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Fitting choice

Urban India is waking up to the dangers of lifestyle diseases and heading for the gym. The trend is a ‘healthy’ one for fitness trainers Vimal ChanderJoshi and Sanchita Guha report.

education Updated: Oct 08, 2009 09:40 IST

Pumping iron and doing pushups, once part of the daily routine only of people known as ‘bodybuilders’, are now on the to-do list of many young and even not-so-young urban Indians. As people increasingly take to gymming to keep lifestyle diseases at bay, the ones who help them stay on track are fitness trainers.

One such trainer, Vesna Pericevic Jacob, 33, is a familiar name among fitness addicts in Delhi. She came into this profession by a twist of fate — on the verge of becoming a pro basketball player in Germany, she broke her knee in an accident, and that put paid to a sporting career, though in time she regained use of the leg.

She then studied nursing, anatomy and fitness coaching and returned to Bosnia, her native country. While working there as a translator for the US army, she got a request to train soldiers, and Vesna Pericevic the fitness trainer was born.

Moving base to India after her marriage to Anurag Jacob, she became a full-time instructor and is the founder-owner of the first Power Plate Studio in India.
Jacob is an example of how a fitness regimen can deliver “magical results”. Doctors told her she could never walk using her right foot; she has proved them completely wrong.

But just as exercise can reverse much of the damage done to one’s body, imperfect training can cause severe injury. A trainer needs in-depth knowledge of the body, and injury prevention must be covered in detail within any certification course that an aspiring trainer enrols for, says Prashant Sawant, owner of Body Sculptor gym in Mumbai and the man who helped Shah Rukh Khan develop six-pack abs.

Sawant sums up the trainer-client relationship: “People give their body to you to handle.

They respect you, especially when you change their body.”
Jacob adds, “The trainer has to touch a client’s body to explain the postures, but this should never make them uncomfortable. A trainer should be well groomed and must use deo.” S/he may also need to work on social graces. “With high-profile clients, you must be refined yourself,” says Sawant.

A fitness instructor who wants success like Sawant’s has to be more than a teacher. The good news is: finding clients is the easy part. The bad news is: setting up one’s own gym is quite complicated.

Sawant, who started gymming at 19 as a “fat boy” and then became a trainer in Bandra, has this to share: “Start your career working with a gym, don’t go solo at first. If you are dedicated, clients will come, as you get word-of-mouth publicity.”

Jacob has similar views. Starting a fitness centre needs entrepreneurial responsibilities like managing costs and staff.

And do not imagine that being a trainer means no studying. Apart from doing certification courses — they are not strictly compulsory, but they do help, says Sawant — a trainer needs to read constantly about new techniques, new research.

What’s it about?
The salary of a fitness trainer in a gym is Rs 10,000-25,000 per month but the income can go up to a few lakhs, though such trainers are very few in number. The concept of ‘celebrity trainers’ (who give individual training to top models/film stars/business honchos/their family members) is gaining ground and these trainers charge up to Rs 75,000 per month from one client or make some lakhs in fees for one ‘fitness project’, i.e. creating a certain look for a film

Clock Work
6 am: Do a workout
7.30 am: Train a client at his/her place
9.30 am: Train a batch at the studio
Noon: Take some rest
1.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: Meet prospective clients to discuss workout plans
5.30 pm: Train the evening batch
8 pm: Leave for home

A high level of personal fitness
. A sound knowledge of the human anatomy and kinesiology (science of movement)
. Willingness to improve throughout the career
. Knack for communicating, as clients need precise instructions

How do i get there?
Doing a certification course is not mandatory for finding work as a fitness trainer, but it is advisable to study the techniques in detail. As the market gets more crowded, a well-known certification course or a diploma programme in health and fitness boosts your chances of getting a job. After you career takes off, you should stay informed with the latest studies, journals and books. The reading never ends

Institutes & urls
. Symbiosis Centre for Health Care, Pune
. The 80-hours Reebok instructor certification programme (call: 98104 93313)
. The University of Alabama Continuing Studies offers certificate programme in personal fitness training

Pros & Cons
You always stay fit and never have to crib about lifestyle ailments, as your job will keep you in shape
. You get a platform to meet new people, and sometimes you get in touch with the high and mighty of society, which can work to your advantage
. Money is bad in the initial phase
. It is a service industry. You cannot be rude to clients even if they treat you dismissively

Self-improvement is as important as courses

Nisha Varma talks about the need for more fitness trainers and career avenues

Would India need more fitness trainers soon?
Yes. India, especially the cities, has witnessed a surge in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, sleep apnea and heart ailments. As a result, many of us are adopting a healthier lifestyle by adhering to a fitness regimen. Multinational chains of gyms [like Fitness First and Power Plate] are now expanding their base in India and they prefer to hire formally trained instructors. So there lies a lot of scope for budding trainers.

With increasing competition, can one make a career as a fitness trainer without getting any certification?
Some people think it’s easy to be a trainer without an intensive study, which is not true. There is a full-fledged science involved in fitness training. Without the course, one remains deprived of this science. Even after doing a course, one should keep re-learning through self-study and online programmes.

What changes do you expect in the industry in the near future?
The industry would be better organised. As of now, there’s no accountability to a trainer for any injury during the course of the job. As the industry progresses, trainers would get better deals and might also get insurance cover and provident fund.

Do Indian fitness trainers have job prospects abroad?
There are avenues but the number of trainers settling abroad is very small.

How important is it to learn communication skills?
The fitness business comes under the service industry, and a trainer can’t be neither over-authoritative nor extra polite. Good communication skills are definitely quite important.

Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi