Anju Bobby George needs no introduction. An athlete who swears by fitness, she has a lot to say in favor of keeping oneself physically fit always. The controversies she was caught in as Sports Council Chairperson of Kerala bothered her in the least as she faced them with elan. Where the body is strong, the mind too is, she says sharing her fondness for fitness and food with Onmanorama Women.
A part of my life
“Exercise and workouts have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. While active in sports, we had to compulsorily train for five days, for close to eight hours every day, with the activity starting from 5 am. We live in Bengaluru now. Today, it’s my six-year-old son Aaron and three-year-old daughter Andrea who decide the day’s schedule for me. As it’s a dash to the school every morning, working out in the mornings is out of the plan.
“But somehow or the other, I find time for it every day. I’ve never defaulted on my exercises. In fact, there’s never been a day without workouts. We have a gym at home where I head to regularly. While traveling, I hit the hotel gym. Whenever free, I go to the ground and exercise. Most of my workouts are to keep my muscles toned and in shape. Muscles decide the success of a long jumper. I always target my weak spots and pump them up with special exercises. I don’t do cardio. Even when I run, I do it in my special way. If I run for 150 meters, I walk the next 50 and run again for another 150 meters.
“Both my deliveries were cesarean. My first born came when I was 34. I had a small fall in the eight months of pregnancy, which forced me to stay put in the hospital for the rest of the term. My weight shot up during this period and touched almost a 100 kg. It was my tummy which bore the brunt of it all. It just ballooned out. I’m 5 ft 10 inches tall and need to weigh only 63 or 64 kg. I’m 70 now.
No to fast food
“Food has never been a problem. I could not afford to be picky or choosy, for such demands could not be met as we were constantly on the move as athletes. Therefore, I learned to get used to all kinds of food. While training, we had special diets with stress on boiled vegetables. Today, I eat whatever I like. But I work it out. If you work out daily, you need not be overly bothered by what or how much you eat. I buy my meat and vegetables with care. I don’t go for broiler chicken. It’s the ordinary types I prefer. As for vegetables, I go for the organic. I have a small patch at home, which gives us our daily vegetables. Fish is on the daily menu. Our milk comes from cows fed only grass, and no other “special” fodder.
“Fast food has never fascinated me. Nor do I expose my kids to it. It’s mostly non-fatty food for them. I have three solid meals a day, with a cup of coffee or tea in the mornings and evenings. I don’t snack or nibble in between. I love the home-made stuff and my favorites are jackfruit and tapioca. I eat a lot of red meat as it’s a must for building strong muscles. But it’s best to go for chicken while out competing.
Cooking is fun
“I’m a pretty good cook. My coconut oil comes from Kerala where I source it from places where it’s ground. I use coconuts lavishly. Idli, dosa, puttu and idiyappam are our best breakfast food. At times, I try out continental recipes. But it’s usually rice, fish and vegetables aplenty for lunch. However, it’s “no” to rice for dinner with chappathis and chicken curry replacing it. My kids are not used to snacks. When they get back from school, I give them hot and crispy dosas.
Unfazed by setbacks
“You need to be challenged mentally… at times. We need to take on stress. The move up will never happen if you’re not put under stress. Life’s cares are to be weathered. I see this as a part of life. Even while at the Olympics, there was no stress or tension I could not take. I believed in myself. I’m an out and out athlete, and hence, I can face any row or uproar connected with it, pretty well. I don’t take anything to heart. If one’s conscience is clear, where’s the need to be afraid? It’s the wrongdoers who feel unsettled.
“Sport is a part of my life … it’s sacred. I feel committed to protecting it. Being an athlete, my body is fit, perfect and my mind, strong. Setbacks don’t scare me. I love to take them head-on. I have certain values I stand for as a professional, as well as an individual.”
This faith and confidence have carried her long in her profession with the Changanassery-born Anju Bobby George winning medals for the long jump at the World Athletics Championship, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. She richly deserves the Khel Ratna, the nation’s highest sporting honor, with which she was honored.