Started by the duo with a strong passion of building a fit community, The Quad has been on the slow and steady growth path making the folks of Chennai fitter and healthier through their four centres.
What convinced you to leave your job in the U.S. and come back to India to set up a fitness company, The Quad – the BootCamp in Chennai? A question that Ashok Arvind and Raj Ganpath have been asked tad too often. Pat comes Arvind’s reply, “We didn’t need convincing. It was the easiest decision and felt perfect for us!”
Arvind quit writing antivirus code and design wireframes to focus on what he felt was the right thing to do – follow his passion for fitness. He believes that at 36, today, he is much fitter than what he was at 26. And there is a story behind it. He narrates: “I was a scrawny kid, but when I entered college, because of my poor eating habits, I became extremely unfit and out of shape.” He did just what everyone usually does: join a gym, which he went to, regularly for a year but to no effect. Later, when he moved to the U.S. in 2008, he joined the running community there called Team Asha (supports education in India.) “It was a very revealing experience as I could not last even a short distance, but I learnt a lot about myself,” recalls he. He then started CrossFit training and was completely drawn into the fitness and nutrition world, while he was working for AT&T in the Bay area.
Intrigued by the difference a smart training programme and CrossFit had on his body, he decided to understand the mechanics and science of fitness and started researching on this subject. He quit CrossFit and trained on his own, experimenting on himself, with greater focus on nutrition. During this period (in 2009), he met Raj, who had undergone a similar journey. They had a burning desire to do something in the area of fitness and also wanted to return to their hometown, Chennai. This brought them together and they put their noses deep into researching fitness and nutrition during 2010 and 2011. At the same time, they got themselves certified in this field. “I was already training with a very popular coach in the U.S.– Kelly Starrett,” says Arvind. They got themselves certified, experimented on themselves and other friends and saw great results! They began to understand what it takes to coach other people, not just themselves.
They also focussed a lot on the eating habits. “The big problem is not when you know you are eating unhealthy; it is when you think you are eating healthy and making wrong choices,” says Arvind. He admits that he has made every mistake there is to make in the training ground and arrives at a routine after going through his own journey. The duo identified this gap and came back to India to set up The Quad in 2011.
“The big problem is not when you know you are eating unhealthy; it is when you think you are eating healthy and making wrong choices,”
Here’s to good beginnings
Before returning to India, Arvind and Raj used the power of social media and created a buzz in the fitness community through their blogs. They had reasonable following already and hence didn’t start from scratch when they returned to Chennai. “We also did a survey to understand the pulse of preferred location,” recalls Arvind. Soon after they moved to Chennai in August 2011, Arvind was operating out of Besant Nagar where he lived, and Raj, out of Anna Nagar. During this period, they got an opportunity to start their BootCamp in Bamboola Play School’s tennis court in Mandeveli. “We ran our first class there and about 100 people signed up for it. We ran this as a pilot for 10 weeks and then started our next batch in 2012,” recalls Arvind. Two years later, they opened their next centre in Narada Gana Sabha on TTK Road, subsequently in Perungudi and more recently, in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar.
Talking about The Quad’s core philosophy, Arvind says, “We believe in strength training. And that’s the answer for everything.”They also focus on the movement quality heavily, which is crucial to ensure people get the most out of their workouts without injuring themselves. “Most people come for fat loss, which is a function of good health. You are out of shape for a reason. If you get healthy, your body normalises,” states Arvind. Nutrition also plays an important role for them and they are very determined in creating proper food habits in the community.
The growth plan
Their BootCamp operates in the heart of the city and is easy to access. With a 1:5 trainer to student ratio, their batches usually have 30 people, which they believe works for building group dynamics. “Our centres have a much higher retention rate as we are offering what people are looking for,” says Arvind. He continues, “We were not trying to be different but simply started by fighting our own battles against unfit lives. We took control of our health and fitness, and found a methodology to make it fun, sustainable and permanent for others as well,” says Arvind.
While they had a clear plan in place, it was hard for them to hire high quality trainers. They could not hire from the trainer community as their background and orientation was towards body building, which is not The Quad’s philosophy nor is it apt for most people except body builders. Hence, they hired trainers from their own community (those who had trained under them), with whom there was a strong connection. They currently have 18 trainers who’ve had different careers, just like them. “They joined us with a blank resume in fitness but expertise in other areas. That’s the easier part as they trained with us,” says he.
From day one, expansion was never The Quad’s criteria, neither was money. “It’s not that we wanted to come here and not make any money” reiterates Arvind, “but it’s not the driving factor for our success. We believe doing the right thing is more important and will eventually take care of other factors like money. ” says Arvind.
The duo opens a new centre only when they know that they have the right team for it. They have their sights on Anna Nagar and North Madras, but they are in no rush to get there without the right team. “We’ve never wanted to grow too big that it dilutes the quality of the experience we provide. Scale without quality of service does not excite us,” says he. The company’s mission is to try to reach more and more people with verified information and knowledge, which they try to do through their website and social media. “We want to promote fitness and nutrition in a non-judgemental way as much as possible,” says Arvind, as we wrap up the afternoon.
What’s your workout schedule like?
I am training for a StrongFirst certificate (an advanced kettle bell certification) and so my workouts and training plan is built around that. I am also working on my weakness, which is the deadlift. I am trying to get my deadlift to 2.5 times my body weight.
What should one look for before starting strength training?
Get information from the right source, and train with a qualified coach. There are a few people who are undisputed thought leaders in the strength and conditioning segment in the world today – Mike Boyle, Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline, Marty Gallagher to name a few. Be inspired by people doing quality work, and not just the ones who make the most noise.
Also, follow and stick to a plan. Strength training allows you to do more, and be more. You will be able to run faster, build more muscle and lift more weights and become a stronger version of yourself, which is great for the long run in terms of health
How do you know you are setting right goal?
That’s the hardest thing. Fat loss is definitely the most common goal we see. Regardless of what your goal is, ensure that you have a short term goal and a long term end goal. Breaking it down that way always helps. For example, one of the simplest ways to eat cleaner is to get rid of all the junk in your house. Willpower is finite. Don’t make it hard on yourself!
Five ways to change one’s lifestyle for a fitter and healthier life:
- Sleep 7 to 9 hours and sleep in a dark room. Put your phone outside the room. No electronics in the bedroom.
- Eat real More vegetables and protein. None of that processed junk!
- If you want fat loss, whatever you are bad at is your best workout. It is all about inefficient exercise.
- The older you get, more muscles you need. So work on strength and hypertrophy.
- Take vacations. We take a break from training every 3 months. The idea is to start a training plan, nice and easy, ramp up the intensity, then give the body the break it needs. That’s one of the founding principles of The Quad’s BootCamp.