01 February, 2011

Another interview of mine that was published recently

In the Fitness of Things

The fitness and wellness culture in India is gathering momentum. Slowly but surely, visiting of gyms is graduating from a lifestyle statement to an integral part of one’s life among a significant section of the upwardly mobile population in the metros. This trend is percolating in smaller cities and towns, and also among the typical middle class pot-belied householders and their housewives too. The market demands that the growing demand should be catered by the supply. Therefore, it is not surprising to witness that in the metropolitan cities and even in other big and small cities and towns of India, there has been a mushrooming of gyms. This trend reflects the growing wave of health consciousness pervading throughout India. Of course, this trend is also very much evident in the Indian hospitality sector. Today a five-star hotel or resort without a gym is not only a rarity, but is also not expected to survive the competition. Both the high-end leisure and business tourists nowadays prefer a workout of their bodies in the in-house gym of the hotel, along with the rejuvenation of their senses in the hotel’s spas. They do not want to forgo their day-to-day healthy lifestyle to counter stress or lifestyle induced ailments just because they are out of their homes for a high-powered business trip, or a leisurely family vacation. And the five-star and even four-star hotels are catering to this new-age demand in increasing numbers. However, how much fit our hotels are in ensuring top-of-the-line fitness solutions to their guests is a question that doesn’t yield easy answers. To seek the ideal fitness solutions in a gym and acquire more insight about the pervading fitness culture, Swarnendu Biswas talked with three fitness gurus, who have achieved the pinnacle of success in the health and fitness industry. The management of the hotels housing gyms or those planning to have a state-of-the-art gym may find the discourse interesting and useful.

The craze of having a fit, trim and well-muscled body and the need for shedding those extra kilos is becoming prevalent among people from all walks of life, and this accounts for the growing popularity of gyms in your localities, and also in the star hotels. But fitness is a serious business, and not only in monetary terms. In these days of plethora of gyms and a slew of personal trainers, and in this age where everybody with a muscular body or a knowledge about some rudimentary fitness regimens claiming himself to be a qualified fitness professional, it tends to make one confused in finding the right fitness solution that could fit his constitution and medical history. Consequently, it is quite challenging to find the right trainer or to establish a proper gym.
What qualities an ideal gym should possess? This question has haunted me for quite some time. What types of equipment a five-star hotel gym should have, and how trained a gym instructor should be to impart its guests or clientele with comprehensive fitness training, without causing any adverse affects to their well-being? These are the questions which are paramount to the development of our fitness industry, whose relevance in the hospitality sector of India is gaining currency with each passing day.
Not Fit Enough
It should be borne in mind among the fitness enthusiasts that simply luxurious air-conditioned environs in a prime location, with a few high-tech machines thrown in do not make for a good gym. The person who trains you must be qualified enough to do so.
Before visiting or building a gym, it is essential to know the difference between a qualified and certified fitness professional with a proven track record, and your average personal trainer in a local gym. The former can endow you with a well-toned body and give you relief from the threat of many lifestyle diseases, whereas the latter can cause you enduring personal injury.
In fact, heedless prescribing or conducting of exercises or fitness regimens, without taking account of the physical constitution or medical history
of the client, can even lead to his death in some cases. In fact, with people of all shapes, sizes and medical history taking the recourse of gyms, the individualised fitness plans have become the need of the hour in India’s fitness industry.
At the same time, a responsible gym or a gym instructor should make every effort to restrain people to harbour unrealistic expectations from their bodies. For example, a sixty-year-old heart patient should be discouraged by the gym instructor to think on the lines of developing a body like Hrithik Roshan or of Shilpa Shetty within six months. But instead of such restraints, doling out of false promises has become the order of the day in India’s fitness industry, which are jeopardsing the well­being of the clients, sometimes even irreparably.
Any owner or visitor of gym should know this simple fact that not all personal trainers with tall claims are qualified enough to deliver the results that they promise so often. Specially, in India, despite its share of some iconic and globally renowned fitness gurus, the fitness and knowledge level of an average fitness instructor is not encouraging. That is largely because of the non formal nature of the health and fitness industry in India. Unfortunately, in most of the run-of­the-mill gyms, there is hardly any license or regulation to check if the people in charge of training you are trained to do that. And one can’t say with certainty that such a wrong precedence is not being replicated in many of our hotels and resorts of India, with unqualified gym instructors ruling the roost.
Many of the gyms crowding in the metropolitan landscape of India do not have certified fitness instructors, and neither they are equipped with first-aid facilities and emergency medication to counter any possible untoward incident. Moreover, very few gyms in India are sensitive to clients suffering from chronic ailments, or for that matter, from doing workouts in improperly maintained machines. Neither is the healthy practice of submitting all your medical records before enrolling in a gym is prevalent, or for that matter, even vogue in India.
Due to this neglect towards
seriousness of fitness, which can also take the form of lack of adequate supervision and guidance, injuries at fitness centres are on the rise, which range from lower back spasms to shoulder dislocation to ankle and joint ligament injuries, among others. For example, wrong postures while lifting weights or doing some yoga can do you more harm than good. Besides having qualified fitness professionals and state-of-the art equipment, the management of the gyms should also ensure that the gyms are not so overcrowded that the instructors/trainers cannot give adequate attention to all the clients at a given period of time.
An Effective Solution
Fitnesolution is one of the oases of quality fitness solutions in Delhi amidst this desert of mediocrity. It is run by Kiran Sawhney, one of the eminent personalities of India’s health and fitness
Kiran Sawhney
Sept-Oct ’10 29

