Gym hopping in the age of clever marketing

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gymOne of the best things about going to a gym is meeting and getting to see more fat people

By Shivani Mohan

It all started when I decided to join a local gym to shed a few pounds. I had tried other ways to achieve that goal. A friend and hundreds of sexy models and movie stars had recommended yoga saying that it would calm me. All I needed to practise it were a yoga mat and a quiet room.

The physical pace of yoga was a bit uninspiring for me, even though I felt much more agile mentally. And I agree that yoga did calm me a lot. The weight was adamant and I was bored. Besides gazing at a hirsute Baba Ramdev first thing in the morning was not my idea of a perfect start to the day.

I decided that I had to join a gym to feel that energizing, fit vibe of years ago. Lively interiors, pumping music, no postmen and salesmen to disturb you, no phone calls-just what I wanted on my way to that six pack nirvana. This was me-time. I quickly went and bought myself some bright track suits and gym gear. Gosh, I was feeling lighter already, in the pocket at least.

Now the first time I had ever joined a gym years ago, the fees were barely Rs 300 per month and in that you could do everything there was. So I would warm up and do cardio for 40 minutes, followed by a strenuous aerobics session. Then I would do some weights and cool down with breathing and floor exercises. There was no hurry to head back home. This time round things have changed. The same gym has now slotted all services in neat little segments. Aerobics Rs 1000, Cardio Rs 800, Weight Training Rs 700, Power Yoga Rs 900, Diet Planning Rs 500. Not wanting to spend too much initially, I enrolled only for aerobics. I was bound to enjoy the rhythm and tempo. I had a spring in my step. I waited every morning to get ready for the gym.

One of the best things about going to a gym is meeting and getting to see more fat people. Remember the old lesson that middle class parents in the ’80s talked about. When you feel you have less, look at someone who has lesser than you, and you’ll feel thankful. You can just reverse that theory in a gym. Just when you are in one of your ‘feeling overweight’ moods, look at someone more endowed than you. See the warmth of gratitude towards God that fills up in your body. So what if I have a paunch, at least I don’t have jelly hips like that exhibit A. So what if
 I have a spare tyre. At least, I don’t have a double chin like that exhibit B over there. And gosh! Look at those gunny sack arms! At least my arms are still toned. And so are my ankles.

One month of this, and obviously the enthusiasm began to wear thin. Ah, it was a chore getting up early. See there are people who love to exercise. They are the ones who wake up at the crack of dawn to rush to their Tabata class. They miss gourmet dinners because they’re running a marathon the next day. They go horse riding for two hours and then swim 20 laps in the pool to cool down.

And then there are people like me, who would be very happy doing nothing all day, if given a choice. I have no qualms about accepting that I am a true hedonist at heart. Give me a pizza over pilates, give me a burgundy over a bench press, give me a rock concert or a rom-com over a Reebok-athon any day.

Then around Diwali, which is when a four month long festive season begins in India and all fitness attempts go for a toss, the gym had a ‘Bumper Diwali Offer’. Enroll for six months and pay in advance and get Aerobics + Cardio+ Weight Training at Rs 1500 per month. Individually these services add up to Rs 2500 per month. It sounded like a good deal. After one particular day of mind numbing eating, I fell for the bait. Besides I also needed a change from my aerobics routine.

The foot thumping numbers in the cardio section surely get your heart and imagination running. One look around you and one can almost read what’s going on in everybody’s mind. There is the 20 something cutie effortlessly running her 21st lap on the treadmill to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’ You know she’s just a block away from size zero and she is in it for some ‘lipos(ed)uction.’

Being a 35+ married, mother of one, the dictum of ‘No pain no gain’ is sadly lost on me.

The music goads me on. No harm in getting some techno music supported stamina. Now the thing with exercising to a remix version of ‘I will survive’ is that you tend to forget your physical limitations and transcend into superwoman stratosphere, huffing and puffing your way to ‘svelteland’ in a day.  Well, the reality bites the next day when your head is whizzing and your legs are aching and badly in need of six packs, ice packs I mean. I shun the gym for one complete week. I know I’ll never use the services for which I have paid 6 months in advance.

Then one morning I get this sms- ‘Planet Fitness misses you! May we know the reason for your absence? Do we need to remind you benefits of exercising? Please rejoin soon.’

As of now the weighing scale needle is where it was. The only song I identify with these days is Meatloaf’s ‘Life is a lemon and I want my money back’. I don’t know whether I want six pack abs anymore. I’ll be happy to just get my ten grand back. And hey, good gym wear makes for excellent lounge wear!

  • Shivani Mohan is an India-based writer and corporate communication consultant 

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