Fitness training today is scientific, specialised and extremely goal-oriented. Reji John speaks to celebrity personal trainers about what it takes.
Mustafa Ahmed says he would have been a millionaire by now if he had got a dollar each from people who approached him with a request to make their physiques look like that of John Abraham, or transform their figures to Kareena Kapoor’s size-zero frame.
“Fitness is not a one-size-fits-all science. There is a need to understand it well. My approach depends on personal goals,” says Ahmed who has been personal trainer to businessmen, sportsmen and people in the glamour industry for the last six years.
Looking good — and physical fitness is a large part of it — has become a huge imperative for jet-setting Indians. There is an anecdote about industrialist Anil Ambani who went to meet foreign investors some years ago, when he was still overweight. The investors, it is said, refused to invest in the Ambani firms — if the person heading the company was not even capable of taking care of his own health, how would he ensure the health of the company after the collaboration, they felt. That incident made a significant impact on Ambani’s attitude to personal fitness.
No wonder then that personal trainers like Ahmed are in huge demand among society’s elites. When Mumbai-based Leena Mogre, perhaps India’s first female personal fitness expert, started her career in 1994, not too many people were conscious of personal fitness and there were not many places to go to for workouts. The demand then was from the film industry, especially from male actors. According to Mogre, now director of Leena Mogre’s Fitness, it was Madhuri Dixit who began the trend of getting personal trainers for women actors in Bollywood. “She really thought of keeping herself physically fit. She loved dancing.” Incidentally, Dixit was Mogre’s first client from the film industry.
“Since then things have changed. Today, it is as common to ask who your personal trainer is as it is to ask who your fashion designer is. It has evolved now and anyone who is busy can get a personal trainer for his specific goals,” Mogre says. She has trained industrialists and film stars including Anil Ambani, Salman Khan, Vidya Balan, John Abraham, Bipasha Basu and Katrina Kaif.
Ahmed, who had been a personal trainer to Preity Zinta, Yuvraj Singh (on his return from the US after cancer treatment ) and fashion designer Surily Goel, says he works with people who are very serious about their fitness regime and want to see a transformation. “I don’t train you according to what you want; I would rather train you according to what you need,” Ahmed explains his principle.
At the moment Ahmed is a personal trainer to eight people in Mumbai, most of them businessmen. One of them is Anand Piramal, son of Mumbai-based business couple Ajay and Swati Piramal.
Today personal fitness training has become very scientific, specialised and extremely goal oriented. “There are personal trainers only for weight loss or for power yoga. There are different packages and programmes for everyone like executive fitness and bridal workout. The needs are so many and we’ve got to address the needs across different sections of society,” Mogre says.
Ziauddin Khatib is a black belt in martial arts and founder of All India Kickboxing Association. Khatib trained John Abraham in kickboxing even before he entered the film industry. Today the gold medal winner in the 2000 World Kickboxing Championship is a personal trainer to Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan. He also trained Kajal Aggarwal for her role as a professional boxer in the recent A R Murugadoss-directed Tamil movie Thuppakki, besides advising the stunt director for the film. === Mickey Mehta, one of the better known names in the fitness industry, has close to three decades of experience training people from the glamour industry, corporate houses and members of well-known business families. “For me exercise is not a routine, a science or punishment. For me workout is poetry; it is a song, and it is a dance. It harmonises the body. This harmony sets and rests the rhythm of the body,” elaborates Mehta, who now calls himself a wellness and wellbeing coach.
Mehta promotes meditation and holistic health, blending exercise forms such as calisthenics, functional training, boot camp, agility drills, tai chi, pilates, yoga and swimming. He has been a personal trainer and wellness coach to Vindi Banga, Anil Ambani, Nita Ambani, Rajashree Birla, Kumar Mangalam and Neerja Birla, Shashi Ruia and his wife, among several others. From Bollywood, he has trained Priyanka Chopra, Aamir Khan, Ujwala Raut, Lara Dutta, Diana Hayden and many others.
Mehta, with a team of about 150 people, has also created specific programmes for Mumbai Police and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Mehta does not take up any training and coaching commitment that would take anything less than a year of engagement. “I need about a month’s time to discuss and put together a programme for the specific goal of the organisation,” says Mehta.
Most high-profile clients have gyms at home and, in most cases, that’s where they get the personal trainer to train them. Mogre has five of her own signature fitness centres in Mumbai and Chandigarh; a sixth will open soon in Nashik. Today Mogre spends most of her time in planning business expansion and setting up new centres. However, when she is roped in as personal trainer, her fee is Rs 1 lakh a month. For other trainers from her centre, the charges start from Rs 25,000. In most cases the training period depends on the clients’ need; though many of them opt for three months. Mehta says the cost, exercise regimen chosen and length of training varies, depending on the needs of people. Ahmed charges between Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per month if the commitment is for a three-month period, otherwise it could be from Rs 18,000 to Rs 24,000 monthly.