I have lost count of the number of people I have met at parties, reunion events and at the office, pointing at their not-so-fit bodies with a certain nonchalance that is unforgivable.

Of course, they have their excuses. Yes, the famous hectic schedule, the global epidemic that has them all helplessly shackled.

Then they give the conversation the perfect finish. “I need to join the gym.”

The gymnasium, for most people, is indispensable to their fitness routine. It is this dependence on a gym that, ironically, leads to a lazy fitness progress, if any.

It is a very predictable journey, the one that leads to a gym but not to fitness, most of the times.

Even before “gymming” starts the hunt for a gym partner or partners begins. It’s unclear what purpose it serves. I asked a friend.

She said with a giggle, “Getting up in the morning sucks a little less if you have someone feeling equally miserable.”

Never mind that. Let’s assume that the kingdom of fitness has beckoned. It is time to spend some from the treasure that has been accumulated over years.

Treadmill, cable crossover, lats pull-down, seated row, leg curls, each of these fascinating things ring of promise, of results. They paint a vivid picture of sweat-soaked muscles, gaining volume, getting sculpted like masterpieces. Rep after rep. Set after set.

You are given a chart with a schedule and some diet tips. You look at others flexing their muscles. You turn a funny sweaty green because you are far from it. But hope says you shall overcome. And indeed, you do, till that first day of missing the gym arrives.

Late hours at work, hangover, attending a wedding, farewell, travel plans — the culprits are many. The result, however, is the same. The first time you miss a gym session, you crib about it, a little guilt-struck. The next time, you mention it with more emphasis on the reason that made you miss, with a little less guilt. Eventually, guilt is replaced by flab and enthusiasm with a slackness that is easier to live with than get rid of.

Some continue to drag their bodies to the gym because of the hefty membership fee that has been paid up-front. That doesn’t count. If there is any obligation involved, it should be your body. Nothing else counts. And that’s the case in point.

Fitness is not an ideal body weight or a narrow waist. It is definitely not a size-zero figure or eating less. It shouldn’t be for a vacation in Goa or an upcoming wedding.

Fitness is about appreciating your body. It is spending some time with your thoughts, facing your fears, setting new limits for yourself. It is doing what you think you can’t do and proving yourself wrong. It is not a goal but a long journey.

It is what you deserve, irrespective of your age, relationship status, gender and profession.

Fitness begins with self-discipline, precisely why it has very little to do with going to a gym. With due respect to all the fancy fitness equipment out there, a gym somehow restricts fitness to sculpted muscles, six-pack and V-shape figure. Add to it whey proteins, ergogenic aid, fat burners and you can watch health squirm out of that fake fit body. Shockingly enough, there are many ergogenic products that are banned internationally, that sell like hot cakes in India.

And allow me to mention a fundamental issue that I have with air-conditioned gyms. At a very basic level, working out means increased flow of oxygen through the body. Any air-conditioned gym, full of perspiring people, the air heavy with carbon-dioxide, mocks this basic principle of being fit and healthy.

When you depend only on yourself, you have fewer excuses. There is nothing like jogging or a brisk walk. Yoga is a great way to get in shape. Pilates, aerobics, or just some ballistic dancing as many times as you can, should do you good. The one equipment you need to be fit is your own body and a ready mind.

Like most beginnings, this one too is difficult. No denying that. However, it’s never too late to give fitness its due and free it from short-term goals and random figures. All that is math and we do it only when we have to. Morning or evening, it doesn’t matter, but definitely some time that’s just yours is a fair demand. With unwavering dedication and abundant sweat, it shall be granted.

muniza.tariq@gmail.com

Keywords: gymfitness issues

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