Having introduced alternative methods of fitness training, this young tribe of professionals is hauling us off our seats
With the start-up boom encouraging many to become their own bosses, we find the fitness sector is no different. Wellness enthusiasts are moving away from general fitness to more focussed, fun and alternative ways of exercising. And the change is being spearheaded by young entrepreneurs who are offering everything from hot yoga and mixed martial arts to dance cardio and body-weight training. Encouraged by the change, Ajit Sigamani, the founder of Combat Kinetics, a city-based mixed martial arts and combat sports academy, says, “There are so many fad workouts like Zumba, which will be popular for some time and then fade away. But things like yoga and MMA will remain. If you want fun, choose the fads, but if you want to learn skills, then choose the game changing training classes.” Taking note of the spurt of alternate fitness modules in town, we look at some who have caught our attention.
Text: Arka Sengupta and Mayuri J Ravi
No matter what we do, we move. And to most of us, movement does not always equal fitness. But Adarsh Gopalakrishnan has created a whole fitness regime out of it. “I sprinted and played cricket for my school team. I did the same when I was doing my graduation in bio-technology from 2004 to 2008. So I was always involved with movement and fitness,” says the multi-tasker who believes in trying out different things and brings that belief to his outfit, Movement Inc. However, he admits it took him years of doing the conventional before he opened his centre. After passing out of Vellore Institute of Technology, he honed his journalistic skills at Asian College of Journalism and worked as a business analyst in a newspaper. Then he did a U-turn and joined The Quad, a popular city-based boot camp, as an assistant coach. “I always wanted to start something of my own. And I found the trigger in our culture,” he says, explaining, “We are too inactive and most people find exercising boring. So, to let them have fun while exercising and to help them live a healthy life, I started Movement Inc last year, in July.” Of the belief that there is no one way to do anything, he offers customised routines that incorporate body weight training, resistance training and the like to strengthen and tone your body. Gopalakrishnan also practises what he preaches. “I do stretching and body strengthening exercises four times a week. I cook my own food to maintain a healthy diet and try to learn something new once in a while,” he concludes.
|Health fix: Know how much fits in your lunchbox. Most people don’t know how much they eat. So, this is the most pragmatic thing.|
His love affair with muscles started at the age of 15. Today, Mukund Venkat is the top personal trainer and the assistant general manager at Slam Fitness. With over 450 registrations at the Chamiers Road branch, he’s spearheading the gym’s expansion plans—they have branched out to Anna Nagar and, in a month, will open on ECR, too. But crafting bodies is still his calling. Venkat—who came second in this year’s Mr Tamil Nadu (in the 75 kg category) and first place in Singapore Men’s Physique Open—is the go-to name for city big shots, like the owners of Sun TV, and fashion designers like Sidney Sladen, Kaushik Velendra and Vivek Karunakaran. He is currently training director Vijay. But success did not come easy for this Chennai lad. Having moved to Singapore to study tourism management in 2010, he shifted gears, almost immediately, to fitness and enrolled at London’s Kensington and Chelsea College to do a course in sports and fitness. After qualifying as a level three gym instructor and level two personal trainer, he moved back to India but found that his qualification did not count here, as “in India experience is more important”. But he worked hard at a local gym to achieve his goals. Talking about his style of training, he says, “I do a lot of high intensity workouts mixed with weight training, which helps build muscles and tones the body at the same time.” A CORE sponsored athlete, he is endorsed by Muscle Mutation, a Pune-based clothing brand for which he models, too. With plans to grow his fitness footprint, he is gearing up to launch an app soon and introduce various competitions in the city.
|Health fix: I have black tea, play a lot of football and practise my MMA.|
He could have chosen to look after his family business, been a cricketer or even gone abroad for higher studies. But Sarvesh Shashi opted for yoga and went on to start Zorba – A Renaissance Studio. “I was 17 when I met my guruji, a yoga practitioner from the Himalayas, and it changed my life,” he says. “Since then I have been training under him and the amount of positivity I’ve gained in life is phenomenal. So I thought of spreading the word and that is how Zorba was born,” adds Shashi, who also co-owns a marketing and communications company called TakeOff. Believing in a happy and holistic lifestyle, he has incorporated that approach in his centre, too. In fact, he started Zorba’s Happy Course—a customised plan with specific asanas that leaves you in a happy state of mind—for that very purpose. Besides just launching the Zorba School of Healing and Yoga (which offers government-certified courses in healing), Zorba also offers courses in aerial yoga and posture-correction therapy. “We believe in the holistic development of a human being,” says Sashi, who has opened three studios till date and plans to expand across the country soon with another 12 outfits.
