From being a Hijab wearing personal fitness trainer in the city, to fighting a battle against cancer, Farzana Begum is a US certified functional coach, nutritionist and role model. She shares her story with Team Yo! Vizag.
“A fitness enthusiast since college, I’d never imagined that someday I would choose strength training as a career. It all began, when my mother, my biggest pillar of strength unexpectedly passed away. It made me realise how countless women ignore their wellness for the sake of their families. I knew that I had to do something for them. I joined Zumba in Bangalore and reached out and interacted with many women. Some were training to shed post-pregnancy weight, while others had a wedding coming up. The fact that they were trying to fit into the mould of society’s idea of perfection didn’t go down well with me. Women should work out and stay fit, only for themselves.”
The journey to a fitness trainer
“With age, women tend to suffer from knee pain, osteoporosis and other ailments due to the loss of bone and muscle mass. Strength training bolsters bone density and improves overall health. It also helps women across ages, in toning, building endurance and restoring the body’s flexibility.
However, the common myth is that once women start lifting weights, they begin to build up muscle. Not many realise that ladies can effortlessly lift a 6-year old child who weighs as heavy as a barbell, or dumbbell. I joined strength training in 2017. I looked forth to get certified when a team from US-based gym ‘Total Fit’ was due to arrive in January 2018, for the purpose.”
Battling the odds
“Life, however, had other plans, and I was hit by a life-threatening tumour on my spine. My limbs went slightly immobile and I could barely walk. In December 2017, I came to Vizag and got my tumour removed. Doctors advised six-months of bed rest. I had one month left for my certification and was determined to take the test. Convincing my family, I soon left for Bangalore and started training. Not only, did I clear the certification, but I also topped amongst the 35 applicants. Life came a full circle when I started working at the gym where I had previously learned strength training.”
Calm before the storm
“However, the previous surgery revealed another tumour in my chest. I returned in April 2018 for the second surgery and moved to Vizag. When I was refused a job in Vizag gyms due to my gender and attire, I gathered my friends and cousins and started coaching them. After two months, their endurance, flexibility, strength had increased and I got the job of a ‘Functional Coach’ at Studio M. I also began to pursue certification as a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist in January 2019.”
“A few months into the training, the tumour in the chest aggravated and tests revealed that I had Lymphoma high-grade blood cancer in April 2019. I had to endure six cycles of chemotherapy and it was both physically exhausting and emotionally draining. After my last chemo, a scan revealed that I had won over in my battle against cancer. My clients had chosen to wait for me to return, and I would say that it was their love that got me through. I hope to establish an all-women’s gym with the best facilities in Vizag soon, so women can train, share and grow. As Confucius said, We have two lives. The second one begins when we realise we have only one.’