Sunil Chhetri: Fit Like A Champ

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Power and speed are a must for any football player. Get your local club’s fitness regime in place with some pro advice by football star Sunil Chhetri.

The rigours of modern-day football are demanding, to say the least, and only skill won’t really carry you for too long. At Bengaluru FC, we pride ourselves in being the fittest team in the League and the claim is backed by the hours we put in, getting strong and fast. The key elements we work on and that any footballer the world over needs are endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, coordination and balance.

STRENGTH, SPEED AND STAMINA

We hit the gym at least two times a week but you won’t find us doing the regular stuff. For instance, we’re mixing up the pace on the treadmill simply because we play at various intensities through the 90 minutes of football. At times we stroll and at times we need that burst of pace. So, it’s different cycles to make sure we’re ready for all situations during a game. For strength training, we focus a lot on power and speed. For us footballers, strength training is not about getting ripped. It’s more injury prevention than anything. The focus is on the core and major muscle groups. Training in the gym is not really your regular stuff; it’s a lot more explosive, just like the sport we play. Flexibility is also paramount for a footballer and our warm-ups include dynamic stretches while the cool-downs are all about static stretches.

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HYDRATION

I will never be able to stress enough about how important hydration is to an athlete. It’s key to keep drinking fluids during a game, with carbs that help with the muscles and electrolytes that help in retention of fluids taken in. The next best thing after water is coconut water and I cannot do without my daily dose of it. An integral part of recovery is post-match drinks that contain proteins, carbs and antioxidants. These shakes play a big part in starting your recovery process the moment you step off the pitch. You get a variety of flavours these days when it comes to protein shakes and trust me when I tell you they don’t taste bad at all!

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RECOVERY

Recovery is often ignored but it’s really important for being fit. When you’re putting your body through so much you’ve also got to help it heal. Flopping on the mattress after putting in the hard yards is not exactly my idea of recovery. Jumping into a swimming pool surely is. At the club, we recover in the pool the day after we’ve put in a double session, which includes time on the pitch and in the gym. But when I say time in the pool, I don’t mean floating around meaninglessly! We go through a few routines in the pool that help the muscles relax. Alternatively, we dunk ourselves into ice drums. The routine helps repair torn muscles while draining out the lactic acid. Once you are out of the tub the muscle tissues warm back up and the muscles recover faster. I’ve read that Cristiano Ronaldo has an ice room in his mansion where temperatures are as low as –160° Celsius and he spends 10 minutes a day there! 

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EATING RIGHT

When it comes to diet, I believe in something I read a few years ago—you are what you eat. It’s really easy to have multiple cheat days but it all shows when you step on the field. They say the things you do when no one’s watching is what makes you a champion and every bit of that is true.
It’s safe to say we’ve eaten the same breakfast every day for the last three seasons and while you may think this is a complaint, it is anything but. Brown bread, scrambled eggs, porridge, muesli, beans, fresh fruit juices and a bowl of cut fruits—this has pretty much been the routine with the menu. Lunches and dinners are usually high on protein and carbs. The need for carbs has been no secret but when you train with intensity, you need the right intake of proteins to repair the overworked muscles. That said, diet also depends on body types of different athletes. What works for one may not work for the other and it is vital to know what lets you function at your optimal level. It’s important as an athlete to know your body and how it reacts. You have got to get every aspect, diet included, right while you train.

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