Sunday, January 28, 2007

In Fitness and In Hell

This past week, I received two calls from Fitness First Robinsons Manila. Apparently, two of my bestest friends have signed up as new members and they were kind enough to recommend me for a free trial workout. I distinctly remember telling them that I have been going to Fitness First The Fort since April 2006; but since we all talk at the same time whenever we get together and punctuate all our sentences with riotous laughter- that tidbit may have been unheard.

Here’s my recollection of my first day in the gym, that faithful day in April 2006, as published in my old blog:

After eons of procrastinating, tens of pounds gained in a matter of months, and being the eternally rudderless, fly-to-wherever kite that I am, I finally took the plunge and found myself sweating in an honest-to-goodness fitness center.

I thought it was just a horrible dream sequence. But no, I was wide awake, gasping for breath, head-spinning, leg muscles cramping, lower back and anterior chest aching, visual field almost dissolving into an all-white expanse due to sheer lack of glucose and oxygen.
All in a matter of 17 minutes and 25 seconds after starting my exercise regimen proper.

It all began when I first met my ‘fitness instructor’ Mike who seem buffed enough to break me in two. He’s a kind and jovial person, but he doesn’t really mince his words with regards to health.

‘Sir, 26 pa lang kayo pero ___ lbs na kayo. Kailangan na talaga kayong magpa-slim.’

Yes, I know. That’s why I’m paying you and your center to torture me back to shape.

After filling-up a questionnaire about my health and small-talk-slash-pep-talk from Mike, we proceeded to a most dreaded task: weighing. I was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY-OFF my target weight range. BUT in fairness to me, I lost some 10lbs since I last weighed myself. When that was, I can hardly remember. But that’s not the point. Really.

After weighing, we proceeded to this nifty, know-it-all machine. It computed my body fat- I had a staggering amount of 64 pounds of fat within me. That’s like an entire grade schooler worth of fat residing in me.

(I suddenly remembered that portion in FIGHT CLUB where they raided this liposuction clinic and got hold of the jugs of fat taken out of patients’ bodies and turned them to soap. I wonder how many bars of soap the fat I contain in my body will ultimately make…)

Then the moment of truth came. I went to the main workout area, with a gazillion treadmills. Mike scanned the floor and chose from among the vacant machines the one beside this trim, slim, fit guy who was RUNNING atop his treadmill at a speed that I believe rivals Flo Jo. Great. Just what I needed. ‘Inspiration.’

He punched some keys on the control panel and the machine purred to life. He then asked me to step unto the conveyor-belt-thingy-area. I could have sworn the machine groaned under my weight.

“Ayan, sir, lakad-lakad lang tayo ha, (punches keys here, adjust knobs there) i-increase ko lang yung slope ha (points to this LCD monitor in front of me) tapos hawak lang po kayo dyan sa heart rate monitor. Ten minutes lang yan sir. Balikan ko kayo.

My parents ought to have taught me the wrong way to walk because that was The Hardest, Longest, Most Excruciating Ten-Minute Walk I Have Ever Taken. It didn’t help that the guy beside me was running- fast and effortlessly at that- as if he were running with the bulls in Spain and sprinting to save his behind from being skewered. Soon after, I began wondering if that heart rate monitor I was made to clutch was hooked to some central computer which would activate all imaginable alarms and lights should it suddenly indicate I was a flatliner. At times it didn’t register my thumping heart’s beats. Maybe I’m dead already!

But I didn’t die. I finished my ten-minute treadmill regimen. My skin shed buckets of sweat enough to fill a resort’s kiddie pool, I was out of breath for a little while but I managed to burn some 100 calories in ten minutes. I felt a little wobbly after the brief cool-down walk on the treadmill but I was optimistic enough that I can make it through the day’s session. I had another item in my cardio program and I was supposed to do some abs workout. So I immediately proceeded to the next machine.

I don’t know what the name of the next machine I jumped into was, but it was sort of a cycling machine with two pedals that I have to spin forward with my legs with two ski-pole-like handles/attachments jutting out perpendicular to the floor. My fitness instructor punched in a couple of settings on the control panel and promptly left after I got the pedaling right.

