Seldom is one likely to come across any sport or game that doesn’t involve stamina in one form or the other- be it physical or mental. However, in conventional terms, whenever one speaks of stamina or energy, the physical aspect of it is implied. Rigorous training regimens, extensive diet planning, round-the-clock health monitoring and proper regulation of sleep-and-wake cycle- it’s all-in-a-day’s work for someone who intends to stay in the pink of health, stamina-wise. And while that will certainly work its wonder on the muscular tissues of the body, chances are that the games/sports will be far more demanding than the regimen would’ve prepared one for. In any case, that’s their life – exerting their body in gruelling schedules for the glory of their nation/club.
The following sports are a testimony to the above fact.
10. TABLE TENNIS
It might not seem very demanding at first sight but try saying that to a TT player; God save you from the subsequent wrath you’re likely to incur. For most people, table tennis starts and finishes at standing at a constant position and returning the ball. Truth be known, it goes far beyond that. The alertness, the agility of hand movements, the flexibility to be able to return the ball from different places on the board in a matter of seconds demand a great deal of stamina that is largely lost to the spectator. All in all, if a person happens to be low on stamina, chances are that he/she will barely last half the game.
Surprised that it is at number 9? Well, don’t. For purists who are likely to disagree, a word for them- apart from the batsmen (and the bowler for those six balls in an over) the job for rest of the cricketers is to stand in patient expectation for the ball to come to them. The point being, cricket is not as taxing on the body as it might seem. However, that doesn’t discount the necessity of a great deal of stamina. For the batsmen who have to score the runs (be it through slogging the ball or running between the wickets) stamina is priority numero uno. And the need for stamina increases ten-fold during test matches, which is the ultimate test of endurance for cricketers. However, going a little soft on my previous argument, standing for long hours under the sun requires a great deal of stamina as well. To dive and catch balls behind the stumps like Gilchrist, or lunge at balls at slip like Rhodes, stamina cannot be discounted.
Keep the alertness, flexibility and reflexes required for table-tennis and add a whole lot of foot-movement to the equation. That is precisely how strenuous badminton can get. It is not merely your regular backyard sport that you play for killing time, but a core Olympic Sport. Building up stamina for badminton can involve running fixed lengths regularly to a variety of cardiovascular exercises (like skipping). As an example from our very own turf, we have Prakash Padukone who was known for his aggressive style of play; Peter Gade, Morten Frost from European countries among others.
Squash is highly demanding on the physique of a player. It requires agile foot movement, alertness to sense the opponent’s next move and excellent hand-eye coordination. Pros of squash are known to indulge in a variety of exercises to increase their fitness levels- they run, swim, take part in other cardiovascular training regimens, etc. What is of prime importance, however, is to hit the ball with the perfect amount of strength which requires a great deal of endurance (as squash games can last quite long). This hard-hitting of the ball is something that makes squash such a taxing sport on the body. If not trained properly, arm injuries will become commonplace and might become severe enough to prevent one from the playing the game ever again.
Remember the lunges Olympic record-holding swimmer Micheal Phelps made when in the water, searing towards finish line (in 2008 Beijing Olympics, he won 8 gold medals)? Or the Thorpedo (Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe) breaking long course swimming records? In 2001, he became the first person to win six gold medals at one World Championships, thereby setting three world records. Swimming is one of those few sports where the body can get extremely prone to fatigue at very early stages. Muscle cramps due to long hours in the water are very common and building up stamina, endurance are key to persistence in the sport. A former Olympic swimmer, Greg Whyte, recommends extensive upper body workout and focus on breathing exercises for the same. Also, a proper diet low on fats and regular treadmill exercises will go a long way in ensuring a swimmer stays in the oink of health.
Another sport that involves alertness and quick foot movement. Volleyball also demands an extremely well kept lower body starting from the waist. The frequent jumps volleyball players must execute in order to go for the ‘kill’ can get highly demanding on a player’s back and waist. Jogging and other cardiovascular exercises take care of the endurance part whereas the plank exercise, and jumping ropes helps keep the body fit and flexible. Left and right side hitters, and setters are the player positions in which the players have to remain especially fit (as these are primarily offensive positions).
For reasons similar to those in volleyball, basketball is another game that demands a lot of waist flexibility, along with the shoulders. Bulky, stiff shoulders are a strict NO for basketball players. And not only that, the running that basketball players have to do on-court demands good health of the legs as well. A very common injury in basketball players is a condition known as “jumper’s knee” and is characterized by pain in the tendon below the kneecap. Apart from these, ankle injuries, ACL, etc. are all common ills to which basketball players fall prey.
That daunting little activity in our childhood where our dads forced us to get on the bicycle and acquire one or two bruises is actually a full-fledged sport. The most famous event that takes place in the world of cycling is the Tour de France. What is so demanding, you ask? The current edition of the Tour de France spans 3,500km in 21 segments across a 23-day period! If you think that is enough, then the fact that it is contested across 9 flat, 5 hilly and 6 mountainous stages is sure to blow your mind. Now imagine the stamina you needed to cycle across the green field in your neighborhood and multiply that by 1000; and, hey Presto! You get the stamina required for a cyclist.
Bjorn Borg was one of the tennis players of his times who could easily outlast his opponents on and in the most grueling days and conditions. Rumour had it that the reason was his abnormally low pulse rate (around 38), but in his autobiography he has denied such claims. Thus, the testimony of his stamina was evident from his game. In recent times, Federer with his composed and artistic style of play, and Nadal with his aggressive style of play are certainly the cornerstones of endurance and stamina; for Federer, being able to reach the finals at the age of 32 and for Nadal, bouncing back after serious injuries and winning trophies. Starting from arm, to torso, to waist and even leg injuries, the entire body is up for grabs by a host of ills when one is on the tennis court. Proper exercising and dieting is of prime importance if one is to maintain shape.
For me, the king of sports and also the most hazardous among all the above mentioned sports. Deaths on the field, grave injuries, etc. have not been alien to this sport. Most of them have come about due to lack of sufficient stamina or endurance; others due to injuries in the wrong places. Players pulling their Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or their hamstring is highly common in this sport, among other injuries. A harcdcore training session consists of doing laps, jogging, back-and-forth running between closely spaced checkpoints, push-ups, etc. The epitome of fitness in the game has always been portrayed by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Javier Zanetti all of whom played the game till they were into their late 30s-early 40s.