History has been scripted yet again in Indian sports with Neeraj Chopra clinching a silver medal at the World Championships. The Olympic medallist who had ignited a passion for glory in several hearts last year by winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics is again back in the limelight. But his struggle was hard with a challenging fitness regime.
Chopra secured the 2nd position by reaching 88.13 meters on his 4th attempt in the men’s Javelin finals. Competing in Oregon, he became the 2nd Indian and 1st male track and field athlete to win a medal at the World Championships. He is second only to legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George who won bronze at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.
Getting Back In Shape
Chopra’s amazing performance is owing to a rigorous workout routine and discipline that he followed over the past months. After the Tokyo debut, he gained around 13-14 kgs. He started getting back to form in December when he trained in California with his coach Klaus Bartonietz and physiotherapist Ishaan Marwaha, who works at the Inspire Institute of Sport.
According to Marwaha, the primary goals were to lose weight and simultaneously improve flexibility and strengthen joints. In the plan of dietician Mihira Khopkar, sugar was struck off from the diet. Carbohydrates were reduced to potatoes, and protein was pushed up in the form of chicken, salmon, salad, and eggs.
As an athlete, Chopra needed to correct his body fat percentage. Accordingly, he brought it down from 16% in December to 10% presently. Marwaha said the initial steps were tougher than expected. “He has not been 97 kgs since the time I have been with him. It was tough for him to start running long distances initially. Then we kept on increasing the distances of his runs up to 5K.”
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In around 2 weeks, Chopra had shed 2 kgs, and soon the weight-training and protein-rich diet shaped up his body further. Then Chopra began to do the Tabata circuit, an app-aided routine that involves an abdomen and core workouts.
It is a 20-second intensive exercise followed by 10-15 seconds of rest, going up to 10 exercises per circuit. Chopra did 3 circuits and sometimes pushed himself to do 30 seconds of workout and 20 seconds of rest.
In the weight training, Chopra focused on the cardiovascular part and overall general strength. Marwaha says, “There were squats, snatch, weighted lunges, and a time circuit. We made nine stations. Twenty seconds on one station and then you move to the next station.”
Marwaha compares the body with a bow, borrowing an analogy from Coach Bartonietz, and stressed how all parts of a bow should work optimally. He explains, “If one part of the bow is not working well, like if the hip flexors (muscles) are tight, then the bow is broken at that part.”
Having been inspired by Jan Zelezny, a javelin thrower with a world record of 98.48 meters, Chopra worked on his ankle strength and hip mobility, vital to develop a strong block (with the leading leg just before the release).
Also, while on the runway, the main build-up of energy comes from the legs. “In javelin throw 60 percent is in the legs, only 40 percent is the upper body. If your legs are not moving well, they are not fast and they are not blocking well, no matter how much strength you have in your upper body, it won’t help.”
Adequate rest is essential for an athlete after high-intensity workout sessions. Many ways of recovering one’s energy were used by Chopra. Deep tissue release means going deep into the muscle and opening a nerve. An ice bath follows after a heavy session and helps in healing micro-injuries in the muscles.
But Marwaha claims that all other recovery methods are in vain if Chopra does not get good sleep. “Optimal sleep above all. About eight to 10 hours is required. He has understood that no matter how many recovery options we choose, sleep is the top most.”
Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked
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