Pack a punch
On the day he gets his Khel Ratna, boxer Vijender Singh urges you to strike a balance between pumping iron and staying athletic. Indraneel Das tells more.health and fitness Updated: Aug 29, 2009 18:00 IST
There is fascination and then there is obsession. In Vijender Singh’s case, he’s fascinated with his obsession.
The 24-year-old Olympic bronze medallist in boxing gets high on iron and, like nicotine, needs his daily fix. “I like to pump iron. I don’t know why, but I love it,” he says nonchalantly, while hauling a 100-pound barbell.
Don’t be taken in by the chocolate face, the rest of the man is ripped. Singh’s fitness regime, though interspersed with his own foibles and fancies, has been quite effective. He has successfully moulded weight training into his daily fitness regime and made running more entertaining than academic. The rest of the time, he keeps hopping and bobbing.
Watch that weight
“One must not overdo weight-training. You have to be meticulous and follow a plan made by a trainer. The idea is to gives muscles power and tone, not bulk,” says the pugilist.
His coach keeps record of what he needs to do and when. “Even after years of pumping iron, I never do it without guidance. Athletes need to be flexible, so I can’t get stiff with bulk. Even if you are working out in a gym, you have to keep in mind that power is more important,” he says.
Hop to skip
In the ring it’s not just about thundering punches and bulging biceps; movement and fleet-footedness count too. Singh’s sweet footwork — hallmark of a great boxer — is so elegantly chorused that his movement resembles a waltz.
“Maintaining a distance from which I can evade a lethal blow while being able to reach back is key,” says Singh, one of the greatest exponents of counter-punching in India. “Most knockouts are because of weak legs and imbalance not powerful blows. If your legs and neck cannot absorb the shock, you will fall.”
Singh loves skipping for it gives his legs speed and endurance. “It’s integral to a boxer’s training and essential for any fitness enthusiast. It’ll give strength to the legs to breeze through your daily chores and the improved footwork will make you a great dancer,” he laughs.
“If I keep count of the number of times I skip, then perhaps a quarter of my waking has been spent with the ropes. Another quarter has been devoted to shadow boxing.”
Personal likes don’t count
“I hate running, but I have to do it for the sport. I try to sing and think about the pleasant things in life while running,” he says. The boxer believes that no one can like all aspects of a training regime but sometimes the benefits outweigh individual distaste. “Running is the most effective way to start your exercise routine. It helps in cardio-vascular activities, endurance and is the only thing that one can be done anytime, anywhere.”
Psych yourself up
The saying goes: good boxers play chess, others play checkers. Singh believes that to out think his opponent he needs the mental equanimity that comes from reflection. “Timing is important. Meditation and yoga help. You need to soften up a boxer and if you don’t know when to land the killer blow, you miss an opportunity.”
Meditation has become a part of his life. “After training, I make it a point to meditate for at least half-an-hour,” he says. It also helps him shore up for the challenge of the ring. “You can’t be a champion if you think about getting hit,” he says with a grin.
Self-belief, he feels, is the key to sporting success. “I keep talking to myself, get myself psyched up and then step into the ring yelling ‘Come on!’ Once inside the ropes, the body transcends the sense of pain.”
Sleep to recover
“I love sleeping. Do you know you burn calories when you’re asleep?” he asks with a smile. “It’s the best way to recover; both body and mind get rest.”
The other essentials for him are ice baths and sauna. “Since we don’t have recovery experts, our physio looks after this. I love a good massage too.”
Staying fit past 60
We’re a couple aged 69 and 61 years. We started an exercise regimen 2 years ago after being diagnosed with stress-induced ischaemia (heart disease). We exercise six days a week and include 5 minutes of skipping and 5-10 minutes of jogging. Is it safe for us to skip and jog? I’ve read that this isn’t recommended for senior citizens. I had a knee ligament tear earlier but have since improved my flexibility. We want to be fit and independent.
It’s great that both of you are so active. Keep it up! The key to good health, no matter what age you are, is regular exercise. As for your knee ligament injury, if your current exercise routine isn’t aggravating it, then you can continue with that exercise. But if your knee swells up or hurts at any stage, seek medical attention.
Medical advice to most senior citizens would be to avoid running and skipping because of the jarring effects on the joints. However, proper advice can only be given on meeting you in person. Brisk walking is what most senior citizens are advised but if you have no aches or joint swelling during or after skipping or jogging, you can continue as long as you both are enjoying it.
