Out 11th Interviewee for the “Meet BITSians in Sports” series is Saurabh Surana (2007A3PS080P).
Saurabh is an avid Cyclist and recently won the “Most Consistent Performer” title during the Burn A Million Calories(BAMC) event. He has been able to keep himself fit through many other activities like tennis, dance, and hiking while working at Broadcom. In an exhaustive interview with Saurabh, he shares with us his story so far and his motivation and mantra to stay fit.
Name: Saurabh Surana
BITS ID: 2007A3PS080P
What has motivated you to so rigorously pursue fitness?
I have been a super active person right from my childhood. I like to keep doing something or other. So indulging in sports is one of the ways which helps me enjoy my time and keeps me fit and healthy at the same time. Fitness has also a great impact on our personal and mental life. It keeps a person fresh which in turns increases thinking capabilities, creativity plus takes away all the tension/stress from you. Nowadays most of the jobs are of sedentary nature, so there is greater need to include some activities in our lifestyle to maintain good cardiovascular fitness.
What are the sports/activities you are involved in and how did you get into playing these sports?
I have almost played/tried pretty much every sport by now. But few of them which I really love are tennis, cycling, swimming, dancing, and computer games (racing, shooting to name a few). I was able to do all these regularly while I was in college (Masters) thanks to our BITS culture of having no compulsory attendance and studying just before exams which gives us enough time to do anything but study(haha….). But once you move from student life to work life, it’s not that simple. Many things come into the picture.
Tennis – I believe it was one of those epic Wimbledon matches between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal which got me into my head and I seemed to get crazy about Tennis. Since then becoming a diehard Roger Federer Fan (reasons being pretty obvious☺), I have been watching/following tennis very closely. I tried playing once or twice while I was in BITS but because of lack of facilities during that time and tennis being not that popular sport in college, I kind of skipped it. Later while my stay at IIT-Bombay as a researcher, I had few close friends who were good at it and used to play regularly. So that’s where it all started and I picked up very fast. And after coming to the US for masters, it became even easier to play Tennis because of popularity and amazing facilities.
Cycling – I have been into cycling since my childhood. I was always excited to be the fastest person on road, be it sitting beside my dad while he was driving or me biking. So, I bought my first road bike in BITS. I and one of my close friend Abhinay used to bike regularly in and around college. We always used to start for our morning classes just a couple of minutes before so that we could fly across the crowd like a jet plane or something. It was kind of cool thing. I remember that we were supposed to have a bike race in the third year at BITS. We both went through the route, came up with some team tactics but I guess it never happened thanks to rain and the event had to be cancelled☹. Taking a step further, recently I came across one of the videos of Mark Cavendish (British professional rider) amazing sprinting capabilities so I started following Professional cycling as well. And because of that, I have actually started taking cycling seriously and looking forward to getting into racing.
Dance – Well this was kind of unique experience which I got in masters. I guess I was too shy during my undergrad days to dance. But once I started, I loved it a lot. I joined ballroom dance club apart from tennis club because it seemed to be a lot of fun to me. I thought of joining triathlon club as well but that was a too costly affair to jump in especially when you come to the US and you start paying everything in dollars. Then I had a group of friends who were preparing for India Night and were looking for male dancers (rare to find such people :P). So I went forward and tagged few of my friends too along with me. Trust me, it was a lot of fun. We used to practice regularly. Though initially we were given some time-pass roles but then later once we improved and we performed a lot of time especially during festivals. I loved it so much that even a day before an exam I used to go for dance class.
So these are few of the many things which I do/play. I used to play badminton a lot too in college. I guess it was my tennis alternate on rainy days since we had nice indoor courts. Nowadays I keep switching between tennis and cycling like a couple of days each.
What is the typical and the maximum distance you have cycled? Any long cycling trips you have traveled or plan to travel?
I typically ride about 50-60 miles (~80-100 km) on both Saturdays and Sundays. Apart from that, I ride to work every day so that’s a good daily workout too. I plan to do a double century ride this year (200miles/320km). Also, I have plans to get into racing soon. I want to give it a try at least. So I am currently working on it.
