I was always skinny. When I was younger, no matter how much I ate, or how lazy I was, it seemed that my weight would never go a shade over 50kg. While that was lower than what my ideal body weight should have been as an adult, I didn’t really mind. I had energy to burn, I always had a massive appetite. During my years in university, I played enough games of table tennis and football every week, walked wherever I could, and everything was just fine. I occasionally worried about the fact that I never seemed to build any muscle mass, but mostly I put such concerns down to my sense of vanity.
And so things stood as I graduated and started working, all through my 20s. And then I turned 30, and suddenly, it seemed to me, everything changed. I started putting on weight, especially in unflattering places, my metabolism slowed, I started feeling tired more often. What came to my rescue then were the mountains. For years, I would catch a bus to Dharamsala or Rishikesh and spend the weekend on hiking trails, getting back to Delhi in the early hours of Monday, tired but happy, and going straight back to work. Coupled with at least one long Himalayan trek every year, that took care of my fitness needs.
But as work increased, and I became busier, the weekend trips became fewer, and then stopped. I just didn’t have the energy to sustain fitful sleep in overnight buses while also focusing on a full week’s work. I still had the annual treks, and trained for them, but I wasn’t doing anything special to stay fit, trusting my body to somehow just magically take care of itself.
But it’s difficult to be in denial, especially when your body ensures that you know what’s going on. Aches and pains grew in keeping with my more sedentary lifestyle, niggling injuries began to take longer to heal, creaky joints groaned if I put too much stress on them. It was all mildly irritating at first, but then I began to worry. I just couldn’t depend on my fondness for walking to cut it any more. I had to actively do something about it.
Around the time I turned 35, I sat down and took stock of my fitness options. Joining a gym was definitely out of the question. I dislike gyms, right from the music, the preening gym bros, the utter lack of gym hygiene in the country, to the frigid blast of air-conditioning. For me, working out is a solitary experience, where I allow my mind to go blank and let the body’s rhythms take over. A kind of active meditation, if you will. Scouring the web for fitness regimes, I fixed on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as my go-to workout, bought a pair of light and a pair of heavy dumbbells, a yoga mat, and got to work.
One thing most people refuse to acknowledge is that it isn’t difficult to find one hour every day to be active in. Whether you are running, or working on your cardio or core or legs or focusing on strength training, an hour of work is all it really takes. That, for me, was the big realization. Not only do you need to put in the work to just maintain your fitness, by persevering you get better at what you do. Every time I push myself, I feel amazed at what my body is capable of. I feel amazed at how full of energy I feel. My balance is better, and my body weight is now optimal. I eat well, sleep as much as I can, and feel stronger than ever before.
It’s never too late to start working out. It’s important to know that the less you do, the more range of function you will lose as you grow older. While exercising every day isn’t going to solve all your problems, a more active life is going to be of immense help in the long run. So start off slow, but start now. Begin by going for a walk, graduate to running when you feel comfortable. Play a game if you can, do some aerobic exercises, go through a range of stretches every day to get blood circulating in your muscles. But whatever you do, start today.
Through this series, I will share some of my exercise learnings and also tell you about the new things that interest me. I am easily bored, and a set routine can become monotonous after a while. It’s always a great idea to freshen things up, find new ways to challenge yourself, and above all, to enjoy what you are doing.