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Bollywood’s favorite Celebrity Fitness Trainer Vinod Channa talks about his journey, his humble background and why John Abraham is his favorite student.
How did you start? How did you end up in an unconventional, offbeat and unique career such as this?
I was 16 and skinny. I had a bad personality – my clothes wouldn’t fit me. People at school and around home would point that out, tauntingly. I was left out of sports events and cultural programs because of how I looked. My personality affected my performance. I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to work on my genetics, and show everyone that I too am something.
So, it all began after my 10th. I began training with my friends, did that for 2 years before finding professional guidance. I come from a modest background. My family was struggling to make ends meet. There were days when I couldn’t even afford milk and 2 eggs. Milk costed Rs 5 back then. I had to do everything possible to save enough for these basics.
Since childhood, I couldn’t digest some foods, but I was determined to change that, for training. I worked harder and was able to buy chicken. That’s how it started. It was tough, but my mind was made up, and I was ready to work hard, make sacrifices and completely dedicate myself to my mission of becoming fit. Life has been tough. I wanted to become a police officer but I couldn’t only because of one Employment Card. I pursued that dream for 5 years, waiting for the day they would call me, only to be rejected because I was not a Maharashtrian.
Today after 20 years in the industry as a Fitness Trainer, how does it feel? Has anything changed?
When I was a kid, they used to play movies during Ganesh Chathurthi. I used to wear half pants back then. I couldn’t afford a movie ticket, so I used to wait for festivals to watch movies. I think about those days, and I see how things have changed today. Today, even big personalities like Amitabh Bachchan ji address me as ‘’sir’’. It’s been a long journey till here.
You have worked very hard in your life…
Today, fitness trainers are plenty. Certification is no big deal either. Things are quite easy. But I think that’s not the right way. I think a good fitness trainer needs to have good experience in training his own body first. I have worked hard, yes. I used to build my body, lose weight, and re-build again. I have repeated this cycle 10-15 times. I have gained 30 Kgs in 6 months, then worked to shed that. I have let go of a perfectly built body with six packs, and worked again to re-build. I have done this as practice. I can understand my trainees on a deep level because of my experience.
And this way, you have been able to develop a Training Style unique to you…
Yes. I always start with understanding who I am working with, and what their lifestyle is.
Do they spend most of their time at the desk, or does he need to be on his toes all the time?
Those with physically inactive lifestyles, find it difficult to exercise for more than 5 – 10 minutes, even. I take it slow with them, starting with unlocking joints. Regimes vary depending on their genetic makeup, as well. I combine different genres of training, as appropriate. Some people have very good genetic makeup, and need less time to reach their target. When people tend to compare themselves with others, I tell them there’s no point. I also make sure that I design each one’s regime, combining different genres – yoga, weight training, cardio, sports, etc. I train their bodies for endurance, flexibility, mobility, strength, and anything else that their body needs.
You sound like a good teacher.
I hope so. I am a good learner, first. I never stop learning. I think I am a born teacher. I teach what I have learnt from experience. I know the kind of effort this requires. So, I am a good motivator. I understand my students, listen to them, speak their language, and work for their benefit, always conscious of their capacity and needs.
You have worked with actors and businessmen. How are they different?
There is a businessman from Orissa. He weighs 115 Kgs, and has a bad knee and a painful back problem. He works out at nights, after his work. The way we hire cabs and rickshaws to commute every day, he boards a charter flight every night to Mumbai. With businessmen, I take it slowly. I strengthen their muscles first. Making them tired is not a good idea. So, we don’t work for more than an hour. I also guide them to a good diet and right supplementation.
Who is your favorite Bollywood Star to work with?
John Abraham. Once, he came to my home and said he had just one month’s time to reach his target. That night, he was not feeling good. He said he needed to throw up. I said “go ahead, and we’ll start”. He never said one word, he gave all he had to, and in one month, he made the lean muscular body he needed for his movie Rocky Handsome.
What advice would you give to those who want to switch to a healthy lifestyle?
Just start. Don’t think, just start. Start with walking. Look for guidance. We tend to look up to movie stars, and copy their fitness regimes. Following celebrity routine is no good. Fitness is part of a film star’s profession. What they say in interviews, are from many years of body changes. That doesn’t apply to everyone. You have to understand your own body and work according to that. Always work in harmony with nature.