I took my first steps into R-Accelerate, the fitness gym that was the brainchild of A.T. Rajamani Prabhu, a former strength and conditioning coach at BCCI. For the 95 kilo potato (read blogger) that I am, I was thrusted into a different environment only to be greeted by a 6 foot chiseled athlete who shook my hand, “What is this grip? Come on; hold tighter, you have to get fit.” I knew right then I had met my man, Rajamani.
Rajamani was formerly a strength and conditioning coach at BCCI and was most likely to bear the fitness requirements of the Indian National Cricket team, which in itself is perhaps the pinnacle as far as Indian fitness coaches go. But Rajamani was not one to give into the gilded shine of national contracts as he took an entirely different path. In hindsight, as I sat in conversation with perhaps one of the most successful fitness trainers, it would have been easy to say the decision to branch off from the path was easy, but 13 years ago, the decision to quit would have been a double edged sword.
“The functioning in the BCCI was different, there used to be specialist coaching and academies that had camps which lasted around 10 days. This time was bare minimum and then the players would go back to their respective Ranji team set ups for training. There was no personal attention or follow up“…… all of which is cornerstone in his training regime.
The Wine That Needed No Bush….
For Rajamani, the greatest brand is he himself, a label that germinated over 13 years. He started out with domestic cricketer Suresh Kumar and Indian pace bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji. The latter had then recommended Indian batsman Subramaniam Badrinath to tap into R-Accelerate’s offerings. In return,the highly impressed Tamil Nadu stalwart endorsed Rajamani’s services to Indian all rounder Ravichandran Ashwin. Indian test specialist Murali Vijay and CSK all rounder Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan were couple of the other cricketers who had flown into the embracing nest of Rajamani. Today his fitness gym boasts of 146 athletes belonging to diverse sports and yet individual schedules and programmes are conceived and recorded matching their requirements.
“ The turning point in my career was when R.Ashwin and M.Vijay who were undergoing my training left. I was disappointed and began working very hard. For almost 6 months I used to sleep only for 4 hours a day and used to stay up adopting and adapting as far as possible. My family supported me during this period and I became a lot stronger and understanding of the dynamics involved in fitness coaching. From thereon I have achieved great success through the success of my athletes, among the many crowning moments include that of Joshna Chinnappa (squash player currently ranked 10th in the world), Aarathy Kasturi Raj (Indian Skater), Thirush Kamini (Indian National Womens Cricket team), Vijay Shankar ( India A allrounder, Tamil Nadu Captain) and many more.”
Athletes- The Pedigree of Champions
For Rajamani the principle was simple- his dexterity and prowess was in carving out tomorrow’s champions today. To expend his time and efforts in anything else , even slightly deviating from his grail did not justify his interests or his decision to do something different. So much so that he has a very simple taxonomy when it comes to people- athletes and ‘general population’. Though inadvertently he kept calling non-athletes ‘general population’. I realized he genuinely meant it, like a child passionate about his puerile superheroes.I saw a fitness instructor who saw his athletes as champions, a cut above others…
“There was this initial period where I took in non-athletes and saw a good income as well,but things seemed a bit too familiar,like BCCI days. So I slowly stopped taking them in and for every 3 athletes who joined me, I eliminated one non-athlete and today I train and specialize only in athletes. My inputs are tailor made and specialized for athletes, and the best corresponding output is produced only by them. I’ve had offers from film stars as well but I had to politely turn them down. Athletes are goal driven, and every single athlete has an individual goal, which becomes my own goal.”
Fitness – The Metamorphosing Creed
That from Neanderthal Man has been on an constant endeavor to remain fit, whether to hunt down wild boars in the plains or to try and run out AB Develliers is no stunner, lies in the fact that the associated science with fitness has constantly been evolving and today is a comprehensive study of various factors, at the forefront of this science is A.T. Rajamani Prabhu. Rajamani is a self made giant with an extensive knowledge that resulted from laborious efforts. He has spared no ounce of energy or time in his quest for quenching his exceptional thirst for knowledge. Numerous Skype calls with strength and conditioning coaches from across the world and a huge plethora of books have all made him phenomenally knowledgeable. An acclaimed coach, who looks to author books himself, has completed an extensive 3 phase coaching with Exos.
“It wasn’t easy before as the exposure and accessibility to knowledge and professionals was restricted. It used to cost close to one lakh to attend a seminar outside India, but today we can get the same content in an online course for 300$ which makes it a lot more affordable. Skype has made things easier which lets me connect with strength and conditioning coaches from all over the world on a weekly basis. This field is never stagnant and is an evolving science and at the end of 13 years, I can confidently say that I now have covered all my basics.”
Fitness Revolution- The Beginning
For Rajamani , introducing new age fitness was a task in itself. The scenario in Tamil Nadu however was a lot better with coaches such as Basu and Ramji on the horizon sowing the seeds for someone like Rajamani to revolutionize. The introduction of the rogue ICL into the foray subjected the domestic system to foreign standards of fitness. Physios have become a lot more professional and skilled at what they do. Leagues such as IPL and TNPL have added to this great transformation. Perhaps the greatest boost to fitness awareness in the nation stems from the man himself, Virat Kohli.
“It wasn’t easy to convince players that fitness is an integral part of their performance. It got better with ICL and then leagues such as IPL, TNPL, KPL and so on. We started following western standards and picking up pages from books of American football and American Baseball team. Australian cricket team was amongst the first to take up fitness seriously and it started to rub off on other countries. Today things have changed as all the cricketers come to me wanting to be like one man Virat Kohli ” Virat Kohli in the truest sense has become the brand ambassador of cricket, and this fits well with the grander scheme that Rajamani has in place.
“Robin Uthappa is a great athlete and has great fitness standards” – Rajamani
Cricket in all its glories has produced great legends with unparalleled virtues, one such is A.T. Rajamani Prabhu. As my conversation with him progressed, every minute yielded better insights into diverse fields that subsumed cricket, discipline, ambition and personal struggles all of which when put in text, transforms itself into an amazing success story spanning over a decade.
Watch this space for more on Rajamani and technical aspects of training.
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