Jillian Michaels, my neighbor’s treadmill and me.

If you’re American, you probably know who Jillian is already.

I’m Indian, and in 2010, I didn’t.

I just came across a video of hers in 2010 while looking for a 32 minute video to follow along because my neighbor’s treadmill, to which I had become addicted, over 3 months, had broken down. As a C minus in sports, a total bookworm and nerd, I’d had two Cesarean deliveries in 2003 and 2008, and by 2010 I was looking ravaged. Just 33, I looked truly heavy at 70 kilograms and 5’3”. Pammi, my neighbor, is a lovely person who will come over, bring u Bhelpuri, and tell you so kindly that she wouldn’t at all mind if u wanted to use her treadmill! I consider myself lucky.

Yet. The mechanical failure of Pammi’s treadmill made me feel I was going loco. I was always pulled apart by having to go to work.. I love my work! I’m a dentist who is great at relieving pain and straightening teeth, and I just kept getting better at it with practice. Yet having to leave my kids with their grandparents for most of the day made me feel guilty and stressed. As young parents and new practitioners, my spouse is a dentist too – we had financial concerns as well. My practice wasn’t ever optional. We needed the money. I hated the quandary, damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I kept reading parenting books,

“Put down the book and pick up the baby” This was about Dr. Spock’s book.

the most important word your kids will learn is “No”

Your children’s happiness and your obsession with it will push them into therapy- Lori Gottleib.

Somehow with the treadmill, for 32 minutes, I forgot it all. I’d sneak into Pammi’s spare room, careful not to disturb her family members getting ready for work, open the window, turn the fan on and start to walk.

The first 3 minutes were tough. Negative thoughts would stream through my head. Then as I kept walking, my internal dialogue would become more sympathetic. I’d notice that at 3km/hour, I wasn’t even breathing hard. (Just a week ago, when Pammi’s son, Shantam, had demonstrated the treadmill to me, 3 km/hour had made me huff and puff and get off in an embarrassing minute. I’d felt judged by him for just showing me which button did what)

In 17 minutes, I’d feel ready to quit. I’d feel I was punishing myself for crimes I hadn’t committed! Either my heel or ankle or knee or shin would start to genuinely hurt and I would want to press the red stop button. Yet I’d soldier on. I’d slow down, but would keep walking for the full half hour. That resolve came from Shantam’s casual “Maybe half an hour”? when I’d asked him how long I should use it for. That question I had asked in order to know for how long I’d be welcome in their spare room, and it just wrapped itself around me and taped my arms to the treadmill for half an hour a day. By the 18 minute mark, magic happened. Later I would read exercise books about how we burn glycogen for 15–17 minutes and then the fat stores kick in, how there’s an almost inexhaustible supply of ATP available from fat, due to which we get this “second wind” and feel invincible. That was later. Back in 2010, sneaking in 32 minutes(I always did 2 minutes extra, I felt they wouldn’t notice and the last two minutes made me feel 30 minutes would feel easy next time) on Pammi’s treadmill, I just waited for the 18th minute.

The next 14 minutes would be pure joy. In those 14 minutes, in my head, all my dental patients were thankful, would pay on time, my kids would do their homework without nagging and even eat their greens with a game face. Mind you, this was exercise. It never got to the stage where my mum-in-law liked me. Exercise. Not a drug. I was happy, not hallucinating. I was positive, not delusional.

I even got a couple of 2-kilo dumbbells fo hold for the first 17 minutes. These were my slow minutes. Then I’d toss them, on the floor, and I’d feel so light at the 18th minute and simply fly for the next 14. I’d finish 3.5 km in 32 minutes and feel strong and powerful.

Then came the mechanical failure. The rubber mat of the treadmill slipped right off. I was horrified. It wasn’t even my treadmill, I was deprived of my daily fix and I’d have to figure out how to get it back in running condition. It was certainly my responsibility to get it repaired, just as one would expect a neighbor who’s borrowed and bashed up a car to fix it up before returning the keys.

It would be 2 months, before I would find the right person with a toothache who would solve my treadmill repair issue.

That was when I discovered Jillian.

“Hi I’m Jillian Michales and welcome to your kick-butt workout which we’re about to start. Let me introduce you to my friends Kristen, and my friend Zelema…..”

I was floored. Here I was, thinking I could walk with 2 kg dumbbells in my hand for 17 minutes, at almost 7 km/hour, and I was completely exhausted, busted, red faced, panting like a fat guy from the plains in Darjeeling!

Over the next 10 years,I did almost every workout this lady puts out there, albeit with modifications. I’ve done Banish Fat Boost The Metabolism, No More Trouble Zones, Bodyshred, Hard Body, Yoga Meltdown, Killer Buns and Thighs, Kickboxing fast fix and 30-day shred. I could give you a blow-by-blow account of what passes through my mind when I do Hard Body for every other day for a month, and then go back to Banish Fat Boost The Metabolism for a day. It isn’t very different from watching an old and familiar and much loved movie. Only, not just the same visuals, or the words, or the music! The very same thoughts, the same “oh we’re not even half-way through this!” The same fatigue! It was like nostalgia in multiple dimensions. In my life, in my work, in my head, my thoughts, my parenting, this lady has HELPED. Her voice is ever so slightly rough, as if she has a slightly sore throat(from screaming at people … up up up up up up up!?) and the small pat-on-the -back she gives at the end of each workout after the stretching has extended into my life. Many days, it would be the nicest thing anybody said to me all day. Mind you, this is India, and you don’t get appreciated for exercising here! Working out and gyms are for the idle, fat, rich, and exercising is a luxury.

