Penchant for physical fitness

K. Manoj Kumar conducting a physical fitness course on the Teacher's Colony ground  

GONE ARE the days when physical training or fitness routine was attached to a sportsperson's daily regimen alone. These are times when everyone, young or old, is eager to get tips on remaining physically fit. The growing changes in dietary habits, the lure of fast foods, the irregular hours of work and tensions in office and perhaps household, have become too much of an excess baggage to a person's comfort. `Burn the calories' seems to be the motto of modern life, while for a sportsperson, there is the additional task of remaining free from injuries and working on ways to perform to potential — various goals but all come under one umbrella of physical fitness training.

So, if there is one factor common in the lives of industrialist T.T. Ashok, Lakshmanan of Rane Group, Sridhar of Bengal Tiger Shipping company, Sasikala Srikanth of SPIC or her son Sandeep Srikanth, an international sailor or cricketer L. Balaji or table tennis player Srivatsa Chakravarthy, then it is that they all have the benefit of the services of K. Manoj Kumar, a self-made physical trainer. A former state football goalkeeper, Manoj is an employee of AG's Office in Chennai.

Manoj's obsession with physical fitness started quite early in life. "As a college student, I never missed an opportunity to work with the weights and develop muscles," he says.

Son of a noted footballer of yesteryear, K. Balagopal, a former Tamil Nadu football team captain, Manoj's foray into football was only expected. But unlike his father who showed his prowess as a stopper-back in the team, Manoj's interest was in goalkeeping where the demands of body flexibility and suppleness were high. His penchant for fitness suited him. It led him on to go deeper into the subject. "I used to visit the British Council library which had a wealth of information on fitness programme by experts, spend a lot of time imbibing the knowledge," he says, before friends helped him establish contacts in the U.S., from where regular supplies of books and brochures on the latest development in the science of physical fitness were arranged. And now, he finds in Internet another avenue to quench his thirst for information.

Manoj does not have a formal degree or diploma in physical fitness for the simple reason that such courses were not available in India. "It is a much more advanced subject in the U.S., which is the best place to qualify oneself in this regard," he says expressing his keenness to go abroad to get the `official tag'. But this has not come in the way of his sharing the knowledge he had gained through reading and interacting with experts such as Adrian Leroux (Indian cricket team physical trainer) and Hansraj (trainer attached to Tamil Nadu Cricket team), with the teams and individuals he trains. Each fresh enquiry for his services only adds to his enthusiasm as he divides his time between office work and physical training. By 4.30 a.m. he is not only up but ready for his first assignment with a cine star or a software executive before moving over to his own office football team. Then there is the Prahlad Cricket Club, which was the first to extend his area of operation from his office settings. The day stretches on till 9 p.m. and this is his daily schedule.

With increasing acceptability, Manoj is beginning to widen his sphere of activity. Following his stint in the state hockey team, the IOB Sports Association sought his services for its cricket, volleyball and hockey teams. This, apart from the list of executives to whom he pays individual attention based on `his or her needs'. In fact in his own office, Manoj is indebted to the Accountant General, R.S. Rangarajan, a sports-lover and a keen cricket fan, for giving an impetus to this fitness culture. "At his instance, we now have a modern air-conditioned gym in the AG's office complex. What is heartening is that at least 50 of its members are women," he says, underlining the common concern among men and women to feel fit.

Manoj makes no bones about the fact that a fitness schedule improves the cardiovascular endurance besides lending strength to the knees, legs and the back. For a sportsperson, these are a `must' to perform well. His interaction with players helped him gain an insight into the various `wrongs' that get into their drills. For instance, he says studies have proved the full squat and `duck walk' exercises, which were acceptable earlier, to be harmful to the knees. He says it is amazing that most sportspersons do not realise the value of weight training.

Manoj, despite training many and spreading the message of good health, feels that getting a certificate in physical training is very important. Nonetheless, there are more promises to keep and Manoj knows he has made an encouraging start.