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Journalism of Courage

Virat Kohli on the need to prioritise mental health: ‘Even in a room full of people who love me, I’ve felt alone’

"For an athlete, the sport can bring the best out of you as a player but at the same time, the amount of pressure that you are constantly under, can affect your mental health negatively," former captain of India men's national cricket team said

Virat Kohli, Virat Kohli asia cup, Virat Kohli interview, Virat Kohli anushka sharma, Virat Kohli runsIt is super important to focus on recovery as a sportsperson because we put our bodies to the test every single day, Virat Kohli said. (Photo: Virat Kohli/Instagram)

After giving the Zimbabwe and West Indies tour a miss, Virat Kohli is all set to play in the upcoming 2022 Asia Cup, which begins August 27. While the last few months may have been less than productive for the former India captain in terms of runs, the one thing that has remained constant is his athleticism on the field. Despite being on the wrong side of the 30s, Virat remains one of the fittest cricketers in world cricket, and one of the rare cricketers who is equally at ease manning the cover region, which requires quick reflexes to stop the ball, and also fielding on the ropes, where during the business end of a T20 match each run saved is worth its weight in gold!

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In an exclusive email interaction with Indian Express, Virat Kohli speaks about what brings out the best in him, his fitness journey, why recovery plays an important role in a sportsperson’s journey, how he unwinds after a hectic season, the importance of mental health, and his guilty indulgence. Edited excerpts below:

How do you de-stress after a tour to prepare yourself for the next series?

The one thing that truly helps me unwind after a hectic season is spending time with my family. Apart from that, I love to spend time pursuing my hobbies. Travel is something that helps me de-stress a lot, and of course coffee; I believe that I am a coffee connoisseur and absolutely love trying out different flavours and coffee spots around the world.

No matter how hectic your schedule is, you never miss your workouts. What does your daily routine consist of?

My fitness journey is an interesting one. The first few months are the hardest because that is the time you really need to push yourself. The only thing that keeps you going is your desire and how badly you want to make those changes in your lifestyle, which is why I try my best to never miss my workouts. My daily routine consists of simple things like staying hydrated, consuming healthy foods that help detoxify my body, and helping my body recover faster.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about being a sportsperson?


I believe that competition brings the best out of me in terms of agility and focus, and in a sport like cricket, you need to work towards being precise in what you do and there is no room for error — this challenges me as a person, and is actually something that I look forward to the most! It is a big task, every single time, as an athlete to make sure that when the season is ongoing, you are focused on the ultimate goal which is to try and make your team win. But challenges help achieve excellence after all!

How do you ensure recovery after a match, while also preparing yourself for an upcoming tournament?

It is super important to focus on recovery as a sportsperson because we put our bodies to the test every single day. But even today, the concept of recovery is still extremely new and underrated. The reality is, that it is the most important part of an athlete’s journey because we are always trying to push our limits on the field and as a res​​ult of that, we face a lot of injuries. When I started off, I was struggling to find products that would help me bring my body back to the most optimum level possible and as quickly as possible. Things were very basic, not as portable as they are today. When it comes to your muscles, some support is needed for them to recover and be in optimum condition; and Hyperice* helps me to do so even when I am not competing. I also try my best to prioritise rest and good quality sleep to help my body recover. (*Kohli is the Indian brand ambassador and athlete-investor in Hyperice)

You are also extremely conscious of your diet. What are the dos and don’ts you follow?


There was a time when I didn’t focus on diet and fitness but in the past few years, I have really changed the way I eat and have become more disciplined. I try to always have an absolute awareness of my food intake. The dos and don’ts for me are quite simple — no processed sugar, no gluten. I also avoid dairy as much as possible. Another trick that has helped me keep my health in check is to eat to 90 per cent of my stomach’s capacity. For a foodie like me, all of these things are not easy but at the end of the day, when you start seeing positive changes in your body, staying healthy truly becomes an addiction.

So, I make sure to stick to what I need to do whether it’s my diet, fitness routines, making sure that I don’t miss some repetitions or a couple of sets in the gym, or that I don’t snack on things which are not good for me. All these changes make you realise you can go beyond a limit and push yourself to be the best version of you.

Inversely, on a cheat day — what does your plate look like? What is the one thing you absolutely love to indulge in?

One thing that I absolutely love to indulge in would be chole bhature. But even when I indulge in my favourite Indian dishes, I make sure to still keep my diet in check. It is never really a cheat ‘day’ as much as it is a cheat ‘meal’ when it comes to my food habits. I make sure that I have done intermittent fasting for my body to break down the food as soon as possible so that I can get back on track quicker.

How do you ensure to maintain your mental well-being amid pressure, criticism, injuries, and losses? Any tips you’d like to share with aspiring sportspersons?

For an athlete, the sport can bring the best out of you as a player but at the same time, the amount of pressure that you are constantly under, can affect your mental health negatively. It is definitely a serious issue and as much as we try to be strong at all times, it can tear you apart. My tips to aspiring athletes would be that yes, physical fitness and focus on recovery is the key to being a good athlete, but at the same time, it is crucial to consistently keep in touch with your inner self. I personally have experienced times when even in a room full of people who support and love me, I felt alone, and I am sure that this is a feeling that a lot of people can relate to. So, take out time for yourself and reconnect with your core self. If you lose that connection, it wouldn’t take very long for other things to crumble around you. You need to learn how to compartmentalise your time so that there’s balance. It takes practice like anything else in life, but it’s something worth investing in, that’s the only way to feel a sense of sanity and enjoyment while doing your work.

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First published on: 17-08-2022 at 12:30 IST
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