I never never never thought I'd write a 'motivational' blog post. I've derided the self help genre for as long as I can remember and I still catch myself scowling at people reading books like 'Who moved my Cheese?'. I used to think losers need motivation, but then I grew up. I met people and their demons. My demons made friends with their demons and I realised we're all the same. We all need love and acceptance from ourselves and others. We all need a hand when we are low. When a few women reached out to me after my last post, asking me how I do what I do, especially in the realm of fitness, I felt the need to write an elaborate answer. Hence this.
Because the rewards of fitness are intangible and come slowly, it lies at the bottom of most people's priority lists. It's the Achilles heel of the even the most focussed among us. It takes huge amounts of motivation to start walking down this path and huger amounts of discipline to keep walking. While different reasons finally set people on this course, the following five keep me going.
Turning 30: The twenties is the most amazing decade of one's life. You have youth on your side and a body that will put up with just about anything. Thanks to those high levels of energy and metabolism, you think you can take on the world. I thought so too. But turning 30 flipped a switch somewhere. Age started manifesting in the most insidious ways. A hangover that would last suspiciously longer; an innocuous crease under my eye as I woke up; and oh, let's not even discuss the holiday weight that never seemed to go away.
And then there was childbirth and the stretch marks and flabby bits that come with it. I now had a body that was irreversibly altered by pregnancy. I knew that my bone and hormone health were only going to go downhill from this point. I needed to do something. I needed to take charge of my body, I needed to fix and beautify this place I live in.
Being strong: Women are strong beyond belief, but most don't know it. We've been led to believe in the myth of the 'weaker sex' and in that trap we languish. Worse still is the 'fairer sex' stereotype, which makes us think we ought to be thin and light and waif-like. Don't you realise that the arrogance of man comes from being physically stronger? Why should you not be able to punch a guy right back in his face if you need to?
No, this isn't about self defence. This isn't about building muscle either. This is about having the confidence that comes from strength. Weight training has added strength and confidence to my curves. I am finally free of the image of that pudgy Bengali child who would never participate in sports because she knew she would never win.
The high of lifting: I started gymming the way most women do - pounding away at the treadmill for hours, or cycling or being on the elliptical occasionally. And I was B-O-R-E-D. While cardio routines work for some - and are important too - repetitive exercises just didn't work for me. Fortunately, I had a good trainer in the beginning who encouraged me to take up lifting. Actually, everyone is taken to the weigh training section and shown the ropes, but most women tend to give up because of the pain. The day after the training, when the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) set in, you are in pain. For beginners, persisting through this phase is particularly tough. Why subject yourself to aching body parts when you can put off the alarm and sleep some more?
Whip your own ass, get up and go because this ache can be delicious. The endorphin high notwithstanding, sore muscles are a wonderful reminder of your hard work. Sure you walk with a limp for a day and can't laugh because your pecs are paining so much, but hey, you've done it! You've picked up the heavier dumbbell, you've conquered yourself!
Narcissism Inc.: It also helps to have oodles of self love. You'll invest in yourself only if you think you are worthy. So many women seem to give up on themselves after marriage and childbirth. The focus of their lives shift and they forget how to be good to be themselves. I am grateful I am surrounded by people who reiterate my self-belief. It helps me stay motivated to be beautiful inside out.
It also helps to have a good front camera on your phone and be unabashed about taking (and posting) those selfies! Ask my social media friends and they'll tell you how I post selfies to the point of irritation. But I think seeking a little validation never hurt anyone. I could clothe it in a fancy phrase and call it 'maintaining a photo diary to chart my progress', but the truth is I like to look at the mirror and care what I see in it. I love my bodycon dresses and I love the attention.
Live to eat: The last and most important reason why I work out so religiously is food. I LOVE food in all caps. You'll rarely hear me offer diet advice because that's something I can't do myself. I will work out twice a day if I have to, but I will eat that occasional burger. I will walk that extra mile, I will take those stairs but I will have my fried fish & rice and my chocolate mousse and I will have them without guilt.
I never had great metabolism to begin with and it grows only slower with age. So I exercise - exercise like a maniac so I do not have to give up on the joy of food. That said, do not undermine the importance of a healthy diet and moderate eating. Eating mindlessly while working out is, as a fitness-conscious friend once put it, "like pouring water into a glass with a hole."
In mean, consider your body type, your daily routine, your food habits and tailor a routine that works best for you. Lift weights if you like to lift weights, run if that's what makes you happy, dance or swim if that's your thing. But get up and get going. This is for you. You deserve to look and feel good but you must work towards it. Make small goals. Sleep 30 minutes less, resist one pastry, walk to the grocery store. The only one formula is that of determination and discipline. Make it happen.