It’s that time of the year when New Year resolutions begin to peter out. If you’ve joined a gym (started a new exercise regimen perhaps), or implemented some resolution on January 1 for that matter, chances are high that you’re wavering. There is much science and literature to prove that.
The Mumbai-based Dr Ruchira Tendolkar, a medical doctor who is co-founder of The Akhaada has been there, done that, and seen it all. I got to know her and her co-founder Shailesh Shetty, a CrossFit Level 2 trainer, in November last year. A mutual friend connected me to both of them and I went to look up the place they run. That was the time I was beginning to get fed up with my lifestyle.
This had to do with a part of me which argued I was getting enough exercise. After all, I was taking long walks pretty much every other day. And this was the time I got to be with myself, clear the head and think over things. What appeared unresolvable would get resolved. But there was another part that would surface every once a while to grab me by the scruff of the neck and insist I stop lying to myself. This voice argued that the long walks I took often weren’t ‘exercise’. It was, instead, the exertions of a middle aged man. And that I had to go back to what I used to do: exercise hard. Incidentally, there’s something else about exercise as well at this point in life where I am. I don’t need to do this to prove a thing to anyone. I don’t care whether I have six-pack abs or large biceps. All that matters to me is that I have a strong core.
This is because what I do know is that the average middle class Indian is living longer than their parents and grandparents. There is much literature on this theme as well. What I was conveniently overlooking was that for the last decade of their lives, most people who refuse to exercise, life doesn’t end well. There was much to be gained by injecting exercise into my daily routine.
And so, a tad reluctantly, I landed at The Akhaada. I say this because I’ve never liked most gyms, exercise machines, and the bulked up creatures who frequent such places. That’s why this place surprised me. The first thing that struck me was that there were no machines. Just some regular free weights. The well built Shailesh suggested I try the place out before making up my mind. It was obvious to him I hadn’t been to a place such as this.
On Day 1, I got to the place so I could be on the exercise floor at the dot of 7 am. I was told each session lasts an hour. On listening to the instructor, the exercises sounded deceptively simple. But close to an hour into the session later, I thought I died. Every muscle in my body was screaming for mercy. I was mad because no one was paying much attention to me. Instead, one of the trainers walked to me and suggested I follow his instructions and mimic his stretches. A few minutes later, the pain was gone. Dr Ruchira told me in her experience she has witnessed this exhaustion happens mostly to men.
Since then, I’ve been a regular on the floor. While I haven’t lost weight, nor am I sticking to any diet, what I do know is that I have gotten stronger. My limbs have become more supple and I have started to appreciate how wonderful the body we inhabit is. What pains me now is why didn’t I respect it as much earlier? I’ve cut down on junk food without any prodding. And I love the endorphin rush that hits me after every workout. But what’s going on? How come I’m still at it? Is there a reason? Have I been inducted? Has this become a habit? If not, how long will it take? Are there kinds of people who stick to their resolutions? What may it take to stick to it? There were questions and questions playing on the mind. And this was as good a time as any to surface them. My colleague NS Ramnath and I got on a Zoom call with Dr Ruchira to ask her all of this. She was clear and succinct.
Some extracts from the video are shared here; they've been edited for brevity.
Going to the gym on January 1 is a bad idea
Many people believe that January 1 is a good date to start on their resolutions. But that day may not coincide with other things happening at a physiological level, such as your energy levels. So, if you’re thinking about getting healthy, why wait is the first question. People who are most likely to stick with their routines are those who don’t believe that January 1 is a good day to start. People who are most likely to be compliant are those who have an internal locus of control. (Play Time: 12 min)
It takes at least six months
Once six months are over (for some it could be longer, for others it could be shorter), they move into the Stage of Maintenance. This means they’re pretty much here to stay. Even if there’s a lapse, which happens because people fall ill, have to travel, or other things happen, they know how to get back into the routine. They’re not lost. And that’s when we know that this person is here to stay and will show up regularly. Even if they go away, one call from us is all that it takes for the person to come back to the routine. (Play Time: 12 min)
What is the purpose of exercise?
Cutting calories is just cutting calories. But what are we eating? What are you putting into your body every 24 hours? That choice of what you are putting into your body every 24 hours is your diet. You’re eating so you can carry out the daily stuff in life. We worry if somebody’s performance is dropping on the floor. And we also worry if somebody is knocking off weight too quickly. We actually worry if we see weight loss happening too fast because that person is cutting calories drastically. The purpose of going to a gym or exercising is not to lose weight. The purpose is to enhance your movement, capacities, strength, endurance, flexibility and mobility. (Play Time: 7 min)