Vedharth Thappa’s world revolves around fitness. He spends as many as six hours a day working out and has over six years of experience in CrossFit as an athlete and coach. But even before he was named the 2nd fittest man in India at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit World Open Games, and the country’s fittest in 2017, the need to stay fit had always been a priority. Vedharth comes from a family that’s in the business of underwater construction in the oil and gas sector — becoming a diver requires an excellent fitness level — and his father Jai always encouraged him to practice sport.
Having played state-level cricket and volleyball for the Mumbai zone during his school and college days, Vedharth seemed to have all the makings of becoming the next CrossFit champion. And that is exactly what he went on to become. He was in his first year of engineering when his friend introduced him to the gruelling sport that has taken the world by storm. The athlete, now 23, describes his first session as “super tough”, considering the fact that he played sport at a good level. Still, there was no looking back for the Mumbai-based athlete for whom CrossFit isn’t just a workout but a way of life.
What’s your daily workout regime like?
I break down my daily workouts into different sessions over a span of six hours. My morning workout is an endurance session, where I do a 4 or 5 km run. In the afternoon, I do a strength session with Olympic lifts, powerlifting moves or a few heavy deadlifts. The evening is a mixture of strength and cardiovascular training, or what we call MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning). I also do some core work in the night, targeting some gymnastics and abdominal exercises, if I still have some gas in me to go on.
Was your training routine for the Reebok CrossFit World Open Games 2017 different from that of the 2016 games?
In 2016 I was not actually doing CrossFit full-time because I was still in the process of figuring out whether I was going to get into my family business or start something of my own. And, of course, my final year of engineering was taking a toll on me. So I was only training part-time. But in 2017, I decided to go all out with the trials across the country. I spent six hours a day training as usual, but I worked on my weaknesses — I wasn’t good with my endurance and so I did a lot of long-distance stuff. I also added volume to my training by doing more workouts by breaking them up into shorter sessions that targeted my weaknesses.
Did you work with a coach to prepare for the CrossFit World Open Games?
I programme for myself, although I must admit that my older brother Janshruth has helped me here and there, and he has been a tough coach. We sit down together and programme as per our needs. In my gym, I finished first, my older brother finished fifth and another colleague finished in the seventh place.
What’s the mental preparation like for a sport as demanding as CrossFit?
CrossFit is more of a mental sport than a physical one. It is, of course, a physically taxing sport, but to overcome this you have to be mentally strong. There comes a time when 90% of the people don’t want to take it up because it is so mentally taxing. Being mentally solid, I tried to focus as much as I could and stay away from anything that distracted me.
Tell us about your diet in the months leading up to the CrossFit World Open Games?
My tournament usually happens in February or March. In my sport, you need to have the right balance between not being too big or too small. For six months a year, I eat as much as I can to gain strength. I move towards a low-carb approach in the following six months. I’m not very good with my control over food, but I try my best. I have followed a low-carb approach towards my fitness as I’m more prone to becoming big. I might have cheated once a week, but I was pretty much clean throughout.
What’s life as a CrossFit athlete like and how do you find the motivation to persist?
It’s like a full-time job. The sport is growing so fast that you need to put in that kind of work. There’s always going to be someone else who’s putting in the same amount of work or more. You have to sacrifice your social life. That’s sports life; you have to have discipline. Motivation comes from how hungry a person is. If someone wants to do something so bad, he or she will be motivated to do it, no matter to what extent they are motivated. I believe that you will be good at what you do if you are self-driven.
Tell us more about the CrossFit boxes and gyms that you run.
We started CrossFit 7 Seas as a CrossFit affiliate in August 2016 in Kandivali, Mumbai. Our second gym Alpha 7 Seas, which is our own brand, is opening in Andheri, Mumbai, very soon. We created and designed the programmes on our own. The third one, CrossFit 360x7, is in Delhi. My father, who has always been into sport, and apart from being an active black belt, is involved in a squash institution called the Squash Professional Association (SPA) and is one of its directors. As a family, we have always wanted to do something to promote fitness in the country and since I did have an inclination towards sports, I decided to step away from the family business to start changing lifestyles. It really intrigues me. My father, brother and I are all in it together. The idea is to have close to 50 or 60 gyms across the country that have a sense of community building. Our motto is to impart the right approach with the right intention.
You’re an entrepreneur, trainer and competitive fitness sportsman. What’s a day in your life like?
I’m not exactly an early riser, but I do wake up around 7.30 am. I eat my breakfast and head straight to the gym. I coach a few people and even throw in a small workout for myself. The whole day goes in working out or coaching people. Apart from that, I have a few other gyms that are opening up. I try to focus on the business part as well, although my brother takes care of things on this side of things. So you could say that I train, train and train some more throughout the day!