Chirag Patel, 36, approached a sports medicine centre after he suffered pain in his heels the first time he ran the half-marathon (21 km) last year. "I realised that my muscles were tight and that there was a difference between the right and left leg muscle strength, so I underwent a fitness test," said Patel.
The businessman, who was advised weight training and exercise to improve flexibility, undergoes the test every two months now. "I think this January I will be able to run the full marathon [42 km]."
Patel joins a growing group of recreational sportsmen who take fitness and the sports they play seriously. Fitness testing is a specialised assessment of a person's endurance, strength, power, speed, flexibility, balance and agility.
"People who go to the gym, walk on the beach, or are weekend warriors [someone who works out aggressively during the weekend] are sportspersons for us. It does not matter that they do not play professional sports," said Heath Matthews, sports rehabilitation specialist at the Kokilaben Dhirubai Ambani Hospital in Andheri (west).
Fitness tests are now becoming popular among the health conscious populations in the cities, though they have not yet been standardised or incorporated into fitness regimens offered by hospitals, gymnasiums and other wellness centres.
Neil Gaikwad, 25, felt triumphant when he managed to complete his fiftieth sumo squat. An Air India employee, Gaikwad decided to undergo a fitness test on a whim. "When I heard about it I decided to get it done to know my strengths and weaknesses," said Gaikwad, who plays gully football and is a regular at the gym.
Yash Pandey, the physiotherapist overseeing Gaikwad at the Kokilaben hospital, told him that he has fared better than even several professional sportsmen.
"People in India and around the world are getting a better understanding of sports and fitness. An average person has as much information as a leading athlete would have," said Matthews.
Dr Harshada Rajadhyaksha, director and consultant of Prakruti Sports Science and Physiotheraphy in Andheri (west), said they get a lot of people who enjoy playing sports and want to improve their performance. "We get a lot of recreational sportsmen who love playing golf, badminton or squash," said Rajadhyaksha. "A recreational golf player needs to improve his balance. We have tests to measure that. If a person plays tennis, his shoulder flexibility needs to be good. A marathon runner, for instance, needs to concentrate on speed."
Fitness testing also helps people who have been working out for years. A professional at a multinational company, Anuj Pahwa, 34, was tired of lifting weights at his gym. "I felt that instead of a trainer telling me what to do, I should be clear about what I want and what my body needs. Besides, I was prone to knee injuries so I decided to undergo a fitness test," said Pahwa.
After undergoing the test six months ago, Pawa said he realised his strengths and shortcomings, which has helped him design a suitable fitness programme for himself.
Many high-end gyms incorporate fitness tests as part of their initiation programme, but not all people respond well to it. "We always recommend doing a fitness test before we design the exercise regime. But most people think they need to do muscle training and don't feel the need for strength. Then, they face a physical challenge - such as pushing a car - they suffer a back problem," said Madhuri Ruia, director of the Colaba-based Integym.