A few months ago, I decided, after resisting the trend for years, to go to the gym. This was brought on by the circumstance of my friend joining a gym nearby, and getting those free guest coupons gyms give out to lure people.
Armed with the coupon, I made my way to the posh gym in my neighbourhood. And, was so intimidated I nearly ran back. Svelte figures in chic yoga pants ran elegantly on treadmills. Men with biceps so big you just had to stare at them slaved away on the elliptical. On the other side of the room, young, ultra fit personal trainers barked out orders to men and women lying on colourful exercise mats.
All I could think of was: “What happened to rolling out of bed, deciding that your crumpled track pants and ancient t-shirt were just fine and walking to the gym?” Apparently, the city (and possibly the world) has progressed beyond that.
Inside the gym, I gingerly boarded a treadmill, cautiously hooked myself up, took out my ipod (the only thing on my person that matched everyone else's) and started.
Exercising (known as ‘gymming' these days) has always been top of most people's list of ‘things to do'. With fears of obesity, cardiac diseases and diabetes added to the desire to look good and stay fit, it has moved from the list to become an everyday reality for hundreds of people. Gyms have mushroomed across the city and people flock to them at all hours. A popular gym even has an all-women branch to make patrons feel more comfortable. And with young people, homemakers and senior citizens all joining the bandwagon, I suppose its only natural to attempt to look good even in the endeavour to ultimately look good. Everything happens at the gym: from aerobics lessons and swimming to weights training. ‘Gymming' has now become the popular synonym for ‘exercising' and anyone (such as me) who admits to having hardly ever entered the portals of a gym, is met with confused, pitying looks. “Oh,” people say. “Why don't you try it? It's awesome you know.”
No thank you.
In my quest for a suitable form of exercise, I googled yoga centres in the city. Here, I told myself I couldn't go wrong. I visualised creaky fans, cement floors, chattais and a benign indifference to everyone else in the room at such places. Only to be greeted with websites that had flash videos, intricate fonts and soothing backgrounds offering ‘power yoga for the soul'. Air-conditioned rooms for special classes, the website crooned. With, of course, fees to match all this decadent luxury.
In despair, I turned to the one form of exercise that never goes out of fashion, and cannot be improved upon even if you try.
Chennai offers a distinct advantage (over, say, cities such as Delhi and Bangalore) in that we have a beach, alongside which one can walk or jog. On an early morning, any given day of the week (but especially on Sundays), Marina Beach bustles with joggers, walkers and the mere amblers. Calisthenics are performed with enthusiasm amidst boys selling sundal and coffee. An impromptu game of beach cricket competes for space with the Chennai Mounted Police's division out to exercise their gorgeous horses. And as the sun rides high, the water sparkles and the sound of laughter fills the air, I think that the next time I actually wake up early – I'll be here. In my ancient track pants.