What do you love the most about cycling? Many BITSians have taken up cycling as a sport, any advice to the budding cyclists?
Cycling is a good cardio workout. Plus another good thing about it is you get to explore the nature. It may not be possible in cities but if we got I bet there are a ton of places with great breathtaking views.
I know some of the BITsians who do cycling for fun and race as well. In fact, they only kept me motivated to do cycling. For others who would want to get into cycling, I would say – it’s always nice to have a good bike but that shouldn’t be a limiting factor if cost is the concern. You can always upgrade once you start enjoying. Also if you want to do long distance biking, make sure you get a bike fit done as soon as you get the bike. Because it is not fun when your body starts aching at end of the day just because something on the bike was not the way it should have been. Also, try to eat healthy and avoid junk food if possible.
What kind of heights have you covered hiking? How regularly do you hike?
Longest I have hiked so far is 20 miles (32km). I am not a regular hiker, though, but whenever I and few of my friends travel within States for long weekends, we go to national parks and hike the mountains.
Were you actively involved in any sports activity in BITS? Any particular memory from BITS that motivated you to stay fit?
Actually No, I used to be computer games at that time (especially racing games) apart from cycling. Apart from that, I played Carrom a lot, little bit of table tennis may be football/cricket sometimes. Btw, Computer gaming also has some positives expects too. It develops creativity, sharpens your mind, and gives the ability to make quick decisions. But nowadays I focus more on outdoor games as opposed to indoor.
How do you manage to spare time for these activities while working full time? How did you manage these while pursuing Master’s?
Well, it’s not hard to manage at all. If we see normally people work for 8-9 hours a day excluding break times. But even If we include that, let’s say 10 hours. So, Assuming 7-8 hours of sleep, 2-3 hours here and there for dinner, normal gossip etc., you still get a couple of hours easily which you can spend on fitness. At end of the day, it all comes down to how enthusiastic you are about something. If you are then you can always find time for it. Time management is just a mental barrier.
Life at masters – My research at IIT-Bombay helped me a lot with some of the core topics in electronics plus the CDC’s at BITS were also very detailed, so I never faced any issues during my Masters. Actually, if you see, we generally take 3 courses per semester in Masters so that way we get a lot of time as opposed to 6+ during Bachelors. Also, I regretted a little bit by not doing any outdoor sports at BITS regularly, so that was also one of the main motivation for me.
Do you take special care of your diet in everyday life?
Yes. Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and active life. I am vegetarian and I prefer eating Indian food any day. So the fact that we don’t get good homemade Indian food here, so I end up cooking pretty much every day. Also, Life at Masters has taught me how to cook and somehow it has also become one of my hobbies. This way I get to eat what I like plus I get fresh healthy food. Also, I try to avoid frozen food as much as possible. I eat fruits daily and keep switching between different fruits for varieties. Milk, Curd, wheat Chapatti, wheat bread, and nuts are my usual daily source of protein.
As far as rides day are concerned: Pre-ride – I generally eat curd mixed with some berries, raisins, and granolas to get sufficient carbs and other nutrients and do some basic stretches. Post-ride – I take Whey protein right after the ride for quick recovery of muscles followed by lunch within half an hour or so. During rides, I try to take at least 60gm of carbs and at least half a liter of water per hour to fuel myself. So for this, I keep some energy bars and prepare sports drink using Lemon oranges, honey, and salt mixed with water. You can think of it as a healthier version of Gatorade or other sports drinks available in the market. And it doesn’t take much time too.
Also, I go to the gym twice a week to work on specific muscles and core strength.
Finally, what would be your advice to the BITSian community to stay fit and healthy?
I would say stay active and live a healthy and fit life. There should be at least one sports which you should play regularly to maintain a good work-life balance.
I hope I didn’t bore you much. Thanks to BITS2Fintess team for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts. I look forward to hearing from many more BITsians about what they think about sports and fitness.
Interviewed by: Suchita Pati (2011A3PS269H)