Gym Myth Smashed!
24/09/2016

AKSHAY KUMAR and VIDYUT JAMWAL… take fitness out of the gym and into engaging realms, proving that fab and healthy bods are not necessarily created in a regimented environment, says SHUBARNA MUKERJI SHU.

This man here would perhaps win any contest held to judge who is the fittest actor of them all. Everyone knows that if you are shooting with Akshay Kumar, you will probably have a call time of 7 am. Yes, that’s a wee bit too early for most B-towners but for someone who wakes up at 4 am, it is perfect to be on the sets by 7. Yes, it is true; Akshay’s day does begin at 4 am. “The traffic is not a problem at that hour, everyone is still abed. But it is who I am. I am in bed at 9, and up by 4. Late night parties are not at all my cup of tea. If Tina insists on making an appearance, people know I will be out early ’cause I need to sleep early.

And that’s just the way I plan my day. When it comes to fitness, I don’t believe in starving myself to oblivion. I don’t believe in having 6-pack abs or 8- or 10- or 12-packs. I just know one thing – that it is very important to be fit, to be strong. To be able to move fast in times of crisis. To be able to remain healthy and agile so that you can play with your kids… that’s the reason why I work out. But when I say work out, I don’t mean going to the gym, though I have a gym at home. It is not the usual stuff you find. I really believe working out shouldn’t be restricted to doing weights and cardio. Instead, climb a tree, do something fun… do whatever you enjoy doing, that helps you exercise your muscles.”

So he climbs trees or a specially designed 30-foot indoor climbing wall with his son, practises yoga or Parkour or martial arts or hangs off a 13-storey building. “Please, please write that you should not try this without supervision,” he says hastily, “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if someone tried to replicate this because of me and got hurt.” He says he likes to test his strength and fears at every stage. “I like to have control over every muscle in my body. All of these activities develop the core. It’s so good to do something every day that pumps your heart out of your chest; makes you feel alive!”

Being the son of a wrestler, it’s embarrassing for Akshay to admit that he never really cared much for sports but he always was driven towards martial arts, Bruce Lee being his ideal. “He has the most agile body; it is seeing him that prompted me towards Karate. My aim is to develop core muscles. All these 6- and 8-pack abs are like haathi ke daanth, it just what you can see but it is not necessarily the strongest stomach. Inner core strength is what you need to do anything you desire. A physiotherapist will tell you what core exercises are and very few trainers in gyms follow those. Gyms are one of the most irritating ways of exercising.”

Vidyut Jamwal

A National level gymnast and a Kalaripayattu (something BAAGHI recently introduced us to) fan, Vidyut Jamwal has been practicing since he was three years of age. Performing martial arts peppered with elements of gymnastics is his area of expertise.

“Agility, strength and fitness, in the true sense of the term, is something that makes reason to celebrate. Of course, my celebrations mean ganging up with my boys and working out, so that’s a two-in-one reason to celebrate more,” explains the man himself. “You won’t believe it perhaps but we have celebrated our New Year’s Eve practising, exercising.”

Vidyut’s idea of fitness is clear – practice an activity that you are really interested in and it will ensure you stay fit. He says, “I love breaking martial arts into parts and combining them with gymnastics. Recently we whipped up a mean mix of Kalaripayattu and gymnastics with some Jiu-jitsu thrown in. The result is a set of gymnastic stunts in combat mode; like landing to strike after doing a double somersault. So while I love doing it, I never worry about staying fit because that happens by itself.” For seven years, almost every day – barring the days he shoots or travels – Vidyut has been practising six hours of his ‘combo’ with his boys; three-hour sessions each in the morning and evening. “They are all above average gymnasts and are in their twenties. They inspire me to keep improvising. We often discuss our fitness age. Currently, I am in peak form. So I must be around 17. Some of them are 13!” Vidyut laughs. “If you have the will and spirit, age can never interfere with your fitness.”

Though he also hits the gym thrice a week, he insists it is not to ‘build a body’. “As a gymnast, you become very flexible. Gymming is superb for strengthening your muscles. Other than some cardio, I do the staple body-part workouts — combinations of chest-back, biceps-triceps and shoulder-legs.” Such intensive training has also resulted in a lot of broken bones and injuries. Pointing to faded wounds on his legs, Vidyut says, “Both my shins are severely injured. But I am an ardent believer of mind over body. My injuries have healed in no time and my legs have only become stronger because I believed I could overcome them.”

While Vidyut advocates fitness, he is extremely worried about how everyone today aspires to lose weight. “At every party, people tell each other — ‘Wow, you have lost weight…you are looking great!’ But fitness has nothing to do with being thin and being fat is not a sin. This changing idea of fitness is worrisome and this obsession over how we all should look slim and toned to be hot or happening is disturbing. What really determines fitness is whether you are happy within and mentally fit. I know some men with eight packs who are unhappy. I consider them unfit.”