Sunday, August 06, 2006

Knees track your toes*

Fitness as a concept was something which I had never heard of as a kid. Sure, I had seen leotard-clad people in movie-songs in Indian movies. But I took that literally - as in, movie stars wear fitness clothes as a part of the costume-change routines which invariably peppered the videos for songs. But it did not strike me that ordinary people could actually go to a gym and work with all the equipment or could allocate time in a day specifically for the purpose of doing "exercise".

Sure, my dad used to advocate after-dinner walks for the family. But these were fun things to look forward to and could always be skipped (by sis and me that is - dad religiously goes for after-dinner walks and drags mom along too :-)). Other than that, I don't remember doing activities specifically for the purpose of keeping fit. Of course we had the Physical Training (PT) classes at school. We used to do a variety of exercises under the watchful eye of a PT teacher and play games like kho-kho, throwball, dodge-ball, lock and key etc. But PT classes fell into the category of "fun-things" along with the regular evening games we played with neighborhood kids and the like.

Given these facts, it is no big surprise that I realized only during my final year of undergrad studies that my college actually had a gym for the students' use. It had only a few equipment not in the best of conditions, still it was there. Of the other sports facilities, I had made use of the badminton courts fairly regularly, the cricket pitch once when we practised for an all-girls cricket game (which we lost spectacularly) and the sports ground a few times for simply running around.

This running happened when the hostel wardens came up with the brilliant idea that all hostellers should get up at 6.00am in the morning and run around the huge sports ground. Apparently, they wanted us all to become more fit. Obviously, after a couple of sleepy head days, we soon perfected a system by which we took turns giving proxies to all our friends in order to not show up everyday. This proxy system gained such widespread popularity that at some point hardly 25 girls were actually running while the attendance showed that at least a hundred of us had supposedly showed up :-D. The forcible effort to make us fit was halted soon after this was discovered!

Anyway, bottom line is, exercising for the sake of exercise was something I did not usually do. In India I could not notice too many bad effects either. The plentiful walking and physical movement everyday mercifully ensured that.

Then I came to the US. I was very surprised to find that each and every food item had nutrition information on it. And what's more, people actually checked the nutrition labels when buying food! Soon enough, I started doing it too. Now I am so habituated to this practice that I cannot buy anything from the grocery store without referring to the nutrition label (not that it has stopped me too much from buying high calorie stuff - I just feel a little bit more guilty before eating it happily - that's all :-D).

Even more surprising was that my roomies would set off on most weekday evenings to the university recreational hall for gymming! And for the first time, it struck me - gyms are something more than just cinema props. Just to figure out what the fuss was all about, I started putting in some time there too. Not too frequently but at least fairly regularly. Basically, enough effort to make friends and family to tell me that I had lost weight when I visited India and make me tons of delicious dishes to fatten me up again :-D! All the time I was in Davis, I took up some form of physical activity or the other to offset the effects of putting in long hours at the lab.

Then I moved from Davis. The first few months, taking public transportation, walking to the library, shopping and the like constituted the major chunk of my "exercise". Then I moved apartments. My new roomie, A (who is a good friend from my Davis days) and I started regular, almost everyday, tennis-playing sessions in our apartment complex's sole tennis court. After three months of regular play, we probably inspired too many other residents to get active too. For, we no longer found the court empty when we returned from work :-(. Sigh! So that was the end of that fitness stint.

After a winter filled with vacationing and lots of eating out, it looked like the next India trip would result in family and friends exclaiming upon the effects of living in a "rich" country. Time to get a fitness plan again. I noticed that fitness classes were offered by the local community center.

Both A and me registered. I registered for 2 classes per week while A, since she was getting married later that year, decided to register for four classes a week (in an effort to get that model-like figure ASAP :-))! The first class happened on a Tuesday. We did a lot of lunges, squats and other exercises with weights. I could not believe that exercises could be so tough! Needless to say, I ambled like a duck for the rest of the week (the Thursday class, though slightly less tough, only served to increase my soreness). Mercifully, I soon figured that as long as I was regular to the classes, they became easier on my poor muscles.

Now its been more than a year since I started going for those fitness classes. People tell me that I am in good shape these days - some days I realize that for myself. Even then, sometimes it is a big pain to drag myself to those classes after a hard day at work. However, now I seem to be in a trap - I don't seem to be able to stop myself from going! But the rush of good feeling (and discernable long term results :-)) I get whenever I complete a class, no matter how reluctant I was to get to it, makes it all worthwhile I guess!

* knees track your toes is my Fitness instructor's most repeated instruction when we squat :-D!

23 comments:

A said...

yayyy! I figure in your blog:D

Archana said...

LOL :-D - you are funny :-P! Check and see - you feature in some other posts too :-))

Prasanna said...

I remember trying sooo many types of fitness routines..nothing worked so far for me...for the past 6 months I have been doing my Yoga regularly, cos I throughly enjoy doing them...I think that is the point...if something has to be long term, it has to be fun too...

Archana said...

Thats true - I think the success of any routine depends on how long it is "keep-uppable"!

Anonymous said...

u write so well, u exercise too. will u marry me ?

