The asli action star of showtown, Suniel Shetty, is now mentoring the participants of the reality show India’s Asli Champion… Hai Dum on &TV. The contestants are tested for their physical and mental endurance. And with a guru as driven as Suniel, it’s an invigorating experience for them.
Following PM Narendra Modi’s Swacch Bharat Campaign, the actor has also initiated a Swasth Bharat campaign as an extension to India’s Asli Champion. “Swacchata and swasthata are interlinked,” he maintains pointing to the harmony between cleanliness and health. Suniel’s tryst with fitness began long ago… right when he was in school, which explains why he enjoys such a lean mean form even at the age of 55. In his own words…
MY FIRST INSPIRATION
As a child, my parents always encouraged sports. I was the captain of the various sports teams in school. But the turning point came when I met West Indian cricketer, Sir Vivian Richards, at the Taj hotel. I was 14 while he must have been around 22. I asked him for an autograph and while doing so he shook my hand. I was awestruck by the grip. “You’re so strong and tough. How do you have such strong forearms and arms?” I asked. He replied, “I weight train so I can hit the ball harder.” That stuck in my mind. I enjoyed playing cricket and I wanted to do the same. I couldn’t afford going to the gym, so I started doing pull-ups, push-ups, Surya namskar, dand baithak… and other forms of yoga. I also began training in martial arts and doing freehand exercises.
Through my years as an actor, I’ve always followed a healthy lifestyle. Results are not attained in a day and hence I’ve been consistent over the years. I’ve never abused my body. But in the last three and a half years, I turned to yoga in a big way. My father (the late Veerappa Shetty) went through a lot health-wise. I was at home most of the time with him. I couldn’t help being stressed. I developed severe migraine. For this I was on medication, which harmed my body. Then someone suggested yoga and I took it on. I realised the benefits of pranayam (breath control). Yoga helped me get rid of my migrane. It also helped me retain my equilibrium through the trying period. It helped me stay calm and deal with a lot of things. I do an hour of yoga every morning.
I also include 45 minutes of weight training four times a week. I do lightweights but with a lot of repetitions. It keeps my body lean. I don’t need a bulky physique today. At my age, I won’t be able to carry it. Today, I feel more energetic than ever. I rest enough because it helps me restore my muscles. Most trainers today are only interested in urging you to try supplements as a shortcut. But every body has its own strength. We have to develop that strength, though the time taken to achieve that differs from person to person.
EAT RIGHT, FEEL LIGHT
I’m particular about my food habits. I have around six meals a day. My day begins with a litre of lukewarm water with lime. Then I practise yoga. Once done, I consume a glass of water again. Within half an hour I have my breakfast. It includes an omlette of four egg whites and sprouts with some greens. I don’t have bread at all. I’m intolerant of lactose. So my meals are lactose free. Lactose early in the morning creates reflux. Even having black coffee without first having water creates acidity. I also stay away from gluten. Quinoa is now grown in India in Rajasthan and some other places. So, I prefer having a quinoa chapati with my eggs. I avoid white food like rice, salt, sugar and milk. My mid-morning menu includes a plate of fruits – cherries, strawberries, pineapple, oranges… as fruit has vitamin C. My lunch includes organic brown rice, pure from the fields of Mangalore, along with some protein that is fish or chicken. I include one or two pulses and some green vegetables. I have a sweet tooth. So I have a plum, maybe just one and my craving for meetha is gone. Evening snacks could be popcorn, boiled soup or boiled vegetables. Dinner comprises soup, vegetables and fish. I have a glass of water half an hour before my meal, not after it because it hampers digestion. Also, drop carbohydrates after 5pm. And there will be no acidity or bloating.
I’ve never believed in having protein shakes, steroids or supplements. I believe in natural food. Like coconut water/coconut oil is said to have innumerable benefits. Turmeric is something our grandparents used as medicine. It has amazing antiseptic properties. But we sidelined it. We need to go back to our roots. Now the West is serving ‘golden milk’ or turmeric latte! The world has woken up to the goodness of Ayurveda.
Today’s actors do appear fit. But I don’t know whether it’s actual fitness or gym fitness. For me fitness is an ongoing effort. Like Amitabh Bachchan. His energy is unbelievable. He inspires me. Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar are also inspiring. Salman Khan too has a great body. Amongst the younger lot, Tiger (Shroff), Sooraj (Pancholi) and Sidharth (Malhotra) are truly fit.
Achieving a fit body for a film is okay. But people, who truly motivate you with their fitness levels, achieve it over a period of time. As they say, if you do it once then you’re a winner. But if you do it time and again then you’re a champion. I will be writing a book where
I shall share the knowledge I’ve gained through the years. My book will concentrate on wellness and not bodybuilding. It will be for people who don’t know from where to start. I believe that a healthy mind is essential for a healthy body. I’ve always valued relationships and people. Of course, a competitive spirit is present in everyone. But I’ve never been jealous of anyone’s success, nor have I been scared of failure. And my book will concentrate on the concept of physical and mental wellbeing.
Give physical training to children early – as early as age two.
Encourage kids to attend a gym or sports faculty.
Engage for at least 45 minutes of physical activity daily – be it yoga, cycling or even walking.