DSSC Secret Conversations: Zoe Modgill, the Queen of Fitness

So here’s the customary opening shocker: Zoe Collington Modgill was an overweight kid back in the day. Now if you know Zoe or have had the pleasure to work out with her, the last statement will marry your jaw with the floor three storeys down. Ripped, strong, dedicated and a visual treat – say hello to the founder of Studio 60, a boutique fitness studio taking the capital by storm.

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Picture Credit: Karishma Bedi

Born in a lovely English household, Zoe moved to India at the age of three and thankfully has stuck on since then. She studied at The British School and then increased her skill set in graphic designing from Central Saint Martins. She’s always loved sport and the team spirit embedded in sporting culture, she grew up playing netball and shooting hoops. She worked at Equis Advertising for a year where she spent the usual 10-12 hours hunched in front of a computer and soon realised something needed to change. She decided to give group fitness a go and before you know it, she was hooked.

She worked out at a leading city gym but the gruelling city traffic and distance meant hair-greying and BP-rising experiences in the car. She spotted an opening at Les Mills for an instructor and the rest, as they say, is history. Alongside her partner, Diya Kaul, Zoe kickstarted Studio 60 that broke even in a never-heard-before three months. They took baby steps in setting 60 up and now this full-time baby is celebrating its second anniversary in October.

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Picture Credit: Karishma Bedi

Over a masala chai (no sugar, only stevia), Zoe mentions that, traditionally there hasn’t been a fitness culture for women. “Indians love company, hence the concept of group fitness has hugely worked in the favour of Studio 60”. However, she feels the concept of fitness and nutrition is in its nascent stages in India. “Most people are still focussed on the exterior and not strengthening the core. Studio 60 focuses on the inside and the mind, and not just the outside.”

She’s committed to building a culture of fitness in the capital city and has successfully made a dent in the universe of sweat-grind-sweat. With not a sliver of make up on, this natural looker says “We all lead extremely busy lives in a city that’s always on the go. We yearn for the feel good factor to brighten these intense days. Studio 60 aims to embed fitness into busy lives in a quick and efficient manner. Exercise isn’t a temporary fix, but a long term commitment.”

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Picture Credit: Karishma Bedi

The studio is designed in a way that motivates you to push yourself and give your mind & body the attention it deserves. The studio is a clever utilization of space, colour and pulsating vibe. We went in for a trial PT session with Zoe and right from the parking (valet, they’ve thought through the end-to-end experience really well) to the efficient booking system, there’s little to dislike here. Other than our never-ending list of observations to their attention to detail, what we loved most was the personal relationship she invests in building with all her members. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s blessed with an amazing team – we couldn’t find one member in the studio that wasn’t singing praises of Naresh or Arik.

Having been a voracious meat eater, she’s now switched to being a pescetarian for the last six years. She says with a smile “It was a gradual decision. I love animals and couldn’t justify my eating habits any longer.” Being a huge foodie, she’s learnt how to adapt and flex her diet to suit her nutritional needs best. Ongoing constant fights with her cook, her menu planning is very goal oriented. Even though her associations with fitness started off with the quintessential goal of knocking off those pesky kilos, she’s progressed to bettering her skill and performance levels. She says, “There has been an organic and conscious change in habits, nothing feels forced at all.”

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Picture Credit: Karishma Bedi

DSSC is always surrounded by food – if not tasting it, then reviewing it; if not curating stellar food menus, then cooking it. Cherry on top? We work ridiculous hours and this small team cumulatively clocks in over 1,000 hours a week. We asked her how we could include fitness in our lives without it seeming like a chore. “You’ve got to view this journey as a fun challenge, rather than a punishment. View this as a new relationship about respecting your body and always balance out a disciplined week with a fun cheat day, because the mind will inevitably wander and cheat if you make things forbidden fruits. Look at this process as a lifelong commitment not a 100 day program.” Sounds simple, where do we start?

She advises us to tailor-make our diet and fitness regime to our environment, needs and goals. She says, “Get stronger everyday, don’t blindly follow diets and fitness regimes. Don’t cut out food items completely either. Listen to your body and set guidelines for yourself that aren’t punishing. Back your actions with science. Cut out the obvious, but within reason.”

She scribbled down the top tips for entrepreneurs like us to get started:

  • Drink 3-4 litres of water every day, staying hydrated is key
  • Despite urban myth, include fruits like mango (on it’s way out, so go for it!) to tank up on vitamins this fruit is rich in
  • Include a lot of green leafy veggies and yogurt in your diet
  • Now that the monsoons are on its way out, get back to having salads
  • Lessen your intake of heat-heavy food
  • Walk around for 2-3 minutes every hour, stretch that body like a rubberband especially your wrists, toes and neck.
  • Snack on nuts and not samosas
  • Try using a pilates ball as a chair at work, will straighten up your posture and work on your core #DoubleWhammy

She states that the absolute bare minimum movement your body deserves and needs is an intensive 60-minute workout three times/week. “Contrary to popular belief, your body will hurt more if you work out less. Be regular and relentless and you’ll see increased progress. It takes a minimum of 45 days to see any kind of change or habit forming, so find time in your hectic schedule and sweat sweat sweat baby! Get the blood flowing and whether you work out in the morning, afternoon or evening – it doesn’t matter, just get your arse up and get going.”

We ask her what her favourite workout is from the class schedule and she mentioned she is open to trying new things and is very experimental with fitness routines. She rarely dismisses them as new-age fad and is open to giving things a fair go. “Currently I’m training to build up my fitness levels (is that even possible, have you seen her work out?), short and high intensity workouts really interest me.”

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Picture Credit: Karsishma Bedi

Being a teetotaller, she loves the odd treat of diet coke. We’ve seen Zoe at weddings and dinner parties and it’s an art to master watching her pick and eat smartly. She’s strategic and mindful in her choices and opts for fish, paneer and dishes with lesser gravy. She works harder the next day in the gym and compensates for the dessert she indulges in and never ever skips (okay great, she’s human then).

Just when we start regretting our lunch of truffle fries and bowl of aglio-olio, she alleviates all self-deprecation by revealing that her comfort junk food is a mean Filet o Fish from McDonalds and a bar of dark chocolate (90% cocoa). So hang on, back up, holla holla. She looks like THAT after sneaking in a bad boy burger? Okay, where do we sign up?

This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation Series, where we get candid with the ace of base industry disrupters.