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    From visualisation techniques to workout regimes, world-class athletes and trainers tell us how they transcend mundane routines to achieve success both on and off the field. 

    THE human body is capable of amazing physical deeds. Any highlight reel from past editions of the Olympics is proof enough of a toptier contestant’s seemingly superhuman spirit. But you don’t need extraordinary physiological gifts (think Michael Phelps’ double-jointed size-14 feet) to become a good athlete. Bob Bowman—one of the most successful coaches in Olympic history— believes that the common man can imbibe the athletic spirit by dreaming big, developing the right attitude, setting goals and taking calculated risks, to prosper in life. In fact, intelligent training, strict dietary plans, a strong positive mindset and a good coach, will assist anyone to get one step closer to the finish line. “Entrepreneurs adhering to an athlete’s daily disciplined routine of rising early and challenging their physical limits can also benefit from this lifestyle. They tend to develop strong work ethics, better time management skills and can function well independently or in a team,” explains Dr Mini Rao, a Chennai-based psychologist, who cites transcendental meditation, regular rehabilitative massages and strong emotional ties with loved ones, as the best ways to cope with the immense psychological strain of brutal competition. Vasudevan Baskaran, who captained the Indian hockey team which won gold at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, claims that the best time to start training is at the age of 10. “It’s when children should be allowed to develop an inkling for a sport of their choice and slowly hone their skills (with the help of supportive parents). Engaging in sports will also help children gain confidence, develop leadership skills and build their concentration and focus (which helps academically). Therefore, playing sports enables them to embody the Olympic spirit, both on and off the field. Starting young (like Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci) will also improve their speed, strength, mental toughness and endurance,” shares Baskaran. We speak to top trainers, coaches and athletes to find out what it takes to think and train like a worldclass athlete.

    Olympians

    Table manners 1
    Commonwealth gold medal winner and table tennis star, Sharath Kamal, stresses that when it comes to routine practice, it’s not about the hours you put in, it’s the years. “My advice to aspiring athletes is simple. Concentrate on physical training regimes that don’t wear you off, prior to big events. Also, remain positive and remember that all losses lead to a bigger win. I believe, it’s all in the mind,” explains Kamal, who is ranked 69 in the world by the International Table Tennis Federation. Prior to his 2016 Rio Olympics appearance, 34-year-old Kamal is following a strict carb-heavy pre-workout diet, which includes bananas, bread and cereals and a high protein post-workout diet, with easily digestible proteins like milk and egg whites. Details: twitter.com/sharathkamal

    Matter of faith 6
    Mohammed Anas is probably one of the most celebrated athletes in the Indian Olympic contingent. Selected for the men’s 400 metres, this 23-year-old is the third Indian athlete (after legends like Milkha Singh and KM Binu) to achieve this feat. “I follow a two-hour workout (cardio, stamina and lactate threshold training) in the mornings and evenings in the days leading up to the Olympics. Unlike many others, I don’t follow any special diet–I just consume homemade rice and curries,” says Anas, who broke the 400-metre national record before securing a berth in Rio. Hailing from a humble background in Nilamel (Kollam), Anas states that he’s worked hard and is leaving it up to God’s will. “Whenever I fail or feel down, I pray to God to give me the strength. I believe he will help me during this crucial event,” says Anas, signing off. Details:facebook.com/anas.exa

    TRAINERS

    The big splash 3
    Fitness writer, Deanne Panday, an advocate of holistic nutrition, claims that the world class athlete’s diet is changing. In fact, she explains that many Olympians (including renowned MMA fighter and 2008 Olympic judo medalist Rounda Rousey) are turning vegan or vegetarian! “Go clean and pure. Grab a heavy breakfast, lunch, light dinner and few mid-day snacks with all-colour veggies and fruits, walnuts, pasta, rice and lots of greens,” shares Panday, who trains Bipasha Basu and Lara Dutta. If swimming is your forte, she explains that a great coach (think luminaries like Nihar Ameen or Pradeep Kumar) is essential to catch-up with the big fish. Water resistant sunblock (like Kiehl’s superfluid SPF 50+) and moisturiser (think Kiehl’s ultra oil-free lotion) are highly recommended by the trainer, for proper skin care, due to the long hours spent training in the pool. Details: twitter.com/deannepanday

    For swimmers
    Caloric intake: 3,000 to 8,000 calories daily
    Basic workout pattern: Cross fit, pilates, tabata), yoga, specifically pranayama
    Training patterns: Two intense sessions (early morning and noon) of 45-90 minutes
    Sleep: 7-8 hours

