It is 9:45 PM, 22nd March 2022 as I’ve begun typing this from my office. I just exhaled.
And again. I’m on top of the world, even if – just two hours ago – my family jewels were swinging gleefully in Dubai’s not-quite-summer, not-quite-winter evening breeze as I walked with purpose to collect my Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 goodie bag, because I didn’t have any underpants on.
I pause to laugh. Did you actually write that, Karan? I suppose explanations are in order, folks…
Before I get into the gory details of my family jewels, allow me to recap my day.
Although I’d set an alarm for 5:30 AM, I struggled to rouse myself because I’d worked out my arms yesterday late at night, and the task of going for a run to prep for my first upcoming 10K (and first ever public run) was daunting.
I switched off the alarm, and turned off the next four, set to ring within the next 10 minutes, and shut my groggy eyes.
I then awoke at 7:45, and rushed to the office to prepare for a meeting with my accountant who was coming in at 9:30.
Not the best start. And that, unfortunately, set the tone for the next 7 hours of my day.
Irrespective of how my week looks, I love getting a morning workout in, because that simultaneously leaves me feeling rejuvenated, and satisfied that I have taken another step towards becoming a stronger person than I was yesterday.
My morning workout could consist of:
- A 6:30 AM HIIT boxing, or an all-levels boxing class at Spartans Boxing Club, which I joined in January this year.
- An arm workout in front of my dresser, usually performed topless and in my boxers, because hey – I can’t be the only one who likes watching themself work out close to naked, right? My arm workout includes dips, curls (for the girls), push-ups, tricep extensions, a farmer’s walk, and a couple of simple, yet effective exercises involving resistance bands. I also use the resistance bands as part of rehabilitation for my left tricep, which I injured in 2019 but never got around to fixing. I then finish off by performing dead hangs on the bar in my community, which has been a godsend for my shoulders, and back. I used to suffer from a 7-year-old shoulder impingement injury in both my shoulders, until I saw a brilliant osteopath by the name of Kris Rai who recommended I dead hang. The benefits are many, and I will probably get into them in another blog.
- A leg workout involving squats, lunges, an elliptical run and some more rehab exercises involving pushing down on a foam roller to strengthen my quadriceps, to treat fat pad impingement in both my knees, which I injured in the gym in 2015.
- An ab workout – which I usually dread – that hits different parts of my core.
Although variety is undoubtedly the spice of life, I focus on a few exercises, aiming to perfect, and perform them everyday.
I feel a sense of calm when I execute the same motions repeatedly, and love as I gradually feel myself becoming stronger and growing into the healthy person I used to be. Conversely, when I find my routine gets too monotonous, I soothe my nerves and keep on keeping on by remembering the Zen Buddhist phrase, “Chop wood, carry water”.
Chaos, followed by order.
Right. Back to my day. Which was chaotic. I could not strike the big things off my to-do list because ad-hoc tasks kept popping up. I tried to bring some sense to matters by fully focusing on one job at a time, but to no avail.
Like I mentioned; I didn’t start my day right, so couldn’t give my all to each task. I got easily distracted and even made mistakes, further compounding the time taken to successfully finish each job.
But, all that was to change at 5:30 PM today. I had booked a strength and conditioning class at Spartans, and was raring to go. It had been over 1 week since I had set foot in the gym, and God, I missed it.
Prior to booking a class, I take stock of how my day is looking, and then go ahead and book. By way of this, I make a commitment to myself that I must show up, and hone my boxing skills, or improve my fitness levels. This means that I have to maximize productivity, and get my work done on time.
Simon was setting things up as I walked in, and he greeted me with his usual cheery and amicable self. I told him I was going to run my first 10K on Saturday, and he mentioned how completing it was a mental hurdle as opposed to physical. It was all in the head. I agreed. And couldn’t argue. After all, Simon said it! (I am an endless supply of dad jokes, sue me.)