In 2015 I joined a regular gym with splits for different days of the week. I did chest, shoulder, biceps, triceps, back and leg days on machines. Many of the times I missed Jillian. I’d given up on her, discouraged, after a knee injury in 2015. It wasn’t until I read, and read and read, real books, not the Net, that I realized that powerful results in exercise came from nutrition. I had faithfully followed Jillian’s words, and struggled through her workouts, but had never increased my protein intake or supplemented my diet in calcium. I even took iron and calcium tablets together! After I joined the gym, I started taking 500 ml water, a fruit, a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s Whey, a calcium citrate tablet and a multivitamin straight after my workout. I used to carry all this to the gym and have it there. Even at the gym, once or twice a week, despite the bum knee, I’d do a Jillian workout “for old times”. These were the days I’d feel amazing and charged after the workout. Having Jillian push me instead of having to count reps and check on weights was amazing. This was when I got back to Jillian through her new program, Bodyshred. This is “just” a 30-min workout, so I’d do it on days I was pressed for time and had “n” appointments for upper molars root canals, etc. Yet, you can’t really prefix “just” to any of Jillian’s workouts. Bodyshred was different from Hard Body or Killer Buns or Banish Fat in that there are around 12–14 workouts. Each had a push day, called Launch, a pull day, I think called Amplify, and then a Cardio day, called Ignite. Jillian had brought in some unusually un-doable moves, but it was so exciting! I was about 2 weeks into the program, doing these three workouts over and over again, when my knee gave up again, and I had to go back to pushing boring weights at the gym.

Cut to 2018, and I gave up gym entirely for a few months, for my 15-year old daughter’s 10th standard board exams. Ok that was an excuse, I know, because at least I coulda done “7” everyday… more on “7” later… but I didn’t.

When I returned to the gym, I found I had no motivation to lift and press and row and pull anymore. However if I played a Jillian video in the gym(this time I picked Hard Body) I would burn 375 calories in 45 minutes on Apple Watch!

I diligently did Hard Body every other day for a couple of months. I used the elliptical machine the remaining days of the month, clocking at least 30 min a day. (Remember? Shantam had said so)

Then came the Quarantine!

Just before Jamshedpur went into lockdown, a patient asked me, Madam, do u still do Jillian Michael? I was amazed he’d remembered. I was seeing him after almost 8 years, and I must have mentioned Jillian to him(I loved recommending her to anyone and everyone who “just walked” for exercise). He clarified, saying that he’d tried one of her workouts but had given up after some time. I said, you should try keeping your feet up against a wall for 5–6 minutes before bed, Jillian needs that recovery. He said, yes, probably, that is what my football coach used to say too! So there you go!

Now, almost all I do is Jillian. Some days I do Hard Body, then I do a 3-mile workout by Leslie Sansone, the next day it’s Killer Buns, or if I feel awful I do the Yoga Meltdown. As an Indian I felt vaguely disloyal doing a Yoga workout by someone who called a Surya Namaskar a Sun Salutation, but this was my guru, this was Jillian, she must have thought it through. One day my kid collared my iPhone for her Zoom class, and I had to do a non-Jillian workout on YouTube. That day I did a workout called Fit By Larie and she’s great too! Any workout is great if you press play and physically move yourself and do it, but all workouts aren’t equal. One needs to find the right fit for mood, flexibility, muscle fatigue, sleep deficit if any and also time. Of course right now thanks to Corona all we have is time, but even so we can’t be over fatiguing our bodies and landing up with injuries to our muscles, or joints or ligaments or tendons. So finding the correct workout for the day is crucial and Jillian provides the variety for that. Also she and I have a history, there have been sad days, happy days, days when I have used Jillian’s BFBM or NMTZ as a crutch to forget that my mom died(Feb 2015) and when I do a Jillian workout, it is all that imprinting and more… sometimes I think that even if I were to lose my memory, I wouldn’t be able to forget BFBM. I was just too elated when I could do the High Knees With a Punch for the first time. I could never forget that. Ditto Surrenders with weights in NMTZ.

I used to view all her workouts for free online, now I use her app. Her app is intriguing, I think it connects your fitness tracker to her stats engine so she genuinely knows if you’re pushing yourself…. With ferocity! With intensity! She also has custom 20-min workouts on the app connected to a 30, 60 or 90 day program. I’m new to the app, I just follow the classic DVD programs I mentioned earlier so I wont comment on what I never did.

I don’t know if this helps or even makes sense, I am not an athlete, but Jillian made me get out of a rut I didn’t even know I was in. I feel the amount of benefit this lady gave me (and probably many others) is such that she’s got such good karma, such noble acts, that she’s probably God’s and St. Peter’s favorite as much as the Save The Children people in Afghanistan.

The above pics: me after Hard Body on Apple Watch, a pic of one of my patients, for those who want proof I am a real dentist, and a pic of me at my college reunion August 2019. Mind you I wouldn’t have gone in 2019, f I hadn’t started Jillian’s workouts in 2010. I never let anyone photograph me back then, so no “before”pic. I am still 69 kg, but I am way stronger now than the ravaged 70 kilogram 33 year old I was in 2010.

3xTop Writer. Jamshedpur, India. Dentist, mom of 2 girls, lives in a joint family, in love with the written word.