Gym Talk

Would we exercise more if working out was fun?

Written by Leher Kala | Published:February 27, 2012 12:24 am

After a decade of erratic exercise habits,mostly a 40-minute walk four-five times a week or whenever I could manage it,I have joined a gym. In the vague hope that the minimum subscription fee,a lock-in of three months,will force me to exercise out of guilt if nothing else. (For some of us,just paying up makes us feel we’ve worked out).

On my list of priorities,my fitness,weight and nutrition is right up there,second only to looking after my kids,ahead of career and almost everything else. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I need to exercise more,yet I have struggled to find a regime I can stick to and I’ve tried everything. A few years ago,after meeting a gym equipment supplier at a party,I recklessly ordered a cross-trainer the next day. The massive machine (it was a real eyesore) completely took over one of the two bedrooms in my house. I got on it all of twice and my solution was to stop entering that room so I wouldn’t be reminded of the money I had wasted. More recently,I’ve hired a personal trainer,only to avoid his calls or come up with some lame excuses not to work out. A walk,while the most doable,isn’t enough if you want to knock off a few kilos.

In a sign of how much India has changed since I last went to a gym eight years ago,Fitness First in Saket,Delhi,is spread over 15,000 sq ft,and is airy and ventilated. You never have to wait for a machine; tea,coffee and cola are on the house and there are Mac stations if you need to log on. Located in Select Citywalk,one side is all glass and,in the evenings when the lights come on,you have a spectacular view of Delhi. In contrast,my previous gym was Itkahs (Shakti spelled backwards) in Friends Colony market in Delhi. It was a depressing place where you couldn’t escape the kebab smells that would waft up from the restaurant on the ground floor. For its time though,it was pretty cool. Robert Vadra,a fitness freak,was a regular and his late sister,Michelle,was one of the best aerobics instructors there. The biggest change I see is that people don’t come to the gym only to lose weight; that’s part of it,but many of them come just to stay fit. In fact,most of the members are so slim that a friend recently told me that she’s too fat for the gym — she has to lose weight before she joins because there’s too much pressure to look good. In a twisted way,that’s completely true. The group fitness classes begin with the instructor reminding you that this is the time for your body,to forget your stresses,and concentrate on the workout. The reinforcements repeated through the class helps to keep the focus.

One of the instructors who holds classes there occasionally is Sarina Jain,32,who teaches Masala Bhangra at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Company in New York. Masala Bhangra was conceived by Jain,who’s taken it to several countries in Europe,where certified instructors carry out her programme. Jain grew up in the US in a close knit Indian community and learned bhangra as a child to take part in Diwali functions. She was part of a troupe called Dhamaka that took bhangra very seriously. “I thought why not develop it into a combination of dance and aerobic activity,” says Jain. It’s a high-intensity workout to Punjabi music,where you can burn upto 500 calories in an hour. In the US,most of Jain’s clients are American,who come because it’s fun — you’ve got to be pretty uninhibited to do the thrusts and moves Jain teaches but at least time flies and exercise doesn’t seem like a chore during her class. “You have to keep on changing your programme to stay interested in fitness,” says Jain,who is currently training instructors in Delhi to teach Masala Bhangra. If exercise is too much of a bore,maybe,try to dance your way to your fitness goals? Balle,balle.

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