It all began with a health report that served as a wakeup call.
Within a year, Datuk Ameer Ali Abas went from being physically unfit to qualifying for a bodybuilding competition.
“I went for a regular full-body health test and the result was very alarming. My cholesterol level was high. I had a fatty liver. My breathing was irregular, ” recalls the 40-year-old business expansion advisor.
Ameer says he led an active lifestyle in his youth, going to the gym, practising yoga and playing badminton. All that changed when he started working.
“My work required me to travel extensively and attend meetings, dinners and social events. I realised that my health was deteriorating due to a lack of exercise, lack of sleep and excessive consumption of unhealthy food.”
What began as an attempt to reclaim his health soon became something more.
“When I was in college, I had a dream to become a bodybuilder. But I couldn’t find the time nor money to pursue that dream. As I turned 39 in Sept 2018, having a six-pack at least once in my life (dominated my thoughts) again.
“So I asked a friend, Zack Ermi, a former bodybuilder-turned-bodybuilding coach, to train me. Since I was going to start my fitness journey, I thought why not go all in and become a bodybuilder. He asked me to set a goal in mind. I was going to turn 40 in Sept 2019. I told him I wanted to be on a stage competing with other bodybuilders when I turned 40.”
Ameer had his work cut out for him. With the guidance of his coach, he devoted himself to strength training five to six times a week, with each session spanning an hour and a half to two hours. He also incorporated a 5km run each week.
“It was difficult during the first two months as my endurance was almost zero. I would be gasping for breath after jogging for 10 minutes, ” he recounts.
The father of two adds what was even harder was finding time to hit the gym so often.
“My son just turned five and my daughter is 14 months old. It is definitely a challenge to balance work, family and workout. But it is not impossible. It’s all about priorities in life. If we say we don’t have time to exercise, then we won’t have time to exercise.”
However, just as Ameer was making headway, he suffered an injury a few months before his maiden bodybuilding competition.
“In Aug 2019, I had a 3cm tear in my left calf muscle fibres due to excessive training. I was limping and it took two months to recover. In the meantime, I only exercised my upper body.”
Another challenge in his fitness journey was sticking to a strict diet comprising healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
“You can train very hard and regularly, but to see the results of those workouts, you have to eat right and avoid all kinds of unhealthy food.
“If you do not provide enough proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to your body, you will not be able to develop and build muscles.
“I have occasional cheat days when I eat my favourite foods. But that only happens once or twice a month.”
When Ameer finally took the stage at his first bodybuilding competition, Mr Enrich, last December – about 15 months after he began his journey – he couldn’t be prouder.
“It was an exhilarating feeling; a sense of achievement. I did not win against the other competitors as a lot of them had several years of bodybuilding experience. However, that did not hamper my spirit, as I won against myself.
“More than a year ago, it was just a dream to be on stage competing as a bodybuilder, but now, here I was, standing together with other fellow bodybuilders, doing my posing routines.”
After the competition, Ameer is even more pumped up about his dream.
“I hope to become a professional bodybuilder in the next few years, ” he enthuses.
The Paper’s People is an occasional column about Malaysia-based everyday folk who do what they love. If you have someone to recommend, email us at email@example.com.