Fitness isn’t just about getting your body in shape — it’s also hugely beneficial to our mental well being, and overall health. Nusrat Hidayatullah — co-founder of the famous 42-Day Challenge workout and Karachi’s latest health eatery ‘The F’ Word’ — has quickly risen to become one of the most inspirational fitness instructors in the country. We managed to fit ourselves into her busy schedule to talk about her journey so far, fitness and what’s next.
Q. What turned you into a fitness fanatic?
A. I’ve been training since a very young age. For as long as I could walk, I’ve been climbing and for as long as I could run, I’ve been dancing. I’ve been doing all sorts of things since I was young. My father played a huge role in this regard, as he really believed in physical conditioning in order to train the mind as well as the body. Back in the early 90s when I was young, I was involved in every sport in Karachi – dance, karate, horse riding and swimming. I went to a school that focused a lot on sports along with academics. When I was a teenager no gym would allow membership to anyone under fifteen. But somehow, my mom found an all-ladies gym where she would go just to take me along, since I was really interested in training. I did aerobics, yoga and other exercises there.
Q. What is your fitness mantra?
A. I have several fitness mantras, but the one I’d love to talk about is consistency – my mantra in pretty much everything in life. I don’t like to distinguish fitness from my general life at all. It takes up a major part of my thinking and performance; in fact, it affects them both to a large degree. Because I live and eat a certain way, I perform and feel a certain way – all the time. If you aim to achieve anything in life that would be a sum of constant pushing, trying and making a move every single day. This will amount to one large victory.
Q. What is your ideal fitness routine?
A. Everyone’s fitness routine is different depending on their body, genetics and lifestyle. My ideal routine is to work out in the morning before breakfast, as I tend to have a busy schedule. Once my day starts, it’s difficult to fit in my meals and workouts because I have to ensure I don’t eat one hour prior or post a workout. I make sure I have four to six meals a day. I don’t want fitness to be a mental chore. Yes, there is anxiety induced by the idea of the physical pain you’re going to put yourself through. There have been times I haven’t been able to work out as soon as I wake up, but consistently over the past six years, I have pushed to workout early in the morning and that’s what helps me keep my ground. Also, I workout without any equipment which is sustainable. You’ve got to look at what is comfortable for you. Find a routine and a time slot that works and follow that.
Q. Any fitness experts that inspire you? And why?
A. I’m constantly inspired. Internationally, I’m inspired by Hannah Eden, she is one gung-ho woman — she’s great with performance and delivery. In terms of nutrition, I look up to Dr Rhonda Patrick. I also follow Joe Rogan – he is very inspirational. In our own industry, there are a couple of people I really look up to. Particularly, Rizwan Noor and Wasif. They’ve been in the industry for a very long time and are very motivating. I also look up to Torsam, Jeannette, and Hina Khan (my first aerobics trainer). They are my everyday inspirations.
Q. How did you come up with the concept for the 42 Day Challenge?
A. The concept of the 42-day challenge was something we – Torsam Tajik and I – gave birth to six years ago, in order to enhance our own fitness and of those around us. Five years before that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) had hit the global market. It took us a lot of research and application and then came our baby – the 42-day Challenge. We had the largest class in Asia. We have extremely challenging workouts, but we also have a fabulous team to take you through it. Looking at other HIIT training protocols and then looking at ours, you will see the difference. We use no other equipment besides a pair of dumbbells and this is something very important to me. If one can’t get a hold of dumbbells, then we’ll happily assist you in doing a workout without the dumbbells.
Q. What makes The F’ Word different from other healthy food places?
A. The interesting thing is that Torsam and I were the first ones to make desi food healthy. He is more interested in desi food such as biryani and daal chawal, while I’m into flipping burgers, making cool salads, and Moroccan chicken. So we brought the two concepts together and tried to figure out how to make desi food healthy, which was pretty challenging because of the lack of availability of ingredients here. Whereas, bringing that desi flavour to it was also not an easy feat initially. But it’s been a benchmark of success in terms of making desi food healthy and healthy food fun for people, so they don’t get fed up of it.
The F’ Word primarily is a deconstructive macronutrient bar, and also a multi-vendor store. Everyone has their own macronutrient requirement. We should only have to pay for the amount we’re using. With your meat weighing scales and measuring cups, you can construct your meal as you like it. You can even select from a pre-set menu or select your meal based on your macronutrient requirement from the set menu. Also if you want meat, unlike other salad bars – since meat is the base of the meal here and everything else is topping – you just have to pay for what you want. All our dishes are sugar-free so we cater to people with diabetes, heart problems, hormonal issues, and children as well.
Q. How easy is it to start a healthy eatery?
A. Not at all! In fact, it took us about three years to put this concept together. Mostly because it’s a multi-vendor store, and we had to get lots of minds to meet. People have their own pre-conceived notions and we have our own. Getting on the same page does take time. Yes, people are really into junk food, but that is the case around the world. What I would like to highlight is that the increasing trend of shifting towards fitness food, which is a plus point for us. Even though trying to make fitness eating interesting is a constant challenge.
Q. Any tips for those new in the world of fitness?
A. Fitness is different for everyone. People start programs or meal plans that they believe are very promising but they stop following them early on because they are unsustainable. It leads to them imagining they cannot lose weight and no diet works on them. First, you have to establish what your personal goal is, and be realistic about what you need to do to achieve it. The larger your goal is, the tougher the routine is going to be. The easier your goal, the more flexible your routine can be.
Secondly, know what your preferences are. I’m not talking about someone who needs to be into fitness because of their hormones or they are obese. In such a case, their doctor or trainer will let them know what’s preferable for them. There are no off-the-cuff tips that apply to everyone. However, I would advise people to drink lots of water. If you’re getting into fitness be careful about how much you’re sleeping and try to eradicate junk food from your life. Try to have more homemade food, so you can keep control of the ingredients. If you’re getting into a meal plan or workout plan, know that consistency is what will get you there.