High in the Sadar Hills of Manipur, near National Highway-39, lies the town of Kangpokpi. Idyllic and lush with vegetation, it has become a major hub of music production in the North East, mostly pop and choir music.
But lately, there’s a new sound echoing through the hills – that of the clanging of metal plates accompanied by lots of heavy grunting. A short walk through town reveals the source: the newly-opened gym at the District Police Headquarters!
The man behind this renewed vigour and strength of the Kangpokpi cops is IPS Hemant Pandey, Superintendent of Police, Kangpokpi District Police. A lifelong sports & fitness enthusiast, SP Pandey was instrumental in getting the Kangpokpi District Police Fitness Club built from scratch.
FITMAG recently caught up with SP Pandey who spared some time from his schedule to talk to us about all things fitness:
Fitmag: SP Pandey, thank you so much for speaking with us. Could you tell us a bit about your own fitness journey – how did it all begin?
SP Pandey: I’ve been working out for so long that I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t a part of my life. I find that it has made me much more stable and composed which is essential for my kind of job. It all started when I was a teenager. I was quite restless and had a lot of nervous energy. One of my college teachers noticed this and asked me to take up meditation. But you know how kids are – I hardly knew what that was back then. So instead, I started going to the gym and that worked wonders!
I discovered that working out for an hour considerably calmed me down and increased my focus and concentration. Plus, it also kept my voracious appetite in control – I eat much less when I work out than when I don’t. I don’t know how that happens but it does! For the last 7 years, my weight has stayed around 85 kgs.
Fitmag: Growing up, did you have a role model who inspired you to be fit?
SP Pandey: Oh, that would be my father! I have always seen him workout. Even today at the biological age of 75, his medical age is only 55. He has no ailments whatsoever! In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen him take any medicines in almost 30 years. He works out daily and eats whatever he wants to eat.
Actually, that’s a major reason why I work out – I love eating. One of my life goals is to eat without inhibitions for as long as I live! And in order to do that, you need to be fit.
Fitmag: Police training is quite rigorous and physically demanding. How have you managed to keep yourself fit after leaving the academy? What’s your fitness mantra?
SP Pandey: There’s something my ustaad in National Police Academy (NPA) used to say: 1 year of good exercise drives away 10 years of illness. Though it might be an exaggeration, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. My father is a prime example.
Suppose we buy a car or a mobile or any accessory for that matter. Firstly, we try to get the best possible one within our price range. And then once we have it, we use it properly and maintain it well because we want to extend its life forever. Now, about our body – it’s the only one we’ll ever have and it’s much more expensive than anything we can buy. If you fall ill, even a simple treatment might cost more than most smartphones. So why not keep the body in the best possible shape, both aesthetically and functionally. That is why I feel that our endeavor should be to become the best version of ourselves.
Fitmag: Tell us a bit about the new fitness club.
SP Pandey: Well, as I said, fitness and exercise are very important to me. And I want the people around me to also be fit. So whenever I have been transferred to a new location, the first thing I look for is whether the district has a gym.
When I came to Kangpokpi, I found that they had no such facilities and a gym would need to be built from scratch. As an SP, it was within my scope to get one built and that’s how we started working on it.
The biggest challenge was the budget. Sourcing equipment from established brands would have been a very costly affair. Luckily, Manipur already has a culture of fitness. There are many people here who make their own equipment. So, I approached someone who is considered best in this regard. He was more than happy to help me out.
For our gym, he custom-made around 16 different types of equipment including a sizeable number of barbells, dumbbells (up to 25kg) and plates (around 500kg). The total cost came to just Rs. 4.5 Lakhs. It took him 2 whole months to make and put everything in place but it was well worth the wait. I’m proud to say that among civil police, my district is the first one in Manipur state to have its own gym. It was inaugurated on August 9, 2018.
SP Pandey: Thank you. I’m quite proud of it myself. (smiles) And everyone has started using the gym in full earnest so that’s good too!
Fitmag: Can you tell us a bit about your own fitness regime? What exercise and diet programs do you follow to stay this fit?
SP Pandey: I follow a very simple diet. I’m a vegetarian. In fact, I don’t even eat eggs. My food is the typical staple vegetarian fare that you eat in most Indian households.
The mainstays of my diet are dairy, sprouts, dal, rotis and vegetables. 1 glass of milk and paneer take care of my daily protein requirements. I might have a scoop of whey protein but that’s once in a blue moon.
Moving to Manipur has definitely helped me achieve and exceed my fitness goals. I met people who’ve given me invaluable advice, guidance and inputs and my body has undergone drastic changes.
A complete shoulder tear has prevented me from doing any sort of push workout using my arms. So I only go to gym for legs and back workout. Apart from that, it’s mostly bodyweight and dumbbells where I try to do anywhere between 1000 to 1500 reps of various exercises within 45 to 60 minutes. In addition, I make sure to perform the big compound lifts as often as possible. I especially love Deadlifts and Squats.
Fitmag: How do you keep yourself motivated?
SP Pandey: My uniform is everything to me. It’s something I have always wanted, it’s the only clothing I care to look good in. Putting on my uniform everyday, wanting to serve my country and of course, being the best father I can be for my two daughters – those give me all the motivation I need.
That and of course, my love for food! (laughs)
(FITMAG thanks SP Pandey for this interview and his permission to use the photographs. Readers who wish to follow him on Instagram can find him @hemantp83).