Abs and six packs were not part of the conversation in the ’80s and ’90s when Talwalkars was probably the only gym chain with marketing muscle. But, now there is a gym at every nook and corner of the city and hot-button topics like protein supplements, no carbs after 8pm, cardio versus weights are common fodder for small talk.
The upper crust has swanky gyms at home and even hospitals have gyms for recovering patients. Housing complexes offer a well-equipped gym as a bait for prospective buyers. And there are legions of gym-trim enthusiasts who, like staunch devotees, are unwavering in their attendance.
‘I want to gym even when I am 70’
Chef Avinash Bamania, 33, first joined a gym when he was 26 years old, and since then unfailing clocks in 45 minutes to an hour at the gym six days a week.
The bulky youth didn’t have any goal in mind when he hit Leena Mogre’s gym, but once he began, his dedication shot up. One scoop of protein daily is his apple-a-day formula to keep the doctor away.
He is unequivocal about belonging to the pro-gym camp. He learnt the ropes on his own without a trainer’s help. He says, “I prefer to gym alone, it helps me to concentrate better.”
On Ganesh Chaturthi, he couldn’t make it to the gym and felt “guilty”. He plans to gym all his life “even after 70 if I haven’t dropped dead by then”.
‘You can go shirtless on screen without going to gym’
Actor Abhay Verma (Family Man 2), 23, admits he is not a gym person. “I stay far from a gym,” he says unapologetically. Ask him if he will go shirtless for a scene and he says, “Gym se shirt ka kya lena dena? (What does going shirtless have to do with a gym?)” I prefer other ways to stay fit. I know most actors are lifting dumbbells and developing abs so that when they remove their shirt, they can show their muscular body. If I am playing a character who is a bodybuilder and has to remove his shirt, then, of course, I’ll work out at a gym.”
Verma says abs don’t matter. “Ranbir Kapoor too takes off his shirt. Have you seen him flaunting abs? An actor should worry about whether he is into the character or not...all else is secondary.”
‘I am a yoga girl. Breath is life’
Had Skimmy Gupta not told me that she was 48, I would have thought her to be in her mid-30s. An ex-journalist, Gupta is a blogger (Miss Koffee Tales). She says she is not a gym buff but describes herself as a “yoga girl” and trains with a breathing trainer.
When I express curiosity, she says, “Breath is life, isn’t it? So why not learn the different techniques of breathing? There are more than 5-6 ways of breathing.” Gupta follows the calorie-deficit diet and can walk for 8 kilometres. She advocates seeking out solutions tailored to each individual’s requirements and questions the ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander’ approach.
“So many gym enthusiasts from 16 to 60 years, irrespective of gender and their lifestyle, follow the same workout routine as others,” she says.
“You don’t have to heed to all the health tips. If you keep listening to others, you will go crazy. I prefer paneer to tofu, so I won’t make the switch,” she adds.
‘Swimming, playing a sport or brisk walk effective too’
Vaibbhav Guray, 40, a doctor of alternative medicine, has been going to a gym since he was in Class 10. “I was painfully thin and looked undernourished so my physician suggested workouts and a healthy diet.”
In the process, Guray became passionate about lifting weights. “Most people are driven to the gym to build six-pack abs. But to maintain health, swimming, lawn tennis, badminton or a nice brisk walk is as effective.”
He says, “If your goal is to develop solid muscles, you have to be a regular at the gym. You can’t develop abs in a month.”
Guray stresses on eating the right food. “Actor and one-time world-class wrestler Dwayne Johnson, also known as Rock, may consume 5,000 calories, whereas we can’t eat half of what he does. So, a balanced diet varies from person to person.”
‘Actors want to look cosmetically good, so gyming works’
A hardcore gym-goer, 46-year-old actor Saahil Khan launched the Muscle Beach Gym in Goa in 2015. And has since muscled his way into supplements, nutrition and food business.
Making a case for working out, whether in gym or otherwise, he says, “If you see men from the Navy or the Army, even at 70 they look so kadak because exercise is part of their regime. They look different from a 70-year-old who is not taking care of himself or working out.”
He says, “It can be yoga, athletics, swimming. Lifting weights is not the only way to stay fit.” Khan says, “Some people have that hulk or ripped look but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily healthy. Actors want to look cosmetically good so definitely a gym is a go-to place for them.”