Arya: 'Fitness is not about what others are doing, it's about you'
From his fitness routine to his diet and coping with lockdowns, actor Arya tells us about the challenges and the effort that went into his stunning body transformation for his latest movie
From starting cycling groups to following fitness routines — fans of Arya are more than merely star-struck with the actor. They are motivated and inspired to get fit and strong, and furthermore the Enga Veetu Mapillai star does his bit by acknowledging and responding encouragingly on social media. Since February this year, when Arya’s body transformation was revealed with a Twitter post — the 39-year-old actor has become a fitness influencer of sorts. A self-confessed football fan, we have seen this popular actor in roles that demanded physical perfection — like Irandam Ulagam (2013) and Kadamban (2017). However, his current state of being gloriously ripped for his latest film on the sport of boxing with filmmaker Pa. Ranjith, has taken his fitness quotient to a new level. With Sundar C’s film Aranmanai 3 and Anand Shankar's next in his kitty, we chat with the Chennai-based actor about his fitness mantra, his passion for cycling and his craving for desserts. Excerpts:
What was your biggest challenge during lockdown, in terms of your fitness?
The main problem was that we didn’t have any timeline — I have to be ripped for the movie and I couldn’t sustain that state endlessly. To stay ripped I have to be on a specific diet. I tried my best to stay in shape so that when the time comes I could push myself that extra mile and be ready for the shoot. I had to make do with my terrace and limited equipment. However, when they finally announced in September that in a month we will start shooting — I went on a stringent diet for 20 days. Basically, high protein and low carbs — and go into a calorie deficit diet.
One big takeaway from your days in lockdown.
One thing I realised during lockdown when I was working out on my terrace is that you don’t really need fancy equipment or gym to really stay fit. All you need is six feet by three feet space — rest of the things we complain about are just excuses. There are so many exercises you can do that will keep you strong, healthy and even powerful — from floor exercises to body weight exercises! Otherwise I always went to the gym for strenuous and tiring hardcore exercises. During lockdown I was completely taken aback with what I was capable of — it was an eyeopener for me!
Do tell us about your daily fitness routine.
For gym training I have Jaya Kumar (former Mr India) and for boxing my trainer is Santhosh from Chennai MMA — between both of them my fitness is sorted! My fitness regimen is basically split into three sections — cardio, boxing and gym. And between each session I have to give a couple of hours of break — basically I am working out the whole day, my wife says! But this is the only way to achieve the kind of fitness demanded of this role.
Your take on supplements.
The kind of workout that I am following — there is a tendency for injuries, muscle soreness — so you have to feed your body with supplements that are required to heal your body. Having said that, every body type is different. So, you have to figure out what is right for you. I take BCWA and Glutamine for recovery.
Your fitness icons?
Cristiano Ronaldo! And also (Mike) Tyson — he was out of form but recently his video went viral where he was back and that kind of determination only great people can have — it was so inspiring. So, (in comparison) we are nothing! In fact, I went all the way to London to watch Usain Bolt run his last race, the 2017 World Championship — it was just some 9.9 seconds of sprinting but we waited three hours to watch that. It was so worth it — truly awesome!
Tell us about your passion for cycling.
Cycling is so much fun — you can do it for long hours! Hundred kilometres will take you three hours of cycling — but no other sport or fitness routine, like running or swimming, can be sustained for three long hours on a regular basis. My favourite challenge was 1,200 kilometres of cycling in three days — at the London-EdinburghLondon route in 2017! Though it is not the distance that was the real challenge — it is the fact that everyday is a new day and the experience can be a challenge.
Will you carry on with this tough fitness regimen even after this movie?
I am a big foodie — so the day I finish shooting, the first thing I will do is have that biryani! I have been craving for all the cupcakes and the desserts that my wife (Sayyeshaa) makes. I have been known to polish off an entire tray of her caramel pudding — that too after I have had my dinner!
Fitness-wise I am an outdoor person — I like running, swimming and cycling. Now I am also fascinated with working with one's own bodyweight — developing the core strength with calisthenics. I feel that (kind of fitness) is the real power! Meanwhile, we are all set to train for Iron Man 2021 in Malaysia, next!
A word of advice to fitness enthusiasts?
Fitness is not about what others are doing - it is about you. What you can do better the next day. It is about competing with yourself. Every body type every person is different - just keep a track of your own journey. These fitness apps that monitor and save your efforts are great motivators - as you can track your improvement and also be mindful.
A sneak peek into Arya's watchlist.
"I can watch football for five hours, but not movies on the small screen — I prefer watching films only in the theatres. However, the lockdown did make me binge on series"
■ Special OPS in Disney+Hotstar
■ Money Heist in Netflix
■ Jack Ryan in Amazon Prime Video
■ Oakley — Sunnies
■ Canyon — Road bike
■ Garmin — Wearable fitness tracker
The actor tells us that it is the company that matters. Destination is secondary. “Wherever my friends are is a good place for me. And I personally prefer the vibe of cities like Macao, London and Hong Kong, where there are bright lights and many people."