Mind over matter — How to exercise when you REALLY, REALLY don’t want to.


Mind over matter — How to exercise when you REALLY, REALLY don’t want to.

Day 22 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019

“I am not really a Gym person” is one of the often repeated dialogues I have heard from people around me.

I get amused, I feel empathy and I also get irritated — all at the same time — when I hear this.

I get amused because…

This person has been lamenting about being fat and associated health problems for the past 20 minutes and when you recommend Gym and a trainer, pat comes the reply given above.

I feel empathy because…

Well, I have been there. I hated Gym. I would make New Year resolutions to go for 5 times a week and barely make it once a week, for two weeks and then make very elaborate excuses about why I cannot go. My favourite used to be (a) back pain, (b) knee pain and (c ) pain in the ankle.

Irony is that the only “cure” to my ailments was to lose weight.

I get irritated because…

The incorrect notions people have about working out. One of my best friends is a Gym rat. She looks lean and awesome. I think her extended family still worries that she is going to pop up muscles like those of the body builders any day now.

People go to Gym and work out without a trainer OR try to achieve 6 months’ result in one week. They will obviously get injured. Instead of accepting the fact they have been stupid about it, they will blame the Gym- not any particular gym but this concept called Gym.

Whatever be the reason, people like you and me who have not been very athletic ( that’s the understatement of the year) will find it very difficult to wake up one morning and start hitting the Gym like we have been doing it all our lives. It’s just not going to last — unless of course, you have a very compelling reason to do, a strong guidance and support system in place.

My Secret to Staying Committed to this healthy lifestyle.

I had written about the trek that changed my life.

While the story focused mainly on my attitude to life where adventure is concerned and the weight loss that happened as a by-product, I observed two aspects thanks to which I am staying committed to this journey towards a healthier me.

I need to qualify what I mean by “stay committed”. Everyone — especially people like me who are late entrants to making healthier choices — falls off the wagon. Sometimes we get totally derailed.

That is OK. The important thing is to forgive yourself and get back onto track.

Though I am discussing health in this context, I realise that the principles can be applied to achieving ANYTHING in life.

(A) Goal Focused Approach

I spent 3 months being a Gym rat prior to my first high altitude trek. I had a lot of things to motivate me to keep at it, the primary one being fear and embarrassment — I was scared that I would injure myself if I am not prepared for the trek.

A childhood friend of mine had passed away due to collapsed lungs on a trek to Kilimanjaro. While there may have been other tragic underlying reasons for his death, I think it made me take the preparation phase very seriously.

The second part was embarrassment — what if I had to give up half way through because I was not fit enough to make the summit?

Now these two are good enough to push you forward. But during a regular workout session when I am plain bored and still HAVE to run for that 30 minutes, I would picture the mountains and visualize climbing them. It had a very powerful and positive influence on me to keep going.

If your health is in as bad a condition as mine was, I strongly recommend signing up for a trek or a slightly adventurous holiday that will need you to be more healthy. And work towards it. Make sure you give yourself 3 months to do this preparation. It takes 3 months for any results to show and it takes 3 months for you to get over the fear and reticence associated with Gym.

(B) Learn a new skill

The last 4 months while I was in Kerala I started learning Kalaripayattu.

I approached my trainer Mujeeb with a list of questions.

  • I am 40 — Can I start learning now?
  • I have severe pain in my back and my ankles — Can I still learn kalaripayattu?
  • I have never been active in my life — Will I be able to learn Kalaripayattu?
  • You teach women, rt?
  • I am really hopeless in hand-eye coordination…are you sure you can teach me Kalaripayattu?

It is to Mujeeb’s credit that he patiently answered my 101 questions and assured me that I am not so weird for wanting to learn Kalaripayattu and that too at this really old age(my words, not his).

I get a lot of appreciation for even attempting to learn kalaripayattu. But if truth be told it is the wonderful teachers ( Abdul Jaleel Gurukkal and his senior students) at Lubaina Kalari who ensured that I stayed on in that first month.

But how did I manage to stick on for 4 months and turn up for 3 to 4 days a week?

I realised that I was looking forward to sessions as classes. I wasn’t sweating it out just to lose some weight ( or even a lot of weight). I was going there to learn a new skill. Martial Arts, self defense — I was learning something new and I enjoyed it!

It was the same as learning a subject academically that aligns with your interest.

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process… growth comes at the expense of previous comfort” Josh Waitzkin

When it came to my kalaraipayattu classes, I was eager to keep going back because I had embraced the learning process. I knew I was learning something that made me better and hence I was happy to sacrifice my comfort of sleeping in late and not feel that your thighs are tearing apart ( I am not joking but totally worth it). Weight loss and getting tones were a happy side-affect.

Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial arts of Kerala can be studied by anyone at any age. Gender is not a restriction and most of the ailments that you believe are a hindrance to an active life will actually go away due to this discipline.

The self-confidence you get from actually learning something is also incredible — Even if you “are not the Gym type”, you will love it!

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Ruby Peethambaran

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Ruby Peethambaran


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I have enjoyed reading and writing ever since I could read and write. I have been told that my words inspire and help people. That gives me the courage to write more.
If my words help you in any way to better your life, I will consider that a blessing.