Fitness, conditioning and eating healthy, these are probably the first things which come to a sportsperson’s mind when they think of training. Yet, in India, these things haven’t been as fully implemented – especially at the grassroots level – as they should be. In fact, even some semi-pro clubs plying their trade in the higher echelons of the MDFA still scoff when one mentions new-fangled diets, multifaceted training regimes and essential recovery exercises.
Most would point towards money as a factor – its lack thereof, mainly – when they see this. However, that is just a part of the problem. Another, is that we require a shift in mentality. A perspective change. Thankfully, senior sportspeople and professionals have realized the importance of certain training regimes and diets to prolong their short careers. Virat Kohli’s vegan diet and Sunil Chhetri’s focus on healthy food is the stuff of legend – and it shows in the latter’s performance when he continues to lead India from the front and continues to be Asia’s leading active international goalscorer.
Yet, its taken a long time for these things to be talked of in the mainline, let alone be implemented.
The focus on health training and conditioning for sportspeople in India when we are talking outside of cricket isn’t as it should be. In fact, despite the aforementioned examples, focus on diet isn’t as it should be when compared to other nations.
Arséne Wenger revolutionized English Football at the turn of the millennium by bringing in an increased focus on health, conditioning and diet. A player’s all-round development came to the fore. From monitoring their diet to keeping a track of their physical development patterns, to even checking on their mental health, everything was tracked. Then, the findings were used to create individualized diet charts and training regimes to ensure that a player was always at the optimum level of functioning during match-day. These techniques were used to maintain a balance of work and rest to prevent the wear and tear of the body. Each day was planned with precision so that recovery would be quick, and the player’s health and fitness was never compromised.
This ensured peak performance and helped the players squeeze out the last of their energy so that they could outlast their opponents and put out a final surge of energy in the last stage of matches. Later on, this was widely adopted, and today, we can see that the best teams have an active focus on fitness. Klopp’s Liverpool has been able to win games at the death because they were able to keep going while their opponent was running on fumes. After all, to play the German’s heavy-metal brand of football, you need to be in top shape.
Reports say that games of Chess can be physically as well as mentally exhausting, and athletes have been reported to lose weight over the course of a tournament. The wrung out faces of tennis players after a game is testament to their fitness levels. The same holds true for every sport out there.
To add to this, the latest in medicinal technology has also revolutionized sport. Doctors can now look at a player’s lumbar injury and isolate that the cause lies in a certain facial nerve. Thus, tech has entered the sporting-recovery space, and is now a key part of health, fitness and training exercises.
However, even two decades after its inception, these aspects of the sport have yet to be embraced wholeheartedly in India.
Our sportspeople are often unable to last in harsh, foreign conditions – cold, rainy days in Stoke, as the popular saying goes – and even in the subcontinent region, their performances often drop massively in the final third of games.
Indeed, an old study conducted upon one of India’s top footballers of the previous era led to fascinating and worrisome results. It read the player’s fitness levels to see how long they could last in the Premier League. The answer? A mere 20-30 minutes…on the higher side.
This is where training, conditioning and a focus on nutrition comes in.
A personalized training regime as per the player’s health, coupled with following the right eating habits, and a focussed post-training recovery schedule is essential if India’s sports enthusiasts are to make it to the next level – and win those vaunted Olympic medals.