|Besides staying away from cigarettes and alcohol, increase your intake of liquids and green vegetables. Also, once a month, try the Shanka Prakshalana—a salt water treatment to cleanse the stomach.|
Another journalist who switched to fitness training as a career, Prashanti Ganesh was inspired to open her own gym while writing a story on The Quad in 2012. “I joined Quad as a client first and then eventually an intern. I went on to become an assistant coach before leaving the company in 2014,” she says. A trip to the US this January, with co-founder Sandeep Achanta (a trainer from The Quad), helped shape her decision. “We travelled to 19 cities, visited various gyms and learnt many techniques and got certified. While doing that we realised that strength training in India is lacking when compared to the US. So, after coming back, we opened our own gym to train people in the things that we learnt there,” she explains. Having launched Strength System this June, Ganesh wants to educate people on how to make fitness training a sustainable part of their lives. Up next, she plans to hold a power lifting contest and, in the process, create her own power-lifting team to compete on a national and international level. She also plans to introduce a few speciality classes at the gym. “Sandeep is a certified MovNat teacher—a physical education regime based on natural movements. So we are planing to start MovNat classes on November 1. We will also conduct special power-lifting class,” she concludes.
|Health fix: I think detox is a myth. I do not believe in it. Just eat healthy.|
Being passionate about something is good. But turning it into a career, like Jagadish Kumar did, is even better. Having joined city-based Swingers Dance Studio at the age of 15, he soon made his way up the ladder to work as an instructor there for seven years. But the turning point in his career came when he got a chance to do a six-month course at the Broadway Dance Centre in New York early this year. Inspired by the level of dance and fitness he found there, he made up his mind to open his own dance studio. He started Viscocity Dance Academy soon after he returned, in July. Since flexibility is an essential part of being a dancer, and “to be flexible you need to be fit”, Kumar devised the High Impact Tanz-Fitness —a special fitness programme that combines pilates, body art, yoga and dance cardio into one hour. “I have seen many dance studios concentrate on only one form of fitness training. But that only improves one aspect of your fitness. My programme will improve every aspect,” says Kumar, adding that he plans to add pilates and yoga classes from early next year.
|Health fix: The High Impact Tanz-Fitness—30 minutes of body-weight workout followed by 30 minutes of a high-intensity dance workout, rounded off with 10 minutes of breathing exercises.|
He may be managing the new Combat Kinetics: Mixed Martial Arts branch in Teynampet, but Syed Abdul Nazzeur’s claim to fame is as the National Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) champion and State-level boxer. The 20-year-old took to MMA after he spent half a year at home because he had broken his wrist in a college bout and was advised to hang up his gloves. “My friend introduced me to Ajit Sigamani (founder of Combat Kinetics) who trained me for a year and a half,” says Nazzeur. With five gold and one silver medal to his credit, he hopes to participate in international competitions. Currently nursing a broken rib, he says, “I was supposed to take part in the World Mixed Martial Arts Championship in Prague, but had to bow out due to my injury.” He’s already made plans to participate in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the US next year. “No Indian has ever stepped into UFC before. I want to be the first,” he smiles. At his fitness studio, he teaches the basics of four disciplines—Muay Thai, boxing, sambo and jujitsu—and plans to set up a boxing ring there, after which, he says “it will become a true fighting club”. With people between the 20 and 45 being trained, he plans to open a training centre for children below 15 years soon. With regards to fitness, he wants to promote Calisthenics (an exercise form that uses only body weight) and hopes that more women will take up MMA, not just for fitness but for their safety, too.
|Health fix: For me it is staying at home, hanging out with friends and some dessert when I am not training.|