Surprisingly, home workouts don’t suck. I mean, not more than the usual- I cannot breathe, I might pass out, why the f*&% do I do this suckiness. The key for me has been consistency in terms of time, and variation in the training itself. Setting tolerant mini-goals have been helpful as well.
I struggle on days that I go to work. The timing is tricky and a bit unrealistic. When I come back, its past lunch and I’m too hungry to even think. And then home- business makes it hard to steal ‘my 45 minutes’. I HAVE to be done with it in the morning when the bubs are snoozing. I’m still working on that. On days that I don’t go in i.e. don’t have cases scheduled; things are more structured. I get the morning chores, school- work, and bath-times out of the way and then change into my training gear. Pre-lunch is perfect. A late breakfast powers my workout and I can look forward to a hefty lunch soon after.
What I do to sweat and get my heart rate up while trying to keep a modicum of my muscle and endurance; differs. I am realistic about what I can do, considering the circumstances. For two weeks I sort of had an upper/ lower split. It worked, till I got bored of it. I then focussed on mobility drills, flexibility and streching. Then moved on to follow- along type workouts from ‘the YouTubes’. I love the novelty and simplicity of the one song workout, like these-
Stitch-up a few of these and I’m done. Literally, DONE.
I don’t have any cardio machines, nor elaborate equipment. I have one pair of decently heavy dumbells. And two resistance bands. Yet, I have managed to keep myself interested.
This week I have tried a few dumbell based full- body routines. Like so:
This was borrowed from here
Lovely right? In a masochistic way. Anyhoo, so I cook up a WOD like these and write them down and get to it.
And just when things have been figured out, Ramadan rolls along, and we have more changes to make.
Day 14 was mired in household chores, literature review (for work) and contemplation. I went to bed early (i.e. 01:00 AM rather than 03:00 AM) and hoped to wake early.
I did wake up earlier than usual today. 06:00 AM is much later than my pre- COVID 04:00AM start, but the past couple of weeks have been “off”. I wanted to have the luxury of not setting an alarm. My natural clock wakes me up at 08:30 AM, always has. And I fight it every darned day of my life, by trying to kick myself out of bed at a god- awful hour such at 04:00 AM. It is the bane of my existence, but I must endure it if I harbour any hopes of having a productive day.
I am often asked how I accomplish this seeming impossible task. To go against the grain of my most basic nature. The easiest answer would be – make it a habit. Of course it is easier said than done. Even after all these years of waking early, any number of factors can throw my morning routine off. A late night, a sick child, rainy or cold mornings, spousal discouragement, a presentation to prepare, travel or just pure fatigue. And deviating from the habit for even a couple of days can make it much harder to get back on track.
I have always kept my phone away from the bedside. Not particularly due to fears of radiation exposure, no; when the alarm rings I want it to be far enough to make me get out of bed. ( For the chronic snoozers of alarms -try one of these https://alar.my or Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers. There are several similar apps out there.)
Getting up and brushing your teeth is step 1 to winning the sleep battle. Second is not going back to bed after your morning cuppa. For that I have gotten into the habit of changing into my workout gear as soon as possible. There have been days when I have woken up too early, taken a cup of tea to the couch and fallen asleep there. But I am yet to fall asleep so in my workout attire.
Minimising the number of steps I need to take to get to this point is critical. Therefore, my clothes and bag are laid out the previous night. This seems to help. And once I’m out of the door, there is no looking back of course. So that is all. My secret. I don’t think of it as a long sequence for the day. The aim when hitting the sack at night is singular. Get my arse of bed and into the loo. Period. The rest then falls into place from there on.
Getting home after training in the morning. Getting ready (almost) before the kids wake up. Prep the progeny for school. Get to work. Yada yada yada. The rest of the day is self- scheduled. And falling asleep as early as possible at night is also taken care of. Many nights, I end up passing out mid sentence during story time. I’m that knackered. All that sevofluorane exposure in the OR must also help.
Like I mentioned before, I despise this 4 AM business. I do it out of compulsion. Compulsion to training. And on days that I’m truly miserable, I give in. I sleep. And on other days I thank heavens that the days when the alarm rang at 03:00 AM or even 02:45 AM (residency +3 yr old + 3 months old+ pumping + pre- rounds )are behind me!
