Sourabh Verma: Fitness regimen and diet have made a difference to my game

A good fitness regimen and diet have helped improve my performances on the court, says the world No. 28 Indian, in an interview.

Sourabh Verma

Sourabh Verma shapes up play a smash during his PBL match for Hyderabad Hunters against Awadhe Warriors' Shubhankar Dey.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Last year, Sourabh Verma broke into the top-30 of men’s singles rankings for the first time, after having reached the final of the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships. It was reward for some discipline on the fitness front; where Verma would “blindly” accept any assignment, he would now be a little more careful about rest and recovery, and the load his body could take.

Verma was languishing in the 78 position, in the rankings, in July, 2018. Verma is now the World No. 28.

In a short interaction with Sportstar, Verma talks about the role of fitness in his success, his diet, and the value of the PBL, and more.

2019 was a good year for you. You won a number of tournaments (three – Vietnam Open, Hyderabad Open and Slovenia International). How would you sum up the year and what did you focus on?

Last year, I was just focusing on my fitness. I started 2018 well, but I lost a month due to injury (knee injury). But after June-July, again, I started playing well. I realised, if I look after my fitness, I’ll keep on playing in the circuit, doesn’t matter whether I’m winning or losing. I can’t keep winning every game or every tournament. If I play continuously, it’ll help me improve and the ranking won’t matter too much because if I play continuously, I will win some and lose some. If I maintain that continuity, it’ll help me do well.

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On the fitness front, did you make any particular changes?

Definitely. In the last two-three years, I realised my body, how it functions and what load it can take. My training stint was designed accordingly by my physio and trainer. Earlier, I would just do things blindly; whatever would land on my path, I would deal with them. But that was not working for me. Afterwards, I changed things. That is the key for me.

What about your diet?

From last year, I started to follow a particular diet plan according to my blood markers. There are many things which appear small but have significant impact on the game.

The basic diet plan is: you need protein, you need carbohydrates, you need good fats. Besides this, your hydration and sleep [are important, too]. I try to eat clean; no junk food, just homemade food and I try to minimise my consumption of processed food.

I eat chicken and fish but if I’m training or lifting heavy weights, I need red meat like lamb or mutton. It changes according to my training.

It must be challenging trying to fit in the tournaments to play in the calendar, and at the same time leaving enough room for rest and training.

The BWF calendar is pretty hectic. One has to literally choose which ones to play and which ones to leave. Every month, one can easily find three or four tournaments to play in. If a tournament is being held for a week, you’re playing for the entire month. There is no time for training, and no time for rest. Then, there is also the pressure of domestic tournaments, one has to play one or two tournaments. And then, the smaller tournaments that are left out.

So, one has to balance. For the top-10 in the world, it’s quite difficult because it is mandatory for them [to participate] in Super-1000 or Super-750 tournaments. But I’m not in that category right now, so I can pick and choose tournaments.

India now has seven players in men’s singles in the top-30.  What have you observed in Indian badminton that explains such success.

This is an Olympic year and everyone’s trying to do well, so that’s why so many players are in the top-30. [P. V.] Sindhu’s World Championship win, and Saina [Nehwal]’s last year’s final – these are the results which are highlighted in the country. People see them play. So, the big tournaments add a big impact. I wish Indian badminton keeps doing well in big tournaments. If players do well in big tournaments, Indian badminton will rise.

Finally, besides the participation fee and prize money in the PBL, what value does it have for a player? Do you learn much from foreign players?

When PBL began, we used to consult the top players on how to prepare. The league’s matches are totally different [from regular ones on the professional circuit], because if you see, badminton is an individual sport. And a league is like team sports. Both are different but you’re practising together and travelling together. Then, [we learn] how the mindset is while approaching games.

You’re playing together, you learn from them. You learn their game. Playing in front of a crowd; that’s also an experience. There’s a big difference between playing without a crowd and playing in front of one. One learns how to keep oneself composed in front of such a big crowd.

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