Thursday, July 03, 2008

A visit to the gym

One of the latest experiments that I have undertaken in life is going to the gym. I certainly don’t want any of those mighty muscles or the perfect man-body that a majority of the enthusiastic gym-goers want! All I want is to be able to continue to eat my ice-creams and sweets without having to change my wardrobe too often on account of an increasing waist-size. Of late, I have also been finding it very difficult to be able to hunt for Triple XL T-Shirts.

Starting off to the gym in itself is a very time-consuming process. I have to first go past the millions of reasons thrown up by the logical mind that resides on top of my completely inertial body, to skip the gym visit. Reasons can include existing or impending imaginary body aches, anticipated long overnight office work, over-due house chores given by my madam and such. Once the mind wades through these, there is the physical inertia itself that has to be won over. Bangalore traffic is just the last hurdle that the already under-motivated soul wants to surpass.

After chugging along in my vehicle at a snail’s pace, I come face to face with the walls of the esteemed sweat-shop. Having a cafĂ© or a pastry vendor in the vicinity of a gym is one of the most miserable punishments that can be meted out to gym-visitors. Having the gym on the 2nd floor without a working lift just about manages to beat that.

As I enter the building, the high-decibel sound of loud English music can be heard well and clear. For a person like me who cannot typically differentiate between one fast English number and another, memories of Cacafonix from the Asterix comics series flash up. I yearn for a good fast dappaanguthu Tamil song or even a fast Bhangra number. But sorry – those are a strict 'No-No' in this modern machine godown.

A quick glance on entry shows the many different faces of the men and women around. . A gym is a very good example of a true melting pot. You have people from various cultures, economic backgrounds, occupations that visit it. Actually who am I kidding!? – you either have filthy rich people or jobless software folks who get a free pass from their company to enroll.

Of course the one diversity amongst the people is the size of their paunches. It can be as little as that of Hritik Roshan or as bulging as that of a local policeman after a nice dinner. In addition, the depth of sagging man breasts (phrase courtesy Chandler from Friends) is also a good indicator of the varied type of folks around.

A third category of diversity is what I call the amount of ‘pseud-ness’ that can be attributed to someone. On one end of this pseud-ness factor are the total fruits (like me) who just troop in silently and do some minimal cardio exercises for unimaginable satisfaction. On the other end are the highly sophisticated “dudes” (or show-offs) who consider their daily gym visit very close to a fun-filled excursion to “dream-land”. Words in Tamil that serve as alternatives for these dudes include bandha / filim parties.

These dudes have a burning rage inside them to show off their prowess to one and all in the gym. They can be very easily spotted though - one or more of the following features will identify them in a jiffy!

  • Dudes have a hi-funda headphone set on their heads all the time. God alone knows whether they are secretly taking English lessons on those to impress the opposite sex with their firangi accent. Fruits only have the burden of the approaching drill on top of their heads.
  • Dudes have a fancy bottle of water all to themselves, while fruits usually use those small disheveled paper cups next to the water dispenser
  • Even if the device was not used before, dudes ask the helper folks to spray, rub and clean the device as if they were giving it a Kerala massage
  • Dudes would be watching VH1 or Zee Studio or Wimbledon on Star Sports on their personal TV screens, while fruits typically favor regional channels or even SrilankaBangla cricket matches
  • Dudes would usually hog the device for at least a 30 minute period at a stretch at the highest possible speed of performing the routine while fruits take a prolonged break after around 5 - 6 minutes of continuously slow activity.
  • Last but not the least, compared to the silent fruits who avoid the instructors, the dudes make it a point to talk to all the gym instructors to prove that they literally own the place.

Of course, that is when the gym instructors are not busy talking to the handful of females who come to the gym. Females can broadly be classified into the above categories too. However, there is a third category here that does the highly musical soft-tone coochy-coo talking to the instructors for God knows why. Apparently, the number of pre-marriage last minute visitors amongst the fairer sex has dramatically increased, though it is still way off from such numbers for the male breed.

One thing I always notice in the gym – I typically run into someone that I know either from office or from a previous company or college… If they are regular visitors to the gym, questions on how long I have been visiting the gym pop up. To ensure that my morale is not affected, I typically give a highly elongated figure on the number of months I have been ‘slogging’ it out. Prior questions on when the other person visits the gym go a long way in helping me come up with a suitable answer. If they are regular evening visitors, I position myself as a recent convert to evening visits after over a year of morning visits. And vice-versa! If my paunch size is revealing the fact that I have not set foot on the gym for a long time, I take a deep paunch-hiding breath before I talk to them.

Once the talking is done, I start diverting my mind to the original purpose of my visit – some calorie burning sweat generating physical labor. A couple of lazy floor exercises act as fillers till someone vacates one of those fancy machines. These floor exercises have to be done very carefully, else you are most likely to encounter a nearby gadget with your stretched arm or some floor-exercise performer’s neck with your leg.

As I take my position on the treadmill, I think about the approaching painful endeavor of trying to cook up a sweat. Not often would anyone be as enthusiastic about producing sweat as they would be inside a gym. And ‘calorie’ here is the other magic word. The sweat is a great measure of your success at burning those targeted calories. You start wandering within the confines of the 2 ft X 4 ft. treadmill floor in the hope that the magic figure of 100 calories would be reached soon. After varying activities that include walking, jogging, crawling and standing still, over a time period that makes the HAHK movie look brief, I am completely excited to see the calorie figure inch its way towards 100.

The smile re-emerges. A feeling of having achieved something finally… That light at the end of the tunnel… In the moment of delight, I continue for a couple of more minutes and reach somewhere around 110 Cals. Wow! The apex of achievement!

At the pinnacle of my satisfaction, I turn to the next guy with a look of disdain on my face to see how many calories he has managed to burn. A casual look at that meter is all it takes – to come down from the fanciful pedestal of attainment to the abysmal depths of reality. When I see that calorie number close to 450, I start getting second thoughts on whether God was intending to be cruel to me today.

That is the moment when I become all philosophical and start thinking about the meaning of life and whether one needs to take oneself so seriously. As I grudgingly move my body down the two floors back to my vehicle, a fight between the good thoughts and the gym routine start playing up inside my head. A thought on the dinner awaiting me back home is the only redeeming factor in the whole episode. After all, I do need to eat well to give strength to the body to visit the gym tomorrow…

And the story continues… Forever…

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