September 14, 2008

Now, Chennaiites Hit the Gym at Noon

By Kamini Mathai

CHENNAI: Late nights at the office, deadlines to meet, traffic jams, crowded gyms, household chores, working moms, so how do you fit an hour's workout into your busy schedule? Simple, say this lot of working professionals, who simply slip out of work at lunch time and, instead of digging into a 500 calorie meal, burn off about the same amount by sweating it out at the gym closest to their office.

Like Dr Prithviraj T, a laparoscopic surgeon at Apollo Hospitals who works out at Fitness One most afternoons. "I have surgeries early in the morning and then again in the evenings right into the night, so afternoon workouts suit me the best," he says.

It's the same with Sonia Vachher, who works in the sales team of a major bank in the city. "My mornings are about getting my son ready for school. I am back at home after dropping him off by 8.30 am after which I have to rush off to work by 9.30. So where is the time to exercise? That's when I figured the best time to go to a gym would be during my lunch break; I work out for around 45 minutes, then shower and head back to office. Eating my lunch takes just 10 minutes," she says.

Sonia adds that she has actually started working better once she started working out in the afternoons. "My productivity soars between 2 pm and 7 pm," she says. "There's just no dip. I'm sure it has to do with the afternoon workout." And to make sure that she gets back to work on time, she picked Pink, a gym for women, very close to her office.

At the other end of town, in Adyar, is Sindhu Arun, who heads off to Maverick, just 15 minutes from her office, for a quick, high- powered workout before showering and heading back to office. "I used to feel odd in the beginning, but now I see so many people doing the afternoon workout that it's a habit now," she says.

Prime time at the gym has changed in the last couple of years, says Shanker Basu, CEO of Maverick Gym. He says it used to be the mornings which were packed, when people would squeeze an hour's workout before heading out to their offices. "Now, gyms are packed even at lunch time and late nights with people working out," he says. Basu, who conducts personal trainings, says that earlier his last session would be around 7 pm but now he has clients who come as late as 9 pm for a session.

Aerobics instructor Kamlesh says that a couple of months ago, he started a 7.45 pm to 8.45 pm batch, which is already full. He has also been getting enquiries for a 9 pm to 10 pm class. "Unlike before, people finish work only by 7.30 pm or 8 pm now and even that's early. A year ago, I had an event manager for a company come and ask me to conduct midnight classes for the employees. Today, because of the hectic work pace, any timing will sell," he says.

Gym instructors say they sometimes modify the workout according to the timings. Like Basu, who says he asks some of his late-night clients to work out at 60% of the intensity of a morning person so it does not affect their sleep. "But many of them want to work out at the normal intensity and after a while their body gets used to it. And I certainly don't want to stop anyone who wants to exercise," says Basu.

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