The art of body-building: In conversation with Hasaaan Mahmood
SS: Tell us a bit about yourself
HM: I was born and raised in Dubai till we moved to Pakistan in 2005-2006. I completed my O & A Levels and graduated in 2014 from FAST National University with a degree in BBA (Hons).
I am currently the Manager and Senior Transformation Specialist of Metroflex Islamabad, a unique facility located in Blue Area Islamabad which combines modern physiotherapy, pain management and rehabilitation along with one of the best gymnasiums in the country, catering for hundreds of amazing transformations to this day. I plan to pursue my Masters and PhD in Human Performance in future.
SS: What are your interests in life?
HM: I am a writer first & foremost; I discovered my love for reading & writing at a very young age. My first poem was published in Young Times Magazine when I was 11 years old. It was titled “A Smile”. My first short story titled “Tell Me” was published in the same Magazine when I was 15 years of age.
I have my own personal library & over the years have studied the various styles of different authors and have learnt a lot from them to help me define my own signature expression. I am also working on my first book. If all goes well it shall be out by late next year. Apart from writing I love researching, gardening, playing cricket & listening to retirement speeches.
SS: What’s your take on Health and Fitness? How important is it for one’s lifestyle?
HM: Health & Fitness is as important as life itself, we all strive to better our lives in every aspect, monetary wise, living standard wise, but the truth is, there is no struggle worth it unless you have good health. Unfortunately in our chase for greatness and money we forget the one thing that is the only thing worth living for. That is our health.
Without it, there is no achievement and no contentment. As Hazrat Ali (R.A) said,” How strange & foolish is man. He loses his health in gaining wealth. Then to regain health he wastes his wealth. He ruins the present while worrying about his future, but he weeps in the future by recalling his past. He lives as though death shall never come to Him, but he dies in a way as if he were never born”.
SS: Is Hassaan Mahmood a foodie? What kind of food do you prefer?
HM: I am not a foodie, I hardly push through my meals, but my intense training regimen does give me cravings at odd times, so nothing better than our desi cuisine. Nothing comes close. After Pakistani food I love Iranian food.
SS: How do you manage to keep your fitness levels up to the mark? Are there any specific workout routines you follow or you just go with the flow?
HM: I manage to take out an hour every single day, 6 days a week, by hook or by crook for my training. There is no evading it and I cannot survive without it in the first place. It is my addiction and my meditation. My workout style is not inspired by anyone; I have developed my own training protocol which I have learnt over the years by trial and error. SO now I have a fair idea of how my body responds and have my own training style. My training protocol varies every workout in order for my body not to get used to a single stimulus. This is how I manage to shock it into growth or to whatever my goal is.
SS: Speaking of workouts, how did you start with gym?
HM: Physical activity was then suggested to me as a “Behavior Modification” tool by a Psychiatrist in Dubai, where I was born and raised. Eventually with the inclusion of physical activity in my lifestyle I was able to channelize my energy and aggression in a positive way. I quickly excelled in sports especially cricket & running.
My appetite returned so did my sleep as well as confidence and within a few years I was addicted to training and will continue to do so till I die. It is more than just an activity, it is “Meditation” as I mentioned before. One connects with themselves, one reinvents and one rebuild’s through training. I learnt the art of self control, discipline, focus, resilience and dedication. Hence my motto, “Dedication is a lifestyle NOT an option”.
SS: Was it because it just clicked or did it run in the family?
HM: It just happened by chance, I was never formally introduced to it. Suffice is to say I discovered it. Never ran in my family.
SS: Looking back on your journey, was it a tough one or a walk in the park?
HM: In 2010 I weighed 50 kilograms, had many issues I was battling with including depression. In 2016 I stand here with 4 titles to my name, 200 transformations nationally and online transformations across 18 countries globally. The journey of 5 years by no means was a walk in the park. Neither does life serve you success and recognition on a silver platter; there have been many failures, many tests, many tears, and many sacrifices along the way and continue to do so.
