t find one online (an idea for a new app maybe?) then perhaps I have to be my own coach.

And I can use the tools from my early morning run. I can mimic the enthusiasm and excitement of the trainer (let’s pretend it’s real and not motivated by job considerations). I can tell myself over and over that I’m capable of more, that I can push, that I can grow, that I can change.

Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching. This is the time to implement this strategy. If I’m not going to “be the change I want to be”, no one else is going to do it for me. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me…and if not now, when?”