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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.

travel Updated: Dec 06, 2009 18:32 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."

Vijender says
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.

Body balance

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.

Push ups
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.

Abdominal crunch
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./