Sunday, January 20, 2013

Training Abroad

Shefali, Ishan and I spent our holiday season in Mumbai, India visiting her family and attending a friend's wedding. When we weren't dancing our way through the week-long wedding festivities, our lives were pretty regimented: sleep late, drink tea, three-course breakfast, browse the street markets, return home and eat a massive lunch, meet friends for tea and pastries, nap, eat an extensive dinner and find room for a decadent dessert. 

My in-laws joke that I was Indian in my last life because I can’t get enough of the food. I tried every naan, dhosa, curry, biryani, kofta and daal that graced the table, and it left me red-faced, sweating and completely stuffed.  After a couple of days I stopped getting hungry between meals and began to fear the airline staff would have to roll me up the jet bridge to fly me home.I needed a training session.

Shefali was keen to try the new “box” one of her old classmates had opened nearby, but I chose not to watch third-world men and women perform sets of 21 hang cleans after rowing 400 meters. Instead, I caught a cab to the Bombay Gymkhana – a historic cricket club built by the British in 1875.

The men’s weight room was in the back corner of the cricket field underneath a metal awning. The only wall was covered with pages of the Kingfisher girls. All other openings were covered in netting to stop cricket balls from flying in. (More after the jump)


There were two full-time staff-members patrolling the place – one to load and unload weights for you, the other to spray and wipe down equipment after each use. I told them both thanks but no thanks when they started hovering over me, and they apparently took it as an excuse to leave the gym and watch the India-Pakistan cricket match on TV in the aerobics room next door. A personal trainer was running a client through agility drills on the field, while another talked an older man through 10 sets of shrugs in 10 minutes. 

The strangeness of the place actually had me pretty stoked to train, and the equipment was more than serviceable. I reminded myself that it wasn't the time or place set PRs and walked past the rusty old squat stands collecting dust in the corner. Instead of trying to train like I train I home, I decided to play around with a few ideas I’d read about and never tried. Lee Boyce sang the praises of heavy goblet squats in a recent article,so I grabbed a heavy dumbbell and worked up to 100 pounds for 10 reps. Goblet squats allowed an athlete like myself to increase my range of motion while maintaining a neutral spine. They also fried my quads in ways the barbell doesn't.

Next, I did a few sets of single leg dumbbell RDLs and listened to the trainer and his client debate in Hindi if I was working my back or my hamstrings (I know just enough Hindi to recognize when the locals are talking about me). Performing unilateral work before squatting really exposed the dysfunction in my left glute. I thought I’d addressed it over the summer, but it appears I need to reevaluate what I’m doing to activate and strengthen the muscle.

Then I took Dave Tate’s advice and did five humbling sets of 15 reps of dumbbell incline press. After that I messed around with the pulley machine, since I don’t have one at home, and finished with rows, straight arm pulldowns, face pulls and heavy chops before heading home to crush piles of Kerala-style prawn masala and fish curry.

In all, training in India was both strange and awesome. You won't find a place like the Bombay Gymkhana in America, but its weight room really wasn't all that different from most commercial gyms. While I gorged myself on the native fare, I also picked up some new ingredients to use in my own gym in Durham.

I’m back in the States now, chasing my own training goals in 2013 and getting my high school football and baseball players ready to turn heads when their team workouts resume January 22.  Visit the blog often and help me celebrate their success!  

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