Bodybuilding champion and figure athlete share their fitness mantras

Oct 13, 2015, 14:00 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Figure athlete and blogger, Deepika Choudhury, and seven-time national bodybuilding champion, Sangram Chougule share their mantras of bodybuilding, discipline and self belief

  Deepika Choudhury: Breaking stereotypes

Getting into fitness and figure athletics: I began when I was 28 years. Before that, I had never dreamt of this. It was an accident. I was under lot of stress at home. My husband suggested that I should join the gym. But when I did that I could not understand what the trainer was asking me to do. I didn't like it. I wanted to learn about the exercises and then do it. So, I signed up for a personal trainer course and got hooked onto it. Next, I came across an event called Sheru Classic, where I met the famous athlete, Shannon Dey, who explained what bodybuilding is and its different divisions. When I watched international athletes for the first time I was sure that this is what I want to do.

International figure athlete Deepika Choudhury
International figure athlete Deepika Choudhury

Figure athlete hero: My first hero was Shannon Dey who has an amazing physique. When I began to understand the sport, I came across four-time Figure Miss Olympia Nicole Wilkins. I aspire to be like her.

Balancing family, work and fitness: I have competed four times (in the US), and I have won all four competitions. The balancing act happens gradually. You make mistakes, you have to beg your family to understand, and you need to make time for yourself. I wake up at 4 am and sleep by 11.30 pm. But I cannot call it a sacrifice because I love to do it. If you love what you do, you, you learn to balance your family, your job, and your sport, and all eventually falls into place.

International figure athlete Deepika Choudhury
International figure athlete Deepika Choudhury

Workout routine: I spend nearly three hours in the gym — an hour of cardio in the morning, and about an hour-and-a-half or two in the evening. My routine changes depending on off-season or in-season. (She prefers not to share it, as it might not work for others). Your training plan should be tailored according to your condition, your clinical issues, and your goals. However, fitness enthusiasts should focus on compound movements where you involve different body joints like dead lift, lunges, pull-ups, and even Olympic lifts. But these are technical, so, you have to learn them. The remaining time should be focused on isolation movements and triceps extensions. Cardio is crucial too. Maintain a balance between weight training, cardio and your diet to see results.

Other physical activities: Training is too demanding that you cannot get involved in anything else. However, when I find time, I like to go hiking with my family.

Advice for first timers: Be patient. Growth is time-dependent. Your idol, be it an national or international champion would have between 10-15 years doing this to create their current appearance. Don’t expect to look like them in a year or two. Be consistent and be honest with whatever you are doing. As for women athletes, they should understand that their bodies are different. Their physiology and the hormones are different. So, educate yourself as knowledge is power. Don’t play with your bodies. Have specific goals and go about it. Women need not gain 10 and 20 kgs because they need to increase their muscle mass. What happens in such cases is that excess of fat and less muscle is created because our hormones are designed in such a way. Gaining or losing the dynamics is different for women.

Indian women and fitness: Fitness is important irrespective of gender. Indian women are more under stress because they manage their job, their children and joint families. If they are not fit it’s going to affect their stamina. Forget about the body shape; irrespective of your body shape, you are beautiful. But you need to work on your fitness to gain stamina. Fitness is about endurance, and your muscular skeletal structure. Follow any activity that makes you happy. It will not only keep you fit, but also alive and refreshed,  and give you a break from your daily routine.

Discrimination against women figure athletes: There have been certain instances when I felt discrimination. But I am not a special case; it happens with all women who have stepped into a male-dominated field, be it fitness, film direction or sports. All of this makes one strong. Take it in a positive way, and as part of your learning curve.

A good trainer: Be it bodybuilding or having a good body composition, hire a trainer who is certified from a recognised academy. The person should be qualified and familiar with the exercises, clinical issues and how to tackle it. If you follow a sport, chose a trainer who has the required expertise in that particular field.

A word of caution: I would never hire a trainer who trains male bodybuilders, because he wouldn’t be familiar with how a figure athlete’s appearance. His advice can actually ruin my goal. Fortunately, I was blessed to find a well-qualified trainer.

What’s on Deepika’s plate?
I eat between 6-8 meals a day. I ensure I consume 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of my body weight. These sources come from egg, chicken and fish, Carbohydrates sources would be sweet potatoes or beans. Fat content would be from almonds, walnuts, olive oil or coconut oil. All of it is well measured, so it would add up to a 50:40 ratio. This depends on whether there is a show, and the season. But any normal person can follow the 6-8 meals mantra. The concept is if to provide your body the fuel you require to run it.

Sangram Chougule:  Seven and counting...

seven-time national champion body builder Sangram Chougule
Seven-time national champion body builder Sangram Chougule

Becoming a bodybuilder: I am an engineer by profession. I started bodybuilding professionally when I was 22. My father introduced me to it. He always wanted me to become a bodybuilder, and later even I was drawn towards it. So, since I took it up, I have been working towards getting better. It’s my dream to be a popular bodybuilder.

Fitness hero: Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m crazy about his movies. I have always followed his work as a child. I love how he focuses on different fields.

Seven-time  national bodybuilding champion, Sangram Chougule, flexes his muscles at the sixth World Body Building and Physique Sports Championship 2014 held at the Mumbai Exhibition Centre  in Goregaon (E). PIC/Ashish Rane
Seven-time national bodybuilding champion, Sangram Chougule, flexes his muscles at the sixth World Body Building and Physique Sports Championship 2014 held at the Mumbai Exhibition Centre in Goregaon (E). Pic/Ashish Rane

Workout routine: I travel a lot so my workout routine keeps changing and adapting according to it. During off-season, I need to bulk up on muscle; at such times, I work out for three hours. In season, I work out for about 4-5 hours. It’s a combination of strength and cardio combination to build muscle and to avoid fat. Consistency is the key. Bodybuilding mantra: The key, I feel, is restraint. Secondly, you need to monitor and control your diet closely. If you have restraint and focus, it’s possible to ease the complications.

Other physical activities: I love to run. I also do aerobics, and I have recently joined dance classes.

Your slogan ‘Don’t Stop Believing’: It is connected with my life. I have had three injuries. After each injuries people tend to doubt themselves with thoughts like, ‘It will get tough or impossible’ and ‘how will I do this?’ But my motto in life is to never stop believing. I won two championships after three injuries. It helps me keep at it and not lose concentration on my goal.

Advice for first timers: Train at a recognised, certified gym, sign up with a qualified trainer and follow the correct routine that has been recommended by the expert/trainer.

What’s on Sangram's plate?
I consume water and fresh fruits throughout the day. I eat six meals a day. Twice each for chicken and rice, read meat and protein shakes. Everybody should have a diet that suits their body requirements. The key is to eat healthy. I love to eat muesli as it does not need much preparation. I also like to cook. In fact, I have created a dish that is made with egg whites, olive oil, onions, tomato, oats and muesli.

Weight: 94kg
Height: 5’8”
Chest: 46”
Waist: 32”
Hip: 38”
Bicep: 20 flex
Forearm: 17”
Thigh: 28”
Calve: 17”
Neck: 17”

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