A shining name in the national Taekwondo scenario is that of Latika Bhandari. Her best being a world ranking of 19, Latika's most recent international win is a gold in South Asian Games, 2019. She also has a silver in Commonwealth Taekwondo Championship(2018), and a gold in the Fujairah open(2018) to her name - apart from a long medals tally at the national level.
We were in conversation with her, let us get inspired by her heroic story.
Tell us something about your craft taekwondo.
Taekwondo has its origin in Korea, and emphasizes on head height kicks and jumping kicks. People practising it develop pretty muscular legs over time. Most people categorise Taekwondo as a martial art and not as a sport. That is how the Olympics recognises it as well. Though the initial training infrastructure is definitely lacking, Taekwondo has been in the popular eye recently owing to celebrities like Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff promoting it in their lifestyle.
Tell us about your journey of making it to the National Taekwondo team.
When I started out, the procedure was to compete in the Open National and prove your mettle over there. This is how I got inducted into the National Team the first time. Presently, they call you over if you have a national/international medal and you need to win against competitors in the same weight category. The top two or four people are inducted in the team. During the South Asian Games, I won against a senior in the weight category and got inducted in the team again.
How do you take care of your fitness? What according to you is a wholesome and fit body?
Thanks to greater investments in sports, we have a team of nutritionists guiding each player on what to eat and customising a meal plan for every individual. These are usually high protein low carb diets with only one cheat meal (not a whole cheat day) in a week. We need quite a bit of protein to compensate for the muscles and ligament tension we experience. Not gonna lie, it is pretty restrictive! But you always have to keep the greater good in mind.
I think the shape of a fit body shouldn't be completely defined. For some people, a skinny body would be fit, for others it might be about muscles and curves. Nevertheless, being fit should always translate into being happy, content and having a healthy mind.
What should women that engage in high physical activity take special care of to meet their nutritional and health needs?
I think what really works for most women is that they are already familiar with their food and its ingredients so they can just amp it up according to their needs. You wouldn't need nutritional supplements if you resort to eat and home cooked food. I really like food of the hilly regions as well, which is also very good for your health. Just make a note to eat minimal junk or packaged foods and consume more of of natural, organic and local produce. Also, be mindful of including a good amount of protein in your daily diet - a lot of us miss out on that.
Some fitness rituals that you absolutely swear by.
I drink some warm water with lemon, flax seeds and chia seeds in the morning. It is supposed to assist weight loss and also keeps your metabolism going good.
How often in a week do you workout? How long do muscles ideally take to recover before one should workout again?
I don't really need to workout separately other than my regular taekwondo training. Taekwondo is an art that exercises your full body and also tones it up really well. For a regular person I would suggest four to five days a week. Again, it depends highly on where you are coming from, so customise everything accordingly.
Recovery is a pretty important part of your workout. If I have worked with heavy weights and have had a very intense exercise session on Monday, I will most likely take a 24 to 36 hour break before I indulge in rigorous exercise again. Between two workout days, one should ideally do some yoga for stretching or a light cardio.
Home workout or gym workout? Cardio or weight training? Why?
Anything that works for you! Some people might be more comfortable within the four walls of the house, while some might like it better in the gym. Just be sure that whenever you do workout, the exercises should be distributed equally among all parts of your body.
I prefer weight training. Cardio should be included at least once in a week as it does help with your body agility, and you need to sweat it out properly every few days. But it is weight training that develops your muscles and tones you up properly. Your strength and stamina also greatly increases when you do resistance training with free weights.
Some everyday essentials and some strict no-nos in your daily diet.
I don't have any strict no-nos because I believe in balance. If I have indulged in a cheat meal I will balance it out by eating salads the next day. If I want to eat something fried, I prefer to make it in ghee and not oil.
I do eat a lot of fruits and cucumbers. In fact, these are my favourite snack options on most days.
Most preferred workout gear.
Loose comfortable t-shirts and tights are my go to. Since Taekwondo shapens your legs really well they look great in tight fitted leggings! Your workout gear should be one that puts you in a happy mood and makes you look forward to exercising, so do spend some time in choosing a good one!