One would imagine that going for a workout would be fun, relaxing, stress relieving and quiet. Well…. Think again!
I have been through the rut and cycle of much of the fitness offerings in Mumbai city. There was a time I was obsessed with trying out any fancy offering in sports and fitness and decide if I would go for more than 2 classes/sessions a week after a trial class. If there was an accompanying enthusiastic fool, then he/she would succumb and we wouldn’t waste time or energy in beating down the doors soon.
Dance, jazz, drums (yep don’t underestimate upper body workout), parkour, martial arts, karate, gyms, swimming, bboying, hiphop, crossfit, personalized training, dumbbell marathon workout, Capoeira, yoga, kalaripayattu and errrr… many more. On my to-do list are pole workout, Pilates and scuba diving in the pipeline. Despite 2 busted and surgically repaired knees, I have no intention of stopping or slowing down. P.S. This does not include occasional lazy ass bouts of nothingness. In my experience, doing nothing is a workout too :P
The good part of all the above was knowledge and experience. To know that there are folks who lived in absolutely poverty to mediocre standards just to fulfill their passion and keep it going. To impart it day after day in practice and training without expecting it to become popular at the speed of a bush fire. They put their comfort, their price, their personal time and even their family on the line to make things happen. Despite media exposure and workshops, a marginal percentage actual manage to make it to the big league – and by that I mean having at least 2 or more high profile clients and a periodic mention on social media. The rest remain to slug it in the mud and a majority to embrace defeat, shrug and move on. Their skills are narrated as after stories or introductory glory moments to give them an edge in an unknown crowd. The more exotic the art, the tougher to have it established and running.
What ropes me in is their passion. That passion is what convinces us learners to follow in their footsteps and dedicate few valuable hours from our day/week to the skill. This also accounts for the commute back and forth from the center – case in point when I worked myself to the bone doing Malad – Powai – Khar/Andheri – Malad almost 3/4 times a week. Over the last 10 years, I drove myself to the bone working out as much as 3 hours at a stretch at the gym, doing dance or yoga classes, swimming (when time, money, a clean balanced pool and mood permitted) and then followed a brief confused period in bboying followed by a long term stint at capoeira. All the art forms showed immediate and visible effects on my body and mind. Some very slight and some rather drastic. Gymming caused me to drop to a number that was underweight for my height and frame. But for someone like me who has battled weight since puberty, they were golden numbers in the 40s and I was only thrilled to drive it down rather than stay healthy and up. The result was atrocious skin for the 1st time in my life, disrupted monthly cycle and deficiencies due to a not so well constructed diet.
Poor knowledge and even poor skills can cause severe long-term damage – something I have learnt personally. Capoeira unearthed a part of me that lay dormant for far too long. The art form just married my body movements and it was possible due to all my activities, I had the wavelength and flexibility to pull of moves that takes months for some new folks into this art form. I was home. And I made it home. Weather, space constraints, distance, time, energy, fuel, nourishment, balance… nothing mattered. I hated and loved people around me fiercely. But I was clear… I was glued to the class and the instructions than people and superficial offerings. I didn’t care if I missed a party or if I was early to leave from a party. No one lived my side anyways and some were more than eager to drop me home, repeatedly. Don’t think I have ever declined those many offers over and over again. But I hyperventilated if I either missed a class or someone occupied my comfy lil spot on the left extreme corner (1st row) in class. I HATED that. They were minor possessive elements in my mind. I ignored it by watching year after year, month after month all kinds of folks come in. The class was no different from the gym.
There were the wanderers and socializers among the scattered hardcore trainers.
People in Mumbai have learned to be comfortable in the tiniest spot. By that I mean, you can take a 360° turn but not really stick your arm out. The concept of giving space in life, in person, in class, in gym, in public spaces does not exist. And people carry this attitude with them everywhere they go and every discipline they infiltrate. In gym, you could hurt yourself from machines or anyone with weights etc. In Capoeira class you could easily have an arm or worse still, a leg, land on any part of you and most certainly add a few painfully sore days if not worse to your body. Safety couldn’t be further pressed and stressed about in class and yet not everyone pays heed or is mindful of it. It’s just flaying arms and legs for some who just wouldn’t care about the consequences or others around them.
