How Aditya Shroff quit his 10-5 job to find his life purpose in fitness training
The former director of film distribution company Shringar Film, Aditya Shroff has shed his corporate suit to teach calisthenics, yoga and high-intensity drills, out of his car shed
There was a day in the life of Aditya Shroff when he didn't think he'd live to see another day. "I remember being depressed from the time I was 25 to 35," he says. The former director of Shringar Film, a film distribution company launched by his father Balkrishna Shroff in 1975, Shroff joined the family business soon after finishing his MBA from the University of Leeds in the UK. But, that world didn't agree with him.
"I had everything going for me in my life. Everything was [given to me] on a platter: the business was handed over to me, money was never an issue, but I was just hollow." Several things happened in those 10 years. "I was battling severe drug addiction. I had a broken marriage. I even started getting suicidal thoughts. No one knew of it. Then, in April 2014, I woke up one day, and I came out on this same table [where we are sitting] to my parents, and I said, 'It's a matter of life and death. I've only been getting thoughts about killing myself over the last few months, and I want to stop. I want to change everything about my life. I want to create a life in which I am happy; I want to sleep when I'm happy; I want to wake up with a smile, excited to live my day.'"
Shroff into multipurpose gyms
Shroff checked himself into rehab at Chiang Mai, Thailand, came out clean and embarked on a path of self-discovery. "I learned a lot about myself through that time. I got introduced to a lovely spiritual practice, which made me understand the larger picture in life. There's more to life than just chasing money. It's about working on your evolution.
How do you evolve as a human being: mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally? What are you doing every day to work on those four elements?" In the intervening four years, he has arrived at a philosophy he calls being a "humble warrior." It's a holistic way of looking at life, based on his interactions with spiritual healers, yoga teachers and other athletes. "People came into my life as messengers to show me different routes, which is what happens when you have a seeking heart. The universe - I believe in that - the universe sends you guides, who open new doors for you. Some have arrived as partners, as friends, as teachers, and they've just taken me higher and higher, whether it's physical exercise, meditation or chanting."
Shroff has turned his family home's garden and shed
Having turned his life around, he returned to Thailand to train for three months in Phuket in 2016. "There's one part of the island, which is like a training camp. It's a paradise for people who want to work out: yoga, high-intensity, CrossFit. You name it, they have it. So, I went there and came back really fit." So much so, that he was shortlisted as one of the contestants on the Netflix show Ultimate Beastmaster, an obstacle-course reality show based in the US. "I didn't fare well because it was completely out of my league. I saw the other 108 contestants, who were into disciplines like parkour, calisthenics, gymnastics, rock climbing. None of them would go to the gym and do CrossFit. That got me thinking. We look at fitness from a very superficial view, in terms of aesthetics, that we want to look good.
But, what is the point? When I went there, all those guys would do flips and jumps. I couldn't even walk on my hands, in spite of having a good body. That made me realise that it's not about the body, it's about what you can do with your body. I came back and said, 'Boss, this is complete bullsh*t. I need to change things around.'" So, for the second time in four years, Shroff started to fiddle with things.
He became a self-taught fitness instructor, with his expertise emanating from intense practice and self-awareness. "I have spent two or three years just peeling off each and every layer of my ego. Yoga helped me switch from CrossFit and heavy weights. But, I've understood that my body needs a mix of things. In the training [I offer], I've got yoga, calisthenics, movement, functional training and high-intensity training. I've taken a little bit of everything and created my own path for myself and for my students."
While continuing to attend office from 10-5 on days they need him (say, at the time of a big film release), Shroff also offers morning and evening sessions three times a week: one class of yoga, for strength and flexibility; one of HIT: high-intensity interval training, with exercises such as rowing, skiing, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, short runs; and one focussed on either upper or lower body strength. On Tuesdays-Thursdays-Saturdays, his classes are held at Otters Club in Bandra (only for members), and on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, it's at his home, where he charges Rs 800 per session.
His family owns the building they live in and there was a disused shed. Shroff converted it into a gym with equipment such as an assault bike; SkiErg gear, which replicates the skiing motion; and a rowing machine. He tends to take them out into the garden, so his students can sweat it out in the open. One student, Rahul Godse, 43, founder of Three Pixels Over Media, says, "Aditya's sense of direction, of balance, of movement is really good. He's brought it together in one workout. My real goal is the handstand. Within two months of his training, I can do an elbow stand. So, I'm really pleased with the whole 'humble warrior' training programme. His programme is really bespoke. It's damn fun.
I mean, where in Mumbai do you get to do this?" Shroff says, "Most of my students are in the 35-plus age group, who are mature and understand that enough of the gym. Don't think you want to lose weight, think of when you are 70. You don't want to depend on people to move you from one place to the other. You don't want to be on a wheelchair. I want to live the way I'm living today at the age of 70. Walking on my hands, using all these equipment, doing crazy workouts and getting up in the morning and hanging upside down like a bat. I want to do that till the end of my life."
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