                                Raising the Bar of India’s Fitness Scenario
Pushing Fitness Levels to Greater Heights
industry. Her fitness programs have been aired on several television channels, and she has written extensively on health and fitness in nationally renowned dailies and publications. 
According to Kiran, a certified instructor in different exercise regimens, and a member of Idea Fitness from USA, “A good gym must have state-of-the-art, and useful equipment. Besides a good treadmill, cross trainer, elliptical bike, it should have equipment like bosu, ramp, steppers, trampoline, fitness stick, thera bands, Swiss balls, and of course an impressive selection of free weights, such as dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, tubings, etc. The certified fitness trainer/ s in an ideal gym should have in depth knowledge of all these equipment plus have expertise in exercise regimens like yoga, pilates, kickboxing, aerobics, boot camp, circuit training, plyometrics, etc.” I requested the graceful lady to tone down her specifications a bit, but she smilingly said that she had already enumerated only the basic minimum requirements for a good gym(according to her estimation), in terms of level of equipment and personnel.
Of course, more was to come from Kiran, who came across as an embodiment of unlimited power, grace and beauty, wonderfully packaged within her tall, elegant and athletic frame that can put many Bollywood celebrities to shame. “Besides the exercise regimens described above, the trainers in the gyms should also have in depth knowledge about human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and sculpting,” she asserted. The certification for fitness trainers from reputed institutes is also required. Here it deserves a mention that certification provided by Fitnesolution is valid throughout India.
I listened in attention, noting down furiously, while trying my best to keep pace with the thoughts of this champion of fitness. Besides being an expert in myriad forms of exercise regimens (in fact it is hard to say in which form of fitness she doesn’t have an expertise in), such as aqua aerobics, bosu, core pilates, Swiss ball, conventional aerobics, tai chi, etc. Kiran is a smashing kickboxer and one of the renowned fitness exponents in the globe who have managed to
creatively amalgamate dance and exercise to create a wonderful fun with fitness mantra for the thousands and millions across the country and abroad.
She lamented the fact that, “Presently,
A Masala Bhangra Session, Led by Sarina Jain
HOTEL Business Review
the trainers are not fully qualified to handle a diverse array of clients with adequate precision, knowledge and care.” No wonder, there is a profusion of untrained personnel everywhere. “Nowadays, anyone who knows how to operate a basic treadmill and do a few floor exercises is a self proclaimed fitness trainer. Every local body builder calls himself a gym instructor,” Kiran said, while smiling ravishingly, after completing her series of push ups on the bosu. Don’t ask me how many, I counted till twenty and then lost track.
To assert my male chauvinism, I also tried by hand at bosu ball, and managed to do eight (it is very much different from your regular push ups), and after that I was no longer smiling. She also tried to give me a first hand basic
training in kickboxing with her array of upper cuts, cross jabs, flying kicks, and round house kicks, during the course of the interview, all the time taking extra care to not hurt me in any way. I of course, didn’t learn anything, but after that workout session, my chauvinism received its well deserved jolt, as I acknowledged the unlimited power of women power. Kiran believes that gyms in hotels and resorts should go in for kickboxing workouts in a big way, as according to her, “It is a wonderful cardio-vascular exercise, which works on glutes, inner thighs and triceps, and it not only facilitates you to enhance strength, fitness and muscle tone, but can also act as a great stress reliever.” Her kickboxing sessions involve shadow boxing and kicking, and are not confrontational.

