India has long been obsessed with medals in the Olympics and Asian Games. An obsession that has driven India’s Shooters, Wrestlers, Athletes and Boxers to push their limits and put India on the global sporting map. One man who follows the same passion is Mr Sandeep Sejwal. Sandeep is the National record holder for 50 m, 100 m and 200 m swimming. In 2014, Sandeep Sejwal made India proud by winning the bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke event at the Asian Games. He is also a long time HealthifyMe user.
In our first edition of Fit & Famous, we converse with Mr Sandeep Sejwal regarding his nutrition and fitness routine and how he won bronze in the Asian Games.
Q1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your family and your early childhood.
Sandeep: I was born and brought up in Delhi. I was a very shy kid when I was in school. My father passed away when I was just 2 years old. Since then my mother took care of me and my sister. My mother used to take both of us for swimming classes together. It was really difficult for my mother to care of our fitness needs but she did not give up as she also wanted us to have a fit life.
Q2) When were you first introduced to swimming and when did you decide to turn professional?
Sandeep: My mother took my sister and me to swimming classes during the school holidays. She basically wanted to keep two naughty children busy and also in the process keep us fit. It started off as a recreational activity but soon became an obsession for me and I really started enjoying the sport. Till 12th Standard, swimming to me was just an extracurricular activity. In 2007, I attended the National Swimming Championship in Kolkata and there I met Mr Nihar Ameen. He urged me to come down to Bangalore. It was then that I truly turned professional and started focusing on taking my career to the next level. In 2008, I would qualify for the Olympics.
Q3) Who was your earliest mentor? What kind of fitness and diet advice did your mentor give you?
Sandeep:I always look up to my mother for mentorship. She has been taking care of my diet and been motivating me with my fitness since my childhood. My mother’s always insisted that I have a balanced diet at home and indulged in very little fast food. I had trained with a lot of coaches in the Delhi who at the time advised me to spend as much time in the pool, work on my speed.
Q4) How did you transform yourself over the years from a College level athlete to a National level athlete. What sort of diet and fitness routine changes did you make?
Sandeep: My Diet and Training went to the next level after I met Mr Nihar Ameen. Moving to Bangalore to train with Nihar sir was the point where I really transformed my swimming career. In Delhi, swimming is considered as a seasonal sport because of cold weather and lack of indoor (heated) swimming pool. After moving to Bangalore, I got an opportunity to train for the whole year without big breaks. I added 2 hours of swimming and 30 minutes of workout in the gym to my training routine. In the gym, I would focus on weight training on both upper and lower body.
I started eating a lot of pasta to load up on my carbs. This helped me be able to last a whole workout. I also started eating steaks to load up on protein which helps in building and repairing muscles. I also made healthy choices whenever it came to snacks. I stopped eating biscuits and chips and replaced them with fruits, seeds and vegetables.
Q5) You had qualified for Olympics and even competed twice for Asian Games. How did that phase in your life change you as an athlete? What sort of changes did you make?
Sandeep: I set the national swimming record before the Olympics and that helped me qualify. To be in the Olympics is the biggest achievement for any athlete. You work towards this for years together and when you finally make it to the big leagues, it’s overwhelming. In London, I had my best ever lap times. For the next 4 years, I was training day and night without a break just so I could go back again and do it better. All this effort would finally result in me winning the bronze medal in the Asian Games.
Q6) How did you prepare for Asian Games 2014? What did you do differently to finally win the Bronze Medal?
Sandeep: We started preparing for the 2014 Asian games well in advance. Earlier I would just train in India and race once in 6 months. It was very inadequate when you’re competing on the Global stage. We decided to make a plan and visit as many international competitions we could find within our budget. Constant races helped me gain more confidence as it helped me to achieve my goal.
Travelling abroad also puts a strain on the diet. Thankfully, Nutritionist Ryan Fernando was guiding me through this period of extreme travelling and competition. I’m not very particular about what type of cuisine or food is available to eat. It helps, as you may not always get your routine diet but you can still stay on your diet goals.
Q7) How are you preparing now for Asian Games 2018?
Sandeep: My approach is very similar to what I had done in 2014. I am putting in 4 hours in the pool, 30 minutes in the gym and also racing around the world. I just finished racing in Singapore Nationals and we are hoping that we will be racing more. I am now training at the Padukone Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence where we get access to the best facilities. My focus this time is to get a Gold medal in the 50 m category. I am training constantly to beat my own speed record.
Q8) Any advice for HealthifyMe users who would like to take up swimming as a sport or become professional swimmers?
Sandeep: Swimming is the only sport where the whole body is involved. It is also used as Rehab for other sports as well. Even cricketers and footballers take up swimming as part of their fitness regimen. There are 16 events in Swimming for you in Olympics and it increases your chance of winning a medal.
To HealthifyMe users I would just say you’re in good company. I am a user of HealthifyMe. HealthifyMe helps keep a track of calories that I take in and the good thing about it is that it has Indian food in its database which makes it very convenient to track Indian food. And if you set goals for weight loss or weight gain it keeps reminding you if you miss anything.
So please use the HealthifyMe app and keep a track of your performance and diet simultaneously.
We wish Sandeep Sejwal all the success in the Asian Games 2018. We know you’ll make our country proud and help us satisfy our medal obsession.
Athletes like Sandeep are an example to everyone else. Inspired? You can start off on your own fitness journey!