Are you fit enough to exercise with Dhoni?

With each month that I ignored the gym, I realised that there was so much I could have bought with the money I wasted on a gym membership. This is when I discovered exercise videos on YouTube that I could follow with just a yoga mat for equipment. And there’s nothing like a celebrity fitness video to shake off the winter-induced lethargy. Though I know nothing about cricket, what I do know is that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is fit. But one look at his personal fitness regime told me that there was no way I was going to captain a sports team in the near future. Not only was his personal regime meant mostly for men (arm exercises with 16 kilogram dumbbells), it was extremely hard for beginners and gym irregulars.

The second-best option came in the form of Dhoni’s recent tie-up with Reebok, on a fitness initiative titled MSD4India. A harmless looking website asks you for an hour of your time every day. Scroll down and you can take your pick from yoga, cardio, running, dancing and training. Things seem simple, but not before you sign in with your Facebook account, which then leads to an email in your inbox. Mastering the art of branding and advertising, it seems Dhoni, through Reebok, is also endorsing a mobile application called FitHo. The app has a website version and after signing up, you receive a voucher that roughly translates into a month’s free trial. But wait a minute, I just wanted an exercise video. No, I must get a customised exercise regime and diet plan right in my inbox. After what seems like an eternity of answering questions about my meal preferences, weight, height, body mass index, injury and health conditions, I am finally able to access my exercise regime through the website. But not before I receive a call from a FitHo dietician, who asks me to save the number in case of questions.

Now while Dhoni may ask you for an hour of your day, you actually get to choose how much time you can devote to fitness with FitHo. The exercise regime spells out that day’s routine in words, with an animated video at the bottom. Each exercise is depicted through a video of a fitness expert performing it. But I don’t understand why it has to be a poorly edited animation, with experts who look eerily like Dhoni, rather than a proper video with instructions. My exercise for the day includes a warm-up jog, seal jumps, side planks, heel touch, push-ups, squats and their modifications and variations of lunges. Somehow though, the time set is 30 minutes instead of an hour and I am glad for it, thanks to the recent inactivity and winter weight gain.

While experimenting with and researching on home exercise videos, I read articles that say that an intense 20-minute workout is better than a moderate hour in the park. The FitHo regime somewhat reaches the intensity mark, but without any excitement. Watching those static animations is no inspiration to sweat it out. The purpose of a video is the voice over, the motivation you feel working out to someone’s directions. While the regime itself is pretty comprehensive, working on the circuit-training workout principle, it involves too many jumps that may prove disastrous for your knees if not done carefully. Another major drawback is that the exercises do not come with instructions. So if you haven’t been training before, you wouldn’t know what back posture to maintain while doing push-ups or where your toes should be pointing during squats.  For this purpose, I prefer FitnessBlender, a YouTube account that features various exercise videos for different fitness goals, or even fitness trainer Jillian Michael’s weight-loss routines that are available on DVD and YouTube. These videos offer variations for beginners and show the difference between good and bad posture.

What works in FitHo’s favour is the level of customisation you can bring into your fitness routine. For example, after a workout, you can rate your exercise as good, too hard or too easy. You can also alert the app for any previous injuries so that the exercise routine it prepares doesn’t aggravate it. But the disappointment comes with, or in fact, without Dhoni. The minute you are redirected out of MSD4India, you realise that Dhoni will have very little to do with your fitness routine, unlike videos and regimes that feature Bollywood stars such as Shilpa Shetty and Bipasha Basu. The hope is that by exercising “with” them, you can achieve their levels of fitness. But none of that here. What was the point of this endorsement, you ask? Well, I’m still wondering.