Does’t this feel like the proverbial calm before the storm? Do you sense the worse is yet to come. Like we are seated to watch a blockbuster movie, and the pre- movie trailers and adverts keep running on. If this is truly an apocalypse, it’s seems quite tranquil at the moment no?
I had a neighbour knock at our door today, she stood a metre away from our doorstep and asked if I knew where one can get tested for The Virus. She then went on to talk about how she couldn’t wait for these 21 days to be over. Ah! Naive optimism or blissful ignorance?
I do not have a clue as to what might happen in the coming weeks. Nobody truly does. We can make scientific conjectures, historical predictions; but they are all guesses. Italy and India had their first reported cases at about the same time. Granted, they have tested about half a million people, while we have less than 30,000. Yet, the picture seems curiously suspect. I feel like we are heading to the edge of a precipice- the path to which is flat and non- threatening but at the endpoint of which we are met with a yawning bottomless depth. I hope I’m wrong, I’m but a pessimist after all.
Anyhoo, for now I shall describe something so mundane that it may momentarily confound your cognition into forgetting The Blockbuster Mr COVID-19.
How am I coping with my fitness fervour you ask? Not as bad as expected to be honest. Yes, I have not had a barbell on my back for precisely 17 days now. *Has it been only that long since?* I have not run for 10 days. I have not even taken my bicycle out for my *now rare* grocery runs *and risk having a lathi thrown at my back, no questions asked!*.
Ugh, the early days were hard. But the withdrawal symptoms are abating. Also, about ten days ago, I was at wit’s end in terms of keeping the progeny engaged. I ended up searching for a box of games from my childhood days *Domino, UNO, BUSINESS?* and lo and behold, I found a couple of rusty, squeaky dumbells. The heaviest being 15 kilos, I think. That, coupled with some resistance bands, the kids play mat, my night stand and an Ikea stool- boy am I sore!
The beauty of strife, is that it strips life down to the basics. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and my family is safe. The rest, we shall deal with as they come. If people can get jacked in prison, who am I to whine for not having access to a squat rack. So my friend, we shall get ripped in quarantine. No more obsessing over lift numbers, nay. My goals now are:-
Increase push up strength. Do more and do it better
Master the pistol squat (almost there, just working on the ROM)
And try and keep as much of the gains as possible. Strength can be regained back quite quickly.
And try to do this-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GMr8xV4IY4&t=51s
I have hacked a lot of exercises, and am really having fun with fitness again. I wish I had one of those pull- up bars though. Also, maybe a pair of heavier (20 kgs+ anyone?) dumbbells/ kettlebells. Why can’t a human ever be satisfied?
Oh yes, and also; the progeny have PE time everyday as well. I do the half an hour with them. It’s a perfect warm up for me, as its a good one to get the heart rate up and get a light sweat on. It’s insane, chaotic, very noisy but loads of fun and giggles. We all like to follow the Joe Wicks kids workouts on YouTube. Trust me, when done with the right heart, these are not as east as they might look to the physically uninitiated!
Before we get into the specifics, read about my physical pursuits here and here or just click on the Runday Monday link above.
I have been seriously “lifting” since my second born was about 14 weeks. 8 months and counting now.
The sheer physicality of moving heavy things around never appealed to me before. I am unsure of the reasons, just as I am unsure of how I got into weights. I did not meet anyone who inspired me to do it, nor did I read about it. Maternity leave, and then going back to work at 11 weeks post- partum, with no real help on hand hit me hard. The guilt of leaving the young one, not having enough time for the first- born and the stress of catching up at work almost drove me to despair.
I needed a way to clear my head occasionally, and for me the only way to do that is to sweat it out. Once upon a time, running helped me do that. But now, driving halfway across town to find a half- decent place to run seems ludicrous.
I headed to the nearby gym/ fitness centre out of sheer desperation. Payed the 3 months’ joining fee, bought ONE new sports top (I did not get my hopes high) and weeded out my old running bottoms from the sad and messy depths of my wardrobe.
