Badminton supremo Saina Nehwal and her shuttling beau Parupalli Kashyap surprised the world by announcing their marriage 2 days ahead of their reported wedding on December 16, 2018. Both of the shuttlers have brought numerous laurels to the country including Olympics and Commonwealth Games medals.
However, as happens with most of the sportspersons, Saina has to endure a packed schedule with the pressure to perform equally well every time. Naturally, she has to occasionally face and avoid terms like fatigue and injury over the due course of their career. From conquering the world to 2016 Olympic low to another rise, Sania has had a tremendous journey in the sport as well as in her fitness. Here is her story…
Badminton Success in Late 2000
Nehwal first caught the country’s attention in 2006, when she became the first Indian shuttler to win the Philippines Open. The 16-year-old had entered the four-star tournament as the 84th seed. On her run to the final, she had demolished many top-seeded players such as she announced her arrival on the international scene. Among them were the likes of Xu Huaiwen, a number four, and Malaysia’s Julia Wong Pei Xiang.
That year, she was also a runner-up at the 2006 BWF World Junior Championships, where she lost the hard-fought match to a much experienced and top seeded Wang Yihan of China.
Saina became the first Indian woman to reach them at the Olympic Games quarterfinals in 2008. She upset world number five and fourth seed Wang Chen of Hong Kong in a 3 game thriller. However, in the quarter-finals, Nehwal lost to the world no. 16 Maria Kristin Yulianti in another thrilling 3 gamer.
In September 2008, Saina won the 2008 Yonex Chinese Taipei Open by beating Malaysia’s Lydia Cheah Li Ya of 21–8 21–19. Nehwal was, as a result, named “The Most Promising Player” of 2008. She then reached the world super series semi-finals in December 2008. Consequently, she went on to become the first Indian shuttler to win an Olympic medal in 2012.
Fitness Struggle Post 2016
Saina had a successful first half in her Badminton career which saw her win Olympics and Commonwealth Games medals among others. However, as she was ageing, fitness became a significant issue for her. Her ranking was slipping.
There were much younger and as a result more fit and energetic youngsters like Tali Tzu Ying, PV Sindhu, and Ratchanok Intanon among others were getting the better of her. Injuries hampered her progress in the 2016 Olympics and many other crucial tournaments.
As a result, Saina had to rediscover her fitness and therefore her badminton form. That was the beginning of Nehwal’s second innings, the moment she resolved to change everything she knew and was doing prior and after her matches.
To achieve this, she consulted the famed sports physio Chris Pedra. It is through him that we now know Saina’s amazing renaissance post-2016 that saw her climb back in the BWF Top 10 rankings this year. When she first met him she was suffering from niggles and strains.
Although Nehwal was fit, she wasn’t fit in a ‘badminton specific way’. She would perform lots of general training, general cardio and workout routines. However, that was not helping her keep the exertions of a tight Badminton schedule at bay.
Saina’s Work Routine
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— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) September 12, 2018
Pedra and Saina decided to completely change her fitness routine. She started with fitness exercises that were centred around badminton. She would perform specific routines that revolved around jumping, balance, and change of direction.
In the assessment stage, Pedra also noticed that Nehwal had made certain missteps in the quest to recover from a right knee surgery that she sustained during the 2016 Olympics and had ‘rushed’ her rehabilitation. The initial task for the Haryana shuttler was to unlearn what she had known about the training sessions.
The 29-year-old made it a give her body the much-needed rest on the 7th day of the week. During the exercising sessions, the main attention is focussed on strengthening the forearms and legs since they do the most work in badminton.
Saina practices lateral pulldowns to elevate the coordination between her body parts. She also does rowing to help lose any excess flesh on her arms and strengthen them.
Saina practices military presses that are targeted at strengthening her arms and upper body muscles. This exercise also improves her stamina of holding the racket in long matches. She also practices calf and heel raises regularly to allays the healing process aside from toning and strengthening her legs.
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Sania also makes it a point to basic exercises like push-ups and crunches to help her agility and activeness on the court.
Saina’s Diet Routine
Like many other athletes and celebrities, Saina considers that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is disciplined enough to not skip it.
She has eggs in the breakfast to keep her energized throughout the day and strictly steers away from junk and oily food. Nehwal prefers boiled or steamed food and salads for her lunch and dinner as this prevents the consumption of unnecessary fats.
Nehwal mostly has her meal before 7:30 in the evening. This rigorous fitness and diet regimen ensures that her body is toned, strong and ever-ready to take on the exertions of the court.
The results of her changed fitness regimen are there for all to see. 2018 marked the first time since 2015 that she went on to figure in three finals (Indonesia Masters, Commonwealth Games, and Denmark Open).
Saina is the oldest in the top 10 and is more than holding her own against these young ‘STARS’. Even though she may have scaled more miles (at least 3000 km to be precise) than her fellow shuttling compatriots over the past 10 years, she is now armed with a completely new methodology that makes her fitter than ever before.