Everyone has a goal or two. Some of us reach them and celebrate; others achieve them and immediately set new ones. Sonu Sood is a fantastic example of the latter; a man famous for his incredible physique and supreme acting skills. What looks so desirable on the silver screen is the result of thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears. This week, You & I caught up with the Happy New Year star to find out more about his fitness regime, and how he’s inspired many others to work on their health with equal gusto.
Your desire to get even fitter is almost intimidating.
One always wants to do better; that’s what keeps me going. Every time I reach a milestone, there’s always another level that I need to strive for. Luckily for me, working out is the part of my daily agenda that I look forward to; I absolutely enjoy it. You know how most people who have parties to attend can’t wait? It’s exactly like that for me. I really look forward to hitting the gym and spending about three hours there.
Yes, that’s the usual! And if I’m shooting for a couple of days, I make it four to cover for my absence.
You were injured some time ago. If you don’t mind my asking, how did it happen?
I broke my leg during a Celebrity Cricket League match in Dubai – multiple fractures. The spikes in my shoes got stuck in the ground while I was running, and I ended up falling really badly. The resulting injuries required two rods and 19 screws to be inserted into my leg for about two years. During those two years, I shot for R... Rajkumar, Entertainment, and even Happy New Year.
I so badly wanted to get back on my feet and work out, so I recently had another procedure to get them removed... after my leg had healed properly, of course. During those two years, I wasn’t really able to run and jump because those rods bothered me a great deal, tying down my exercise quite a bit. Now that I’ve recovered completely, it feels great to be able to jump and do stunts that I hadn’t before.
You must have felt amazing after surgery.
The day I had my stitches removed, I went straight from the hospital to the gym! I was that desperate to get back to my workout. The doctor warned me to take it easy, and I promised not to bother my leg too much, but that was how we started. Thankfully, I managed to get on my feet really quickly. My doctor even said that it usually takes months for a patient to recover from the kind of injury I had, but thanks to my fitness levels, I was ahead of schedule.
Are you more careful these days?
In this line of work, such injuries are bound to happen from time to time. You either have stunts to perform, or while playing a character there’s a fair amount of jumping and dancing to do, so it’s more or less part of your life. One just has to stay fit and have the will to bounce back.
That’s incredible dedication. Are you back to full fitness?
Nothing feels better than being able to work out after my operation. I’m currently working on strengthening my legs. In fact, I’ve never worked so sincerely on them before. I’m focusing on my calves in order to reach the fitness levels I have in mind.
You make it sound so simple.
Well, it’s not. But it is about the hours one needs to dedicate to one’s body.
You’ve been in the news for your incredible core strength. Tell us about the human flag.
I was surfing through the web as I like to do, to keep myself up to date with different exercises and regimens across the world. That’s when I came across this exercise, for which one needs to have a very, very strong core and great strength. Essentially, you use just your core and arms to lift and hold your entire body at a 90° angle.
The next day, I went to the gym and tried it, and to my surprise I managed to get around 30-40% of the way there. Everyone in the gym was amused to see something like this, and that’s when I found my target for the next few days. It took nearly a week to manage it, but I did manage it. It gives immense power to your shoulders and core, but it’s quite a tough form to practice... for anyone!
Where does a vegetarian get the energy?
I’m blessed with very strong North Indian genetics. My father has a physical presence, as do the other men in my family, so I’ve got some of it from there. As for my diet, most bodybuilders these days are vegetarians. Everything one needs is in vegetables, and I have enough protein shake to help out.
Tell us about your diet.
I start with a bowl of oatmeal and fruit before hitting the gym, after which I eat from eight to ten egg whites. Then comes my protein shake, followed by a small meal. I have a salad or sprouts when I’m hungry, or perhaps some egg whites or cornflakes. At night, I have a couple of boiled eggs with salad and sprouts once again. Everything I take in is quite healthy and natural.
And cheat days?
This is my basic routine; I’m very strict about my diet. This is how I eat 365 days a year without one single cheat day. There are a few days when I’m caught up with shoots and things get a little haywire, but I find a way to balance it out later on. I truly believe that the body isn’t made in the gym, but in the kitchen.
No ice cream? No chocolate cake?
Rarely. Maybe once in a while. I’m not fond of chocolates, but cake I enjoy. I just make sure that I don’t get it home because one can always be tempted. Even if I end up having a bit, I make up for it with an extra 30 minutes in the gym.
You also like encouraging others to get fit.
If I can inspire anyone to get fitter, my job is done. I worship my time in the gym and can’t sleep at night without it, as I tell everyone. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Who’s benefitted from your love of exercise?
The first three who come to mind are Farah Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Kapil Sharma. Farah has become a regular in the gym and even calls me when she misses out, just to tell me that she feels guilty! Even Kapil for that matter... doesn’t he look so much fitter nowadays? And on the sets of HNY, Shah Rukh would tell me that he wanted to work out more after seeing my abs. It feels good to be get the best out of people, and why not?
What are you like in the gym?
I’m more than happy to help when someone asks. There are a lot of newcomers who do ask about how I got to where I am, and I happily share whatever information I can.
If someone’s form is off, would you correct them?
Yes, of course. I go out of my way to show them how it’s done, and people are really good listeners these days. Many of them take my advice seriously.
As they should if it’s Sonu Sood’s advice! Before we sign off, what kind of music do you work out to?
My gym has a great music system with a DJ who belts out energetic tracks so that the momentum in the gym is always high. But this is now. When I started working out, it was at an akhada-style gym where there was no music, but that didn’t make a difference.
..... as told to Anahita