One day after work, I pumped in the car and even though every cell of me told me to head home to my babies- I drove to this gym place.
The timing was crap, and the place was bursting at it’s seams with people who were stuck on moving machines with their phones super- glued to their hands. Every darned cardio machine was taken. It is a ladies- only sort of place, and so the weights section was peaceful and quiet. Again, desperation and the need for some space and quiet drove me to the weights section. And, I WAS HOOKED.
How I looked, did not matter.
I did not yearn for me pre- babies abs.
My squishy mid- section, flabby arms and dimpled legs did not bother me one bit. (Having a baby second time around does that to you. Your bodily changes don’t have the same shock value anymore. You know all about how the female physical being can travel to hell and back.)
I did not care how my hair was or what I wore. I did not mind grunting and making feral noises while I lifted. I cared zero shit as to what the women around me thought or did. At first, I treated the cardio equipment like the plague and stayed far away.
I went whenever I possibly could. I despised the management with all my heart for closing the place on Fridays. I even went in after my 24 hour on call shifts. I went in at 11 PM after putting the little ones to bed. Or sneaked in an afternoon session at around lunch time if I could, knowing that the place will be fairly empty at that time.
I did not have hours on end to spare. So my mantra was simple. Have a plan. Make it quick. Make it count.
Be efficient. Be brutal.
Needless to say, the beginning was not pleasant. Even with my physically active background, my body was shocked. It had not seen or experienced anything like this for it’s three decades of existence. Marathons and day long dance practice is different. And oh yes! I was only three months in after delivering my second child when I started 🙂
Slowly, the changes began to get apparent. The strength gains are addictive. Pushing oneself to the brink of their physical limit and then past it is always an exhilarating experience. A hint of a quad sweep, a trace of the biceps brachii as I pick up the little one and the pins going further down on the weight stack every week- the victories are small but fulfilling. I am not even upset that I cannot find jeans that fit anymore (the quads- glute- waist ratio conundrum ) or that I am packing on the pounds.
For the first time, it ain’t about the looks at all. It is about the me time, the strength gains. The mental emptiness as the physical self is being tortured into submission. The sore bottoms that remind you of the good times you had the previous day every time you sit. The achy back as your try to find a comfortable stance in the OR. The joy of feeling in control of at least one thing in your life. Of people commenting on how you stand different, walk different- seem different.
The high of the so called “beginner gains” is hard to explain.
I have no idea how long this will last. I hope to have stumbled upon a life- long passion but I don’t care either way. I am not aiming to compete in bodybuilding shows or becoming a powerlifter. Heck, I am not entirely sure when I can make it to the gym today. All I know is that currently I am being sucked into the vortex of protein shakes, pre- workout, foam- rolling and workout splits. That currently the only clothes that I own (that fit me) are my pyjamas, scrubs and workout apparel.
In fact my wardrobe is a fair indication of my life currently- family, work and the gym.
Let’s talk some serious business today. Very serious. My new fitness goals. My current obsession. My new thang. My joie de vivre.
Like you care about it. HA!
Still, I shall trudge on and bore you for a few mins.
Or maybe you are utterly bored anyway, and that is why you are here. Either way.
If you were not aware, I am a small person. Have always been. 5 feet 2 and something inches, possibly 159 cm or 160cm. Always weighed under 50kg except three times in my life. 45 to 48 kg being the norm. Lowest point was during my first pregnancy, when I was diagnosed with hyperemesis and literally vomited my insides out. I was a tad under 42 kg then. Seriously.
I have run practically all my life. Was in the school long distance team, and the relay teams. Got into marathon training and shit at 16. Ran mostly half marathons and ONE SINGLE marathon by age 23. Ran every single 10K that was ‘runnable’ then at Bangalore, with very good times too. I liked the 10k, it did not bore me to death like the half and full marathons, and also I recovered quick (almost no recovery time needed) and did not need any super intensive prep or training.
I also danced, secretly. Did some choreography for and competed in college and school competitions. At one point, during my undergrad days, I took weekly thrice aerobic classes at an apartment complex (for some ‘pocket cash’) which was mostly attended by grossly unfit, moderately pudgy, super busy homemakers some of whom were constantly asking me to change my class hours because it clashed with the airing of their favourite ‘serial’.
