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Leading The Pack
Meet Praveen Raja, a 40-something father of two, who’s been leading his ever-growing community of everyday athletes to look and feel their best.
A year before his first daughter was born in 2014, Praveen Raja tore the meniscus in his right knee in multiple places during a ski trip to Gulmarg. It was a major setback, for he had always been active since his childhood, playing racquet sports of all kinds including table tennis for Tamil Nadu and captaining Anna University to a gold medal in inter-university championships.
Knee surgery, coupled with the fact that he had become a new parent — think sleepless nights and untimely meals with no time or bandwidth for exercise — meant that life took a sedentary turn. “I knew something had to change when I had multiple episodes of wheezing,” says Praveen, whose sister Sunitha, a dental surgeon and state powerlifting masters gold medallist, suggested he start working out. In retrospect, this period was the breaking point that led him to join a gym, he admits.
A browse through the @Shredify.me Instagram account today tells the story of a man who took charge and turned things around when life threw challenges at him. It’s a story, a visually pleasing one at that, which reflects Praveen’s philosophy of looking good, feeling good and aging gracefully (in no particular order). It’s also a mighty testament to the growing number of followers which the siblings have gained in a short span of time. Theirs is a following that laps up clever fitness and nutrition hacks, regularly shared on Instagram and via the blog, resonating with the fact that it’s never too late to get shredded. The all-around dynamo and family man also has plenty on his plate, professionally—he runs software company Ikas Technologies in Chennai, is a partner in the auto portal MotorScribes, and has an “exciting new healthy food concept start-up” in the pipeline.
We talk fitness and motivation with the Chennai-based everyday athlete in an attempt to find out more about the balancing act that has been Praveen’s life for a good while now.
How do you find that balance between your personal life, training and work life?
For me, it is about prioritising. Right now my priorities are training, work and spending quality time with my young family (not in order of priority). In the process, socialising has taken a back seat. I still make time for it but I restrict it to perhaps a late night once in a while on a Saturday or meeting up with friends whenever I can during the day.
What motivates you to take time out of your day to train?
I could tell you the clichéd answer that it was for my health but I can honestly tell you that vanity plays a large role as well. Further, having become a father for the second time in my 40s I think it is important I keep myself fit to keep up with my girls. It was difficult initially to take time out to train, but it can be rather addictive once you make it a part of your routine and you start seeing the changes. From having never been a morning person to now waking up at 4.30 am to train, it has been quite the change in lifestyle. Nowadays, and my wife can attest to it, I get crabby if I miss more than a couple of days of training.
What are your weekly workouts like?
Over a period of time, I have done my own research on exercise, science and nutrition. Based on this, I programme my own training routine along with those of my training buddies. Currently, I follow a five-day upper/lower split along with one day of mobility and cardio and one day for rest and recovery. The programme emphasises compound movements and progressive overload with some supplemental accessory work.
Do you change your routine very frequently?
The short answer to this is no. I stick to a routine for a minimum of six months. Why? Because changing workout routines too often doesn’t allow you to get better at a movement and progressively overload. Too many people constantly change their routine in the name of keeping things interesting and end up not making much progress.
What would a typical daily diet be like for you?
I don’t follow any specific nutrition plan or diet, but I am a big believer in including all food groups and not marginalising or categorising foods into good and bad foods. Once you understand some basic principles about nutrition you can be rather flexible with it. Since I normally train first thing in the morning, I have one scoop of protein before I hit the gym. Post-workout I have a protein and carb-heavy meal of either eggs, oats/bread/rice and fruits or a shake made up of a scoop of protein along with fruits and oats. During the rest of the day I eat either one or two meals comprised of chicken curry, rice and vegetables (in one form or the other). I have a terrible sweet tooth and I love crunchy snacks so I try to include some small portion of this during the day so I don’t deprive myself.
A bit of advice for people who have only just started to look at incorporating fitness into their daily lives?
Start slow. Don’t believe anyone or any method that promises quick fixes or results. This is a lifelong pursuit and should be pursued with that frame of mind. Empower yourself with some basic knowledge on exercise and nutrition so you don’t blindly follow the advice of someone.