In my increasingly difficult-to-accurately-remember past life - i.e. back in Auckland - I lived literally five minutes from the gym. I got excited about the Saturday or Sunday morning hour-long RPM classes. I took kickboxing pretty seriously, and thanks to my bald, tattooed, aggressively Brazilian trainer Ronaldo (who has since become a prison warden, makes sense), I could do a few rounds in the ring, no problem. I could go running, surfing, hiking or paddle boarding any time I wanted, glorious City of Sails weather permitting (I did say it was getting harder to accurately remember).
I wasn't always the sport way inclined. At school I avoided every single cross-country due to "injury", chose social badminton as my compulsory sport option, and took a stand against being forced to watch the boys' rugby team by making up offensive chants (I think it was something along the lines of "rugby sucks, you suck".. so creative).
Entering adulthood, and not being forced into anything, I found, lo and behold, there were forms of fitness I actually enjoyed! Exercise became "me time". I could sweat out the stress of the day, knowing I was getting fitter and healthier. I started to enjoy healthy food and the way it makes me feel stronger.
Having now been in Tanzania nearly two months, I've realised how much I relied on routine. I knew which Les Mills classes I would go to each week. I had personal training days booked in, and would organise with friends at least a fortnight in advance what Waitakere Ranges track we would tackle next. The bright lights of New World were on my walk home - which meant fresh, healthy food was never hard to find.
Now I have no schedule, other than the one I make up for myself to meet freelance deadlines. There is no gym in my village, I have no fitness equipment, and Lake Babati - the only body of water nearby - is the stomping ground of some very territorial hippos. Food-wise, there is no such thing as wholemeal anything, and the safest option is always something canned.
It didn't take me long to realise I was going to have to change my game plan, and get seriously motivated. It's been hard, but I'm getting there. I've been laughing my way through some cheesy aerobics DVDs I bought before leaving New Zealand. I've found some fantastic health and fitness websites that give me ideas for home workouts without the need for equipment (Livestrong is my current favourite). I've become a huge fan of healthy food blogs - which by the way are the ultimate way to procrastinate (Fitness Recipes and Multiply Delicious are now on my Bookmarks Bar). The word "substitute" has become my top Google search. And, I've found that eating out in Babati is still possible (apologies for the bad sound - we were microphone-less today):
All this talk of fitness and healthy eating may seem a little trivial given my current situation. I'm surrounded by intense poverty all the time. People here don't have the choice of what food to eat, and exercise is a foreign concept given that most people are enduring intense physical labour every day just to survive. I talked this over with MH, because it is something you think about. I don't have the answer, but I did conclude that if I completely give up the things that are important to me, I wouldn't be useful here. I would find it difficult to walk out the door... I mean even the op shop clothes I own cost more than what people here earn in a day. I can't be paralysed by guilt because of the choices I've been given, but I can be thankful. I can be generous. I can use my skills to connect the third world with the first.
Does anyone have any tips for home fitness and healthy eating? Websites to share?