I've often heard people say "anything worth doing is hard"; looking back I can confidently say that the journey of prioritising my health is a testament to this thought. As hard as it was to begin, this effort on my part has been transformative in its rewards, to say the least. Everytime I go back to it, I see how far I've come — not just in the context of physical health, but how my overall outlook and quality of life has been affected by this decision. Here's a little bit about how CrossFit training has shaped me as a person.
When exercise was not my cup of tea
I was never able to stick to a fitness regime. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle and an underactive thyroid diagnosed within six months of starting my corporate career contributed to my weight-spike and hormonal fluctuations. The endocrinologist suggested exercise complemented by prescription of pills, daily — advice I ignored.
Twelve years on, not only was I overweight and borderline diabetic, I was depressed. I overslept, over-ate, binge watched Netflix, and sulked. When my glorious career started feeling the burn of my carelessness my physician suggested I start working out to lose the flab and improve cardiac health. This time, I forced myself to reconsider. I realized that to take control of my life, I would need to work harder. That's when, quite by chance, I met Kamal Chhikara, celebrity CrossFit trainer, who started the Reebok CrossFit Robust in New Delhi, India.
Start small, keep an open mind and don't be afraid to ask for help
My first day saw an assistant measure me — inches, kilograms, BMI. "Given your health conditions and your past experience with exercise, you should start very slow," Kamal had advised. "Our first and primary goal would be posture correction, and it might take anything from six months to one year."
"You must keep at it," my trainer repeated. "You don't need to lift heavy weights. Just focus on doing things correctly." This became the mantra.
And so began my first day with CrossFit training, after a vigorous set of warming up exercises.
I needed enhanced movement and stretching. So my instructor demonstrated arm rotations, hip stretching, wall ankle stretching, ankle circles, and step exercises. Three sets of 12 repetitions each. Later, I got barbells to train the torso. The beats in the gym music, the sweat and the energy of the group that worked out with me kept me going until my limbs felt numb and started slacking.
Before long, I got a yell, "Focus on the posture."
I felt unimaginable relief surge through me when my session ended after a slow and prolonged cool-down.
The long warm-up and cool-down periods, I was told, would prevent injury and increase body memory. Later that day, I slept long and deep. Towards evening, the muscles started aching, but I felt lighter.
It will get worse before it gets better
The next couple of days were painful and terrible. I wanted to sleep in and skip the workout. But I surprised myself and willfully persisted.
"This is an experiment and I should finish it. I need to check the results," I repeated this mantra day in and day out.
Seeing me at war with myself, the instructor sat me down and explained why it was important to not give up at this stage, despite the aches and pains. He explained the changes my body was undergoing. So, each day I geared myself up for varied exercises with an unwavering focus to add enhanced movement in the schedule, to stretch, rest, repeat, and focus on posture.
It's okay if you feel like giving up, but don't give in to the feeling
I did push-ups and pull-ins that first week until my muscles started waking up. I panted and sweated profusely, even as the group I worked out with cheered me on. My heart rate was recorded.
The seventh day was rest day, but I found I actually missed the gym.
On the eighth day, I slacked. I couldn't remember my purpose in life. I overslept. Later that morning, I got a call from the gym, and I lied that I was out of town. I took leave from work, and then felt guilty throughout the day — not because of the lie but because I had betrayed my body, which was working so hard for me.
Needless to say this gap made it tough for me to pick up the tempo the next day. I had to work harder to get into the rhythm. On the 12th day, I did air squats and my knee still hurt. The instructor showed me a few tricks to prevent injury.
Baby steps lead to big strides
Soon, I was finishing two weeks, and no longer as tired. I did many kinds of jumps, with or without the ropes, over the week and got helpful diet advice.
Kamal told me, "Exercise makes your muscles fit and reduces fat. To reduce weight, you need protein-rich, low-carb diet." I chose to try Keto.
The little successes kept me going, and, now, I have developed a habit and chalked out a routine. At my halfway mark, 16 days in, I had begun to feel like a part of the group. The camaraderie and competition while attempting the Workouts of the Day (WOD) was infectious.
Get Smart - Cover all your bases
I am, now, more mindful of my diet and plan my meals a day in advance. I drink enough of water to keep myself hydrated, so this takes care of hunger pangs. I also keep fixed and targeted work hours and meditate to improve concentration.
These steps actually boosted my productivity at work — I was working hard, but working smart. I even managed to squeeze in time for the family.
My fourth week saw me undertake short duration running on the treadmill. Kamal said that CrossFit training enabled one to do cardio better, because it strengthened the limbs and muscles, which in turn prevented injury. I tried the burpee, and the squats didn't hurt.
The results are in — and I feel great!
My instructor and I compared the pictures of my posture every week. The small progresses — crossing the little hurdles — and the release of hormones energized me and made me a little philosophical, too. The feeling of success stayed with me the whole day and pushed me at work.
CrossFit training has allayed my fears of working out and empowered me to chase my dreams. Here's what I learned: Don't be afraid to try something new. Focus on your form. And, celebrate your victories — big and small!
Since completing my 30-day challenge, I have started painting and working on my first novel. I feel happy and content. Working out doesn't feel as bad now. If I skip a day, I no longer feel guilty. Instead, I focus on being physically active in other ways, by climbing stairs, walking and standing more. I do still binge watch Netflix, but, overall, life is good.
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