An interview with AIPT alumnus, Deepak Raj
Meet Deepak Raj – recently hailed as “the man who brought IRONMAN to India” and a former AIPT student who has finished 20 IRONMAN Triathlons, coached 500+ athletes globally and 100+ IRONMAN finishers.
In conversation with AIPT Content Executive, Pooja Parab, Deepak shares his journey as an ex-techie who lost 30 kilos running, swimming and cycling his way to IRONMAN Triathlon to coaching triathletes and starting a fit-tech company.
Can you tell us your story - about your career before you decided to enter IRONMAN?
I worked in the Corporate sector and spent 14 years in the IT Industry working for Infosys in various Sales and Business Development roles. During this time, I had ended up being overweight due to bad lifestyle choices and decided to take up running to lose weight and get fit. I found that I really loved it and after running for a few years, I wanted to take up a new challenge and decided to take on the IRONMAN Triathlon. I got hooked to the sport after my first IRONMAN triathlon and pursued it over the years as I got more and more passionate about it. Mid-2013, I decided to quit corporate and start my own venture for Triathlon Coaching with a vision to develop the sport in India.
Competing in 20 IRONMAN races to bringing the competition to India – any challenges you faced along the way?
IRONMAN is an established global brand with races all over the world but we, at Yoska understood the challenges in India. They were primarily infrastructural – we needed to ensure that the chosen city and location ticked all the boxes for factors such as safe and clean water body (lake, sea, etc.) for the triathlon swims, good roads connected to the water body and ability to have them closed down for the race, local government support, good airport connectivity to the race location, accommodation for the participants and supporters and a place that is a good tourist location to draw the participants in, as IRONMAN is a destination sport. While some cities in India ticked few boxes for these factors, it failed for the others. So the main challenge was to find the city and location which meets all factors and that took a long time. Goa, in the end was chosen for its key operational, logistics and hospitality aspects.
What made you choose to become a Personal trainer?
I had personally gone through a lifestyle transformation many years back having dropped my weight from 95 kilos to 65 kilos. That process involved changing my lifestyle and eating habits in addition to training. I did face a challenge to curtail my usual eating habits consistently and also maintain my fitness workout regime consistently. Like most folks, I ended up losing and gaining weight a few times before I settled in to a steady regime. For the last 10 years, I have been at 65 kilos, thanks to triathlon and a focus on eating right. This entire process always fuelled me to see if I could inspire and motivate people to improve their health and fitness. So in mid-2013, I decided to pursue my passion for coaching and I quit my corporate career to take up personal training. I wanted to help people make lifestyle changes so that they can get healthy and fit. Personal trainer certification was one of the key areas to round up my knowledge and work towards setting up my online triathlon coaching set up.
Would you like to tell us about your study journey with AIPT? Ups and downs, challenges?
It was 14 years since I got out of college for my Bachelor of Engineering Degree. So the amount of detailed theory around the certification in some sections, especially on the physiology (which I expected but did have to spend extra focus and effort) was the challenge. The format of the classes and practicals in the gym kept the entire course very interesting. It gave me a very good perspective of running your business as I was also starting up my new business venture.
What does your fitness routine consist of?
5 swims per week , 3 runs a week, 3 to 4 cycle workouts a week along with a 3 to 4 core and strength conditioning workouts a week. The swim/cycle/run workouts are diverse with endurance, tempo, intervals and recovery. This is most of the year except for a a couple of blocks in a year with a few weeks of offseason and recovery time where the volume drops a bit.
Any workout tips for our readers?
Key is to have a clear and realistic goal, then work a structured plan and take guidance as needed. Stay consistent and progress gradually to avoid injury. If you are trying to lose weight, be patient. For example, you did not gain 5 kilos overnight and so do not try to lose it in a short time. Do not forget to take care of your diet and nutrition. Working out is not a license to eat what you want.
Body transformation is trending at the moment. Thoughts?
There are quite a few misconceptions around diet and weight loss. Losing weight is about 60% eating right 40% working out. It’s not about eating less but being consistent and eating healthy. All of us know what works for us and what doesn’t. Seek support when you need it - from support groups, family, friends or Personal Trainers and try not to fall off the wagon when things get tough.