Joining the class were Sam, a boxing coach at Spartans; Violette, who oversees things in the gym; and Sonal, who I hadn’t met before (I’m not sure if she is a member, or was in for a trial).
After Simon shared what gruelling circuits we’d be in for today, we stretched, and got down to working out to the best of our respective abilities…
The next 55 minutes proved instrumental in transforming my physical and mental state for the next 6 hours.
Because as I performed the exercises, I knew – without a reasonable doubt – that the only person I was competing with in that space was myself.
Nobody knows the extent of my injuries. Nobody knows what body part I’d worked out that day – or the day prior. Nobody knows if I’d had a physically exhausting day at a construction site. Or, conversely, a lethargic 7 hours spent working on my desk.
Nobody knows any of that. Except for me. Which is a sobering reality.
I know that I must work hard, yet smart. I know that I must push myself, whilst constrained by my body’s current limitations.
In sum: I know I must continually raise the bar, but lower it when needed.
As the session raged on, and I lunged forward on one knee, and lunged backward on the other; (to one of Whitney Houston’s most popular tracks – Simon has good taste) I stared at myself in the mirror, and noticed the lack of muscle on my quadriceps.
Whilst I previously would have looked at myself in repulsion, I now view myself with a healthy intrigue.
I briefly thought about how far I’ve come (I am now able to stand for long periods without pain in my knees, which is an achievement in and of itself) and how much further I have got to go.
There’s a long road ahead until I reach where I want to be physically, but it’s a journey worth undertaking – blood, sweat, and tears be damned.
And before I knew it, the class was over. I had become better. Over the course of 60-whirlwind-minutes.
No boxers at a boxing gym? Poetic.
With endorphins flowing, my mental state uplifted, and body buzzing with energy, I headed into the changing room to shower.
But upon hanging my change of clothes on the shower railing, I realized with dismay…I hadn’t brought a change of boxers. (My late start clearly still making me pay.)
There was no way I was going to wear the same pair I had just sweated buckets in. So I decided to go commando, and headed to Ibn Battuta Mall to collect my welcome pack for Saturday’s 10K.
Of course, nobody knew I went commando. And truth be told, it felt great.
I may or may not do this again…
Run Karan, run.
I learnt about the Expo Run 3 from Dani, a coach at Spartans Boxing Club who specializes in cardiovascular fitness. She also relishes punishing me with intense HIIT workouts, but you didn’t hear this from me.
She told me about the run in February. I could have chosen between the 3K, 5K, and 10K. But I delayed registering until last week, by which point only a slot for the 10K was available.
I signed up without hesitation, because I have decent fitness levels. But there’s the small matter of my knees not being in tip-top shape. Plus, I haven’t run in years.
Out of curiosity, I did some cursory research on Monday during my lunch-break to know what to expect when running a 10K for the first time.
I won’t lie; reading that people usually train for 3 – 4 weeks to prepare for a 10K gave me a slight jolt. Several articles confirmed this, giving me the butterflies.
But what put me at ease was learning that – as is usually the case – other people have faced the same dilemma in the past.
And what should they do but type their problem into the search bar, hoping for a solution that only good old Google can provide?
I was a decent short-distance runner in school (often finishing 3rd or 4th) but, if memory serves me correctly, I used to finish 6th or 7th in the long-distance runs.
Apart from the occasional jog, or less-than-occasional sprint, I haven’t run properly in over a decade. Mostly due to my knees.
But when I used to, I remember running with my earphones in until I experienced runner’s high. I loved that.
It remains to be seen how well I do on the day. What is crucial is not to get buoyed by the energy of the other runners, and run too fast, too soon, and exhaust myself.
I am not looking to set a PR. I should have fun, and enjoy the run. Go at my pace, and bear in mind that I will be running alongside those who have practised for this run for weeks, months, even.
As is the case: the only man I will attempt to best is myself. But all things considered, I will take it easy.
I’m on the quest to become my best. Physically. Mentally. Creatively. Professionally. Spiritually.
