A board hanging onto the wall only by a single nail, the location chosen to be such that it’s close enough to residential areas yet not too local to create disturbance and the walls covered by the basic beige paint, The Gym is exactly what the name signifies and nothing more. As the founder, Mr. Bhupendra Dhawan puts it, I could see what he meant: “My work is my advertisement.”
As I interviewed one of the humblest men in the business, I felt a sense of hope and optimism reflecting from him as far as the condition of the Indian fitness industry is concerned. Mr. Dhawan, a Dronacharya Awardee of the year 2000 shares with us for the world to know, his story and his vision for the future of the youth.
Question: Sir, when was the organisation first established? Tell us a little about the venture.
Answer: The first branch of #TheGym was inaugurated by me in the year 1990. It is the setup’s twenty sixth year going on and with 161 branches, the business doesn’t seem to stop expanding. This is more good news for the nation than anyone else since it only means that the demand for the place is growing. Who could beat a nation so healthy and fit? Situated in the ground floor of Hudson Line Kingsway Camp shop no. 2575, Delhi where we are seated right now, was the first ever branch. Eventually, the establishment and the first franchise was given by me to another branch in 1997 in Narola to my own students, followed by another located in Pitampura and so on.
Q: How did you decide to enter the fitness industry?
After a sigh and a pulling in of a long breath like the one you inhale before diving right into the ocean, he covered his mouth with his hand. He took a second together himself and continued.
A: My father was a wrestling coach. I was a young kid of 4th grade when he passed away. The family then included me, my siblings and my mother. However, the only bread-earner was my mother. I followed my father’s footsteps and graduated from Hansraj College. As a student of Hansraj, I took part in a lot of competitions be it sports or fitness and came out to be Delhi University champions quite a few times, individually as well as part of teams. From there, I went on to take up the job of coaching with the University itself in order to provide some form of financial assistance to the family. My years as a coach were roughly around 1979-81, where I would train a small group of students out in the open on the University ground (he smiles as the nostalgia the moments bring). Eventually, I got out and decided to further my aspiration of training people to realise the place of health and fitness in their lives. I took loans in 1990 to first invest in this place. My father was my inspiration all along. Added to that were all those instances where I had sat in front of the television as a child and wondered how people must feel after bringing home laurels for themselves, their families, their countries. I used to wonder what it took to earn an award and receive it from the hands of great legends. I wondered how an ordinary man like you and I, would feel like if he gets the chance to walk in through the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. And 10 years later, it happened as I received the Dronacharya Award by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for excellence in Sports coaching.
Q: How do you go about with new members to start with their training sessions?
A: Every single individual here, comes with his/her own target. We are the servers, we cater to their needs. A person looking for weight loss techniques sheds those extra kilos, the ones who worship the 6-pack abs walk out with a buffed up body at the end of the period and the people concerned with the standard level of exercise for their bodies receive the expected satisfaction. Every member has a separate diet plan laid out for them which we keep a track of. The first step is to introduce them to the machines and equipments, starting from the small light ones like weights (dumbbells) in ascending order. Once they are accustomed to those, we suggest certain changes in the individual’s diet routine. Supplements are a part of our nutrition plans. Nothing however, gains precedence over health. Every member receives case-specific attention. The sicknesses or problems that people might have are dealt with sensitivity and care. Here at The Gym, as well as personally, my belief is that nothing comes without discipline. You want results, you inculcate a routine. You want a fit body, stay disciplined. And this discipline has to be of the mind as much as it has to be for the body. First train the mind, and then comes the rest. Sirf mandir mein baithne se bhagwaan nahin mil jaate. Unko bulaana hota hai. A healthy combination of the mind and body is what will make the way for achieving God for you.
Q: How do you deal with extreme cases where losing weight or growing muscles or just sweating turns into more of an obsession than a concern?
A: Like I said earlier, the mind has to be trained before the body. Sometimes people starve themselves along with the exercising to lose weight. In other cases, they tend to just give up looking at the longevity and the patience needed for the results they wish to see. This is why we train them mentally along with their physical workouts. Our eye is on every member and our feet are only a step away to stand up for members who are on the verge of falling onto their knees. We brainwash them and re-instil their faith in themselves to remind them of the possibility of their dream. More often than not, humans just need a reminder of their potential and their capabilities. This is what we capitalise on. We bring in the disabled and provide service to them free of cost. We include aspirants and train them into professionals till they come out as champions at the nationals well as international levels. We prioritise health. Everything else just comes along as part of the package.
Q: With no government aid and such minimal publicity strategies, how do you keep your business intact?
A: The Gym is now a successful enterprise with more to it than what you see right now. We organise seminars, competitions, events and other campaigns to raise awareness of the fitness regime. We also operate the Aerobic Activity Academy, an institution to train coaches. This Academy is host to many trainers to professional champions and celebrities. It is also an opportunity that raises the skill level amongst the Indian labour force.
Q: To end with, I would request on behalf of the readers, your personal fitness schedule and message to the people.
A: At the age of 65, my personal regime includes a fair amount of walking and yoga. The two keep me at peace with my mind and my body.
As far as my message is concerned, I would like to point it out that as much as we would like to believe so, our awareness levels are not in a very impressive phase. People are not conscious of the repercussions their choices have on their bodies, neither are they attentive to the cheaper, healthier alternatives available. While 250 grams of chicken fills you with 10% protein, a small 100 gms of peanuts consists of 25% proteins. You can either inculcate the healthy lifestyle now to live the rest of your life in peace or you can purge your body carelessly and end up spending lakhs of rupees in the hospitals later, trying to rectify things that it is too late for.
The Gym has stood the training ground for achievers like Rajeev Khandelwal, Sunil Mann, Savita Sharma, Sonali Kalikaram amongst other national, international and Commonwealth champions. The establishment hopes to admit more and more people into the circle of a fit and healthy world.