The fact that through this shadow kicking and boxing one also learns to defend oneself, happens to be a great bonus, especially for women. But at the same time, Kiran is cautious enough to admit that kickboxing is not recommended for people with shoulder and back problems. “I need to first figure out whether my client’s physical constitution and medical history affords such a strenuous high-intensity workout session, before recommending her/him to such a session,” Kiran pointed out sensitively.
The Masala of Health and Fun
Probably the main among her myriad contributions to the Indian fitness industry has been to popularise the western form of aerobics in India, by
infusing the rustic elements and music of bhangra and dandiya in it. “This way, you exercise your whole body, without getting bored for a minute,” Kiran explained. In her own words, her dancercise “is a combination of exercise and dancing to lose those excess pounds, but it can be done just for fun also. This program emphasises increased agility and coordination through aerobics dance movements.”
Normally, such dancercises are done in group, who follow the fitness instructor, and that adds to the fun element. Of course, globally, the pioneer in this genre of fitness is Sarina Jain— the US-based fitness diva— whose videos on Masala Bhangra are a rage in the US. Masala Bhangra is a unique dance-cum-exercise form, which is conceived, devised and developed by
Sept-Oct ’10 31

Sarina Jain. It amalgamates cardiovascular benefits with fun, and is suitable for participants of all ages and fitness levels.
I asked Sarina the essence of Masala Bhangra, to the beats of which many fitness enthusiasts in the US are grooving to find more healthy versions of themselves. “There are many unique attributes to Masala Bhangra. Those who do Masala Bhangra, get a great cardio workout, and also manage to learn a few new moves to showcase on the dance floor. Succinctly, through Masala Bhangra, you can build up your cardio-vascular system while having fun! It has blend of both the east and the west; imbibing the folk of bhangra and the exhilaration of Bollywood, all to an animated aerobic beat,” informed the globally renowned fitness diva. Sarina’s exercise programs have also been introduced to fitness enthusiasts in India through her workout videos. “My Masala Bhangra workout videos have garnered great popularity in India,” asserted Sarina. A certified fitness professional with an awesome reputation, Sarina has trained more than 100 instructors in the US itself.
It is about time that the sleek gyms (at least apparently) of our hospitality industry combined the elements of earthy and rustic Indian dance forms with western styled aerobics to create new-age fitness solutions for women and men. Then it would be so much more fun burning those extra calories… and in the process if you could develop your strength
and make your body more lithe and flexible, that would be the added bonus, which you would surely love to have. Here you can get health with the music, without the possibility of facing any.
Sarina told me that she “would love to introduce Masala Bhangra to the five-star hotels in India.” I really look forward to the day when the five-star hotel guests in India would dance to her beats of Masala Bhangra. “I think their customers would benefit from Masala Bhangra very much, and it would add a new spicy flavour to the guests’ hotel stay.  In these days of increased stress-filled lifestyles, the average corporate has the need to exercise, so why not do that with a great beat of Masala Bhangra?” asked the fitness expert cum kickboxer,
who is known as the Indian Jane Fonda. Here it deserves a mention that Masala Bhangra is a certified fitness program backed up by the fitness boards, which endows it with a global credibility. She told me that she has “instructors throughout the world that teach Masala Bhangra, which is extremely popular in Japan.
The Age of Customised Training
 Besides Kiran, other fitness gurus too elaborated on no tolerance for any mediocrity in fitness treatment, which unfortunately, is a prevalent feature in India’s health and fitness industry. Leena Mogre, who is one of the revered fitness icons of India; having her signature brand of fitness centres with presence in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chandigarh, believes that a gym in a five-star hotel, which caters to elite clientele from India and abroad, cannot afford to compromise on quality and still hope to survive.  “An ideal gym in a five-star hotel must have the best of the international standard equipment from known manufacturers which include a comprehensive range of treadmills, cross-trainers, cycles, and strength equipment. It is also most important for gyms in five-star hotels to have the best of certified trainers who can handle both the long and short-term guests,” averred Leena, the Managing Director of Leena Mogre’s Fitness; a company which exudes strength, power and glow of not only financial nature.

