MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
'I thought i'd never be able to walk again'
Priya Talwar
Thursday, March 26, 2015
What does not kill you makes you stronger. Cliché, but I found this saying to be true the hard way. Who could have imagined that an adventurous Christmas Eve with friends in Goa would turn into weeks of unbearable pain. Sure it did not kill me, but I came to believe that your greatest strength is actually in accepting your weakness and moving on despite the obstacles.

A night of excruciating pain
During my stay, I jumped over a wall, six feet short, in vain. Two of the bricks fell apart and I landed on my back and knew I had severely hurt my lower back. And the first thought that flooded my mind, apart from the agonising pain, was whether I would ever be able to walk again, or even go to the gym. The latter was equally important as I was into hardcore fitness which involved training in the gym regularly for hours, and my paranoia started to get the better of me.

Fight back your injury
The first few days were hell. Better put, it would take me three hours just to turn in bed. The little things that I took for granted seemed next to impossible.

What would be an effortless task now took hours, like moving from the stretcher to the X-ray table. The only options I was left with were either sulk or get back on my feet. Inspiration, the word we so casually use these days, was just a memory call away.

My late father, had not only survived an injury 13 years ago (he fell from the sixth floor of a building) but later went on to win the second place in a power lifting competition. But what was I exactly fighting? Not the muscle spasms, which were long and arduous but a tear in my muscle which confined me to bed for the next few weeks. Fortunately, my spine was saved the misery, though by only two inches. And I fought it with a belief that a mind which is full of fears has no place for dreams.

Listen to the doc but pay heed to your instincts, too
My doctors had the final word and rightly so. They told me I could not gym for the next three months. I heard them but I continued to do my share of research on the internet. I went in for physiotherapy, which helped a lot. I knew I had it in me to get back to my regular training, so I banked upon my instincts. My docs told me I couldn't walk until 15 days. But I was back on my feet by day 10.

Set short term goals
I was aware that I had to not only control my weight, repair my muscles, but also get fit! Not easy when I could not move without my crutches. That's when setting short term goals helped. On the first of January, I had to anchor a show in Calcutta and just the thought of landing up (that's all I could do, then) on the stage gave me enough confidence. My self assurance surprised my organisers who then boosted my resolve. I wore belts on the flight; I took pain killers, asked the staff for a front seat or swapped with passengers if there were none available.

Maintain a healthy diet
Very few people know this but I was an obese kid (MH readers will remember my teenage photo in baggy clothes with a Coke in hand!). I had taken care of weight issues before, so the prior knowledge and experience helped. I made sure I consumed a balance of proteins and carbs. I had paya soup, eggs, dal, brown rice and boiled chicken. The pain killers and the bed rest could have added more flab, but I made sure I avoided excess carbs and sweets. Now I was nearing my second goal- the second schedule of my film in February and could not afford looking unfit.

Win the battle for respect not reward
My mother and friends, Nikhil Chinapa and Sethu Vaidanathan were very supportive. But everyone kept telling me not to hustle. The doctor had said three months, but I knew I had to get back to the gym. So, if I walked for 10 minutes, the next day I would for 15. Slowly I got my muscles accustomed to more activity. Patience and determination won the battle. 20 days later, I was training in the gym!

Five exercises for a strong upper back
Staring into the depths of your computer screen for almost 40 hours a week?
Time to take stretching seriously - let's twist.

The corkscrew
Works All
Your move

On all fours, place your right hand behind your head and brace your core. Rotate your right shoulder and elbow up and away from your left arm, until it points to the ceiling, hold it there for a moment. That's 1 rep. Do 20. Then switch arms. All your pieces are ready - now comes the hard part.

The big row
Works Middle back, shoulders
Your move

Holding dumbbells, bend at your knees and hips, and lower your torso until it's parallel to the floor. Let the weights hang down. Then pull your shoulders back and hold for a second. Next, lift the weights to the sides of your torso by squeezing your shoulder blades towards your spine. Lower and repeat.

The rack pack
Works Outer back, spinal supporters
Your move

Set a barbell at knee level in a squat rack and grab it with an overhand grip, hands wider than your legs. Then stand up, pushing your hips forward. Begin with no weight until it feels natural. When this exercise becomes easy, lift the barbell from the floor. The jigsaw's coming together; can you tell what it is yet?

The statue
Works Middle and lower back
Your move

Attach a handle to the lowest pulley on a cable station. With your left side to the pulley, grab the handle with your right hand. Pull the handle up and across your body until your hand is over your head. Return to the start. Complete all reps and repeat with your left arm.

The chin finish
Works Shoulders, upper back
Your move

Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Pull your chest up to the bar and hold for 10-20 seconds. Once you can do more than five reps, add resistance with a weighted vest or a dumbbell between your feet. This one hurts, but it's the final piece in your back jigsaw. It's going to be a beautiful picture.

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