I am a 50-year-old vegetarian man. I’ve been jogging for the past year and can jog 18 km in 3 hours. I want to increase my speed. Do I have to jog daily? What is difference between running and jogging?
For a 50-year-old, jogging three hours at a stretch is quite a feat, specially after just a year of practice. To increase you speed, you don’t have to run everyday. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Running daily and for long distances will slow you down. The following routine will help.
Monday: 90-minute run at medium intensity.
Tuesday: 45-minute run at a fairly high intensity.
Wednesday: 30-minute hill run. You can run up a hill and then walk down or just run hard on a hilly terrain.
Thursday: Rest day. Enjoy total rest or light cycling or leisurely walk.
Friday: 2-3 hour jog at a slow pace.
Saturday: 60 minute fartleck session (alternating between slow running for 5 minutes and fast running for 5 minutes for the entire run).
Sunday: Either rest day or the same as Monday.
Following this programme will make you stronger and faster so when you next tackle a longer run you will be quicker. Try this for six weeks and watch your progress. Thereafter you can change the programme around a bit. Never get bored, since your body senses it and becomes stale and then you just plod along and can’t increase speed.
Running and jogging, they are the same thing; the former a faster version of jogging. Being a vegetarian is no problem; just make sure you eat enough protein to keep muscle strength up. Enjoy being fit.
These queries were answered by Clinton Grobbelaar, managing director of Elite Athlete Performance.
Run: At least a 2-km run everyday (mostly to warm up). It’s the one thing you can do without needing a gym or any equipment.
Skip: For 30 minutes
everyday, if not an hour. It should be a part of everyone’s fitness regime as skipping a complete workout by itself.
Sit ups: I do 100-150 daily in sets of 25-30. Reduce the amount during days of intense activity – in my case when I have a bout scheduled.
Push ups: About 200 daily for me, depending on time available. For every fitness freak, I recommend push ups at least thrice a week.
Stable at the core
Building muscle minus the bedrock of a strong core is like making a house with a foundation of quicksand. The essence of a stability ball is the instability that a person using one introduces during workouts. Designed in the late 1960s to alleviate back pain, it offers a versatile range of exercises to strengthen core body muscles. Here we present five basic exercises. It is advisable to consult a physician for conditions that could be aggravated using a stability ball.
Lie face down, with your stomach on the ball and fingers and toes touching the floor. Try to maintain balance while shifting body weight from fingers to toes and back.
From the same starting position, slowly raise your right leg and left hand. Stretch them as high as possible before returning them to ground. Alternate with left leg and right hand. Repeat.
With the ball on the floor, place your stomach and pelvis on it with arms reaching the floor over it and feet grounded shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight, lower your chest towards the floor and push back. Repeat.
Lie prone with stomach over the ball and feet firmly on the floor. Bring your hands on the ball close to the top. With a squeeze on the ball press your body upwards until your elbows are extended, but not locked. Hold this position briefly. Lower yourself to your starting position.
Lie with back supported on the ball. With hands on your temple or crossed behind your head, raise your upper body by squeezing your abdominal muscles. Lift your shoulders and upper back simultaneously. Slowly lower to the start position. Repeat.
Lie with your back on the floor and legs resting on ball. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor into a bridge. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to start position. For added challenge, raise one leg a few inches off the ball. Repeat with other leg.
Lie on a ball with only your neck and shoulders in contact with it. Squeeze your glutes and abs to make a bridge with your body parallel to the floor. Put your feet flat on the floor and hip width apart. Hold for three seconds. Relax and repeat.
Place the ball behind you, touching your lower back and a wall. Lean back on the ball with feet shoulder width apart. Slowly bend knees and squat. As the ball rolls up your back, pause as the thighs get parallel to the floor. Slowly raise your back up. Repeat.
Perform shallow squats for an easier workout.
To make the squats harder, you can also hold dumbbells in each hand. A wider stance would involve more glutes in your workout.
What size for me?
Hips and knees should be bent at approximately 90° while sitting on a stability ball, which range from 45 cm to 85 cm in height (diameter).
Measure knee elevation from the ground and add 3 cm to factor in ball depression. The next bigger size than this measurement would be suitable size.
If knee to ground height is 45 cm
then add 3 cm (for depression) 48 cm
So the 55-cm ball is suitable
Safety and quality
A stability ball should last for several years. Avoid using them near sharp objects (tacks, pins, etc). Look for balls labelled anti-burst or burst-proof which generally are superior products.