Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pumping Iron

A short history. For most of my working life, I've been either cycling or walking to office; getting a bit of daily exercise, consequently. And then a change in job meant a commute to an office pretty far from home. This ruled out cycling for 2 reasons. One, my colleagues may not appreciate sitting next to a guy drowning in a pool of sweat. Two, given Pune traffic and that the route to office is fairly busy, the odds are that someone would be scraping me off the road with a spoon, if I were to cycle to office for any substantial period of time. There's a "three", too, if I were to be really honest - I am lazy.

And so it was that I signed up at a nearby gym. The first day wasn't bad. But then, I didn't work out on the first day. I just talked to the trainers, made a list of the things I needed to buy, had a look at the equipment, checked out the girls who were members there, etc. All in all, good fun. I even felt a little fitter, as I was going home.

Day two. The rosy outlook starts to fade. The trainer sets me up on various weird contraptions all seemingly designed to hurt as much as possible. It's supposed to be a one-hour session. It feels like half the day has passed. Check time. Only 15 minutes up. I resign myself to more. Most of the exercises seem to be aimed at the arms. I discover that there are a hell of a lot more muscles on my arms than I'd previously assumed. And the trainer seems set on giving each of them a thorough work out. An irresistible urge to throw up. Drink water. Feel better now. Trainer asks me to get back to work. Don't feel as good now. He asks me to do push ups. I fall flat on my face after the first one. A giggle somewhere from the left. Pretty girl very amused. Pride a bit hurt, but I'm too worn out to care. Besides, I reason, she isn't the only woman on earth. So what if she's less than impressed? There are others. I remain on the floor.

Check time again. Half an hour up. Glass is definitely half empty. But I'm through. No more for today. I tell so to the trainer. He is very understanding. Go home, he says. The time is about one in the afternoon. I feel much better now that I'm out of the gym. I shower and have a hearty lunch. Except for a bit of an ache in my arms and shoulders, I am perfectly fine. None of those dreadful aches and pains people complain about after their first gym session. I must be a natural, I think. Pure Schwarzenegger. Maybe even better. I'm made for this sort of thing. Already the memories of the actual events at the gym are starting to fade. They're being replaced by an idealized version. A version where I attacked every instrument there with the same gusto and passion with which Pedro Almodovar makes his movies.

Day two, night. I go to bed, at peace with myself and the world. I fall asleep almost instantly. I wake up at 4 in the morning. Searing pain in my right arm. What's the matter, I wonder. An earthquake that deposited the wardrobe on top of me, maybe? I check. Nope, no wardrobe. Further inspections reveal that my left arm and several other parts of my upper body also suffer from the same "searing pain" syndrome. I try to put it out of my mind, and go back to sleep. Not so easy. You see, I'm one of those who cannot sleep on their backs. Has to be on my chest, or sideways, for me. And the trouble with sleeping like that is that one or the other arm is usually under you. You also have to bend your arms a bit. The bent arm hurts a lot now. But the arm under me, that's something else - it's about to explode, I feel. I wake up every 15 minutes, and try to shift position when the pain becomes unbearable. Every shift in position brings with it fresh waves of shooting pain.

Day three, morning. It gets worse. I don't want to get out of bed. Half an hour of effort sees me sitting upright on the bed. Not too easy to push yourself up when even the lightest of pressure on your arms rewards you with the agonies of hell. Now, on my feet. This part is not too difficult, as my cycling in the past had toughened up my lower body enough for my adventures in the gym. I brush my teeth by sticking the toothbrush in one of those electric sockets, and trying to move my mouth around the brush. Hard work, but you get the hang of it after a while. Bathing is not too easy. I find it virtually impossible to bring my hands up to wash my face, soap my shoulders, etc. But I manage. Towelling is another novella by itself. No formals for me today, I decide. I have no choice, actually. I've forgotten to send my formals on their fortnightly visit to the chap who irons. I put on a T-shirt. At least, I try to. Not working. You need to raise your arms to put on a T-shirt. I consider paying a visit to the tailor, and asking him to stitch a shirt around me. I try, and try again. Finally, it's on! But it's the wrong way, darn it! Much muffled cursing and profanity as I now try to take it off. By 12 noon, or so, I'm all dressed and ready to tackle a new day.

Once in office, I make a beeline for the coffee and the biscuits. Trying to have my first sip of the beverage, I find out that I cannot bring the cup any closer than 5 inches from my face. My arm refuses to go any higher. I put the cup down on the table, and bend down to drink from it. I manage one sip. With this technique, the coffee has to be almost up to the brim to have a sip. It is no longer up to the brim. So, no more sips. Not unless I spill the coffee on the table, and lick it off it. Too undignified. I give up. One sip of coffee is good enough, I decide. I buttonhole passing colleagues and unburden my soul. They try to act sympathetic. And so the long day wears on.

Day three, evening. I have much discussions with friends on working out. Typical conversation:-

"Don't worry, mate. This pain is only for a couple of days. The important thing is not to give up. This is really good for you. It's especially important not to skip the gym today, no matter what the pain. You simply have to go."
"How do you know? Do you work out?"
"Err, no."

Anyway, I do end up at the gym after office. I complain loudly for 5 minutes. I talk of the pain. I say that this is not what I signed up for. "Don't worry," says the trainer, used to all this, "your problem is that your muscles aren't stretched enough. Here, let me stretch them out." So saying, he grabs both my arms and pulls them right back. Residents of Kanyakumari report hearing a loud, shrill shriek. The actual work-out, though, is a lot better today. 45 minutes. Up 15 minutes. It doesn't seem quite as long, either. But the night is just as bad as the previous one.

Day four. Parts of my upper body not wracked with pain the previous day are now officially on that list. I find it difficult to breathe. More unburdening of soul in office. Colleagues now take a noticeable detour around me when about to cross paths with me. To borrow from Raymond Chandler, I move with the reckless abandon of a night watchman with arthritis. Evening finds me at the gym again. Instead of complaining loudly, I take a different approach. I borrow from the heartbroken heroes of old Malayalam movies. I speak in a low, strained tone. A tear seems to be on the verge of breaking free from the corner of my eyes. I tell them I cannot live like this much longer. The trainer sighs. He gives me some warm up exercises, a couple of minutes on some machine, and teaches me some gentler stretching exercises than the ones from the previous day. He sends me home. I feel a lot better.

Day five. I wake up for the first time in what seems like years with no major excruciating pains. Relatively speaking, of course. I can brush my teeth with no fear of electrocution. My arms can be almost straightened now. Even raised a bit. I am able to towel my head now, and no longer have to go to office with wet hair. Putting on a T-shirt takes only 20-25 minutes, tops. While driving, I can now steer left and right, and no longer have to attempt to plough through fields or vegetable markets just so that I wouldn't have to turn the wheel. See, I am even typing this little account without pulling too many muscles. Move over, Arnie!


pritika said...


saurabhj said...

Hmm ... Lucky for you.
The trainers at the gym I went to (and donated 3 months worth of membership) tried to kill me on the second day there.

He was almost successful ...

Forget the money I told myself. If I live, I can make a lot more later.

55ZQK said...

"Pretty girl very amused. Pride a bit hurt, but I'm too worn out to care. Besides, I reason, she isn't the only woman on earth. So what if she's less than impressed?" ..

Now dont let that thought stick around for too long :)

Rohan said...

I like your practical approach to things, Saurabh. :)

55ZQK, reveal yourself!