Leena, who is one of the pioneers of fitness training in India, elaborated that, “The gym instructors in five-star hotels and otherwise should have certifications from reputed institutes like ACE, Gold’s Gym University, ISSA, LM— The Fitness Academy, NASM, etc. and must understand what type of training is to be given to which client. The trainers should also possess knowledge of power yoga, kickboxing, functional training, etc. to provide a variety in workout schedules.”
The power diva, who is renowned for her fitness training of Bollywood celebrities (her reputed list of regular clients include Kangana Ranaut, Eesha Koppikar, Mugdha Godse,  Sameera and Sushma Reddy, and the ace fast bowler Zaheer Khan among many others), also opined that, “Besides expertise, the trainers in gym should also possess presentation skills, professionalism, good communication skills, and of course, a good physique. They should also be endowed with a pragmatic approach and must be well groomed.”
I asked the first lady of fitness in India (she started as an aerobics instructor and
launched LM – The Fitness Academy, to train fitness and personal trainers in the year 1994, when fitness training among women and men was a rarity in India) about the role of individualised training in her chain of gyms. No wonder, considering her unbridled passion towards health and fitness, she doesn’t believe in any compromise on this count. “All workout schedules are made only after our most unique fitness assessment checkup, wherein we thoroughly assess and understand the clients’ body type, physical constitution and condition,” stated Leena categorically.
The celebrity fitness trainer of celebrities and commoners rightly thinks that the role of individualised training simply cannot be overemphasised. “The roll of individualised training in the fitness industry is most important as we have to consider the fact that ‘no two individuals have the same body.’ The exercise schedule which suits one person may not be good for the other. Besides different body compositions, the lifestyles of people also differ, and as also their requirements and fitness goals. Our specialised fitness assessment gives us the
ideal results to make customised workout programs for different persons,” elaborated the superwoman with an uncanny knack to convert her passion for fitness into astounding business successes, which have inspired the industry.
Leena also stated that the gyms in five-star hotels or otherwise should have different workout programs for beginners and regulars, and the workout schedules should be different for advanced types of training. “And it can definitely help to have nutritionists on their staff,” added the visionary lady, who dreamt and pursued the dream of a fit India, centuries before it is likely to be a reality.
The fitness solutions in her chain of gyms are of course, different from what you would find in a run-of-the-mill gym. “Besides conventional and comprehensive physical training solutions, we also specialise in functional training, athletic training, cross training, circuit training, kickboxing, power yoga, training on humansport machines with emphasis on core strengthening, and also group exercises like spinning, etc.,”
Sept-Oct ’10 33

