I like to stay in shape because I think it’s necessary to take care of ourselves. Taking care of our body is also stressed in Islamic literature, so being a practicing Muslim, what’s the excuse, eh?
I exercise 4 times a week, 3 of those days I hit the gym to work out my different muscle groups, and once a week I go out and do a little bit of running (okay, maybe lots of running, but you get the idea). I need to twerk my exercise schedule once in a while due to commitments at work, as I am always on-call and often require working and travelling at odd hours. But I always make sure that there is a minimum of roughly 24 hours between each workout session, and no consecutive rest days.
When I was a teenager, I was really scrawny. I could eat like as much as I wanted without seeing any noticeable impact on my body whatsoever. So my Mom, naturally, took pity on me and encouraged me to hit the gym. I was terrified.
My reservations were not diminished when I first set foot inside the place. I was hit full on by a blast of awful music, the scent and sight of huge, buffed up men (one appeared to be giving birth to a baby seal by the noises he was making). So I walked in, a small, slight 17-year-old, wide-eyed and not a clue of what I was supposed to do next.
I quit after a month. I figured it was way too early and plus, I wasn’t enjoying it in the least bit.
A couple of years later, after a bout of illness which almost ruined my joints, I decided to sign up at another gym and undergo Personal Training. My PT-to-be arrived at my place with a list of questions. To his credit, he was very articulate and asked me a lot of questions about my diet, my general lifestyle, my working hours and what I was hoping to achieve from my workout. I listed my priorities in the following order:
2. Body tone-up
It went well for the first 3 months or so, but then, like many Maldivian PTs, he began to pester me to “bulk up more”. I’ve spent enough time at different gyms to learn that there is a culture of competition between Personal Trainers, especially the male ones.
The “Let’s see who can bulk up their customers most” thing can get rather tiresome, especially for someone who does not like the bodybuilding culture like myself. He attempted to encourage me to buy protein shakes. I know for a fact that there are many customers, and instructors, who take supplements regularly. Steroids, anyone? And you think why we have a substance abuse problem in this country.
Currently, I workout on my own and I am happy as ever. Last week though, a guy slunk inside the gym to sign up for personal training, and of course, one of the instructors was at his side and conducted the interview.
It went well at first.
“Do you smoke?”
“Yes, mostly a packet a day.”
“Well, you know that smoking can interfere with your fitness levels, right?”
“If you’re willing to quit smoking, we are ready to help with that as well.”
I was keenly listening to this conversation as I was removing my shoes after a sweat session. It wasn’t long before it started to go downhill.
“What do you eat, mostly?”
“Roshi, Mas Riha (fish curry) I guess.”
“Ah, Roshi…you know that it contains a lot of carbohydrates?”
“Yes, carbohydrates. You should switch to oats, have you ever had oats before?”
“No, what is that?”
“It’s readily available in Male’. You should eat oats twice a day, breakfast and dinner.”
By this time I was having trouble suppressing the urge to facepalm myself.
You see, most Maldivians grow up on the traditional diet of fish and rice/roshi (or roti, if you’re north of the border). It’s a diet high on protein and carbohydrates, and very low on vegetables. Then they enter gyms and suddenly get oats and protein shakes thrust at them.
I personally hate oats. Yes, yes, I know about their nutritional content and everything, but I feel that I am very fortunate to have very diet-conscious parents. We always make sure that we get a balanced diet, and we never eat fried food, we keep greens at a high so it’s all good.
PTs, in my opinion, should get their heads out of their little world and be a little more practical with their customers. You can’t have a fish-eating South Asian stuffing himself with oats overnight. It just doesn’t happen.