W Rama Bishnoi, 49, realised that her son could be her fitness buddy when he was just six years old.
The marketing consultant was practising her backhand at a tennis court when she heard him mumbling to himself. It turned out he was in the middle of a game himself, an imaginary one with tennis star Andre Agassi. “Yesterday, I played against Pete Sampras,” Sooraj had solemnly said then.
Now an eager 16-year-old, Sooraj is his mother’s daily fitness partner, the mother and son bonding over everything from basketball and swimming to trekking and running, always finding new ways to keep their regimen interesting and help each other stay fit.
“I have always been a sports person,” said Rama. “Tennis was my favourite game, growing up. Sooraj and I have been playing together for 10 years now.”
To keep boredom and fatigue from setting in, Rama and Sooraj keep switching their games, going from tennis, where they started out, to basketball, swimming, cycling, table tennis, trekking and running. “Each week, we choose what we want to do. That way, exercising is never a chore,” said Rama.
On hot, lazy afternoons, the duo goes swimming; on rainy days they battle each other over a game of table tennis.
“Good health has now become a byproduct of our lifestyle,” said Rama.
“We play because we love the games, and therefore we also stay healthy.”
Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorany says this kind of partnership and the changing regimen help stay motivated and keep the interest in fitness alive. “Exercise is a great coping mechanism too,” she said. “And if you find an exercise partner that you enjoy spending time with, it can work like a kind of therapy.”
For Sooraj, it did sometimes work like therapy. During his Class 10 board exams in 2009, he fought stress by practising yoga with his mother. “Changing
the routine all the time makes everything fun,” he said. “I enjoy our workouts so much that I now get cranky if I don’t work out.”
Alongside the exercise, the mother and son have also made nutritious food a big part of their lives.
“No deep-fried food or colas at home— that’s our rule,” said Rama. She also nmakes sure every meal contains some curd, fruit and pulses.
“The more you exercise, the less you want to binge,” said Rama. “We’ve had chocolates lying in the fridge for months. Neither of us wants them.”
Lately, the mother-son duo’s fitness routine has also taken them exploring across the city.
Before the monsoon, for instance, every weekend was adventure time, with Rama and Sooraj planning either a trek to a nearby fort or a bicycle ride
to explore a chosen suburb.
“In Vile Parle, we found more dead ends than anywhere else,” said Sooraj, laughing. “And while riding through Worli village, we stumbled upon what
the locals call Suicide Spot, a cliff overlooking the seaface.”
5.30AM: After a glass of warm water and a banana each, Rama and Sooraj usually go for a quick jog.
6.30AM: They return to a healthy breakfast of two boiled eggs, a brown bread cheese sandwich and a glass of milk for Sooraj and a big bowl of fresh fruit or
papaya with cereal, oats or a hot roti for Rama.
Rama spends her late mornings playing tennis or attending a dance class. Sooraj takes a tennis class after school. On weekends, they book a court at a Khar
club where they are members and play together.
1PM: Lunch is roti, bhaji, dal, rice and salad, which Rama has at home and packs for Sooraj to take to school in the mornings.
4PM: On non-tennis days, Sooraj comes back from school to a swim with his mother at their club. They always keep nuts, figs and dates handy for lazy afternoon or late-night cravings.
To avoid a binge, they sometimes have a glass of milk. Sooraj loves chaat and dosa, so he sometimes makes these at home as an afternoon snack, since he
also loves to cook.
8PM: Dinner is light — usually soup, a sandwich and fruit. Occasionally, Sooraj tosses potatoes in olive oil and spices for a quick appetiser.
Weekends are for offbeat activities such as cycling trips, long runs or birdwatching and photography treks, as Sooraj is an avid birder and amateur photographer.