Play time: Bored of your workout? Try cardio tennis, climbing gym
Two years ago, when 41-year old stockbroker Tapan Mehta picked up the leather ball to walk away from the pitch for a bowling run-up, it marked the end of a 24-year break from cricket. “I stopped playing completely after school. I just couldn’t find the time for sport,” he says.
When climbing a flight of stairs began to feel like a strain, he did some browsing online and discovered the cricket matches organised by Sportobuddy, open to people of all ages in Mumbai.
“I liked the idea, especially since it meant I didn’t have to worry about buying gear or finding a space or even joining a team,” Mehta says. “They even offered special sessions with coaches and physiotherapists.” Mehta now plays with his Sportobuddies on most weekends. “I feel fit and I find the sessions of play also very relaxing,” he says.
Across metropolitan India, sports event companies are beginning to offer packages with a focus on fitness, but with an approach that promises to be more entertaining and engaging than a gym workout.
In Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru, these companies include Sportobuddy, which organises mainly cricket and football games; Ruggedian, which conducts long runs, treks, races and marathons; and Meraki Sport & Entertainment, which offers training and infrastructure for sports that can double as cardio workouts, like tennis and cycling.
“People are health conscious but bored of the traditional methods like going to the gym. That is where we come in, offering fitness along with fun,” says Ajit Ravindran, MD and co-founder of Meraki. “We’ve made a start, but there is scope for a lot more.”
Among Meraki’s customers is Bengaluru HR executive Sanmathi Shetty, 35, who signed up for ‘cardio tennis’ two months ago, worried about the lack of activity in her sedentary lifestyle. A cardio workout, incidentally, is any activity that gets your heart rate up and stretches over 45 minutes or more.
The activity involves a mix of short runs, chases and tennis, involving a group of 12 to 14 people. “You get a workout and you learn the game too. I have signed up for fortnightly sessions, each one hour long,” she says.
Doctors have mixed feelings about these sports-based ‘workouts’. “It’s definitely a start,” says Dr Nikhil Parchure, consultant cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai. “Urban India has a very high incidence of metabolic disease, cholesterol issues and obesity. The average age for these problems is also dropping. Regular sport is great for addressing these health issues.”
Two things to check before you sign up are cardiac and musculo-skeletal fitness. “Sports injuries are a very real threat. And every year we hear of deaths from marathons around the world. It is very important to listen to your body and get a health check before you sign up for an intense sport,” Dr Parchure says.
Ruggedian, for instance, offers three months of training and guidance before their more arduous events, such as the two 42-km runs they organised recently in Kolhapur.
“The training is very important to avoid injuries and mishaps during the run. Your body needs to be conditioned for any strenuous sport,” says Akash Korgaonkar, founder of Ruggedian.
In a comparatively less adventure-friendly Delhi, where fitness has for decades meant visiting a fancy gym, people are waking up to unconventional alternatives.
When Anuraag Tiwari, 38, returned to the city from the US in 2009, he decided to promote climbing. From an initial group of 30 to 40 regulars and just a Facebook page, his venture has grown to a ‘climbing gym’ called Delhi Rock, opened in 2014.
There are artificial rock walls and climbers reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a pre-defined route, wearing special climbing equipment.
“Climbing requires technique. It’s physically demanding and tests your strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. However, once you get a hang of it, you enjoy it,” Tiwari says.
In Haryana, meanwhile, Subhash Jha’s Village Masti Farm offers a day of strenuous activity involving Burma bridges, commando nets, zip lines and tyre walls, for a flat fee of ₹950 per person.
“When we opened a year ago, I wasn’t sure people would respond. I thought they might prefer to relax by a poolside on the weekend,” Jha says. “I was wrong. Most people who visit say they would come more often if we were closer to the city. People are clearly bored of gyms and want to try out different ways of keeping fit. We plan to open more such facilities soon.”