Rahul Obla said...

"However, now I seem to be in a trap - I don't seem to be able to stop myself from going! "---- Willing to trade anything if you could tell in detail as to how you reached this stage :).

Shilpa said...

Another benefit of exercise....u get marriage proposals too LOL

I miss my gym so badly here.
I feel so awful without exercises...!

Like Prasanna said..its finding what u like and that has results that make a difference...for me...its aerobics :)

Floridora said...

I read. I get exhausted. I go back to bed.

spark said...

okk. but there has been an increase in 'fitness' activity all round. i agree with the good feeling. it keeps your mind active too.

Known Stranger said...

you really have patience to write. i really understand you like writting. many people like talking.. you really like writting.

Harish said...

I too have now got used to see the calorie stuff marked on the food labels.

Archana said...

Anon - what the !@#$%? I am ROFL now :-D!!!

Rahul - ah, the secret depends on your nature. I have an OCD streak in me which makes me feel guilty if I don't do some things which I know I shd be doing. So, do you have OCD too ;-P?

Shilpa - I know, I started laughing when I read that :-D!! Ah, remember HD - hope you are doing sth abt it :-))!

Floridora - LOL :-))!

Spark - that's true. I get a natural high whenever I exercise!

Known Stranger - err - is that supposed to be a compliment :-)?

Harish - I guess all of us get used to it after a while!

Prabhu said...

I have one small doubt --
Why do all the fitness classes have like 95% women and may be an odd man or two? Atleast the ones that I have seen at our school's gym and here at YMCA are like that...

That is one thing which keeps me away from these classes...

But then, even before I read the post, I saw the comments, and LOL at Anon's comment :)

Archana Bahuguna said...

I am impressed and inspired. I am still in the "developing" health awareness phase. In fact, my total health activity in 2 years in US can be completely summed up as a little jogging sometimes, joining yoga classes once a week for 3-4 weeks and mild meditation (& reading books on health).

And yes, what nutrient is there in which food, how much to eat a day, how to churn a balanced diet everyday is a recent change I am trying to bring about. Only most of the times these things dont last. :-(

Thanu said...

I so remember when I was a lot younger I used to play for fun and run for buses and wud keep me in shape, now I have to make it a point to go play/run to keep in shape.

Ramki said...

I recently started to read your blog and I really don't know about you. As far as i know, if you can find a desi gal in gym means either her marriage would be fixed or would be reallyyy obese.

-Ramki

Archana said...

Prabhu - I really don't know! Maybe guys consider it more "macho" to be seen hanging around a gym rather than exercise in a fitness class :-))! I think I know why men don't usually go to aerobics classes though. Guys, in general, seem to have lesser coordination than women and are hence "interesting" to watch (yeah, even with my own not-so-good coordination skills, I used to find watching the few guys in my Univ aerobics class funny :-))!

Archana - I think having a fitness conscious roomie and her ultra-health conscious mom (she wanted us to eat corn tortillas as they are better for health - blech) around in Davis ensured that this health awareness thingie got drummed into my head to some extent at least - mind you, am not there yet - but am at least a few paces after the starting line :-)! Good luck with your attempts :-)!

Thanu - that's so true! Being in shape was a whole lot easier when we were younger!

Ramki - I think you are basing your assumption on a very small sample space :-)! None of the desi girls in my current fitness-class session fall into either of these categories :-D!

Ramki said...

Is that why weather is in triple digit in US?.:-) Just kidding....

I think both of us are talking looking at a limited number of people.

Ramki

Anonymous said...

Archana, this is anon again. u exercise, I am humorous what a great combination.....

Archana said...

Ramki - LOL :-)! Yeah, I have to concede that I am also probably looking at a restricted sample space!!

Anon - !?!

Saranya Kishore said...

Hey Arch,
Excellent writeup!! Enjoyed reading it ;-)

That said, I can totally relate to every part of your post.
I really wish we did not have to put in the extra effort to be fit. In India, the walking, and running and all exercise was embedded in our daily activities so we dint have to take time out for fitness. Wish we could do that here too! :--(

Nutrition information just kill half our enthu to eat delicious stuff dont they? ;-)

Shilpa said...

I already told u abt my soln for HD - rope heheheh

and with all this discussion abt desi girls in gyms...well from the folks that I've seen in my gym this is wat i can say...very few desi girls come to the gym...most are transient and disappear after a few weeks; others are quite dedicated when they hv a target in mind.

Its a popular misconception that only ppl who are FAT need to work out. The basic idea is to be healthy and have a well toned body. And until ppl realise this...they would see no necessity to get to the gym !

( and so thats y we don't see thin desi girls that commonly in the gym - they r just plain ignorant )

Archana said...

Saranya - thank you :-)! I admit - this nutrition information has now added at least a teeny bit of guilt every time I eat something "unhealthy" - cha!

Shilpa - that's very true. Mercifully, these days, desis seem to be slowly catching up with the concept of exercising for fitness sake. But I agree - desis are usually not quite so dedicated to fitness routines as other folks and usually are willing to dump it if something else comes up.