I never learned how to ride the bicycle so the supposed ten-minute regimen was really a challenge for me. After one minute, I was still okay. On the third minute, I closed my eyes and began to pray the Our Father- one for assistance to finish the regimen, two to pass the time. After praying the Our Father, I decided to say extra prayers and continued on to pray Hail Mary and Glory Be. After finishing those three prayers, I opened my eyes, looked at the timer on the control panel, and was shocked to find out that I was on the pedaling-machine-thingy for a good Three Minutes And Twenty-Five Seconds!

I may have entered a warpzone somewhere. Time flew oooh-sooo-slooowly. And my fitness instructor seemed to have slipped into a wormhole of his own. I scanned the entire floor- I couldn’t find him anywhere.

After the fifth minute, I was ready to call it quits. My legs hurt, my breathing fast but labored, my lower back and anterior chest ached, and I was beginning to feel a l-i-t-t-l-e dizzy. He re-appeared as I crossed the seventh minute atop the pedaling-machine-thingy. Seven minutes and twenty five seconds into that cardio regimen, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and he helped me off the machine.

We headed towards the snack area and I downed a glass of cola and another glass of water, one after the other. He took me to the Pilates area where it was much cooler. I felt reeeeeally dizzy, with my field of vision almost turning into a white blank. Thank God I didn’t pass out. Mike was trying to explain what happened but I only managed to catch snippets of what he said-“Glucose… out of shape… normal… rest… kita n‎’yo na sir…”

I believe my mind was playing a pre-taped response at the same time- That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

That’s how my first day at the gym ended- with a near fainting spell that would’ve put to shame the tactics of women in Victorian London. After resting for a while and undergoing some stretching/relaxation techniques courtesy of Mike, I headed to the locker room to change. I went home, took a shower, and slept for like ages.

Now I know why I’ve never-ever had the guts to go to the gym. What I couldn’t understand yet is why those gym-nuts spend hours submitting themselves to what seemed like hours of torture.

But I’m willing to find out.
--==+==--

I'm willing to give the healthy lifestyle another chance after having frozen my Fitness First account for sometime.

Next gym session’s this February.

PS- If I don’t post anything within that month, please pray for my immediate recovery or for the eternal repose of my soul =)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Never old, always new (1): Beauty and Med-ness

As part of my New Year housekeeping chore, I’ve revamped the look of my writing nook. Ever notice how an airy room, with clean sheets, books properly stacked, study table cleared of debris is more conducive to living? That is the feel I’m trying to achieve here. Hopefully I can keep the entries coming from now on.

--==+==--

But that doesn’t mean that mementos past will be discarded altogether and taken to the dumpster. Often, the past has a way of catching up on you, just when you needed to be caught, before you land with an earth-shattering thud from a 30,000-foot freefall.

Consider:

I had a good day yesterday.

I woke up feeling rested enough not to declare a personal holiday again.

I got to school early enough to prepare for my lecture to Year Level V students without feeling harassed.

I would like to believe that my lecture was engaging enough for my students not to notice that my fly was open.

Or maybe the students were polite enough not to mention anything.

I was walking around campus in my feeling-professorly outfit, fly now properly zipped when an onslaught of memories and products of wishful thinking began to unravel.

In one day, I saw classmates- from Abacan to Zamora- in various stages of residency-ness, duty-ness, trekking roads less traveled.

Enrico near BSLR
KF in front of Med Lib
Alvin near the parking lot in front of OBAS
Marie and then Migs in front of the PGH cafeteria
Toyang and then Erwin in front of Ward 5
Betchay and Grace Flores in Rob (then Betchay again outside the COME office then Grace again near Radio after which I was even able to give her a ride to Vermont)
Ging at the back of Ward 1
Maan in the PICU
Edhel in their callroom
Bonus: Dinner with Jen Abengana

Crazy seeing our erstwhile clerks and ICCs now 1st year residents and interns, respectively. Yesterday, the latter only had 94 days to go before they themselves say goodbye to the PGH.

Crazier meeting current YL5 students which already went through their ComMed rotation, greeting me as they passed by- Hi sir!- including the sister of Dyan. What a small world. Small, surreal world.

Interesting how just the sight of the back of a classmate, or her silhouette against a poorly lit PGH corridor are info enough to make you identify him or her. O- si Enrico yun ah! Ayun si Toyang o!

I would like to believe that God was generous enough to reward me with a good day- filled with the joy of seeing classmates even for just milliseconds- because I endured the quiet ridicule and hushed giggles from people due to going about my merry way for half a day with my fly open.

