Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sweat and Steel

There comes a time in every man's life when he looks at himself in the mirror and is not pleased with what he sees. That ever-so-slightly increasing paunch–that is attached to his body like a pitcher's mound makes him say out one of those two things that every man would have said to himself at some point of time in his life–"I need to start working out". The other thing being “I will stop watching porn”. We live our lives at a desk job where the only muscle we get to move is that of our index finger while clicking the mouse button. And let's face it - the number of keys we type while updating our status on Facebook and Twitter is more than the number of keys we have used to type a code. We have taken the term "Don't sweat over it" too seriously, the process of sweating itself is looked upon with disgust. The physical process of sweating is as manly a task as matadoring (that is if you don't consider those tight fitting clothes of a matador), thanks to these deodorant advertisements we are made to feel that men who sweat a lot need to be stayed away from.

Men are normally non-jealous creatures, he is happy with what he gets - that badly cooked lunch, his job, his bike, his low-tech mobile phone. He never looks at another man and says "Oh boy how I wish I have what he has"–except occasionally if the other man's girl is very hot. But there always comes a time when a man looks at another well-built man who flaunts around his carved body, and shows off his washboard abs that makes him wish he had one of those. If there is one place in the world that can make a man feel insecure and make him hate his very existence - it has got to be the gym. Picture this–in a room full of men who seem to be sculpted out of gold you are the only guy unevenly shaped. In a place filled with hard-bodied men who look descendants of Zeus and Hercules you look like someone whose head is the size of their biceps.

I began my stint at a gym lately only after a lot of cajoling from my father who had gotten carried away looking at the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and Jason Statham, initially I resisted, but he still persisted. I said gymming involved too much dedication and had more chances of me breaking bones of my own than building biceps. He changed his tune and started pitching the idea of Baba Ramdev and the miracles of yoga, which made me wonder when was the last time Baba Ramdev would have gotten laid. "Mark Wahlberg and gymming it is!" I declared, hoping my father stuck with Arnab and Newshour rather than HBO and WB movies.
Talk to the hand!
My hunt for gym led me to various fitness houses that had muscular men doubling up as salesmen who tried to sell me the benefits of having bulging biceps and a neatly cut out chest. They were less convincing than a fitness-freak friend of mine who cited the examples of books and movies - those porn movies that had men with a sculpted body acting.... or performing. And the cover of any Nalini Singh novel. Almost every gym that I had stepped into either had a large board of a ridiculously muscular white man who seemed to have gigantic cuts and biceps on his body than a sculpture of Achilles or a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger before he became a Governor whilst secretly raising a lovechild. I finally zeroed in on a gym that was pretty closer to home, which was much cheaper but way less fancier than the glamorous fitness houses that had cropped up in the city.  As I settled down in the gym during the initial few days, I could see there were men who didn’t do any exercise but just inspected their body with a pride that said “You see this! I worked hard for this. You think you can better my washboard abs?”  there were men who belonged to different walks of life, outside the gym they were just ordinary men–students, security guards, drivers, engineers, probably plagued with issues of their own, normal looking men whom you wouldn’t care to give a second look when they have their shirts on, ordinary men who were probably bossed around. But it is within the gym surrounded by all the steel equipments that they change to a different self.  From everyday men they change to men with a passion that powers them to give that one extra push-up, as they dig deep to summon that ounce of strength–that moment when the mind takes control over body making it believe that it had the strength for one final heave-ho.

There is something liberating once you step out of a gym after an intense workout, it’s not just the breeze that washes away all the sweat and the heat from your body, but much like a good book that is like chicken soup for your senses–an intense workout is that shot of drug you need to revitalize your body and soul.  One of the greatest mysteries of our bodies is to know how much we can endure, and the best way to know it is to push our body to as much as it can take in a gym.  I feel it’s always an advantage to have a good physique­– people agree to whatever you say, they give you some space to sit in a crowded train, nobody messes with you and the best part is that you feel good about yourself. But jokes apart, the sweat that drains from our face and our body and embraces the fabric of our t-shirt is a testament to the will to endure the pain that would make us feel better about ourselves. In a life where the same mundane job has left many of us questioning our purpose, and left us like rudderless boats– it’s probably within a sweaty and steaming gym that I find an answer.  Within a gym, I know what I am doing, I know what I want to be in another six months from now. I don’t just lift weights, nor do I just run the treadmill–I lift the weights knowing what I want to become, I run the treadmill knowing where I am going.

I don’t want to have a six-pack abs and bulging biceps to beat up goons during a fight, I don’t want to look intimidating as I walk the streets but then I don’t want to end up with a paunch and loathe the men with a lithe frame on the advertisements of Jockey. I just want to feel better about myself, I want to feel healthy, we all have our ways of feeling better about ourselves, finally I have found mine.  Now, when I look myself at the mirror I kinda like the face that stares back at me.


Vijay Menon said...

Well aren't you glad your dad forced you there?
Good one :)

....Here I Am!

karthick r said...

Nicely put!
Staying fit is the most important of all.
The freedom to wear a Tee without having to hold the breath all day to hide the peeking paunch, the freedom to eat anything and everything we wish [at least 40],
The freedom to live without the fear of not being able to see your toes is more important than flaunting abs and flexed muscles.

Anuraag Seshadri said...

@ Vijay

Thank you, I should be giving my dad the credit for a lot of things which I initially detested. :-)

@ Karthick

"The freedom to live without the fear of not being able to see your toes is more important than flaunting abs and flexed muscles." absolutely agree with this, well said. :-)