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The fitness mantra

Indian athletes are hitting the gym and staying on strict diets to improve their game at the highest international level. Patriot breaks down this recent trend

Recently, Anand Mahindra in his Twitter page shared a video that showed World Badminton champion PV Sindhu working out in the gym. The world champion shuttler was busy doing insane workout regimes, including running exercises, sit ups, squats, hurdle jumps — even going to an extent of tying herself up to a machine by the waist and doing dummy court runs.

The video sent social media on a frenzy, as everyone shared it, and it became a rage within no time at all, with over a million shares. But this is not a one off when the badminton star has trained with such aggression.

Sindhu starts her daily workout at 3.30 am in the morning and does her fitness exercises for the day, for more than three hours, and then again works out for three to four hours in the evening. This is, in addition to the amount of work she puts behind her badminton practice sessions. She does this six days of the week. She also maintains a healthy diet, and coupled with intense abdominal exercises, she keeps her core strength in the best shape possible, something which is required during her intense matches in the court.

The level of fitness she maintains throughout the year, certainly propelled her to become one of the best in the world, and now she was just crowned as the World Champion.

It is not only PV Sindhu who has raised the level of fitness in Indian sports. The biggest example of how being fit has now become something of prime importance in Indian sports is the current captain of the Indian cricket team, Virat Kohli.

A plump youngster during his initial days in cricket, Virat rose the ranks through his sheer talent, but in an interview he admitted that being talented just wasn’t enough to maintain consistency at the international level. He then started doing intense workouts, hitting the gym and maintaining a completely carbohydrate free diet.

In a chat, he mentioned that for the past six years, he hasn’t touched any fast food, including his favourite chole Bhature and butter chicken. In fact, he hasn’t even had a meal with rice or roti for the past two years. Even the water he drinks is fat-free and specially packaged for him from Belgium.

This diet is coupled with his intense workout regimes, which includes more than six hours at the gym every day, including lifting heavyweights, sometimes even deadlifting 60 kgs of weight. A glimpse at his Instagram profile and you see the insane amount of hard work he puts into the gym, and the effect is visible on his well-built physique. His six-packs can even put supermodels to shame.

And Kohli, after being the captain has imbibed this whole mantra of fitness in the system of Indian cricket. Now to get a place in the team one has to pass the Yo-yo test , something which the likes of Yuvraj Singh failed. The test examines how fit you are by making you do various exercise within a short span of time.

India had brought in a strength and conditioning coach in their support staff – Shankar Basu — who stayed with the team for a long time and made sea changes in the fitness of the squad. The diets of all the players are now fixed according to the captain and the trainer, and everyone’s endurance levels have risen since. India, who never was traditionally a good fielding side, is now considered one of the best sides in the world in the fielding department – with players now diving for catches and acing acrobatic stops in the field.

Fast bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami who have always had injury troubles throughout their career are now bowling log spells in test matches, with minimum fatigue kicking in.

Captain Kohli some time ago posted a picture of Instagram of the whole Indian team after a swimming pool session, and everybody in the picture was ripped and muscular, with six-pack abs.

In a recent event at FICCI, former captain Kapil Dev, when asked about the difference in the fitness regimes of their times and now, said that there is a sea change in the team. “Earlier during lunch breaks in Test matches, we used to happily eat our rice, mutton and biryani, and at tea we used to have a selection of cakes and pakoras,” he said. But now, he says, players eat boiled chicken, vegetables and fruits during their lunch and tea breaks.

He also agreed that back in his time, it was not important to go to the gym or maintain a diet. “The only exercise we did was running three-four rounds of the ground,” he reiterated. He agreed that this change in the fitness regime has helped India a lot.

Kohli and Sindhu aside, someone like Sania Mirza — who recently gave birth — too has worked out intensely to lose around 20 kgs to make a return to the professional tennis court. In her pictures she shared on social media, it shows how  rigorous exercise, gymming and a proper diet led the tennis star, to be back in shape from 89 kgs to 69 kgs in a matter of months.

“Fitness is an important aspect of sport, and with natural talent, you need to stay at your optimum fitness to achieve a huge level of success at the highest international level,” says former India international volleyball player Neeti Rawat. “And with more and more focus on fitness, India is bound to succeed in sports in the future,” she concludes.