Occasionally I dabbled in weight/ strength training because my running coach kept whining that I have a horrendously weak upper body. Later on, I tried it because I realised I needed a bit more strength (though I still believe surgical technique is more important) to compete with the guys in my program, surgically.
I have accumulated hundreds of miles and about half a dozen or so injuries in the past twenty years. Most pertain to my wonky knees, aggravated by my sometimes poor form. By the time I started paying attention to my form, I had already done decent damage to my poor joint. I also had/ have ITBS aka iliotibial band syndrome. We’l talk about it another day. For today all I want you folks to know about it is that IT IS ANNOYING AS HELL.
By the time I hit the big 3 0, I was bored and tired of running. I could not do the long distances and the fun challenging stuff with my creaky knees so what was the point anyway. I did not want to be that sissy runner in fancy gear who did a 10 minute half- arsed jog and called it a workout. I wanted the blisters and the chafing and mind- numbing boredom of the hour and half runs.
I slowly started losing my running joy. I got into HIIT for a bit, especially during my surgical trainee days at a small village town in South India. It was fun, and I could baby my knees. Abs became my obsession.
The HIIT, coupled with my crazy hours at the hospital made me startlingly lean. Weight wise, I was still hovering around my average weight mark, but I looked skinny, thanks to the predominant loss of fat and a little bit of muscle build up. I was a stick figure, with a gaunt face and hollowed eyes. I was also living away from home, and ate rubbish because that is all I could afford time wise. But I felt super- fit and energetic. Almost achieved the wash- board abs (which looks crappy in drapy Indian clothes let me tell you) and my cardiovascular system was in good shape. I also, still went on weekly long runs, just for old times’ sake.
Then, I had two children. With the first, I was at peak fitness when I found out I was pregnant. I had hyperemesis gravidarum like I mentioned, and so was confined to a dark, odourless, soundless, person-less room for almost five months. I wanted to sink into the earth and perish, cease to exist at that time, so forgive me for not making exercise a priority.
I got my arse back on the track (literally), at about 7 months pregnant, when I started to feel human again. Albeit a waddling, gassy, belchy, motion- challenged human.
We walked, for long. Everyday. Almost jogged. Walked so long, that the husband needed to take breaks while I huffed and puffed along.
Baby Z arrived, and the little baby weight that I managed to accumulate (which was nothing to write home about) melted away in a matter of weeks. Don’t get my wrong, I am not talking about fitness, only the number on the scale. People (you know, the “aunties”) congratulated me on my swift ‘return to shape’ and asked what the secret was. I smiled and bull- shitted. But I knew the truth.
The second time, things were different. Without even trying, I put on weight steadily as the pregnancy progressed. I again had a very ‘puky’ first four months. But later on, I ate like a horse or whatever other animal eats a lot for it’s weight.
I filled out. And surprise, I liked the slightly filled out person that I saw in the mirror. I never knew such a person existed. Subcutaneous fat did wonders to my face. Bloody hell, maybe I should have considered fillers long ago!
The Husband has been trying to tell me this for almost a decade now. That some “pudge” would help my gaunt appearance. Maybe he was right, after all. Damn you man!
So now, at almost four months post- partum; I have embraced my new found curves and plan on keeping them. I am seriously enjoying working out again. Lifting is my new jam. A month in, I can already sense a huge difference. I am 6 kgs away from my usual average, but I feel great. My jeans size may be different, but my endurance is returning. A different sort of endurance.
I do almost no cardio now. At least, no intentional cardio. Except the ten or fifteen minute warm up that I do. Occasionally, I run to relieve soreness. It sounds weird I know, but it really does work for me. After a hard day of leg work, when I can barely manage to sit/ walk, a half an hour run the next day seems to pump out all the lactate.
So yeah, that is my fitness journey in short. Thus far.
This is a new and exciting beginning folks, let us see where this leads..
Till next time.
P.S. By lifting I don’t mean monkeying about with 1 kg dumbbells like this.