explained Leena patiently, all the while indulgently tolerating my widespread ignorance, with a smile.
The Right Franchise
Presently her group has a chain of seven gyms with five in Mumbai and one each in Bangalore and Chandigarh. I asked when Delhi would be fortunate enough to have the presence of Leena Mogre’s Specialised Fitness Gym, for capital’s fitness scenario badly needs to trim up under the direction of top quality fitness centres, which are her hallmarks. “Yes, we have our expansion plans already chalked out and definitely New Delhi is on our map in the near future,” she stated reassuringly.
Over the years, Leena has become an institution and a living legend in the Indian health and fitness industry, and her gyms can be construed as the yardstick of a top-of-the-line gym, which followers may adhere to. By intelligently encashing her nationally renowned brand image, Leena is also taking the franchise route for expansion, and has about five franchised gyms coming up in Bangalore, New Delhi and Chennai in the near future. Already, two of the Leena Mogre’s Specialised Fitness Gym outlets in Mumbai, and the sole fitness centre in Chandigarh carrying her renowned brand name, happen to be franchises. The fitness centre carrying her brand name at Vashi is a franchisee operations
with The Four Points by Sheraton Navi Mumbai, Vashi. She told me that she was open for more franchise options with hotels, provided she gets impressed by their inclination towards ensuring atleast the prevailing international levels of fitness standards in the gyms, if not Leena’s own exacting standards.
The Experts’ Touch
Despite the prevailing mediocrity in the fitness scenario, the super successful businesswoman encouragingly said that, “there is a great future for gyms in hotels, provided they plan for the gym at the inception of building the property itself, and give adequate considerations to the space allocated, and to the locality.” However, Kiran is more circumspect. “If the gyms in five-stars have to do well, if they want to cater to the busy travelling corporates or persons who are on leisure holidays, on a long-term basis, they have to offer more than what they are doing presently,” she said.
It can be safely said that with gyms becoming a necessary feature in the five-star and even four-star hotels and resorts of India, they would eventually need the power, vision and expertise of nationally and internationally renowned fitness gurus like Kiran, Leena and Sarina in the near future to cater to the international standards; the standards which their elite and aware clientele across the globe would eventually expect. And they would
certainly not tolerate any injury or the possibility of injury or impairment at the hands of so called ‘fitness instructors,’ who are rampant in our health and fitness industry.
In such a scenario, one can easily perceive a future trend where many of these visionary and nationally renowned fitness instructors would be requested to give fitness consultancy to a wide range of five-star and four-star hotels and resorts across India. Their consultancy, based on their own singular theory of health and fitness, would provide the necessary guidelines to the in-house gym instructors (who could also be selected by these nationally or internationally renowned fitness icons, after testing and evaluating their competence and qualifications) to devise suitable and individualised exercise regimens, or procure the necessary state-of-the art equipment. Succinctly, like spa consultants, fitness consultants have a great possibility to be in vogue in the Indian hospitality industry, in the near future.
“Yes, I absolutely see this trend happening in the Indian hospitality sector.

Especially five-star hotels need to continually add valuable programming to their fitness facilities to stay ahead of the competition, and why not get the best in the industry to do that,” proffered the Indian Jane Fonda along with her customary engaging laughter. Leena and Kiran too echoed similar sentiments. I was elated to hear that Sarina would be coming to Delhi and Mumbai in late this year, to conduct master classes for Fitness First.


  1. Great Kiran, Your interview is enough to know how a well fitness centre should be. Never knew one has to show hi/her medical reports. But how many gym instructors would be able to understand this .

  2. GReat stuff. Do publish more of these stuff.. Thanks for sharing

  3. Very good informative. Another reason for your autographs.

    (You may want to reformat the post...the text only shows in one column)...

  4. Interesting post with nice pics and thanks for sharing.
    Vitamin Berry

  5. The interviews story is nice with interesting pics and i think that you have to reformat the texts in the story which is showing in one column.