Thursday, December 5, 2013

Training in India, episode 2

I was back in India for Thanksgiving and trained at the Bombay Gymkhana in South Mumbai a few times. Just like last time, I enjoyed the unique environment more than the training sessions themselves.

The Bombay Gym is a beautiful complex built by the British in the 1870s. Because I married the right woman, I received a lifetime membership as a wedding gift.

The facility has a cricket pitch, squash, tennis and badminton courts, swimming pools, workout equipment, several restaurants, library, juice bar, barber shop, and siesta room.

The men's workout room is a tiled area underneath an awning. Cricket balls fly into the safety netting throughout the day (grown men play their favorite sport for hours during the work week all over the city), which gave me plenty to watch between sets.

The gym also has an enormous staff, including assistants that load and unload barbells for you. During their idle time, when the manager isn't around, they grab dumbbells and squeeze in their own sets of curls and shrugs. During one quiet afternoon, I watched a little guy in his work uniform crank out set after set, each time drifting from gym entrance to the dumbbell rack, grunt out sets of 20 or more shrugs then returning to his post for nearly an hour.

Not everything was absurd, however. Local training methods have come a long way since my first experience in Mumbai nine years ago. Several rugby players finished their workout with farmer's walk medleys. An older gentleman performed rotator cuff exercises between his sets of bench press.  Harihar Sahu, one of the gym's personal trainers and an amateur bodybuilder, introduced himself as I was finishing up my session. He asked me about powerlifting meets and shared some illuminating thoughts about Indian eating habits and the challenges they present for his clients striving to add mass.

As for my own training, I'd finished 6 full weeks of solid training at home so I decided to avoid the barbell altogether and take advantage of the pulley machine and full rack of dumbbells. I cancelled my gym membership three years ago and train with the basics in my garage now (one of the best decisions I ever made), but I do like machine rows. I did them several times, plus a lot of dumbbell bench and shoulder press, and face pulls, single leg RDLs, Bulgarian split squats holding just one dumbbell, walking lunges in the grass and lots of low rep, heavy ab work.

On the last day of my visit, as I walked out of the gym towards the street to catch a cab home two roosters walked between my feet to pick at crumbs next to two men eating lunch on the ground by the car. The men didn't notice the birds because they were too busy staring at me, a foreigner, crawling into the backseat of the tiny cab and tell the driver where to take me.

Anything goes in Mumbai. It's a city of 20 million people and countless animals, ignoring each other's personal space as they make their own way and gawk at "goras" like me trying to get home for lunch. I can't wait to go back.

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