A couple of months ago in 2013 being inspired by one of my friends who’s a personal trainer on a freelance basis I decided to take up a short course in Physical Personal Training. I had two options: K11 Fitness Institute and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute.
The front desk at K11 was very haphazard and disorganised and they were undergoing renovations at the time so I chose the relatively more organised (when they want to convince you to give them your money) Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute, which also had an internship at one of their gyms as part of the course. A perceived benefit that would turn out to be more a pain in the ass!
After the course was postponed twice we finally did get started in a dingy little room in the windowless basement of their Khar office. The student chairs had folding tables that were falling apart and were stuffed in like sardines making it difficult to move through them. There was no ventilation and a very low ceiling. And it hadn’t seemed to be cleaned in a while. Strange conditions for an institute teaching health and fitness.
Most of the teachers at the course were average with only one being above average. The administrative staff who co-ordinated lectures, practical’s and paper work were completely inept. They didn’t know what was happening most of the time and were regularly rude and dismissive of the largely non-English speaking students who were unable to communicate or retaliate.
Here’s an instance: After two weeks of the course we were uncouthly asked if we had registered our fingerprint for the attendance scanners. How could we? No one even told us we had to! The tone of voice taken with the students was offensive and I did lose my temper with the girl who was being patronising to students who were paying Rs 23,000 each for this course.
Shoddy attendance mark sheets (that were changed after I made an issue of it with a lecturer who wanted me to fit my name in a box the size of a matchstick), constant cancellation of lectures and tardy teachers were what we had to deal with. On one occasion a teacher was so late that some of the students decided to get up and leave. The head of the institute was surprised and explained that students come in late so it’s all right for the teachers to do so too! This was ridiculous and unprofessional. In case you make students wait it is your duty to inform them courteously and apologise for any delay. But clearly she had no inkling that the ‘simple-minded’ floor trainers-to be would rebel against being treating like underlings.
The Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute practical sessions were far too few and conducted at the usually overcrowded Gold’s Gym at India Bulls Lower Parel. Why weren’t the students given tips by existing trainers? Why weren’t we instructed on how to deal with clients and what rules of training to follow on the floor during the practical sessions?
When it came time for the examinations, a theory paper of 100 marks was to be completed in two hours. The exam papers were badly printed with several spelling mistakes (‘bunch’ instead of ‘bench’; how can a fitness institute not know how to spell that!!) and even factually wrong questions. I was going to leave out 5 whole marks till I clarified with a lecturer who then realised there was a mistake and corrected it. Shouldn’t the lecturers have been going through the exam papers while we were doing them to check for errors like they do in every other school or college level exam?
On the day of our Practical Exam the students arrived at their India Bulls gym only to be told by a lecturer that he did not even know we had a practical exam that day! It was just luck that he was there conducting a regular practical lesson with another batch. Thankfully, the exam was eventually conducted. How could this level of incompetence exist when you are making lakhs of rupees from students? Do they think that all the students would put up with ineptitude without saying a word or going to the media or at least writing a review like this one to warn other prospective students?
Note: A foreign student on the course received special treatment with reduced internship hours.
After passing the exam – and I did wonder how a lot of the students passed, but then they were allowed to cheat a bit in the last half hour – we were supposed to complete 100 hours of internship at one of their many corporate gyms across the city. Though quite a few have recently been shutting down (the Peddar Road one being the most recent) I managed to wrangle the India Bulls gym since it was the closest to where I stay. Not all the students were lucky enough. And when students went to begin their intern experience some were greeted with discourteous Head Trainers who didn’t know a word of English and others with Head Trainers who didn’t give them an orientation. It is the duty of the Branch Manager or Head Trainer to orient every student when they come in but this wasn’t done in most of the cases.
A particular ‘Head Trainer’ at the India Bulls centre who was previously at the Peddar Road branch began to harass interns with ludicrous and arbitrary rules. Some were that the interns should not help any clients on the floor and just stand in a corner and watch. For 100 hours! How, may I ask, is this any sort of learning? Were we expected to stand in a corner for 4 hours everyday for 25 days and do nothing? Was this the value of their 100 hours of internship?
Some of interns also realised that the Personal Trainers at the gyms were wary that if interns started helping clients for free, they wouldn’t get any clients for themselves. And considering the management of Gold’s Gym had apparently not paid them incentives for over 5 months, it was probably a valid fear. But surely that was between Gold’s Gym and the Fitness Institute to work out. I fired off a letter to the institute about all this including the fact that one of the three ‘Head Trainers’ at the India Bulls gym (the one harassing us) had apparently risen to his post not on merit but on the favour of a branch manager. Quite disturbing and it did explain why he was never actually training anyone!
The same day I got an apology from the Assistant Branch Manager and the ‘Head Trainer’ in question was nowhere to be seen. He had resigned apparently. Of course later I found out, on the record, from the Head of the Fitness Institute that he just didn’t turn up to work and no one could trace him. Weird!
While most of the other floor trainers were reasonably nice to us it would seem there is a definite dilemma here. And it is up to the Fitness Institute to correct it by cutting down on the ridiculous 100-hour internship time or scrapping it completely. If prospective students find out that the internship is nothing but a sham then there will be no difference between the Gold’s Gym course and their competitors.
After an interminable time at the internship – where I must add, several personal trainers came to me to tell me their woes with the management after finding out I was a journalist – we were relieved to finish the course.
But the student’s problems continued when I heard that several of them had been told the course we were doing (and had paid for) was an ‘Advanced Physical Training’ course but they ended up getting certificates that said ‘Basic Physical Training’ course. Incensed with this fraud I decided to approach the owners of Gold’s Gym: The Advani-Valecha Group. I called up Mr Rajesh Advani (owner of Sun ‘n’ Sand hotels) and sent him an email. He apologised and assured me I’d be contacted by someone senior from the organisation.
Sure enough, the Head of Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute called me and apologised. She, apparently, wasn’t aware of all this (she was on maternity leave for a month but most of these issues were going on when she was at the office). After listening to her incredulous excuses I told her all the issues and what needed to be done to rectify them.
I asked that all the students be contacted immediately and told their ‘Basic’ certificate would be replaced with an ‘Advanced’ certificate, which I’m happy to say was done promptly.
In any case, one of the institute’s lecturers on condition of anonymity has said that the organisation will probably shut down at some point of time. I have no idea if this is true or not but I do know that as long as we as students – and citizens of this city – continue to accept the shoddy office practises and service meted out to us after paying huge sums of money then we cannot crib about it. We must stand up for our rights and push ourselves to get the best for what is our due. Going to a gym doesn’t make you a man, standing up for yourself does.
PS: Many of the students on the course were extremely diligent in their goals to become personal/floor trainers and most of the trainers at Gold’s Gym are extremely hard working employees who deserve better treatment/pay from their management and fitness institute.