Fast forward to when I joined Mickey Mehta’s 360° routine. So Capoeira had physically and emotionally damaged me in some irreparable ways. I realized that I would need a lot of time before I sensed that freeing feeling when I 1st started practicing and training in it and that no one in class, not even in jest, would try to hurt me. So in the meantime, a suddenly ballooned weight (per my standards) prompted me to consider something tamer to be added to my routine. Mum enrolled me into MM360. It worked for her and she thought it would at least help me. Boy it did…. Calisthenics, cardio, boot camp, yoga (extreme and asanas), dance, stretch class, grow tall, aerobics, drills, well they had it all packed into 1 hr sessions 7 days a week all year long. One could pick and choose any one class per day and walk out content. Who doesn’t like variety served on a platter and the freedom to do ANYTHING from a slot reserved between 6am and 9pm. I used it and abused it. I was addicted. But I was careful and I trained sensibly. It worked wonders for me and the trainers who are so well taught and inducted into the system became my go-to folks. Early mornings and early-late evenings were packed like a Mumbai local. The odd “housewife” slot so to speak (that’s the term for 11am to 6pm) was scanty to empty sometimes. There were days I was the ONLY student and class was conducted with no discounts or trimmings from the actual routine. I loved it and I used my work-from-home privilege to slip in a class anytime. Sometimes even during a lunch break. But them ladies got on my nerves when they joined class. There is always the collective echo of wailing and yawning and laziness. I still cannot comprehend why would you attend a class if the only aim was to mark attendance. This wasn’t school or the army where it was traced and a consequence was announced. The only consequence was weight gain and not being fit. Them ladies would come and collectively slow me down by blocking my way with their group chatter or slow the class down by prompting the instructor to either reduce the number of repetitions or change the movement to an easy “doable” one. To add to the bane of my problems was the air conditioning. In a tiny studio space, 3 split ACs and 2 high speed noisy fans HAD to be on. The common sense that we warm up our bodies to work out and not cool it down with these tertiary gadgets didn’t prevail. I scouted areas of the class, however farther away or awkwardly placed just to avoid the direct blast of these gadgets. When the class would be packed, I would try to be patient and accommodate folks around me. It came at a cost. They didn’t feel or think the same way. Selfishness bid itself a warm welcome right with my breathing radius.
I joined Dumbelled workout regime as a trial for a month. T’was 3ce a week 6am-7am. Rigorous marathon training and tailor made for runners and marathon enthusiasts. I did not fit in and yet I managed to drag my crucified knees through 4kms of running non-stop at 6am temperatures. Discipline, attire, routine and stress levels were uniform and high. Just what I needed to push me over the edge and get me to do what I loved but just couldn’t find the right tools to aid me. I always needed a trainer and someone who would drive me down the road. However, the idea of doing this just one more time made me grovel and I had no will to join a bunch I barely spoke to or connected with. I think connection is key in a group. It makes you wake up and look forward to joining them no matter how bad your day was. Workouts in any shape or form always relieve you. But this… I left after a trial month. No regrets.
This was just a handful of issues I faced working out. At Goregaon Sports Club, home to the whos who of the rich and classless, I was hit on by men 3-4 times my age, causing my friend the member abundant embarrassment and refusal to bring me back again lest they pester him for my number and details. I once left a gym because the instructor insisted he wanted to marry me after training me for 2 years. Once refused to join a gym because the eager instructor looked like he would propose marriage after 2 years of training. Swimming was another story. If you find yourself in a slot that includes anyone, you are in for smelly dirty kids not minded by their parents or dirty old men who inch their whale like bodies close to yours and try to brush past or even slip in a creepy ‘hi’ in the middle of your laps. Excess chlorine and sometimes questionable hygiene drive you away faster than Juhu beach water could.
Working out is a headache and a boon. 3 scenic gardens around my home keep me grounded. Yes, I have to pass couples making bad attempts to hide in bushes to do what they do in bushes. Some quite out there and almost making babies. But if I strain my neck and eyes enough, I can pack in a good run followed by a few workout moves. The oxygen is a good trade off.
Clothing. Wait… APPROPRIATE clothing. Such a debate. Women ‘dress up’ here for workouts. I have seen pushup bras and heavy makeup beneath the perspiration. Tight clothing and see through it all clothing. And never a proper fit or a comfort. Adjusting and flaunting workout wear is THE workout. Its awkward and just a tch tch moment for spectators. Why or why would one want to be discomforted in the outfit that’s supposed to be the MOST comfortable. I once wore Quecha brand sportswear to a gym where I was told off by the gym instructor to cover up. I was shocked that racer-back was inappropriate in the near 40° heat but a camel toe and a tight T-shirt donned by someone else was acceptable. Bias! Both men and women also tend to conveniently ignore what to wear underneath the attire. Sometimes it’s way too embarrassing to acknowledge or even pass by in the same room. I shall not delve into the inappropriate details of what disasters those result in.
In the end if not a workout, at least our wits, common sense, visual sense and our humor has a good workout and we make up for the rest elsewhere. I will never run out of feeling that initial pulse of getting my bikini bod and then leaving whatever space thinking “what the hell was THAT”. But if I never do any of these, I wont have any more experiences or make attempts to stay fit. Gotta 'ruuuuun'