If the personal trainer had his way, there would be at least as many gymnasium jokes going around as the more common man-walks-into-a-bar ones.
But as Deepak Rawat, senior fitness manager, Fitness First, New Delhi, clarifies, “The personal trainer isn’t really doing his job until he goes the extra mile to remove the myths that roil inside the client’s minds, however inane their queries might sound.” The gym then is more than just a collection of exercise-related paraphernalia—it is an arena where the trainer faces a trial of patience, having to incessantly advise clients to be a tad bit more patient with their bodies.
Personal trainers and fitness experts recount their experiences of managing some of the most common queries and demands, and explain why they can’t always fulfil them.
I want abs like Salman Khan’s within three months
The client was more than 20kg overweight and was 42 years old. He said he was willing to do anything to get abs like Salman Khan’s. I told him it just wasn’t possible, and at his age, it would take a long time before his body could even be prepared for muscle-building exercises. He promptly moved to another gym. Six months later, I heard he had been hospitalized due to kidney failure. He had resorted to heavy steroid doses.
A middle-aged person needs to understand that his dream physique can only be realized after going through a certain process: It can take five-six months to lose the extra weight, a few months more to tone the body and then the requisite time for building that physique; around a year and a half in all. If the need to build a good physique and look good transforms into a mania, without proper guidance it can end up destroying your health.
—Anuja Shah, Talwalkars, Mumbai
I have joint pains but i will only do certain exercises
People beyond a certain age sometimes cringe from doing certain exercises because they cause them a little discomfort. What they need to realize is that these exercises are an important part of the remedial process and will only help them in the long run. Instead, they ask me to recommend some other exercise. Now I can certainly do that, but since the body requires a particular exercise for a particular part of the body, it is only to the client’s disadvantage. There is also the risk that the trainer will suddenly decide to give up, for the simple reason that the client is stubborn and doesn’t cooperate. Fundamentally, lack of knowledge and total trust in a trainer makes a client behave thus. Once the client tries the recommended exercises and starts listening to his/her body, he/she will make both the trainer’s and his/her own job easier.
—Karan Claire, personal trainer, Chandigarh
I am a woman, how can I do weight training? It will make me look bulky
The female body is markedly different from the male body, and so are its mechanisms and needs. So too are the hormones that drive their bodies. This is one reason why women don’t have to be afraid about gaining any bulk after weight training. On the other hand, weight training is essential for them since they suffer from loss of iron due to their menstrual cycle and also tend to be susceptible to osteoporosis. Weight-training exercises help in preventing this since they make the bones and muscles stronger.
A word about the ideal age to begin these exercises. If you have access to a qualified trainer, even girls below the age of 15 can begin working on exercise equipment. But since at that age your goal is only to move and bound about freely, weight training isn’t indispensable. For adults and those in the middle-age group, weight training has to be a part of the exercise routine.
—Deepak Rawat, Fitness First, Delhi
I want a film star’s physique
The film star has a certain target which, if achieved, will benefit him financially once the film hits the market. But the only reward we would receive is a healthy body and sound mind. In addition, the film star has a bigger workout budget than most of us have access to, with a trainer who gives him complete attention. The star can also afford to spend money on supplements and certain equipment. When one of my boys comes to me and complains about the lack of results at the end of a month, I draw his attention to the fact that he is 21 years old and he hasn’t even given me 21 days with him yet. Since he doesn’t have access to all the expensive equipment and supplements, which I never recommend, he needs to give it a lot more time than the film star whose physique he idolizes.
—Bhupinder Dhawan, The Gym, Delhi
I want a toned abdomen, and will only do abdomen exercises
First things first, there is no such thing as spot reduction. It is simply not realistic. Until and unless you focus on the entire body, all your hard work on a certain body part will come to nothing. That dream abdomen requires a healthy back and legs—two of the biggest muscles of the body.
Your body and you: Kiran Nehra of Breathe Fitness says it’s essential to focus on all three aspects of fitness—strength, endurance and flexibility—equally. Photograph by: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Furthermore, if you continue doing abdominal exercises day in and day out without resting them, you run the risk of pumping the muscles up too much, increasing their size markedly compared with other muscles. This will make your body look awkward, and increase your weight.
Simply put, you need to focus on all three aspects of fitness—strength, endurance and flexibility—equally. I always recommend taking up a sport because it ensures movement of every single part of your body, thus providing you with all-round exercise.
—Kiran Nehra, Breathe Fitness, Delhi
I want to take protein supplements for weight gain
Protein supplements help in the recovery of body muscle, in addition to increasing the cell size and immunity. Fundamentally, they help increase the muscle mass. This can only happen when the supplement is ingested according to the client’s body weight. For somebody who isn’t involved in any physical exercise, a gram of supplement for every kg of body weight does the job perfectly. Someone undergoing weight training and strenuous workouts should increase supplement intake accordingly—a number that can even go up to double the body weight, depending on the intensity of the exercise routine.
Protein supplements should only be taken in consultation with fitness or diet experts, says Anup Jain, Ministry of Fitness. Photograph by Pradeep Gaur/Mint
On the flip side, intake of these supplements in quantities that don’t befit one’s lifestyle can lead to stomach, kidney and liver-based irregularities. One should thus exercise caution and consult a fitness or diet expert before taking these supplements, taking into account one’s metabolism.
—Anup Jain, Ministry of Fitness, Gurgaon