    Conquering the mind 4
    Mumbai-based, Satyajit Chaurasia, a fitness expert for stars like Hrithik Roshan and sportsmen like Sachin Tendulkar believes in the power of visualisation. “Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain is a book I recommend to anyone who dreams of becoming a track and field Olympian (as they will have to deal with thoughts of imminent failure and an immense amount of stress at the world class level). It teaches meditation and breathing techniques which enables deep relaxation (post-workout), improves self-esteem via mental imagery and positive reaffirmation,” explains Chaurasia, adding that, what differentiates a good athlete from a great one, is the acceptance of failure and pain as teachers. Details:barbrianpowergym.tv

    For track and field athletes
    Caloric intake: 3,000 to 7,000 calories intake (low sugar, low oil, sprouts, tofu, salmon, egg whites)
    Basic workout pattern: Free squats, monkey jumps, walking lunges, duck walks, leg curls, seated calf raises
    Training times: Early morning for 120 minutes
    Sleep: 8-10 hours

    Adapting to the grind 2
    Weightlifting is an unforgiving sport. It takes years of gruelling daily practice to attain near-perfect form for an event which lasts only a few seconds. If training like a world-class weightlifter is on your mind, then finding a Russian coach is paramount, stresses Rahul Bhatt. But pay heed to the old adage — the world’s best players make for the world’s worst coaches. The Mumbai-based fitness enthusiast—who’s trained actors including Richa Chadda and Aamir Khan—states that the Russians (think legendary coach R A Roman) have perfected the Eastern European bloc training method, which highlights the science of strength training, advanced ergogenics and mental fortitude. “Weightlifters should also use the right performance enhancers like the International Olympic Committee approved creatine monohydrate,” explains the 33-year-old. To acclimate mentally—with the challenging three-hour daily workout routine—Bhatt suggests deadlifting while blindfolded to improve concentration, postural understanding and kinesthetic awareness. Details: rahulbhatt.net

    Coaches

    8The right mentor
    The one thing that Coimbatore-based hockey player Adam Sinclair would want you to keep in mind is the importance of the off-season. “Off season is the key as that’s when you can strengthen your body and get all the muscles back to proper shape. Do intensive training only when necessary, and keep your training schedule organised. My personal opinion would be to train thrice a week and give your body good rest on the remaining four days,” shares Sinclair, who represented the country at the 2004 Athens Olympics. For those currently training, the 32-year-old recommends early mornings (think 5 am-7am) as the best time to train. Currently an entrepreneur, Sinclair admits that he gets offers from institutions and organisations where he visits, to coach students. “Choosing a coach is very important. Someone who has a personal attachment to his trainee would be a big motivation for kids who start off early. Also, the right place to train with good infrastructure is very important because it’s the little things that make a big difference in the long run,” he signs off. Details: facebook.com/Adam.Sinclair24

    Starting young 5
    If you’re a sprinter aspiring to become the next Usain Bolt, coach Mohammed Nizammudin warns that it takes at least 12-14 years to make a mark. Having mentored athletes like Jasbir Singh—who stood fourth in the long jump category at the 2012 Olympics—Nizammudin knows what it takes to win on the big stage. He currently trains track and field athletes at the Achievers Athletic Academy (Tamil Nadu). “Ideally, a disciplined athlete who started training just before puberty strikes will peak by the age of 24-26,” shares the 48-year-old, who has represented the country in around 17 international tournaments, including the SAFF games and Asian Championships. Details: twitter.com/AchieversAAA

    7Centre of attention
    Half the work is done when the right training centre is chosen. CK Sankar—the biomechanic analyst for the 2012 London Olympics national hockey squad who gauged the errors in a player’s movement and gave them tips on how to correct them—strongly adheres to that principle. Certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and American Council of Exercise (ACE), Sankar currently trains students in sports like football and badminton at D-Camp (Coimbatore). “The infrastructure should meet Olympic gaming standards. Things like flooring material and sporting material have to be focused on while selecting a training centre,” says Sankar. Taking a cue from the increasing demand for healthy food, Sankar recommends the need for a qualified sports nutritionist. “He/she can formulate a customised diet plan for an individual sport and season, which will benefit in the long run,” he concludes. Details: 9047765522

    By Anoop Menon with inputs from P Peter & Karan Pillai

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