Forgive me if any of you folks are having a difficult time in life. Apologies if you have bigger problems. Please do no take offence to the fact that my current problem is finding a gym in Doha that opens before 6 AM. And please do not mention those hotel gyms that would cost me a minor fortune every month.
Most open at 8 am apparently. One fancy place I visited opens it’s grand, faux gold crusted doors for women at 10 AM! The lady at the reception looked at me with an utterly bewildered expression when I told her that my preferred time would be around 5 (or earlier) in the morning.
I like to get my exercise/ training/ runs out of the way early in the day. More than a decades experience has taught me that it is the only way to stay consistent. I want to get back to training, seriously again; all said though, the city might fail me.
Even the “Anytime Fitness” chain here isn’t quite open “anytime”.
Hiya folks. God it’s been long. I have just been going with the flow the past few months. The mission each day is “Survive Today”. And so everything except the bare necessities of family and work life have taken a back seat. No. Not the back seat, they have been kicked out of the room and in fact out the building and block even!
Lately though, even though I feel like I’m juggling half a dozen balls in the air whilst wearing a double eye patch and riding a unicycle on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon – I have been wanting to do more of the things that once made me ME. The true me. Not the mommy me or the surgeon me or the wife me.
Last time I did a runday post I had mentioned that I am quitting running. At that juncture in life, I had had enough of my rickety knees and the runs were getting mundane, uninspiring. I had lost the running mojo and forgotten how enjoyable it used to be. How liberating. How it could clear my head and help me make decisions. How challenging and rewarding.
Anyhoo, I have tapped the dust off my trainers and gotten back on the road. It isn’t going to be the same though. For starters I plan to run only once a week, and mainly for pleasure. Will not push my knees past their limits. I cannot spare a single day off, therefore I will willingly do nothing that even remotely jeopardises my well being.
Running once a week, will do nothing to rid me off my post partum jiggles though. For that, I might have to hit the gym. I am not really the gym rat, but tough times call for tough measures. We’l see ..
The mojo has long been murdered by circumstance, though I can not be blamed for giving in without a fight.
I fought, long and hard. But my loss was pre-ordained, almost inevitable.
I could blame dodgy knees. Or work-days which stretch into the ungodly hours of the night. An endless barrage of chores and domestic tasks that magically burgeon in every hour that they lay undone. Presentations which crop up every week and pre- rounds that begin at the crack of dawn.
Regardless of the raison d’être, the guilt and helplessness (of not doing what one wants/ yearns to do) has been festering within for long now. Letting go, has been a relief. Unexpectedly I sense a calm resignation descend upon me, one that soothes frayed nerves and restless thoughts. It’s better now. Like emesis post a long episode of relentless nausea. The pressure is slowly but surely fizzling out, and the competitiveness and will to go harder, faster and further has dimmed and almost died out.
I thought such a day might never come about. Heck, I did not know such possibilities existed.
But then I always thought things wrong!
Life truly is an evil, manipulative, sadistic ol’ devil.
I gaze at my Fitbit. It shows a series of numerals. 3 1 2 3 4 0 or thereabouts. I see the numbers, they register somewhere in the nether regions of my acutely occupied mind, stowed away for comprehension at a more convenient time (a.k.a. right now).
This was at about the 17 hour mark, there were still seven hours to go before I could could call it a day.
I did not go running that day, nor did I fuss around on the treadmill. I did not eat a meal seated down in one place, but I did drink 3 mocha lattes, 1 espresso shot and one tea with milk and sugar.
I will not comment on the number or type of patients admitted; but I can tell you that I did a LOT of purposeful corridor striding, more than two dozen phone calls (consults), reams of documentation and charting. Hardly any sleeping.
Rewind to the beginning of the day.
I am up at 3:30 AM, getting nursery meals and snacks ready and packed. Then put my most comfortable scrubs into the washer-dryer on the “quick wash” cycle, iron it dry and still wear it slightly damp. I did not realise until then that I had no clean scrubs. Anyhoo…
5 AM and I leave my domestic self behind at home and put my game face on at the wards. Pre- rounds, Grand Rounds, five hours of ‘educational activities (a.k.a mandatory lectures) and on- call from 3 PM to next morning- it is going to be a long, long, long day.