Making the decision to join Spartans Boxing Club after a free trial, despite recovering from two long-term injuries in the form of my shoulders and knees, has been a boon.
I’ve always had a soft spot for contact sports (yes, that pun is as intentional just as the grass is green).
And I’m not quite sure why.
It might have been that one late night as I was on holiday in New Delhi, when I was 19 years young. I was lazily channel-surfing after a delightful dinner; Delhi’s fresh vegetables have nothing on the imported produce you get in Dubai.
I decided to check out what was going on in the world of sport. Until I stopped short, and my eyes started to widen. Slowly.
I had come across GSP absolutely mauling some poor nameless chap in The Octagon.
I do not remember the match, or its significance in that year’s UFC title championship.
All I remember is how he utterly dominated those few minutes. He stamped his authority on the judges’ scorecards, left the other guy bloody, and left an indelible mark on my impressionable teenage brain.
I’m not a violent guy. Far from it. But just as I’ve been endlessly striving to become the best version of myself, I’ve also been practicing an arcane ritual accessible only to men, which has not only made me more resilient, and eloquent, but highly emotional, creative, and aggressive too.
And I cannot think of a better avenue to channel raw, masculine energy than by practising a martial art. It humbles you. It disciplines you. It strengthens you.
I’ve been boxing for just under 3 months now. I even picked up a TFCC tear on my left wrist in the first month, which was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected given the circumstances.
But hindsight is a blessing, and in the time I couldn’t use my left wrist to its full ability, I built muscle in my lower body, which is something I must continue to focus on.
Every time I step into Spartans for a class, I push myself. I want to learn. I want to grow.
But boxing is both, one thing, and many things at the same time.
Boxing is a skill. Boxing is an art. Boxing is a sport. Boxing is self-defence. Boxing is a full-body workout. Boxing is a science.
And each time I don my gloves, I become acutely aware of how much I have to learn in this sphere.
It gets frustrating at times, I’ll admit. Then again, the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. (God, if there ever was a time to weave the perfect pop-cultural reference into my blog – that was it!)
I’ve accepted the fact that life is difficult, so the fact that life is difficult is irrelevant.
Ever since, I’ve been shouldering responsibility and expanding my comfort zone.
Funnily enough, when you decide to take matters into your own hands and journey into the unknown, you meet people.
People who seemingly magically waltz into your life. People who want the best for you. People who mentor you.
Like some of my coaches at Spartans. I’ve already mentioned Simon, who teaches the strength and conditioning class.
Simon has seriously great dad energy. By which I mean that he looks out for you. And pushes you to work harder. As described earlier, I like his taste in music. He also comes armed and ready with a great dad joke or two. (Or ten). And I, for one, am a massive advocate for an infallible dad joke.
Yet another coach I have come to greatly respect is Jalal, who joined recently. I had him saved as ‘Coach Jalal’ on my phone because that is how everybody referred to him as.
And it only took a couple of classes to see why. If there was anyone who’s earned the title of ‘Coach’, it’s him.
I keep it real. And I love people who do. Without pulling any punches, Jalal is a solid coach because he knows his shit. And gives a damn. Oh, and he does a decent moonwalk too.
That’s the first time I’ve cussed on my blog. I can’t quite brush aside the clichéd ‘there’s a first time for everything’, because it makes for the perfect segue as I conclude…
I’m going to run my first 10K in a few sleeps. On 26th March 2022. Is my body ready?
Hell, no! But just as I enrolled into a boxing gym on a whim, and found how it brought order to other areas of my life, I am sure this run will teach me a lesson or two on my journey of self-development.
So long as I take calculated risks on the grounds of the Expo 2020 Dubai, come Saturday morning.
I loved writing this blog – more so than usual. I hope you enjoyed reading. I am happy with the state of my writing and am excited to continue publishing. I will write about some of the positive effects boxing has had on my life in another blog. Until then, I will catch you in the next one.