Since we never have enough time in today’s world, we always put insignificant things like physical health, social obligations and childhood dreams at the backburner, promising ourselves that one day we will join the gym, start swimming, incorporate sports into our lives, one day we will call that old aunt who sits in a dusty corner by the window, lost in the past because the present is the same day after day, colorless, melting into an unending strip of melancholy, one day we will give ourselves the time and energy to pursue dreams of writing a book, painting murals in dilapidated government hospitals, opening a café that specializes in cheesecakes and good conversation…
Right now we have more important things to do, office work, house work, repetitive weekend plans with friends/co-workers, and of course, Candy Crush. (or if you think you’re cooler, then FIFA).
And then I came back to Pakistan, to this sweet sterile valley of Islamabad, my friends in Karachi, my fiancé in Karachi, my siblings back in North America, and of course, the biggest freedom of all – not having a job. The gift of time, thrust into my lap, and even though I kicked it away initially, eventually I exhausted all my excuses (jet lag, Ramazan, trip to Karachi…).
So now that I have all this time I have… started drinking milk. Eating fruit. Volunteering at the orphanage/school near my house and, and even more amazingly, going to the gym!
It’s called ‘Fit ‘n’ Flex’ and is near my house. It’s small, faded carpeting, congested with equipment, and has pictures of fit white women flexing their muscles pasted as wallpaper. If you didn’t know, in Pakistan, photographs of white people always make a place feel like it’s legit.
The office smells of food around the time I go (between 1 to 3 pm), unsurprisingly because of the food that the administrators are eating. And the other day I saw a Persian cat sleeping majestically on a fluffy green pillow in the office; it was such a surreal sight I had to look twice.
I guess I can venture to say the gymming experience is different here compared to St Louis. I can still remember filling out the registration form, pen poised over the question ‘when was the last time you went to a gym?’, and again at ‘how many times a week do you exercise?’, so embarrassed at my answers I almost wanted to run away but the personnel there were too dauntingly in shape, smiling their perfect white smiles.
Despite the portraits of its muscular white women, Fit ‘n’ Flex (FNF) has a more …um, relaxed atmosphere.
One of the biggest differences is the gym attire. At FNF, people are so good they can work out in jeans, or shalwar kameez (my personal favorite to date was this auntie wearing a sweater vest over shalwar kameez and puffing away slowly on a treadmill). Then there are the multipurpose PJs you can sleep and workout in!
And for some reason, most people in the gym here are on the heavier side. You know. Like fat women working out. Which, I don’t know about you, inspire me more than the skinny, toned crowd at Club Fitness who I feel should have their separate gym.
We also don’t have intimidating staff like I did at Club Fitness (the gym I went to in St Louis) who are either making other people sweat or chiseling their own perfect bodies further. The ladies who work at FNF don’t want you to feel bad so they either sit behind the counter or paint each other’s nails. Sometimes they get a sudden bout of energy and come sit on a treadmill, checking Facebook updates on their phones.
And sometimes, just to show you they know how to operate the machines, they hop on to the elliptical or the treadmill. If I was impressed by the women who work out in jeans, Sumbul the lead staffer lady, bowled me over with her stylish top, slim fit pants and flip-flops. Yes. She was that good.
I think the most popular machine there is this strange platform with a vibrating belt that you put around your waist/hip and then just… stand. While it vibrates, making your booty move like Rihana. Apparently you can get thin just standing there. Technology these days!
I also love the musical element at FNF. They play Bollywood songs all day and not only can I jog to the upbeat tunes of Punjabi love songs, I can be on the lookout for the perfect wedding entry/exit songs (yes, that’s a thing. The ‘entrance’ of a bride/groom requires thought and effort). Also, seriously, if I could dance with that much gusto, I wouldn’t need to go to the gym.
Which reminds me of another difference, in America, skinny people go to the gym all the time (in fact, more so than their stockier counterparts) but in Pakistan, if a thin woman mentions joining the gym, she will most certainly get the astounded ‘but why?!’, which I think, is a pretty interesting look into our thoughts about physical fitness and health.
I don’t need to harp on about the benefits of daily/weekly exercise (at least 30 minutes every day or alternately, thrice a day for an hour).
Another embarrassing question I filled out in the States, and which I would slyly encourage you to answer is, how many hours a day do you sit? Do you want to know how many hours is too much sitting? (you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyways). According to a study, people who sit more than six hours a day are at a 40% greater risk of DEATH (!) than those who sit for less than three. For more scary things that are associated with too much sitting, check out this article.
So I guess I’m glad I’m finally bored enough to start looking after myself. Not to mention entertain myself every time I frequent FNF (which btw is more expensive than the much bigger and better equipped Club Fitness; I paid $10 per month for that while the monthly fee here is almost $35. Another insight into how common exercise is here).
And a small suggestion? Don’t wait for time to slow down and come sit in your lap. Do the important things now, or at the very least, pause for long enough to remember what these things are.