"You've not exercised unless you've exerted yourself to the point of sweating and panting." It was one of those careless, over-the-shoulder remarks thrown at a cocktail party by a self-possessed young woman. A petite teen-aged girl reacted with a dainty grimace which said, "No way! I'm not about to join the sweat brigade!" Another nodded knowingly. "How about dieting?" asked another, interestedly. It's unfortunate, but most people believe that at the end of a workout, you should be spewing perspiration, your -tongue should be hanging out, your legs should be trembling with exertion - and then only will you benefit from exercising.
Rubbish! These myths are built up by those suffering from fitomania - an obsessive craze for fitness. Mixed with this craze is also the sense of importance they derive, the boost to their ego that they and only they can achieve such superhuman levels. They say it with such self-pride and utter confidence that it's no wonder that their listeners run a mile from exercising. The fact is that each of us has our own individual requirements. Unless you plan to compete in the Mr. or Miss Universe stakes, or in the sports arena, there is no need to go overboard on exercising.
Why do most people need to be fit? You could be an executive, a housewife, a student, a teacher a self-employed professional. But whether you are intermittently or always on your feet, at your desk or in a travelling job, an average, normal day of work can be an exhausting experience. It requires almost all your energy to cope with the volume of your day's work.
As dusk falls, you feel like a limp sock just managing to sip at your glass of scotch, changing the channel on your TV set or fixing your night meal. Some of you may wish you had more energy to do all the other things you wanted to do after your working hours. Others may take it philosophically, saying to themselves, "There's only so much I can do. So be it." Yet, haven't you secretly envied your colleague who clocks extra time hours productively? And then races to the station to catch the last train home? Or the live-wire who having cooked for an entire party, out-boogies the best? While such people seem to find a voracious enjoyment in varied activities, why is it that you feel like a walking energy crisis whose power batteries have been drained? That is exactly the reason for you to be fit you need that extra energy.
If you are fit, you will have a larger reservoir of energy than if you are unfit. If you are fit, you will utilise only about 60 per cent of your energy capacity for your day's work. The remaining 40 per cent will be there, bubbling inside you, for other interests. That is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are fit, you will be healthier and recover faster from any illness that may befall you. Overall, you will have a clearer mind and be able to deal with any situation that crops up without feeling that old tiredness creeping through your bones.
So, basically, you need to be at a level of fitness that will enhance the quality of your waking hours. To make it easier for you, here is a list of what you don't have to do to get and stay fit. You don't have to exercise until you are ready to drop.
Over-exercising has never helped anybody - not even an athlete. You don't have to starve yourself or your taste buds by gazing sadly into a bowl of boiled vegetables. There are a host of delicious healthy foods you can safely tuck into which we have dealt with in later chapters. You don't have to go on an extensive guilt trip if you miss one day of exercising or occasionally eat something you shouldn't have eaten.
You can get right back on the fitness track a few hours later or even the next day. You don't have to spend a paisa more than you want to. However, in case you do go in for a pair of good walking/jogging shoes or some exercising equipment that you fancy, think of all the medical bills you would be saving in the future. After all, isn't it better to invest a little in your health today, than a massive amount in your illness tomorrow? And last but not the least: You don't have to feel that achieving fitness is an impossible task. Believe us when we say that it is eminently achievable and enjoyable.
For you will do only as much as is required to increase your energy level and enhance your life. Why do we always stress on your individual-requirement? None of us is made from the same mould. Each of us has his own outlook, his own problems, own conditions, his own capacities.
We differ from one another even physically. In fact, we would broadly divide body types into heavies (mesomorphs), twiggies (ectomorphs) and soggies (endomorphs). Heavies are those large-boned, muscled guys who adore pushing themselves beyond their limits. Perspiration is their milestone, competition their god.
They scoff at those mere mortals who walk for fitness. And they are not satisfied unless they instantly cool their hot, sweaty bodies with ice-cold, freezing pinpricks from a shower. It is these heavies who usually become physical-training coaches and since they view twiggies and soggies from their lofty, spartan pedestal, they have no patience with them. Twiggies are those thin, wiry chaps with tons of nervous energy vibrating through them.
They can't sit in one place and being so activity-oriented, they over-exert themselves as they follow the trainer's instructions and often end up exhausted and, perhaps, even fall sick. Soggies, by their very appearance of plumpness and their laid-back attitude, are the trainer's target. He wants to prod them out of their complacence, re-shape them like they were clay. And, invariably, the soggies pay up their fees, attend for a day or two, then find excuses not to return to their work-out sessions. Most books with those tempting titles on how to be fit in 'three weeks and so on are written by the heavies who want to hammer in their views into the 'flabby' minds of the soggies.
Worst of all is the way physical exercise is dealt out as a form of punishment in educational institutions. We remember a teacher who made " you touch your toes all through his period because you hadn't submitted your homework. The victimised student felt humiliated as he presented his backside through that excruciating half hour to his tittering classmates. There was also a physical instructor who, if a student showed lethargy, would order him to run a number of laps around the field. While such punishments may have been seen as character-building exercises, the fact remains that the pupils grow up seeing physical exertion as a self punishment or vice versa. It's such experiences that make people eschew exercising and instead go on a dieting binge which, in itself, doesn't really help.
Their militaristic nature also puts off civilians. In fact, years ago, we remember asking a colonel why the army 'kicked around' their juniors. "We don't" replied the amused army man. "But the men must learn to toe the line, snap to attention and follow commands without questions.
When a general issues' an order at a crucial time, the jawan has to do it instantly for it could make the difference between winning or losing a war." Such 'snap to' techniques, however, are wholly unnecessary for the average person or even the athlete. The world of fitness is neither a circus nor the undisputed arena of the heavies.
In fact, exhaustion is an alien element in fitness. The image of tyranny is false and should be discarded along with your daily rubbish in the dustbin. Exercising is an undemanding friend who wants to unfold a better, healthier world for you.
You can choose your own level of fitness - a few kilos to be shed, a fairly flat stomach and, most important of all, the healthy, glowing feeling that vibrates through you. Put the last one as the primary point on your fitness barometer. True fitness will make you enjoy your work and leisure to their fullest. And that means exercising to the right degree - a normal, no sweat level.
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