At an age where most sportsmen have already hung up their boots and are associated with their sport in other ways like coaching and commentary, Dharmaraj Cheralathan is not just playing kabaddi professionally but also managing to outperform players half his age. The 43-year-old Cheralathan is going strong in his sixth VIVO Pro Kabaddi season and is showing no signs of slowing down. He is still considered one of the best defenders of the game and is one of the most sought-after players.

A veteran of the game, Cheralathan has been playing kabaddi for almost 28 years and has always maintained peak fitness. Such is his fitness level that many youngsters consider him a role model. In an exclusive interview with Anna, as he is fondly called, shared what makes him the fit player that he is today.

All heart

“A lot of youngsters come to me for tips, asking me about my fitness regime,” Cheralathan said with a smile. “I tell them that you need to put your heart to it. If you do it as a task, you won’t become a top player. Fitness drills, endurance training, you simply need to put your heart to it. You can’t do it just because the coach has asked you to. To develop as a player, you have to work hard.”  

Rigorous work ethic has been a part of Cheralathan’s life right from the time he used to work in the field as a youngster and help his family around in household chores.

“I maintain my work out regularly, even during the off-season,” Cheralathan continued, “Apart from team practices that happen occasionally, I go running every morning and I also go to the gym regularly before leaving for work.”

A healthy diet forms a big part of Cheralathan’s fitness regime, giving him the energy to perform his daily exercises.


“I had to cut down on the amount of non-vegetarian food I ate over the years. I consume a healthy amount of dry fruits, juices and protein-rich dal every day as part of my diet,” said the defence maestro.

Over and above the time he spends at the gym, it’s his focus on diet that adds another dimension to his fitness. It gives him an added edge that would not be possible without a well-rounded approach in an age of dedicated trainers who boost a modern-day athletes’ game.

"Fitness demands are substantially higher now," he reasons. "You could get away with not being as fit when the game was played in the mud, but today, you need peak fitness and optimum endurance."

Cheralathan has managed to evolve and live up to the standards set today. There is no big ‘secret’ to Anna’s fitness, except for the hard yards put in the gym and an extremely strict diet. The discipline to stick to these, though, is what differentiates this warhorse from many others of his age.