--==+==--

On such good days, when all is calm and quiet in the campus, I can almost see Jorge, Ivan, D-Lo, Boq, Carlo and the rest of the basketball team sweating it out in the PGH basketball court…

With Fire on 405’s Under The Sea wafting in the air and Abner with Basti doing their gymnastic routines…

As Dave and Cynch cackle happily at the stone tables, Joolz studies for an exam weeeeeeeeeks away, Marge collects transcribed exam questions, and Dessi shoots transcriptions into the transbox…

With Johann and Doy, calling on hawk-worms and Fecal Smurr and Papa Smurr to come to life nearby…

Then come Hazy and Melchor HHWW into BSLR…

Who find Henri fixing the LCD…

Where Bambi, Marvin and I are making chismis with Jen A, Maan, Aia, Marga, Ampie, and Chands…

Outside, Jen R, Chester, Marie, Grace, Ken fail miserably to ignore the call of the tennis court…

Jay is tormented no end by Arvin and PJ…

While Lester and Darryl emerge from the library and are now on their way to the MSU…

Good old days…

Hope you guys get your own dose of such days as well. Well worth enduring open-fly days… Would gladly strut topless to have such days…

Then again THAT would spoil somebody else’s day, the sight of my shirtless torso hehe

You guys are missed. Terribly.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

(Thank God for another birthday! The longest one yet- spanning 48 hours, across oceans, continents and timezones, spent with loved ones who are my most ardent fans, most welcome critics, dependable pillars of strength...

Still groggy and unwilling to snap out of my vacation mode, I'm just re-posting a January 2004 entry in my old blog while I was still a clinical clerk. Funny how my concerns three years ago still resonate up to now.)



I often engage myself in “serious introspection” at very specific times of the year: Christmas, New Year, and Easter. I try to assess my life thus far and how I fare as a human being in the greater scheme of things and creatures. Then there are the “emergency introspections,” often undertaken (a) when exams are EXTREMELY hard and (b) when the number of patients streaming into the ER during our tour of duty rivals the throng who joined the Exodus. I quickly run through my tally of sins and beg for God’s mercy for each infraction, lest the onslaught of Herculean questions and the en masse influx of patients continue and devour me entirely.

And then there is the cliché and yet unavoidable Birthday Introspection.

I was prompted to rummage into my soul by ice cream. After my usual Jollibee dinner, I suddenly had the craving for ice cream. Being low on cash and on the verge of an asthma attack, I was more inclined to just stay stuck to the idiot box and let my craving die a natural death courtesy of RPN 9. Well, quite naturally, the glutton in me won. As if in a trance, I gravitated to the nearest convenience store and bought myself a 1-liter tub of ice cream. I practically ate a fourth of the Double Dutch treat in one sitting.

It was one of them dilemmas that was easy to resolve, if I were a normal person: No to ice cream simply because hundred pesos would have gone further if spent elsewhere and my airways were already inflamed for the past two weeks or so. But then, in my distorted anatomy, my sweet tooth controlled my brain; hence, a tub of ice cream is now a denizen of our freezer. But as I was gorging myself with ice cream, I began to wonder:

Do we become more reckless as we get older? Do we more readily disregard norms and, at times, common sense in pursuit of what will make us happy? Do we feel we have been battle-tested enough ensuring that we will emerge unscathed from our seemingly foolish exploits? Are we cloaked with invincibility by virtue of the vicarious victories of people we know with whom we have much in common? Are we more adventurous since we know life is too short to be playing safe always? Are we more brazen because we know better?

Or

As we get older, do we tend to be more careful? Do we toe the line less since we have more investments and interests to protect? Are vicarious learnings enough to tame our youthful restlessness? Do we more readily conform to norms and heed common sense knowing compliance will lead to a more peaceful (co-)existence? Are we too battle-weary, thus it is too risky to expect to emerge unscathed yet again for the nth time from our foolish exploits? Are we more aware of our humanity so we more readily throw out the window illusions of invincibility? Are we less adventurous since we know life is too short to be playing one continuous Russian roulette? Are we less brazen because we know better?

Am I the reckless adult or the careful adult? Let me get back to you after I down my second tub of ice cream. It’s my birthday and I’ll stuff myself if I want to.

(Oh, by the way. Can anyone hand me my Salbutamol inhaler? It’s somewhere under that pile of papers and books and whatnots. I think.)