I looked at the image in the mirror with some admiration. The slim fit sky blue Zodiac Shirt gifted to me seemed to sit on me without displaying any unfavorable protuberance. At my age 4 mm reduction in waist size is a matter to rejoice. It is the result of severe austerities- which included avoiding Indian delicacies like Vada Pav, Punjabi Samosa, Hot, brown medu vada, all varieties of Bhajii and so on. I shut my eyes when I see them.
When did I commence this battle?
Youth is the time when one can ignore a lot of things. We can eat what we desire, do not have to adhere to any particular discipline for it (time and quantum), be not worried about calorie intake and burnout. The bulge slowly creeps in ignored/unnoticed. Around 35 years to 40 years is the crucial time for this mishap. We are in hot pursuit of career/pecuniary progress, balancing family and office pressures (and mostly failing), and so on. In the midst of all this, having a lean and mean body is the last priority.
This was my experience too.
Around this age, there are few maniacs who make it a point to start going to gym and strut their fitness. Also there are a few human specimen who due to genetic or other unknown factors do not put on weight. Such individuals pose danger to your status quo existence. It is during this period the bulge seems to be an unwanted nuisance and some token efforts are needed to get rid of it.
I too succumbed to such pressures and started visiting a local gym at reasonably regular intervals. I came to know of phrases like Body Mass Index – which indicate one’s obesity or lack of it. Your “Vital Statistics” are recorded at regular intervals for your consumption. I recently came across one such sheet of early 2000 and looked at it with longing. I wish I had retained those body levels.
I had also learnt Yoga in early 90s and practiced it at sporadic intervals.
Now, physical exercises are one way of burning our excess calories and also making our body more fit for a longer duration of existence. Consistency is the key to success in this as in any other endeavor. Also the food (and drink- if one takes alcoholic drinks) intake should be controlled. Otherwise, it would be equivalent to trying to fill a leaking vessel.
Gym attracts two categories of individuals. First is the regulars. These individuals are already present there- even if you go at 5.50 a.m. or 8.45 p.m. and would be hard at it when you leave. These are body builders (out of jealousy I believed only their muscles were strengthened and cerebral strength had remained unchanged for at least a decade or more. They lift heavy weights with seeming ease and plonk it down loudly. You can see them staring at themselves intently and admiringly in the mirror (gyms have mirrors all over).
These individuals are not relevant as seeing their body fitness can induce serious inferiority complex and depression. The efforts of such individuals should not informed to spouses as a measure of “abundant caution”.
Rest fall under the residual category. For this blog, only those with grey or greying hair / expanding or expanded waistline are relevant. These are the “King Bruce and the Spider” category (famous for the “try, try, try again’ saying) without equivalent success. We size each other and casually seek the reason for venturing into such unknown territory at an advancing age. Some whisper about medical compulsion and some speak of desire for general well-being (read domestic pressures).
How effective is Gym? As in any other effort, consistency and discipline make the difference. The basic concept is that the calorie burnout should be higher than the intake. Most of us violate this discipline. The net result is that we seem to be running to stand in the same place or sometimes even seem to fall behind.
Another aspect is the quality of supervision at the gym. If the instructor takes proper interest and keeps rotating the exercises to be done every day, then the results are positive. Doing the same exercises continuously has certain limitation.
You may also retain a Personal Trainer. This means that you will pay additional fees to one instructor who will be with you on 3 or 4 days week supervising your exercise and teaching you new tricks regularly. In the midst of these efforts, the certain joints and muscles of the body scream at you. But the net effect is positive- subject to the calorie intake and burnout being balanced.
Yoga is well known but little understood. Padma and I learnt Yoga IN 1994/1995 through an NGO who were conducting classes free of cost at a municipal school. The teachers were working professionals who were teaching as a calling and not for any remuneration. They taught well and in disciplined manner such that a decent portion of it remains fresh in our memory even now.
Yoga grows with steady practice. I believe that it strives to achieve a balance between mind and body. All know that it is an ancient science which has survived for several millenniums. Such survival is not possible unless it has significant substance. Our Ramdev Baba has made Yoga popular with Television Channel based classes. However, it would not be prudent to stare at the TV screen and emulate the actions performed there.
My experience is that regular Yoga practice keeps one fresh for the whole day and even after a full day’s work, tiredness is not felt. The key is that ideally it should be performed after gaining reasonably expert knowledge and preferably under supervision of a good teacher.
While there are many Yoga Masters, not all have the level and degree of understanding needed to understand and appreciate individual needs. Most classes are held for few weeks and then the individuals are left to fend for themselves. This leads to irregular continuity and practice.
Yoga cannot be viewed as a measure for weight reduction. As said earlier, it is meant for physical and mental fitness. Weight reduction requires higher calorie burnout and proper diet. Yoga would help but is not a remedy for it.
What are the challenges I faced or face now?
The first one is consistency. Getting up around 5.30 a.m. 5/6 days a week requires good will power especially our sleep duration becomes compressed due to long working hours/travelling time.
The next is our food habits. Late dinner is equivalent to filling up the petrol tank at the end of the journey rather than at the beginning. The excess calories just settle at the wrong places. Another issue we face is the craving for snacks around 5.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. That is the ideal time to consume grilled sandwiches, deep fried snacks and all types of wrong food.
The other usual issues are interruption due to travelling and other pressures.
Another aspect I have noticed is performing the same set of exercises (mentioned earlier) based on the belief that “I know better than the new trainer who has joined only last month”. There is declining return unless exercises are performed under proper supervision and focus on different parts of the body during the week.
Am I winning the battle now? I am making sincere attempts. As mentioned at the beginning, some millimeter change is visible. Will it continue? That would be interesting to watch.
I will be happy if few more millimeters are lost.
Let us wait and watch.