Nithyashree Ananda had India brimming with pride when she secured a gold and a silver in the 4×400m relay and 400m events respectively, in the Asian Games Test Championship, 2018. Besides being a professional athlete, she also works at the GST and Central Excise Tax Department. Burning the midnight oil to make both her and her father's dream come true, Nithyashree won ten national medals in 400m, 600m (under 14 category) and 800m during her school days. She also clinched a silver in the Poland Grand Prix, apart from the many triumphs in group athletic events. Her eyes are now dead set at her next target, the Tokyo Olympics.
We were in conversation with Nithyashree, and here are few takeaways from the the conversation we had:
When did you start? What motivated you?
I was always inspired by my father, who used to be a kabaddi player. He wanted me to get a medal for India since the day I was born. By the time I was six, I was already out warming up, exercising, and running in the fields with him. I used to actively participate in the sports held in my school. I started athletics when I was in class 7, and within the next two years, I had won three national medals in 400m and a silver in 600m in the under 14 category. I think that was my stepping stone to being a professional athlete. After that there was no turning back, and my medal tally in the national level now stands at 10.
What challenges did you face when you chose this career over the mainstream careers?
There has never been any pressure from my family in anything aspect of my life, though there sure is a positive push. They have always been incredibly supportive! But being an athlete sure did come with its own set of challenges. After my flair of national medals in school, I got a partial ACL injury in my knee and left sports for four years. Later on it healed, and I got a good coach in 2015 again, when I restarted athletics and received another national medal, after which I went to India camp for three years. During one of our international trips in Poland, I had almost made the cut based on merit for the Asian Games to represent India, but somehow I didn't see my name in the final list the next morning. I received another knee injury quite soon, but that didn't deter me and I'm still at my physical best despite doctors telling me that it won't be possible.
What have been your best professional moments?
I have represented India internationally before in the Asian Games Invitational Tournament, 2018, and the moment when you win and the national anthem plays is just ethereal. I did live that moment but a part of me wants it to happen again, in a bigger event on international grounds, when my whole life plays in front of my eyes. I'm sure every sportsperson has this dream and will live it one day.
There a few good days and few bad days in sports, how do you deal with the bad days?
Sometimes it can be especially intense, and some days at work can be particularly taxing. There have been days when I wake up in the morning and have sore muscles. I don't want to go to the field but I know that if I sleep through the morning, I am going to feel even worse about it. When I am in the field, even though I am crying in pain, I am actually happy! This is the thought that gets me out of bed and once I am in my sports gear, there is no turning back.
What gets your day started? What does a sportsperson's morning routine look like?
My mornings start quite early, at around 4:45 since I like to take my time with everything before I head out to workout at 6-6:30. Before I even get up from the bed, I condition my mind into thinking positive. I keep repeating phrases like 'I am fit, I am healthy, I am a champion.' Once I leave the bed, I meditate, and keep nothing else on my slate at this time of the day. No rush!
What are your thoughts on early fitness education? Health isn't placed on the highest priority, grades are.
I believe that it is not just your school but also your home from where your health and fitness education begin from. Rarely do we see parents guiding their kids about being healthy and fit as it is an important part of your life. Kids are busy playing games on their phones and not outside. Nowadays we see play schools in apartment complexes in fully stacked societies. How can one ensure the all round development of a child in one room? A school that does not have a proper playground can do nothing but only make the kid read about being healthy.
What advice would you give to those who are starting their career as athletes?
I think basic fitness is required from the very start. It is important to realise that you must treat your body delicately and not consume food or do things that make its functioning difficult. Discipline is yet another factor that comes into play not just in athletics but in every career. You might be tired, you might be exhausted, but that shouldn't stop you. Don't listen to your body, listen to your mind! Even if I have a jam packed schedule, I take my fitness gear to my workplace and head to the field straight from there.
Fitness mantra/one thing you swear by.
A glass of warm water is something that I never skip in the morning. I would highly recommend it to everyone to start your day with water, as one is very dehydrated after 7 to 8 hours of sleeping. Your body instantly wakes up and washes away the accumulated toxins. For me, after I'm done working out, I drink water with lime or with chia seeds.
I am sure garments play a vital role, what kind of garments do you prefer when you practice?
I think it's time people stopped using padded bras, it's living in discomfort. You should barely be conscious about how you look while you're working out! For me, leggings are my ultimate favourite active wear. My regulars would include tank tops, t-shirts and shorts as well, but nearly all my money goes on leggings! But it doesn't bother me as it's a short career in sports, and I'm prepared on living it to the fullest while it lasts.
What do you feel about this initiative (brand ambassador program) and brand skyria?
I really like the brand as the quality delivered is amazing. I had been using the garments for a while when I received a call from Skyria for a collaboration, and though it was unexpected, I was elated! I think it is a good initiative, as more people need to know about being healthy and fit. My teachers in school used to mock me saying 'Only running will do you no good, go and study!', and look where it has taken me! People will connect to us and realise that it's not just those books that will take them places.
Here are Nithyashree's favourite Skyria workout clothes: