Smooth rides aren't without their fair share of crashes and Somdev Devvarman, India's ace tennis star, learned this the hard way. In 2011, a 26-year-old Devvarman made it to the top 100 ATP rankings, but a recurring shoulder injury didn't just sideline his promising future, but also shoved him to No 664 in no time. Determined to bounce back stronger and better, Devvarman made some tough plans. "The biggest hurdle of my career was the injury, which helped me get perspective on life, on how much I enjoyed tennis, and what it meant to be a professional athlete and get myself back in the race," he says. He stepped up his workout and diet schedules and in six months was back on the court. In 2012, he also reached the 90th spot on the ATP rankings. The ups and downs in his life have been as thrilling as the five set games he plays. Over to him for some straight talk on holding his ground in the toughest of times.
Fitness is a combination of eating healthy, sleeping well and working out daily. A lot of your fitness can come from sports-football, basketball or tennis- or just by being active, which in turn brings out the competitive side in you. Unfortunately, people spend a lot of time in the gym these days, which isn't bad but they need to be out and about and generally more active in their day-to-day life. Running is a little underrated. Though it can get monotonous, given its benefits (strengthening the legs and helping the lungs), it's totally worth the effort. Another underrated thing is good sleep (I am huge advocate of this and I make sure to get my undisturbed eight hours). Good sleep makes you more energetic and productive.
On keeping fit on the go
On the brighter side, most my days are spent juggling between tennis tournaments, so that makes it easy to go for a run or go to the gym. If you are traveling, ensure that you at least carry your running shoes. You can take off for a run whenever you 30mins to spare.
On the six-pack obsession
There's a lot more to fitness than just a six-pack. Often men concentrate only on building their upper bodies and don't do any substantial workouts to strengthen their legs; a good balance is what's ideal. People just want to focus on six-packs; instead they should just concentrate on how they feel about themselves when they work out. This will be a lot more beneficial for their health.
On the biggest fitness challenge faced by Indian men
It's the Indian diet. Indian food, as tasty and as good as it is, is calorie-rich and doesn't really help when you are on any particluar workout routine. The trick lies in choosing wisely since not all Indian foods are unhealthy.
On the right fuel
A while ago, I wasn't too particular but with the age metre tilting upwards (I turned 30 this year), I need to be aware of what I eat. It's fine to indulge in larger portions occasionally, but eating healthy should be your priority. Stick to the basic rice, dal, chapatti-foods that are home- cooked and not soaked in oil. I recently lost eight kilos and didn't really eat any less. I just worked out a lot more and ate at the right time, which made a substantial difference. Being a vegetarian also helps but that can pose challenges when you live abroad where there are lesser options.
On dealing with competition
Competition is highly underrated. In India, all of us are literally kicked into being competitive from an early age, be it an exam or just a sport, although academic competition has always been bigger. I remember back in the day, people making a big deal about what rank their kids got even in the second grade. As an individual, I am a huge fan of competition. It truly reveals character, as well as build it. Competitions usually bring out a winner and a loser; to be able to deal with it and not just get stuck on the winning part has the potential to teach one a lot and help one in progressing further.
On dealing with failure
Of course it's not easy (I'd be lying if I say that it doesn't affect me) and any individual who is competitive doesn't enjoy losing. Although, it's a fine line, it's imperative to maintain a balance. You end up learning a lot more from your losses than your wins. Putting things aside, if you have a way to be objective, at the end of the day or after a match or any competitive situation, you will find a way to move forward.
On keeping upbeat with fashion
Working out regularly does wonders for your appearance. Being fit adds to your confidence levels and helps you carry yourself better. Having said that, it's also essential to be simple and not follow trends blindly. Include timeless, classy pieces in your wardrobe that you can wear for a long time. Always have a polo shirt handy; it can see you through most occasions.
It's highly essential to be clean and also look well put together. Pay attention to personal hygiene. If your clothes look good but your body emanates foul odour, you won't make many friends. Having mastered the first step, you can move to experimenting with your look. I've recently cut a lot of my hair; till a couple of years ago, I had shoulder- length hair. It's good to experiment, but don't go overboard with it.
Master your footwork
Here's how you can slam faster and achieve the best footwork on court
Stand on your right foot with your left foot behind your right ankle. Bend your right knee and jump to the left, reaching toward the floor with your right hand. Land on your left foot and bring your right foot behind your left ankle. Jump back to the right, landing on your right foot as you reach toward the floor with your left hand. Do three sets of 10, resting 30 seconds in between.
To slam faster through obstacles on the court, training with ladder drills does the trick. Create your own warm-up by marking off four to eight consecutive 18-inch squares and doing moves that mimic the activity you're about to perform. Hop through as fast as you can for 20 seconds, going forward and backward. Then mix it up: left leg only, right leg only, sideways, high knees. Do 10 sets with 20 seconds' rest after each.
Increase your speed
To attain lightning-fast footwork on the court, grab a partner and arrange six numbered cones in a 6-foot circle. Then, stand in the centre. As your partner calls out numbers, sidestep to the corresponding cone and then race back to the center. The catch: At any point, your partner can throw a 5kg medicine ball to you. Twist and squat to the side of your body where you catch it. Complete three 20-second intervals.