Day. It is over 24 hours after all. Post- call rounds never finish before 11 AM the next day.
Reaching home at 12 noon the next day, gives a small window in which I can wash the germy grime worth 36 hours off me, get some grub in the tummy, partially arrange some scattered stuff around…… And then it’s time for the nursery run, and “baby- story” unfolds from thereon.
Sleep is a luxury that I often covet, but rarely beget.
I have no complaints or regrets. I chose not to. My life may not be all sunshine and daises, but I like it, for now. Heck! talking about sunshine, there are days when I don’t see it at all. Yet, I do not wish to whine. Then why, you may ask, fulmination?
This emesis of text was induced by a silly comment this afternoon, a relative whining about the money his neurosurgeon makes per month.
That neurosurgeon probably did this and much more (depending on the era and area of training), for about 20 years, before the money first started to trickle in and ultimately “flood” (as the lovely gentleman put it) in.
I rest my case.
On a chirpier note, leaving my bag unattended for five minutes with a toddler within 10 feet of it, means I have its contents strewn all over the living room floor. And it gave me an idea.
Any blogger/ vlogger worth his/ her salt, puts up a “what’s in a bag” post/ video. Though I am averse to herd- following and charting the beaten path, I personally find those bag posts to be fun and interesting. I guess we are all voyeuristic to some extent. And ever curious about another’s bearings and being.
Also, this post is dedicated to The Husband who thinks The Bag is unnaturally heavy.
This is the dressier version of my work bag. There is another more “heavy duty” one for theatre days, and presentation days. (This is the Marc by Marc Jacobs Ligero Tote for those who like to know such things- like me.)
It is a sturdy, roomy bag, which on days like this would be packed to the brim. It is a decent- sized tote, with a solid, reliable, zipper. Zippered totes are a rare breed by the way.
And here are the contents. Nothing fancy, or unnecessary in my opinion. The light green pouch is my on- call survival/ emergency kit while the hot pink one has all the absolute essentials (ID, access cards, bleep, stamp, torch….)
A tablet to check patient records, OR scrubs (different from the call scrubs) and a couple of other self- explanatory items.
There you go, most residents and fellows I know carry similar luggage, some a tad more and some a tad less. I have also seen some extreme cases, and a couple of complete nut cases too. Some carry their own towels, blankets, sheets (YES! in the car if you want to know) and then at my old workplace a gentleman came to work with only his bleep on (steth, pen, and everything else can be borrowed you see).
So, that’s it for today folks (and the week perhaps). See you soon, hopefully. And yes, I did log over 35000 steps that day (about par for a call day) and apparently burnt well- over 3500 calories. Not a bad work- out on a full- work day eh? 😉
I know it isn’t Monday yet, but I couldn’t pass by without sharing something as incredible as this.
Every time I was in rotation at the Orthopedic OR, I remember how a the whole “macho- butcher-bunch” would have a good laugh at my “little” self. A particularly pleasant 6 feet 3 gentleman would “shield” me every time a mid- procedure-x-ray was shot.
It was all in good fun though. Or so I chose to believe.
But there was this part of me, this alpha-personality, uber-competitive portion, that wanted to invite them to the tracks. To kick some muscle- butt at a marathon. I believed I could easily out- run all of them.
Also, there was a part of me that believed being small/ a woman does bring in some inevitable limitations.
Dealing with the mostly delicate structures of the face, I rarely require brute force/ strength in an OR but yes muscular fatigue is a big factor during long procedures. And I have always considered my upper body to be a weak companion to my solidly trained lower-half.
I know how hard I find a set of push ups, and after seeing this, I am ashamed. I’m also inspired, and there are tears of inspiration in my eyes at the moment!
Please, please do not for a moment think, any of this is easy. It is incredibly, implausibly hard.
As someone who occasionally puts her muscles to good use, let me tell you this. Man. Woman. Fit. Fat. It is hard.
She just makes it look like a cake-walk. And that makes it all the more incredible.
Kacy Catanzaro, I bow down to thee and to folks like you. All of your 5 feet fabulousness!
You and I weigh about the same, and have the same physical make-up. But I do have about two and a half inches on you, so I should aspire to be better.