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The marathon man

India’s original pin-up boy, Milind Soman, tells us how he keeps fit and runs marathons at the age of 44.

Anumeha Chaturvedi | Print Edition: May 3, 2009

It’s 1 p.m. on a Thursday and all roads seem to be leading to Masjid Moth. Curious onlookers line the streets and jostle for space alongside the Porsches. It’s the launch of ‘Breathe’, a boutique gym started by Milind Soman and Rahul Dev, and ‘good friend’ Sunil Shetty’s playing ‘Chief Guest’. I push through the crowds to interview Soman, who’s giving sound bites to news channels. “Being in a gym motivates you and goes a long way in improving the quality of your life,” he says. “I thought it would be a great idea to share all that I’ve learnt about fitness and that’s how Breathe came about.” It sounds like the kind of spiel you’d expect from a celebrity launching a business venture as a kind of 2nd act in his career. But this is different.

Soman isn’t just a pretty face to front Breathe. Now 44, and looking every bit as trim and sculpted as he did as a model, he’s perfectly suited to promoting fitness. A national-level swimmer at school, Soman also ran the 42-km Mumbai marathon this year and also successfully completed a 24-hour run for NDTV’s Greenathon campaign. “I love to run—be it the treadmill or on the road. I try and cover approximately 55-60 kilometres per week,” he says. “Whether it’s the treadmill or push-ups and dips, I prefer functional training to isolation as it helps me develop the ideal physique—athletic, strong, with great endurance and flexibility.”

He seldom skips a workout. Even today, he went for a run before coming to the gym to do interviews. “It’s easy to maintain the fitness levels, as my exercises are not bound by the space I am in.” Flexibility’s important, too. Of course, there are days when it’s impossible for him to start in the morning but he tries to make each workout count.

“There are days when I run at 2 in the afternoon or even 12 at night! At home and even while travelling, I pick activities that challenge me physically and mentally. It could be something as simple as taking the stairs and not the elevator. Remember, the more you sit, the less you’re fit.” A waiter passes by with a platter of kebabs and Soman stops him in between. He’s generous with the servings.

“Oh yes, I hardly check myself when it comes to food and I love my Belgian and French chocolates, too! Though, I must thank my parents for not rewarding me with those when I was young,” he smiles. He’s never been one for diets. “I honestly think forced diets do more harm than good, unless prescribed for a medical condition. Being fit should allow you to do anything you want, go anywhere and eat anything. Otherwise, what’s the point of exercise?”

Soman makes sure he has about 5-6 small meals a day, the heaviest being breakfast at around 8 a.m., and he skips the sweets and fried food at dinner time. “One should never eat for emotional reasons,” he says. “Love your comfort food, but recognise it as such. It’s all in the mind. Your body doesn’t need it. Never over-eat, listen to your body and exercise.” The news cameras are swarming around him again. It’s time to go. “Remember the saying,” he says, before leaving. “Those who don’t find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.”

Breathe: 1 A Masjid Moth (Uday Park), Opposite Neeti Bagh, New Delhi
Membership fee: Rs 2,500-5,000 per month
Contact: (+91) 9958519191


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