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Fitting the bill

Fitness trainer Bindu Prakash is on a mission to clear the misconceptions about aerobics.


IT'S JUST past 7 a.m. on a breezy Friday. The environs of the Girinagar Club Road, near Kadavanthra (at Kochi), are swathed in silence, broken only by the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves in the cool breeze.

Walk further down the road and you reach an old building, the former Girinagar Club, which sports a fresh coat of paint. It's here that the atmosphere changes dramatically. Strains of the song, Shala la la la, are heard from the building. Look up and you will find a board, which bears the name- `Physique Fitness Circuit'. If you are about to brush it aside with a natural but mistaken thought - `just another fitness centre'- then you'd better think twice.

The centre is run by one of the only two people in the State who have been trained by the Reebok Fitness Club (in India) so far. Well, that should pique your interest!

The ground floor of the two-storeyed building, `Physique Fitness Circuit', comprises an indoor badminton court with wooden flooring, and a well-equipped gym. A flight of stairs takes you upstairs. Two billiards tables lie in a hall, and this leads you into an aerobic studio.

Sporting a blue crop tee and workout pants, the trainer, Bindu Prakash, demonstrates `hi-low' exercises to her students. She smiles and says, "We're half way through our workout. I'll explain the exercises as we move on to the next ones."

You cannot help but wonder where she finds so much energy from -- Bindu picks up the dumbbells and stretches out on the mat, coaxing her students, "C'mon you can do it. You'll have a beautiful body soon. Motivate yourself. Do the steps correctly." The list of instructions is interspersed with a bit of good-natured scolding when a student refuses to continue with the exercise.

Her formula for success is short and simple: "Whatever you do, do it well and better than the others."

Says she, "All I had was a passion for sports and exercising. And I believe that was the most essential. From my childhood, I was into sports, into badminton and other sports and regular exercising. After marriage, I decided to take it up full time."

Besides attending workshops on aerobics and other fitness programmes, Bindu honed her skills using every possible source, including books, magazines, the internet and CDs.

"Educating my students requires a lot of patience, determination and knowledge of the dos and don'ts of exercising and a thorough knowledge of the various muscles, tendons and how each one works."

In other words, it requires a lot of gentle coaxing to pursue clients to take up exercising in a regular way.

She took the former Girinagar Club on lease, set up a health club in 2000 and started teaching aerobics. "I had to revamp the entire building," she says.

Initially, Bindu had only two students. The same week four more joined. "It was more by word of mouth that I got my clientele. A few months later, the Reebok asked me if I was keen on joining their team."

After that it was a frenzied life. Every weekend, Bindu packed off to Bangalore. Theory classes followed rigorous training sessions. The training was imparted by Reebok India Company, which has taken a holistic approach to health through its programmes, personal instructors, creative workout options and, of course, state-of-the-art equipment.

People, says Bindu, perceive aerobics as jumping and dancing while watching one of the Jane Fonda exercising visuals on TV. "Instructors have to change according to the trends, and incorporate innovative teaching styles," she observes.

Building up short bulky muscles is injurious to health. Workouts should never be overdone. Never go overboard with your exercise routine, Bindu cautions. Muscles should not be over-worked or under-worked. The right kind of equipment such as step, core-board, and resistance bands and proper shoes (flexible shoes with adequate arch support) are as important as learning the exercise under a certified trainer or instructor and doing the workouts on a `low impact' wooden aerobic studio. Floor exercises are the most popular.

Stating the specifications for an aerobics studio, Bindu says, "Wooden floors are a must. Workouts should be done on semi-suspended floors (wooden blocks interspersed with vacant spaces)."

Or else, each time you jump or move, the impact and stress on the muscles and, in particular, the joints would be high.

This is unsafe and would lead to health problems. Nutrition is another aspect you cannot afford to neglect, Bindu points out.

By adding a few sprightly dance steps on the lines of salsa or jazz, the fitness programme can be more fun.

She teaches her students to `flow' from one exercise to the next— the workout is done in three stages `step aerobics', `hi-low aerobics', followed by `body conditioning'.

"Proper breathing is essential. The exercises must never be repeated more than 5-6 counts at a stretch," stresses Bindu.

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Graphics: Manoj

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