When you talk of Indian supermodels, invariably it is Milind Soman that comes to mind first. We all remember that moment in 1995 when he emerged out of a box that said Made In India and swept pop star Alisha Chinai off her feet — along with the rest of Indian women. That was also the year he retired from modelling and shifted to TV serials and later, to movies.
Then, on July 19, 2015, he completed the Ironman Triathlon in Zurich, that required a person to do a 3.8-km swim, a 180.2-km cycle ride and a 42.2-km run, which had to be finished without a break in 16 hours, to get the title of Ironman. 50-year old Milind completed it in 15 hours and 19 minutes.
Milind caught India’s imagination when he emerged out of the box in Alisha Chinai’s Made In India music video in 1995. (YouTube)
He didn’t stop there. In 2017, he completed Florida’s 3-day ‘Ultra-Endurance Event’ called Ultraman. In the 517.5-kilometer race participants swim for 10 km and ride a bike for 148-kilometres on the first day. On the second day there is a 276-kilometre bike ride and on the third and final day participants have to run for 84-kilometres. Milind was the only one who ran barefoot and completed the activities in 34 hours and 46 minutes.
If you thought that was unbelievably hard, take a breath.
In a chat with HT, Milind tells us about his non-gym routine (which he started at age 38), his superwoman mother who does 90-second planks and about having a girlfriend half his age.
I heard that you’ve never entered a gym before?
I used to own two gyms in Delhi called Breath, so obviously I’ve entered a gym, but I don’t use a gym for fitness.
Any particular reason for that?
Because it doesn’t work. Gyms are basically for bodybuilding and maybe rehab but you can’t get healthy and fit from a gym. I mean you can, but not holistically. See, they employ isolation techniques, which means that each body part is isolated so you are focusing on some particular part of your body.
Do you have a set sleeping and waking up time?
Yes, I sleep in the night.
(I burst out laughing at his reply, and he chuckles.)
I mean nowadays it’s generally difficult because there are so many choices; I mean human beings are notorious with choices. So when you have the choice of TV and the internet, it becomes difficult. But I generally sleep by 10:30-11 pm and wake up by 5 am.
What was the reason behind starting Pinkathon? Did you ever feel it would be a success?
I never really thought about whether it would be a success or not. I just wanted to see whether women would run. Having been a runner for so many years (it’s his 15th year since he’s been into endurance running). In 2012, when we started Pinkathon, we wanted to see if we created a running event that was exclusively for women, would they come. Because I saw there were so many running events that were being organized across the country, but the participation of women was hardly 6-7%.
So there had to be some reason which wasn’t obvious that women didn’t want to run, which is what people told me. They said women don’t want to run, they’re not interested in exercise, and they don’t have time, all these kind of things. But I knew it couldn’t be that it had to be something else.
There are various cultural reasons why women don’t join regular running events. Firstly, most Indian women are more comfortable in salwar and sarees and when they see runners in shorts, tank tops and tights they think that this is not for us because we can’t wear these kinds of clothes.
They also notice that there are predominantly men in the events so they would be uncomfortable; what if someone says something or laughed at them or does something which is not appropriate? So we discovered these reasons for women not running as we went along.
Considering you completed the Ironman, don’t people ever tell you that you take it a bit to the extreme?
Nobody has told me this. I mean I’ve heard people ask others and I’ve read in the media that it’s punishing and a torture, but it’s not. I mean the longer you do it the easier it gets. Obviously, it’s a torture and a punishment when you start because the effort initially is tough for anybody because you’ve treated your body so badly for years that it’s not able to do normal things.
What’s your diet like?
I don’t eat refined white sugar. If I want to eat something sweet it needs to be made with jaggery or honey, so no chemicals. I stay away from packaged and over-processed food. I don’t eat biscuits because it’s packaged. I mean, why would I want to eat biscuits?
What is your daily fitness routine?
I don’t run every day, I run 3-4 times a week. The other days of the week I do nothing. I don’t believe in any kind of ritual or routine or anything like that. What I do believe is that you need to be active all the time.
I was a national swimming champion from the age of 9, and I swam till I was 23. Then from the age of 23 to 38, I did nothing. I did no sport, no game, no exercise. But my weight has been the same from the age of 19 until today.
You were also a smoker but quit later on. How did that happen?
I started smoking when I started television, so I must have been around 28.
You started smoking pretty late then!
Yes, so it was even more stupid than most people. I obviously realised that it was a bad thing, which is why I hadn’t smoked till then but bad habits are the easiest to pick up. I was smoking around 36 cigarettes a day for around 10 years. It took me three years to stop.
On Mother’s Day, your mom (78 years) did a plank for 80 seconds, and the internet went mad. How did she reach there and what’s next for her: a 100 pushups?
Actually she did it for 90 seconds, I could record only 80. I had told her that it was becoming a trend to do a plank and that it’s a good exercise for the core. She treks a lot, doing at least one trek every month and has been doing that for 15 years now since she retired. In three months, she could do a plank for 90 seconds.
Moving on to relationships, why does Milind Soman make such a great boyfriend?
Oh…uh…I don’t know…you’ll have to ask my girlfriend. And I’m not sure whether I do because they don’t last!
Your girlfriend is really young compared to you (Ankita is half his age) so do you worry about the competition you might face from other guys her age or is it like you’re Milind Soman, so there isn’t really any competition?
I don’t really worry about competition in anything, because basically it’s about me. And if it’s a relationship, it’s about both the people. And I don’t consider age at all for anything — whether its relationships, fitness or health or whatever.
Is it true that you eat insects as a form of protein?
Well 60% of the world’s population eats insects, so it’s not unusual. In northeast India, Malaysia and Singapore, it’s very common. I have eaten insects, but it’s not part of my staple diet since it’s not easily available, otherwise I would have it.
What was life after the Made In India video?
People used to recognize me even before the video. In fact, Made In India came out in 1995, the year I stopped modelling. People assume I started modelling when the video came out.
Courtesy: Kabir Singh Bhandari , The Hindustan Times