To many, fitness has become a new culture. To some, it’s a temporary trend. And to others, it’s just a fleeting fad.
But to Murad Zaidi: fitness is his life.
The athlete turned gym owner/personal trainer isn’t just a physical embodiment of the tenets of health and fitness, but could well be the new benchmark of legitimacy in this ambiguous industry.
Growing up in Queens, New York, Murad’s first exposure to the gym came when the high-school American football player needed to bulk up. However, his time in the gym saw him pick up a new love - boxing. After competing on the local New York boxing circuit, Murad travelled to Thailand, where he spent a year and a half learning Muay Thai.
But after the Great Recession, the budding athlete and his family returned to Malaysia, where instead of leaving his life in the gym behind, he set out to start his life in the gym anew.
Xclusive Fitnesz is unlike any gym you will recognise. Located in Stadium Malawati, it occupies 30,000 square feet of converted space that was previously the stairs and hallways in the upper levels of the stadium. The gym itself has several different sections, from the indoor section with your standard equipment, to the outdoor section with rope ladders, punching bags and tractor tires.
“I designed the whole place myself,” says Murad. “I had always wanted to open a gym in the States, but it wasn’t financially viable. So when I started scouting for locations in Malaysia, I met someone who told me the space here was available.”
Jumping on the opportunity in 2010, Murad began developing Xclusive Fitnesz, one small space at a time, before it turned into the gargantuan gym it is now.
After getting Xclusive Fitnesz off the ground, Murad decided to elevate his skillset. Having already been certified by the International Fitness Association, he undertook a Masters Degree programme in High Performance Sport at the Universidad Católica de Murcia where upon graduating, he was finally able to sharpen his years of training with the necessary scientific knowledge.
With his current level of expertise, Murad speaks about fitness in the most frank way possible, with the kind of passion that doesn’t belie his love for the subject.
No ‘cookie cutter’ programmes
“I don’t do cookie cutter programmes here. When you come in, we take the time to learn about you and figure out what works best for you.”
That learning process involves undergoing a blood test on top of doing a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) and full physical assessment.
“I tell all my clients and members: get your blood work done because I’m in a position where I can read your hormones, your blood peptides, heart parameters, cholesterol levels and uric acid levels; these are the things I want to see so I know what problems you have and how far we can push you.”
The ‘Why?’ factor
“You need to ask yourself why you want to be fit. Some people just watch a movie and see a guy with six pack abs and come to me because they want that. But that is just based on impulse, and there’s no longevity to that.
“If your reason is superficial, you will never find the motivation to stick to a programme. So before you come to me, you need to be honest with yourself and ask ‘Why do I want to get in shape?’ And you can lie to me, but you can’t lie to yourself.”
Don’t sabotage yourself
“People who fail to get fit, fail because they sabotage themselves. Getting in shape, and being healthy takes time, and before it looks beautiful, it’s going to look ugly.
“Our diets are tailored to suit each individuals needs and capabilities. But some people are only on a diet for two to three weeks before they ‘cheat’ on it. What they don’t realise is our body adapts to our diets, and produces insulin to match, so when you ‘cheat’ on your diet, it messes your whole body up.
“So, if being fit and healthy is something you want, don’t sabotage yourself.”
Being fit isn’t the same as being healthy
“Everybody wants to look good, but people need to understand: looking big and muscular doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Looking thin does not mean you’re healthy. Having six pack abs does not mean you’re healthy.
“Fitness and wellness are different things. So the idea isn’t just to look good, but to be healthy as well. There is no point to having six packs when you can’t run a mile without getting an asthma attack.
“And that really is the reality in this country.”
Murad’s mission is simple: make fitness and wellness a true way of life, no matter which rung of society you come from. To that end Xclusive Fitnesz opens its doors to the young and underprivileged, with the aim of cultivating a healthier lifestyle from a young age.
Looking to the future, Murad hopes to open a gym in every state across Malaysia, and if the previous proof of his determination and drive are anything to go by, Xclusive Fitnesz may not remain exclusive for long.
Another Bright Young Thing with a competitive streak: Malaysian national diver Pandelela Rinong.