Edited by Sanjana Hira
My initial few months were spent in excitement of working out. I thought this was it. With so much free time on my hands, I would now successfully have abs. My arm fat wouldn’t flap around and I would get strong enough to almost lift my younger brother. So, I followed the “2 WEEKS ABS CHALLENGE” by Chloe Ting. She provides free workout programs that give you abs in 2 weeks. Did I mention 2 weeks? Because I have had relationships in college that have lasted less than that.
My 2-week journey, however, almost always became a week or a 5-day journey. I honestly wondered who had the time to first plan their day according to when they are working out, change their clothes to work out (kudos to me – struggling with putting on my sports bra), then actually work out, followed by a bath with sweaty, sticky and disgusting hair. And finally, coming out of the shower only to realise you forgot to cool down after and thus, awaiting muscle aches.
Why would you put yourself through that?
I wasn’t always of this opinion, though. Before entering college, I consistently went to the gym for a year and was what many would describe as a ‘workout freak’. So, I began to wonder what changed when I got back into it during this quarantine.
It was a pandemic. The reason is as simple and complicated as that. With people dying outside, worrying about your own safety and that of loved ones in far away countries becomes an all-consuming task. Keeping up with basic self-care becomes difficult, forget working out. I would spend hours on my phone checking every update on COVID. I watched every documentary on pandemics and was hungry for every scrap of information I could find; whether fabricated or not.
The way I cope with sudden change has always been information. The more I know, the smaller are the chances that I will be caught unaware. But the problem with information nowadays is that there is too much of it to consume and in my arduous efforts to absorb everything, I became extremely unproductive.
I would lie on my couch for days on end just scrolling. I would watch videos on the world outside without actively taking part in it and all I felt was a sense of impending doom. And this feeling hasn’t been uncommon in the pandemic. We all have felt isolated at some point. How, then, can I even begin to work out when I struggle to get off my couch?
But the natural question at this point is to ask, why did I feel like working out in the first place?
My scrolling, unfortunately, had led me to Instagram as well. There, I found a host of ‘perfect bodies’ that I was meant to strive for. Someone had left a comment on a model’s picture saying her hip dips had disappeared with the heart eyes emojis. I Googled hip dips and found out they were supposed to be unattractive. I remember touching my own hip dips then, and hating them. A part of my body that I did not even know existed 2 minutes back, I now felt conscious of.
So, you work out. To get rid of your hip dips, and underarm fat, and back fat and underthigh fat – to hope to be ‘productive’ and achieve something superficial this quarantine. This mainstream culture of pushing for productivity is reflective of the crisis in our society. It isn’t the virus outside but our ‘Just Do It’ attitude inside. Hard-knuckle your way through life. Feel the pain. Darr ke aage jeet hai. If you don’t burn, you don’t learn.
The implication here is that pain is necessary for you to achieve something and if you are not hurting, you are doing something wrong. Especially during the quarantine, when people are already hurting due to the lack of social interactions and confinement to small spaces and, in some cases, a fear of livelihood, we cannot expect them to hurt more to be productive. We cannot expect ourselves to achieve more in a pandemic by pushing past our breaking point. Because there isn’t that much push left, at least in my case.
During this time, I am not starting at 0. I am starting at -10. By taking on an increasing load, I will not be able to manage like I perhaps could have when I had the luxury of meeting friends and family. By making me hurt at -10, there is not much more pain I can take beyond that.
Once I realised this, I felt more comfortable with being unproductive and not working out. I came to the understanding that this superwoman image of some incredible person who gets everything done with a smile on her face is a farce. This mythical woman with abs and no hip dips is not real. This unreal expectation of doing EVERYTHING was causing serious harm to how I approached my work and stayed healthy. Now, I am 3 months workout-free and I haven’t been happier with my body and my unproductivity in a long, long time.