Personal trainer Aamir Ishtiaque: 'I believe anyone can be turned into a competitive fitness model in as little as 12 weeks'
Belfast-based personal trainer Aamir Ishtiaque says that he can transform anyone from couch potato to beautiful and buff — fast. Lee Henry finds out how he does it
Is it possible to transform any old Joe or Jane Blogs into a fitness model in just 12 weeks? If you're carrying a extra few pounds and routinely break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of boarding a treadmill, such a notion may seem unrealistic, to say the least.
According to Belfast-born physiotherapist turned personal trainer Aamir Ishtiaque, however, anyone can go from fast food hero to ripped size zero in a matter of months. Fitness model status, he argues, is achievable no matter your age or body type.
"I believe anyone can become a competitive fitness model in as little as 12 weeks, provided they are willing to put in the work," says Aamir, whose parents, Mohammad and Rehana, moved to Northern Ireland from Delhi, India, in the Nineties.
"We all have different starting points and so will finish at different end points, but most of the major fitness shows in the UK now have a transformation category to cater for absolutely everyone, so we can all pursue that goal, if stepping onstage is your ultimate ambition."
The 27-year-old, who lives in Glengormley with his wife, Talitha (33), and daughters Brook (11) and Aamira (seven weeks), teaches clients that a combined programme of nutritional discipline, cardiovascular activity and weight training can convert a flabby, featureless body into a toned, tight frame.
Having the discipline to stick to a plan is of fundamental importance for Aamir, who demands from his clients the same levels of dedication he puts into his own fitness regime.
"For me, as a personal trainer (PT), shouting doesn't work," he says. "I motivate my clients by being completely honest and realistic with them.
"I am very straightforward as a PT. If you want to create a body like a fitness model, it's all about dedication and honesty.
"I don't allow my clients to turn up late or play on their phone.
"The time they have with me is limited, so we make the most of it. I am very goal-orientated, so if my clients aren't pushing for success, I don't work with them. I simply want results. Additionally, I know that if I keep myself in top shape by training hard and eating well, it will motivate my clients to do likewise.
"I believe that, as a PT, you need to practise what you preach. It's hard to ask someone to follow certain principles whenever you can't follow them yourself."
His clients need only turn to their trainer for inspiration when times get tough.
There is no doubting that Aamir, who has modelled for the likes of sports nutrition and health food company Avenches Biotech, has the physique of a Spartan warrior.
Fittingly, he is currently a UK Beauty Fitness and Fashion Physique champion, and in 2014 won the Miami Pro World Championship to become one of the few World Beauty Fitness and Fashion pro victors in Northern Ireland.
Over the past number of years, he has passed on his fitness knowledge to hundreds of clients across Northern Ireland. Remarkably, however - given his current form - he admits that he got into fitness "by accident" while studying for a degree in physiotherapy at Northumbria University in Newcastle.
"During that time, I was a keen footballer, but the course I was on was too intense and left me little time to play. It was really tough and at one stage I was about to drop out with homesickness, but I didn't want to fail so I pushed on.
"I turned to keeping fit at the gym instead, as my local one remained open until 10pm. Naturally, I'm a really competitive person, so when I went to the gym I always wanted to work the hardest. I used the knowledge I was gaining through my degree to my advantage and developed a physique that I was happy with.
"I then went one step further and entered my first fitness show. After that, I was almost forced into fitness as a fully-fledged career, as everyone I knew, and even strangers, contacted me for advice."
Today, he trains up to 60 clients a week from DW Sports on Belfast's Boucher Road.
He is in such huge demand, in that his work as a physiotherapist has inevitably taken a backseat.
If leading by example is essential in the PT/client relationship, then Aamir is the model. His daily routine is not for the faint of heart.
"My alarm goes off at 5am and I jump up, get on my spin bike and spin for 20 to 30 minutes," he explains. "It's a combination of steady pace and high intensity interval training.
"After this, I do a quick stretch, followed by a shower, grab a strong black coffee and get to work before my first client arrives at 6.30am.
"Mid-morning I'll take a quick break for breakfast, which I always have prepared - chicken omelette with peppers and onions - and lunch is again prepared, maybe fish, chicken or lean mince with rice or potatoes and vegetables. Then I'll continue working through my clients.
"After a busy day, I'll get cracking with my own training before getting home, replying to emails, creating and updating online client programmes, having dinner and getting to bed at a reasonable hour - if that's possible with a newborn at home."
Fitness is important to the Ishtiaques as a family, with Brook a keen showjumper. "She has also been selected for the performance squad at Flight Gymnastics and will soon be training 9 to 11 hours a week," Aamir says, while Talitha regularly competes at international bikini shows.
"Talitha trained throughout her pregnancy," adds Aamir, "which resulted in a natural birth - a 15-minute labour with no medication and no stitches.
"She was back on her feet running around the very next day. Six weeks after giving birth, she is exactly the same weight she was before her pregnancy and has the exact same physique. She's incredible.
"As a family, we all enjoy going on long walks and eating out. We love Maud's Ice Cream Parlour on the Lisburn Road for a weekly treat and eat-in places such as James St South and Deanes.
"We love fitness but, at the end of the day, we know the importance of finding balance and ensuring that we all get enough rest."
Aamir also finds inspiration close to home, citing his father, Mohammad, as a primary influence on his impressive work ethic and will to be the best.
"My dad was born in Delhi and was given the opportunity to come to Belfast many years ago," he says.
"He agreed as he knew it would give his children a better future. Even now, he works day and night. Watching him motivates me to continue working hard and pushing myself. The best feeling ever was buying him a new car, an Audi A6."
For those who continue to believe that a fitness model physique is unattainable to most, Aamir points to his long list of previous and current clients, the vast majority of whom have stuck it out on their fitness journeys and lived to tell the tale.
He explains that all sorts seek him out for assistance, from kids as young as 11 to pensioners in their 70s.
"I get kids who are fantastic footballers and tennis players, and elderly clients who want a better quality of life," Aamir says. "Clients who want to compete at the biggest fitness shows in the UK and those hoping to achieve general weight loss or rehab following surgery.
"One of my most inspirational clients was 65 when she met me. She was divorced, depressed, lonely, didn't see the point in her life and wasn't happy in her own skin. Since she met me, she has completely changed everything. She is loving life, dating again and trains five times a week.
"As well as that, I've had a client who suffered from anorexia and ended up not only gaining a considerable amount of weight and muscle, but she also took to the stage and entered a bikini fitness competition.
"She had been told by her doctor that she wouldn't survive much longer, so her transformation, for me, was incredible."
While Aamir can see the positives in dieting, he is not a fan of dieting programmes.
"If you tell someone that they can't have something, chances are they will eventually crack and have too much," he says.
"To ensure that my clients stick to a plan, I incorporate foods that they like and control their portion size. Weight loss or weight gain is about calories. Keep the calories at the right amount and you will get results.
"Also, I don't restrict alcohol. I allow everything in moderation. It's all about portion control and tracking calories. The myfitnesspal app is a game changer in that regard."
With gym memberships on the rise in Northern Ireland, fitness has never been so fashionable. Aamir agrees that the PT game is a dog-eat-dog world, but with so many success stories to his name already, he foresees a bright future ahead.
"My long-term goals are to develop and build my own brand and group of PTs to deliver the highest quality of personal training in the UK," he says.
You wouldn't bet against him.
- To contact Aamir go to www.facebook.com/aishtiaque