Of all the goals I had set for myself last year, fitness has been the one I have really stuck with in a determined, single-minded, focused way. And as is the case with anything you do repeatedly over a long period of time, it becomes easier, you get better and it becomes a part of you. Over the last 18 odd months, exercise has become my friendly me-time. That one hour that I dedicate to shutting the world out and being with myself for a bit. Given the energetic nature of most of the activities I chose, one would assume it would result in a hyper, wound-up and always wired existence, but my experience has been quite the opposite. Yes, there has been a tremendous boost in my overall energy levels, but it has been a good, channeled sort of energy that mostly gives me the strength to get through long days without feeling exhausted, given me the best sleep I have had in a long, long time and has created this aura of healthy, happy vibes that floats around me.
After a few months of running and then another few months of doing some Jillian Michaels home workouts, I discovered Zumba at Studio 101, in Panjim (check out their fb page too). I was addicted in no time at all. What seemed like a dancercise-y, groovy form of light exercise on the outside and for the first few classes, slowly began to kick my ass, with harder moves, faster beats, longer sessions without breaks and I realised it is the most aerobic I have been in a while. Soon after, I signed up for Body Pump classes, on alternate days to the Zumba lessons. The combination has changed my life.
– Zumba gives me a good, hard cardio fix, without the boredom of running on a treadmill, cycling away or working the elliptical, which frankly I find mindnumbingly boring now that I have tasted the fun that Zumba has to offer. I like that I can dance hard and have fun for a whole hour, and come out drenched in sweat like I’ve killed myself at the gym.
– It’s shred the inches faster than running or working out at home did for me. I felt leaner in just a couple of weeks, but that could just have been my body responding to a change in the routine it had probably gotten previously accustomed to.
– Throwing in a good weights program thanks to Body Pump helped further tone my body. I felt dramatic results in just 2-3 weeks. I was never a big believer in weights, and had the preconceived notion that weights are for people who want to bulk up. But I now know and believe that complementing cardio with light-moderate weights has accelerated my inch-loss.
– Weight wise I have knocked down about 4 kilos in the last 6 months, but that was never a major point of worry for me. I was far from overweight, but I felt dangerously heavy and lethargic when I first started. Now, even thought the weight-loss seems to have plateaued, I can feel myself get lighter and more energetic with every session.
– I definitely feel stronger and it takes me by surprise every now and then, in instances when I surprise myself by doing something unexpected. Like taking my monthly groceries back home from the car in one shot, rather than making 2-3 trips with smaller batches. Like when I carry a heavy suitcase with easy. Like when I my arms seem to now quite easily carry double the weight I started off with two months ago.
– Regular has made me healthier. I haven’t had any major illnesses in the last 6-8 months, barring a mild flu that I knocked out of my system by continuing to work out through it. I think I might have also almost kicked PMS out of my life for good because I no longer roam around feeling like a blimp, on the verge-of-tears, for a whole week before I get my period. I am down to a small acne attack, and a dull low-back pain that strikes, and works as the only indicator that maybe my period is on its way. I hope that if I keep this up I can eliminate cramps out of my life too, which are now almost completely gone, save for the aches and pains on day 1.
– Working out 5 times a week, come what may has improved my endorphin levels. And we all know what that means. More happiness, more elation, more contentment. And too much of that is never a bad thing. I have started to sleep soundly, waking up energetic and beaming, much to VCs displeasure, because it makes me extra chirpy and chatty (read: annoying), when he is groggily surfacing at his own pace.
Zumba and Body Pump are two the most wonderful discoveries I made this year. And sticking with the routine for close to 6 months now has been one of the best gifts I have given myself in recent times. It’s taught me a thing or two about myself and my body. It’s given me a renewed energy and zest for life, which has done me worlds of good, far beyond what fitting into skinny jeans could ever do for me. It’s made me very aware of what my body is capable of.
I realise I can train my body to do what I want it to, rather than be at its mercy. I know that half the battle with sticking with any form of fitness is in the mind. I have willed myself to do things I didn’t want to. Sweating it out 5 times a week has made me more in tune with the workings of my body, which is why I think I could rest and recover from the ankle injury much faster than I otherwise would have.
But sometimes, the very thing that brings you closer and in tune with yourself, shatters that cocoon of familiarity to smithereens, and teaches you a thing or two about yourself. So there I am, treading my way down the straight and narrow, with measured strides, a bounce in my step, and suddenly there’s a little change in the routine — a new song, 2 kgs more than the weights I am used to, an extra set of reps, and quickly I find myself spiralling out, towards the dreaded zone of unfamiliarity, from where I have to work myself back. So often, I’ve seen that the very thing that becomes a matter of habit and routine, suddenly unravels completely, and opens the door to something new and challenging. Zumba and Body Pump have made me look forward to that shaking-things-up-a-little every now and then and look forward to the next challenge.
This is what going to the gym has become for me. Every time I feel like I have found my rhythm, I am pushed to take it up a notch and raise the bar for myself. Every time that I feel I have accomplished something, reached a milestone, there is a new one to strive for. Like graduating ever so slowly from 3kg weights to 4, then 5, and just when that’s getting easy and I’m feeling like Superman, my instructor gently pushes the 7.5s towards me.
The nicest part of all of this, is that I have learned the slow and steady way to make my body cooperate, listen and just go with the flow or everything I am subjecting myself to. I think I might have accidentally unlocked some hidden reserves of energy I didn’t know I had. It’s feels a bit like an OOBE in progress. When the going gets tough, I feel a part of me slip out of the body thats ab-crunching, knee-high-ing or squatting, hovers close to the ceiling and watches the body doing it all below, in sheer shock. There is a moment when I feel my body thrust into overdrive, beyond which everything is a blur. In that moment I don’t really know where the sudden boost of energy comes from. But it pushes me right to the end, at just that point when I can feel myself flagging and about to give up. For those few minutes, I feel like I have unknowingly handed over control to a side of me I didn’t know existed. She has a mind of her own, she’s addicted to endorphins and she does not stop. It is frightening, exhilarating and awesome, all at once.
Then there is the pain. Not the unbearable kind that most of us can do without. But sweet, sweet pain. The kind that masochists like me cannot do without. The sweet pain that you feel every morning, it comes from working out every single day, stretching muscles, pushing yourself, pumping a little iron, tearing and repairing parts of your body and forcing them to do things you didn’t think were possible. That is an addictive kind of pain. It leaves you begging for more. It makes you wake up, stretch and go owwww. Yet, in the very next moment you put your track-pants on and head straight back to the gym for another dose because without it, your day feels utterly wasted and incomplete.