God knows I have seen the inside of a gym only twice in my life. The first time, I was in university, and I was taken by a friend.
I had no extra fat to burn, really. Only that I was toying with the idea that I could do with my biceps appearing a little business-like. I also thought I could use a more toned chest, same as I believed that six-or-so visible cubes on my (ever-soft) underbelly could make the girls at least look at me.
I did not spend long in the university gym. I found their makeshift weights too heavy and their exercises too laborious. Plus, the demeanour of fellows there gave the impression that that was the place where criminals earn the title “hardcore”. Most of the weights were made of hardcore, anyway.
After panting hopelessly as I tried to lift the weights to impress my friend, I spent the next one week feeling like my hands had been placed in a cauldron of boiling water for 45 minutes, approximately the same time it takes for green maize to become githeri.
Needless to say, I did not return to that place. Aren’t there other ways of making girls look at you?
The second time, it was because I had an assignment to submit and a deadline hanging over me like a rusty, bloodthirsty guillotine blade.
I had to talk to a fitness trainer and I found one at a gym at the Norfolk. I was surprised that people can work out in an environment so serene. This time round I had some calories that needed serious burning but it was not the business of the day.
I have been thinking of the gym following the remarkable story I watched on the BBC early this week. It was about Kay Longstaff, a 46-year-old British woman who was rescued off the Croatian coast after spending 10 hours in the Adriatic Sea. She fell off a cruise ship shortly before midnight last Saturday, and apparently no one realised until hours later. She would be found the following morning, looking all fine.
She told one rescuer that the achievement was because she was fit, being a yoga enthusiast.
Luck might have been on her side, but still we cannot take away the fact that fitness helped her survive. To stay afloat you need to beat your limbs around, and I can only imagine what a great deal of flapping she did before the rescue finally came.
EXERCISE CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE
Folks, exercise can save your life. That is also a note to self. A few days ago, I was at a journalists’ breakfast meeting with Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. He explained how keeping fit helped him come out almost unscathed even after undergoing serious medical procedures to kill cancerous cells in his blood.
Collymore’s words and Longstaff’s experience have left me more determined to revisit the first item on my 2018 resolutions. Secretly, I am also being driven by the desire to impress this gadget I own, which apparently counts my steps every day and which has been programmed to vibrate whenever I sit still for an hour.
I will admit that I like the way it congratulates me whenever I hit 10,000 steps. My bad, I’m often perched at my desk laughing at memes on the internet and sometimes obeying my job description.
That means it is only on days when I have really traversed the city in search of my official or unofficial “sources” that I clock the target my phone has set. I should strive to beat that more often.
Fitness, to me, means being at a position to play a full football match and not spend the next two weeks feeling like your legs were deep-fried. Very few people in the cities are on that level. But in the countryside, where individuals are at the farm almost daily, and are involved in labour-intensive tasks all day long, it is easy to achieve such levels of fitness that can be a lifesaver in an emergency and which keep off a host of lifestyle diseases.
Like I have learnt in the team-building events I have attended, one quality that makes teams carry the day is the fitness of their members, and attending such events can make you marvel at how unready most people’s muscles are to lift them. “As fast as my legs could carry me”, it appears, gets accompanied by a lot of pain when folks grow up and get jobs.
Elvis Ondieki is a ‘Nation’ reporter. [email protected] Caroline Njung’e’s column resumes soon.