Meet Priyanka Chopra’s fitness trainer from Mary Kom who now runs her own fitness studio
National-level boxer Jeeth Sanghavi trained Priyanka Chopra for the Bollywood film Mary Kom. This opportunity led her to steer her career into the fitness industry and launch Boxx Era fitness studio in New Delhi in 2019.
National-level boxer Jeeth Sanghavi was in her early 20s when it came to her as a surprise that she was appointed as Priyanka Chopra’s trainer for the film on champion boxer and Olympic medalist Mary Kom.
She was training in the national boxing camp when the Indian chief coach suggested her name to train Priyanka for the film because she was more qualified than her peers.
“I had done my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education and a few certification courses, and I believe that’s why they selected me. They must have thought that I would be able to train her properly. I was practicing for an international tournament when this opportunity came my way at the same camp where Mary Kom had trained,” Jeeth tells HerStory. She trained Priyanka for a year and a half.
Jeeth says, this opportunity changed the course of her life. In 2019, she opened, her own fitness studio, in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area, and since then there has been no looking back.
Journey of being a boxer to a fitness trainer
From being an athlete growing up in Mumbai, where she was an international-level junior lawn tennis player, to taking up boxing in her teens, Jeeth was never really inclined to join the fitness industry until she got the opportunity to train Priyanka.
However, she was passionate about becoming a professional boxer and she gave it her all for nine years training in different state camps of Sports Authority of India. But Jeeth is of the belief that you need a godfather in sports.
“I come from a state that doesn’t have many professional boxers, so I used to be the only one from my state in the boxing camps. I have defeated several professional boxers we have in the country today, but due to sports politics, I couldn’t succeed despite doing everything in my capacity to excel in boxing,” Jeeth shares.
While fitness training wasn’t Jeeth’s forte or focus, after training Priyanka Chopra, she started to get many offers to train celebrities and become a celebrity fitness trainer. Jeeth accepted her destiny but wanted to come with real knowledge and expertise into fitness. So she went back to studying and completed a master’s degree in health and fitness from Edith Cowan University, Australia.
She learnt cross-fit training, pilates, and body transformation techniques to get a better perspective in fitness coaching and training. After returning, she joined Snap fitness chain of gyms as a fitness director in 2015, where she was responsible for bringing in a systemic evolution in fitness training.
“I wanted to help people become their fittest self and recover from illnesses on the ground. I didn’t want to remain a celebrity fitness trainer, but enable people to turn their lives around,” she says.
“In the past eight years, I have worked with a lot of people and there are doctors who send their patients to me when they lose hope. I had a client who was up for a kidney transplant, but since he was overweight, he wasn’t fit to go through the procedure. I worked with him to bring his weight down and then he could go for the transplant. So, these are the cases that I was more interested in when I decided to join the fitness industry,” shares Jeeth.
Leading the fitness industry despite gender biases
Jeeth’s journey in the fitness industry was also marred by gender discrimination and biases. When she joined, women were restricted to conducting Yoga and pilates, but her expertise was dominated by men. While she was hired as a fitness director, the male trainers under her weren’t happy about this executive decision. She was the first woman to be appointed as a fitness director and she was responsible for handling the management and changing the training strategies in all the gyms under Snap fitness chain.
“When I joined, the trainers didn’t accept me. They wouldn’t listen to me or take my suggestions. It was frustrating and it went to a level where the founders of the gym chain had to call for a meeting to establish my leadership. Once people started to see transformation and changes in how fitness was being done, they started to take me seriously,” Jeeth recalls.
She claims that beyond the gym she worked for, the surrounding gyms also inculcated the changes she was making and joined her in her journey.
How Boxx Era was launched?
After four years of leading a gym chain, Jeeth wanted to create a fitness studio on her own and that’s where Boxx Era came into the picture.
“In Mumbai, people knew me as Priyanka Chopra’s trainer despite all that I had done to break that image, so I decided that I will start Boxx Era in Delhi,” she says.
Jeeth runs several programmes at Boxx Era now, including cross-fit, boxing, sports-specific training, and a first-of-its-kind in India Transformation Clinic – a kind of "Dark Room Training '' and nutrition plans. The plans start from Rs 57,000 for three months and go up to Rs 20-25 lakh for a year, which are usually transformation programs.
“People come to us when they get disappointed after going to other gyms and fitness studios and they majorly come to us through word of mouth or doctor’s recommendations,” Jeeth notes.
She also started taking online sessions during the lockdown because she says that she got a lot of requests for virtual programs. “Covid-19 really hit the fitness industry badly as gyms and training studios couldn’t survive the loss, but for us, since we dealt with people who are dealing with physical issues and who saw a change in their health and fitness, we didn’t have to face a deeper brunt of the pandemic,” says Jeeth.
Finally, she adds that the online programmes are helping Boxx Era widen its reach pan-India and so she is focusing on that primarily.
Edited by Megha Reddy