I still fail, learn and unlearn every single day. From being told in 2008 that my back and knee condition would never let me lead a normal life I think I haven’t done too badly. It is never a one man show. Whatever I am today would never be possible without Allah the Almighty, the love & support of my parents, my beautiful & amazing wife, siblings, my mentor Dr Imran Khan, my teachers, my failures, my friends and of course my loving fans. I owe everything to them. All success is theirs; all failures & errors are mine and mine alone.
SS: Were you inspired by any particular bodybuilder before you initiated your journey to stardom?
HM: No, there wasn’t. Because I never set out to hit the iron in hope of gaining muscle. My reasons were very different as I mentioned above. The rest happened along the way.
SS: You have numerous accolades in your resume from being Junior Mr Pakistan (2010) and Mr Islamabad (2012)? Tell us about how this has transformed your life?
HM: I never desired to compete; it was never in the books. It all happened by chance. 6 months into training my body responded quite well owing to training 12 times a week. Mr. Ahmed Sadiq, the gym owner noticed me and talked me into competing for Jr Mr. Capital Zone 2010. I was hesitant but gave in to his request. I learnt and practiced the art of posing and stage tricks. I won the title and my journey as an amateur competing bodybuilder began. In 2010 August I flew to Karachi to win the coveted title of Jr Mr. Pakistan 2010. This to me is my greatest accolade.
To be crowned the greatest physique in the whole of Pakistan in the junior category was surreal to say the least. It changed my life completely, I began to gain massive following from the youth and I loved every bit of it. It was an amazing feeling to be recognized for your craft and the greatest most heartwarming part was to know that I inspired so many to better their lives. That is my greatest accolade. To inspire. To help others “believe”. Nothing outdoes this feeling to this day.
SS: Do you think Pakistan has a future in this sport? If not, what are the factors that are lacking?
HM: Pakistan perhaps has the greatest future in this sport in the whole of Asia. Over the years I have seen such talent, pure raw talent and I wonder to date, how far these athletes can go if they are provided with the right training, guidance and mentoring. That also answers the second part of your question. That is what we lack. The government support and recognition.
The government needs to realize an athlete is the greatest ambassador for a country. Our athletes have the potential. All they need is the means. I try and do whatever little I can to give back to the sport that has given me so much. As of today I mentor almost any athlete that has approached me and also sponsor over 20 athletes from around the country. God Willing I shall try and do more and also have other athletes join this humble effort.
SS: Apart from gym work, what other activities are you fond of regarding sports?
HM: Cricket, Snooker, long distance running, hiking and playing chess.
SS: Any particular athletes you like?
HM: Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus, Shoaib Akhtar, Mathew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist. In the bodybuilding world I look up to David Henry, Lee Priest, Shawn Ray and my good friend Ali Khan Niazi.
SS: What kind of movies do you prefer to watch? Any particular favorites?
HM: I like movies inspired by true events or any good watch in general. My favorite movies include Seven pounds, Legends of the Falls, The Last Samurai, Spy Game, In Pursuit of Happiness, Silence of the lambs etc and in Bollywood I liked Devdas, A Wednesday, Rang De Basanti.
SS: How do you feel when you get to know about the new people being mesmerized by this sport?
HM: It feels good to see people taking keen interest towards this sport. It is better than many other activities they have as options and focuses on overall health and well being. So what more could one ask for. It is a great thing to see indeed.
SS: How do you take the feeling that the Pakistani youth wants to join this field as a profession? Do you see any Mr Olympia coming out of Pakistan in the next decade or so?
HM: I have no doubt that once we get professional mentoring and guidance, there definitely will be a Mr Olympia from Pakistan. Not in the overall category but in the 212 division for sure. All we need are the right tools. Then there is no stopping us inshallah.
SS: What tips would you like to give them?
HM: My tip to them would be to never give up. No matter what challenges life throws at you, always get up, chin up and go back in working even harder and prepare for an even greater hit. Like they say, fall down 7 times, get up 8! Be consistent, resilient and a little insanity never hurt anyone. Don’t let negative criticism get in your way.
As Winston Churchill famously quoted,” You can never reach your destination if you pause to throw a stone at every dog that barks.” Stay focused, stay disciplined. Nothing stops you! It is that simple.
Hassaan Mahmood can be reached at his office at Metroflex Health & Fitness, Islamabad.